Nov 232016

Guerilla gardening comes to North East Melbourne (sort of)

guerilla-gardeningGuerrilla gardening is something that quite a lot of people talk about but, as far as I can make out, not many people actually do, at least in Australia (although Gardening Australia’s 2016 Gardener of the Year was apparently won by a guerilla gardener from North Fitzroy). I did some a few years ago: we went out in the middle of the night and planted a bunch of stuff. It was actually quite an adrenalin rush: what would happen if someone caught us planting the lettuce by torchlight?! Anyhow, it has recently come to my attention that a newsletter reader who wishes to remain anonymous has been verge planting in Warrandyte (see picture). The veggies currently growing include cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, silverbeet, butternut pumpkins, cucumbers, oregano, apple mint, common mint, salad burnet, garlic chives and lettuce. She has also started doing food-is-free veggies and her neighbour does food-is-free lemons.

Anyone want to do some seed bombing (aka seeds of dissent)? Or moss graffiti?

Mac’s tip of the week

Remember to train your tomatoes! Now that they are growing fast, you will need to tie them about every 20cm of growth. As they are starting to flower as well, best to tie loosely above the cluster of flowers. If you have single stakes, and planted close together, best to train to a single stem. This means pinching out side stems (aka branches) that are growing in the crotches between the leaves and the main stem. If you have a cage or trellis, or have spaced wide apart to allow more support stakes, allow maybe four main stems but pinch out further side stems. Older heirloom varieties often do better with multiple stems rather than a single. By training you will not only get a tidier plant, but also less fungal problems and quicker fruit, as your plants put more energy in to flowers and fruiting rather than to stem and leaf growth. Potassium is a key to success and liquid tomato food is full of it, as is sulphate of potash. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

A new food swap in Preston

South Preston Food Swap. The 4th Saturday of every month. Corner of High Street & Oakover Road, Preston. Organised by Transition Darebin. Facebook: Darebin-Urban-Harvesters-244273112267925. Email:

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to 27. See the full list.

Local food producer in the news – Quists Coffee

quistsResearch-based Quists Coffee won a silver medal in the recent Golden Bean Coffee Roasters awards. They were also inducted into the Australian Coffee Roasters Hall of Fame. Congratulations Doris and Jim!

Crowd Harvest – seed banks for Christmas

Seed banks help people facing difficult circumstances to access the seeds and establish food gardens. Local home growers with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Christmas card or holiday card to one of the following organisations, who all maintain seed banks:

A related event – Crowd Harvest at Epping on Sunday, 27th November – featured in this week’s Leader newspaper (see picture).

Crop rotation

crop-rotationA newsletter reader has written in asking about crop rotation. How would you have responded? Here is my reply:

“The principle underlying crop rotation is that there should be a considerable gap in time between plantings of veggies from the same family in the same place. This helps stop particular diseases building up and also gives the soil a rest from particular burdens placed on it.

“Veggies can be divided into the following 8 ‘groups’ (most of which are families or sub-families):

  1. Legumes (beans, peas, etc).
  2. Brassicas (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mizuna, pak choy, rocket, etc).
  3. Alliums (garlic, onions, etc).
  4. Roots (beetroot, carrots, celery, parsnip, etc).
  5. Cucurbits (cucumber, pumpkin, rockmelon, zucchini, etc).
  6. Solanums (capsicum, chilli, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, etc).
  7. ‘Anywhere’ (basil, coriander, lettuce, radish, silverbeet, spinach, etc).
  8. Perennials (asparagus, globe artichokes, rhubarb, etc).

“Perennials are not relevant to crop rotation – they should be planted elsewhere. The ‘anywhere’ group are also not relevant – just plant them wherever and whenever you have gaps. So, the ideal is a 6-bed, 6-year rotation for the other 6 groups. If you have fewer beds, then you have to do one or more of three things:

  1. Combine some things: so, for example, plant alliums and roots in the same bed.
  2. Omit some things: so, for example, never plant brassicas.
  3. Plant a cool season crop (e.g. brassicas) followed by a warm season crop (e.g. solanums or cucurbits) – or vice versa – into a single bed over the course of a year.

“You then have to decide the order of how a bed should change over time. A principle here is that heavy feeders should, where possible, alternate with light feeders. So, for example, legumes (light) – brassicas (medium) – alliums (light) – cucurbits (heavy) – roots (light) – solanums (heavy).

“Finally, you have to choose whether the annual rotation should be in Spring or in Autumn.”

For a longer discussion of crop rotation, read Angelo Eliades’ article.

New events

Community garden workshop

What: Join Karen Sutherland, from Edible Eden Design, to learn about all the variety, freshness and fun you can bring into a small space garden. From a small plot to a balcony garden, look at: the options for plant selection for fruit, herbs or veggies; the best way to use pots; dealing with pests; growing upwards; and other considerations in your own growing space.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 10am-midday.
Where: Brunswick Neighbourhood House.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Brunswick Neighbourhood House by phone (9386 9418) or email.
Bookings / Further information: Weteachme.

Permablitz 194 (Eltham North)

What: Anne-Marie and her family would really like to make much better use of their garden space to be more productive. She also wants their children to both understand and appreciate where food comes from. They already have two veggie boxes. Workshops: wicking beds; compost bays; ponds; swales and capturing water; and green manure. Tasks: construct compost bays; construct pond; create wicking bed; fruit tree companion planting; constructing swales; sheet mulching; and planting green manure and other plants.
When: Sunday, 4th December, 10am-4pm.
Where: Eltham North.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Permablitz by email.
Bookings / Further information: Permablitz website.

How to make sense of food labels

What: Tour a supermarket and learn how to read and make sense of food labels so that it is easier to make healthy choices. The tours are led by healthAbility’s qualified dietitian and open to anyone interested in healthy eating. Bookings essential as places are limited.
When: Monday, 5th December, 9.30-11am.
Where: Eltham.
Cost: $15 (includes a healthy shopping guide booklet).
Enquiries/Bookings: healthAbility by phone (9430 9100).
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

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