Nov 182020

Thanks to all the people who have contributed to this week’s newsletter: Angelo Eliades, April Muirden, Arianna Lim, Cara Horner, Donna Pinzone, Jen Chellew, Jon Buttery, Jules Jay, Mary Shiel, Megan Goodman, Perri Hillier and Stuart Rodda.

This newsletter will feature Megan Goodman’s last article for 2020 as she is going to take advantage of the easing of restrictions in the lead up to Christmas. After 35 consecutive contributions, and 35 accompanying recipes, she deserves a break! I really appreciate her efforts which have made this newsletter a much better publication during the pandemic than it otherwise would have been. Thanks, Megan!

What farmers’ markets will be happening this weekend?

On Saturday: Coburg. Not Carlton, whose future schedule appears to be 1st Saturdays of the month only.

On Sunday: Alphington, Eltham.

Community gardening news

Jules Jay has published some before and after pictures of the ‘lasagne garden’ at the Edible Hub in Hurstbridge.


Incredible Edible Eltham have planted their summer crops at both the railway station and on Main Road. Thanks Bev, Carol, David H, David S, Eva, Evan, Jane and Sue! Many hands make light work.

Food swap news

April Muirden has written in to say that the Urban Orchard food swap at CERES has re-started: “the Urban Orchard trading table at CERES has re-started. Bring or take all kinds of garden produce.
The table runs 10am to midday just outside the CERES grocery every Saturday.

The Fairfield and Reservoir food swaps have re-started and will both be happening on Saturday (i.e. 21st November).

Several other food swaps will be re-starting later in month and in early December.

Community meal news

The weekly Mitcham community meals have re-started.

Spoke & Spade no longer selling veggie boxes

Spoke & Spade will no longer be selling veggie boxes via CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Here is Sim’s Facebook post where he discusses why. A key point is that the tenure at his largest plot has unexpectedly finished.

Sources of wicking beds

Cara Horner has written in to tell/remind newsletter readers that VEG (Very Edible Gardens) sell customisable wicking bed kits.

St Johns Riverside Community Garden in Heidelberg have just acquired another 12 Biofilta FoodCube wicking beds. See photo right.

Want a job?

Cultivating Community are looking to hire a Horticultural Maintenance & Support Worker to provide high quality, safe and well-maintained community garden spaces in their public housing community gardens. 3 days a week, fixed term contract until end June 2021. Read more and potentially apply.

Cafes who give away spent coffee grounds

Jen Chellew has written in to say that the Scintilla Cafe in Heidelberg (131 Burgundy Street) also gives away its spent coffee grounds. This means that there are now 25 cafes on our list who give away spent coffee grounds. Anyone know of any others? Email me.

Jen also asks how much spent coffee grounds should she add to her compost. Your thoughts? Email me.

Do you know?

Mary Shiel writes in: “I have a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) that has been growing well for about 6 years but that is now looking very sick, having been attacked by something (see photo). The damage starts at about 120cm from the ground. I’m assuming that it’s a kangaroo attack, as we do have a lot of kangaroos around. Do you agree? More importantly, is there anything I can do to save the tree? Some of the lower branches are now starting to die, although a couple still look quite healthy.Email me with your answers.

Yes, you did know! Plums falling off.

Last week, Anita Merson asked why many immature plums were falling off her tree. Angelo Eliades has responded: “There are three questions that need to be answered to identify the cause:

  1. Has the tree been pruned? Trees will manage their resources and will drop fruit that they cannot carry and ripen. This will happen if the tree is not pruned.
  2. Is the tree supplied with sufficient and consistent irrigation? If the tree runs dry then it will get stressed and drop fruit.
  3. Was the tree fertilised in Spring and with what product? A potassium nutrient deficiency will cause fruit drop, and only complete fertilisers contain this nutrient.

No, you didn’t know. Whitefly and thrip infestation.

Last week, Louise Nolan asked how she could get rid of her plague of whitefly and thrips. No one replied. Anyone like to reply this week? Email me with your answers.

Newsletter reader growing tip: seed dispensers

This tip is from Stuart Rodda. Note that, following Stuart’s tip last week recommending synthetic gardening gloves from Kmart, the Greensborough Kmart apparently had a run on their stock and sold out!

Question: what makes gardening both easier and more fun? Answer: a seed dispenser!

Starting your plants from seed gives you full control of the variety, quality and sowing time, as well as costing less than buying seedlings. Many vegetables grow better from seed sown directly into their final growing place than by raising them in a tray and transplanting (e.g. carrots, beans, sweetcorn, …). Most bought seed comes in packets and needs to be taken from those packets and handled efficiently to get them to the soil site or punnets before ‘activating’ them with water. For small seed, a cheap seed dispenser (around $3 on Ebay, see photo) makes that whole process really simple.

As simple as these 2-piece seed dispensers are, here is some advice about how to use them best.

  1. Separate the two halves of the dispenser and pour the required seed from the packet into the clear ‘lid’ of the dispenser held upside down.
  2. Attach the base of the dispenser and turn it over such that no seed falls out (yet).
  3. Dial up the seed hole size which just allows seed to escape from the chamber.
  4. Holding the dispenser nearly horizontal, gently tap the chute to create a flow of seed down to the soil or punnet, controlling the amount so that the seed is spread at the right thickness/distance apart (not critical as you can always thin out the plants later).
  5. Turn the lid to the largest seed hole size and pour the remaining unused seed back into its packet for next time.

For larger seeds, the dispenser can be used simply as a vessel to hold the seed safely while you are going to the planting site, and you can then pick out the seeds with your fingers one by one from the open lid while hand planting.

From one packet of seed, you can do successive plantings to spread out the harvest time (rather than buying multiple punnets of seedlings each season), and one packet may last several years. You can save seed from the variety that does best in your garden (provided it is not a special hybrid variety or F1 cross). For example, you could grow a dozen types of tomato year after year without buying a single plant. Problem dispensed!

Read more newsletter readers’ tips.

The 2020 Australian craft beer survey

The results of the 2020 Australian craft beer survey have just been published, although the survey itself appears to have taken place in April and May. Not surprisingly, online purchasing of beer increased during the pandemic, particularly from specialist websites. Deeds Brewing in Glen Iris was voted best brewery in Victoria, Carwyn Cellars in Thornbury best craft beer bar/pub, and Moon Dog in Preston best venue.

Meg’s ‘not quite so socially isolated’ week

The last few months have definitively been challenging but I have enjoyed sharing my garden, seeds and recipes with you all. Hopefully we may meet at a food swap or one of the returning events that usually fill the space in this newsletter. As we move out of social isolation, I am signing off for the year. I hope that Christmas is special for all and you have time to enjoy good (local) food with friends.

This week in the garden the summer raspberries have started to fruit and we collect little bowlfuls daily. Perfect with a celebration sponge.

Feather-light sponge

4 eggs separated
¾ cup caster sugar
¾ cup cornflour, sifted
1 tablespoon custard powder, sifted
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt

Beat on high speed the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.

Add sugar a little at a time. On low speed add the yolks one at a time.

Fold through the dry ingredients.

Split the mixture evenly between two 2 x 8 inch sponge tins. Bake at 180degC for 25-30 minutes.

When cool, fill with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Decorate with a little sifted icing sugar.

Read more of Megan’s recipes.

Vodka Christmas cake

A recipe published by Donna Pinzone.

1 cup sugar
½ pound butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle vodka, large
2 cups dried fruit
4 cups self-raising flour

Sample a cup of vodka to check quality.

Take a large bowl, check the vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality, then repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point, it’s best to make sure the vodka is still Ok. Try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the fruit off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the vodka to test for tonsisticity.

Next sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the vodka. Now shit shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table Add a spoon of sugar or somefink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the feckin window. Finish of the vodka and wipe the counter with the cat.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The most popular link was our list of cafes who give away spent coffee grounds.

Joke (or pun) of the week

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

Read more jokes.

Upcoming online events

If you know of any events other than those listed below, email me.

Newly announced events

WorkshopMyGarden are a group based in NSW who are currently giving a lot of online ‘how to grow’ presentations. Over the balance of the year, these will include onions, garlic, leaks, potatoes, sweet potatoes and spices. Whilst they might not be local, they do come recommended by Jon Buttery!

Sustain is a “a national food systems network that co-designs and co-builds better food systems” and is based in Melbourne CBD. They are currently organising a trio of webinars about the Farm to Plate program in Vermont, USA. Each is $22. The trio are: Vermont Farm to Plate plan from 2009 to 2020 and beyond on Wednesday, 2nd December, 11am-1pm; Planning for sustainable farming and healthy food access on Wednesday, 9th December, 11am-1pm; and How the public purse can drive food systems change on Wednesday, 16th December, 11am-1pm.

Previously announced events

Whittlesea Community Farm – community sharing session: Thursday, 19th November, 6-7pm; free; organised by Whittlesea Community Farm. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Samosa and chutney: Sunday, 22nd November, 4.30-6pm; $29; organised by Cook Indian by the Creek. Read more and book via Facebook.

The art of watering: Sunday, 22nd November, 1.30-3pm; $28; organised by Sustainable Gardening Australia. Read more and book on WeTeachMe.

Sourdough bread making: Saturday, 28th November, 11am-midday; $20; organised by Living & Learning Nillumbik. Read more and book on their website.

Sustainable home & kitchen: Saturday, 28th November, 2-3pm; free; organised by Central Ringwood Community Centre. Read more and book on Facebook.

Sourdough bread making: Sunday, 29th November, 3-4pm; $20; organised by Living & Learning Nillumbik. Read more and book on their website.

Closing the food loop: Tuesday, 1st December, 7-8pm; $12; organised by Reground. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Expanding the food loop: Tuesday, 8th December, 7-8pm; $12; organised by Reground. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Home harvest workshop: Wednesday, 9th December, 7-8.30pm; free; organised by Whitehorse Council. Read more and book on EventBrite.

Open Table offer their weekly no waste cook club workshops free and online on Saturdays, 11.30am-1pm. As well as cooking (which is actually optional), you will learn about food waste and composting. Register on EventBrite.

All The Dirt is a weekly podcast about gardening.

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