Nov 062019

Local food producer news

Sim, owner of the urban Spoke & Spade farm in Heidelberg West, has written in to say that he no longer has farmgate sales so he mainly sells his veggies via veggies boxes which he delivers around his local area.

Curry Favour, from Kew East, now sell their Thai curry pastes online.

Guy’s veggie growing tip of the month – sweetcorn

Last year, much of my sweetcorn was starchy and inedible and I have been investigating how to avoid that this year. It appears that what probably happened is that the two varieties that I was growing cross-pollinated and that cross pollination of sweetcorn often results in inedible corns. My guess is that this is something to do with the recessive nature of the different genes which make different types of sweetcorn sweet – the sweetcorn page in Wikipedia discusses some of the issues. Sweetcorn is wind pollinated so the solution is simple: if you are going to grow multiple varieties of sweetcorn, make sure that they are as far apart as possible to reduce the risk of cross pollination.

Some tomato growing tips

From Leaf, Root & Fruit (from their Facebook page)

Here’s a trick to get tomatoes to flower (and therefore fruit) early. Prior to transplanting, you need to let them get a bit root bound. Or you can let them dry out to the point of wilting (then give them a good drink to let them recover). Both of these treatments trick the plant into thinking it is running out of time to reproduce. This will initiate flowering. Once transplanted, the already flowering plant will start to grow vigorously. However, it will also continue to flower and fruit at the same time.

From Guy Palmer

Last year, my wife and I set up two identical raised beds for growing tomatoes. Let’s call them ‘neglect’ and ‘nurture’. Each bed had 8 tomato frame cages, with each bed growing the same 8 varieties of tomato. In the ‘neglect’ bed, there were 2 tomato plants per cage, no removal of side shoots, and no bird netting. In the ‘nurture’ bed, there was 1 plant per cage, regular maintenance, bird netting and the quiet singing of sweet lullabies. The question being investigated was the extent to which, in terms of tomato yield, the nurturing would offset the halving of the number of plants. The results were rather different for the different types of tomato. For the large, beefsteak tomatoes, the ‘nurture’ bed yielded more tomatoes, even with half the number of plants, and they were better quality and larger. For the small tomatoes (say tigerella and below), neglect had less of an effect and the ‘neglect’ bed yielded more (although not twice as many) fruit and of similar quality. Finally, for the sauce tomatoes (San Marzano and Roma), many in the ‘neglect’ bed, but none in the ‘nurture’ bed, suffered from blossom end rot. So, in conclusion, large beefsteak and sauce tomatoes should both be grown in ‘nurtured’ beds where the plants are widely spaced (i.e. 1 plant per cage), whilst small tomatoes are more tolerant of ‘neglect’ and close spacing (e.g. 2 plants per cage).

From Karen Sutherland

Smaller fruited growing plants are (generally) more resistant to disease and therefore more able to be grown in less than ideal conditions, including some shade. They are therefore more suitable for growing in ‘neglect’ gardens. Larger fruited tomatoes are generally more fussy, and are best grown in ideal conditions such as your ‘nurture’ bed.

From Mac McVeigh

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.

From Maria Ciavarella (from her website)

As your plant get bigger, you need to decide whether to prune out the laterals or leave them to grow. The answer to the question will determine how many tomatoes you end up with (don’t prune = more); the size of the tomatoes (do prune = larger); and whether or not you are prepared to use several stakes for each plant (don’t prune = more supports needed). Also, the laterals pruned out can be rooted in water to create another plant if you need one.

From Helen Simpson

Tomatoes planted out now generally start producing fruit from late December to February, depending on variety. To have tomatoes through until May, plant another crop in late December. Tommy Toe is a good variety that will keep producing as the weather gets cooler in May.

What seeds to plant in November

Here is a list (see the planting guide for more detail):

Warm season veggies


Leafy greens

Mustard greens


Sweet potato


Globe artichoke
Jerusalem artichoke

Compared with October, the list gets shorter, with some summer veggies dropping off (e.g. rockmelon, watermelon and zucchini) and with nothing added. But there’s still lots that you can plant during November.

Lightweight shopping bags are now banned in Victoria

The Victorian Government has now implemented a statewide ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags at almost all retailers across Victoria. Read this article on ABC News for what it will mean for your shopping.

Worker honey bees have different jobs according to their age

Here is a great graphic from a website called Beekeeping Basics. Here are some more web pages that discuss the same subject: National Geographic, Perfect Bee and Hobby Farms. Thanks for the heads up, Permablitz Melbourne!

  • 1-2 days old: have the job to clean the cell, and they start with the one they were born in. They also keep brood warm.
  • 3-5 days old: their job is to feed older larvae.
  • 6-11 days old: they have the responsibility to feed the youngest larvae.
  • 12-17 days old: they are producing wax, carrying food, building combs and have undertaker duties.
  • 18-21 days old: they are protecting the hive entrance and have guard duty.
  • From 22 days to the end of their life (at around 40-45 days): they fly from the hive and collect pollen, nectar, water, etc.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Ann’s interview with Drew Barr..

Joke of the week

Why was the lemon feeling depressed? Because she had lost her zest for life.

Read more jokes.

New events – not cooking

Zero waste talk – minimising household waste: Thursday, 7th November, 6.30-8pm; Fawkner Food Bowls.

What: Local resident, Leanda Smith, and her family of 4 have been low waste since 2016 and she wants to share what she’s learnt about minimising your waste down to almost nothing! Join Leanda and Babs Fairchild for a workshop on reducing your household’s waste and getting your compost cooking.
Cost: gold coin donation.
Bookings: just turn up.

Cutlery keepers with Jasmine Ofaolain: Sunday, 10th November, 2-5pm; Heidelberg West.

What: They will teach you how to make a reusable shopping bag and cutlery holder so that you never have to reach for plastic. You will get a reusable shopping bag and a reusable cutlery carrier to take home. Facilitated by Jasmine Ofaolain and Rosie Torr from Textile Art Community Art Space (TACAS). Organised by Transition 3081.
Cost: $17.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Design an edible landscape (two sessions): Wednesday, 13th November and Wednesday, 20th November, both 6.30-8.30pm; Mernda.

What: Learn the basic design principles that can turn any house into a food-producing wonderland. Tutor: David Joseph.
Cost: $10 for both sessions.
Bookings: by email.

Malahang Festival: Sunday, 17th November, 11am-4pm; Heidelberg West.

What: Malahang Festival is Banyule Council’s free annual community event. There will be a youth area, kids zone, food stalls, market stalls, community arts project and sporting activities. In the sustainability area, there will be a food swap organised by Transition 3081.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Beeswax wrap making demonstration: Sunday, 17th November, midday-2pm; Fawkner Food Bowls.

What: Join author and presenter Liz O’Dwyer to learn how to make your own beeswax wraps in this 2 hour demonstration. You also get your own free beeswax wrap kit to take home.
Cost: $30.
Bookings: TryBooking.

Launch of the Whittlesea Food Collective: Wednesday, 20th November, 4-6pm; Epping.

What: Join them to launch the Whittlesea Food Collective and help them to make it a reality. The Collective will be led by Whittlesea Community Connections on behalf of the Whittlesea Emergency Relief Network.
Cost: free.
Bookings: by email.

Kevin Heinze GROW 40th anniversary birthday party: Thursday, 21st November, starting at 7pm; Doncaster.

What: The evening will feature food, drink, music and the launch of their commemorative book. Dresscode: lounge suit / cocktail.
Cost: $75.
Bookings: TryBooking.

Drawing and watercolour workshop in an edible garden: Sunday, 23rd November, 10.30am-12.30pm; Murundaka, Heidelberg Heights.

What: You don’t need any drawing experience as the will be on enjoying the garden surroundings – have a go while experimenting with the materials provided. This is an opportunity for anyone to draw whilst interacting with the garden. You will be given basic drawing skills plus an explanation of colour washes. Suitable for adults and kids over 12. Facilitated by Felicity Gordon. Organised by Transition 3081.
Cost: $11.
Bookings: Humanitix.

Diamond Creek Christmas lunch: Wednesday, 25th December, midday-3pm; Uniting Church, Diamond Creek.

What: A community lunch at the Uniting Church Hall on Christmas Day, with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome. Door-to-door transport is available if needed.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Graham by phone (0419 361487) or email.

New events – cooking

Preserve my harvest: Saturday, 9th November, 2-5pm; Preston.

What: They will teach you how to preserve, pickle and or ferment your fresh produce. Learn how to create a range of pickles, jams, tomato sauces, relishes and ferments. They will provide all the equipment. Bring some fresh produce from your garden if you have some.
Cost: $39.
Bookings: their website.

How to grow and how to cook Spring/Summer Asian vegetable workshop: Sunday, 24th November, 11am-1.30pm; Murundaka, Heidelberg Heights.

What: The Asian vegetables include shiso, bitter gourd, okra and edamame. These can be planted now and are short term vegetables that can be harvested in 2 to 3 months. Find out about crop rotation, what manure is best, what is bolting and mixed planting system. Learn authentic Japanese cooking using these Asian greens. Handouts, seedlings available and food sample. The workshop is hands-on and you will cook, eat, laugh and clean up together! Your ticket to this event includes two potted seedlings and a light lunch. Facilitated by Seila Hierk and Mikoto Araki. Organised by Transition 3081.
Cost: $11.
Bookings: Humanitix.

Christmas hors d’oeuvres: Friday, 13th December, 10.30-11.30am; Eltham Library.

What: A Christmas cooking demonstration by Marie Vassallo of Christmas Hors D’oeuvres.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Summary of upcoming events – not cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

Summary of upcoming events – cooking

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.

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