Nov 082017

Mac’s tip of the week

Now that most of us have our spring / summers crops planted, and with the arrival of warmer weather on the horizon, get mulching if you haven’t already. For veggies, mulches such as pea straw, lucerne or milled sugar cane provide insulation to retain soil moisture and minimise weed germination. Although not long lasting, they will last your crop cycle and provide beneficial organic matter to your soil as they break down. The remnants after harvest can mostly be dug through your soil before your planting starts again in autumn. Keep clear of the stems of your plants and spread 5-8cm deep. For those with ‘food miles’ on their minds, note that pea straw and lucerne will generally come from Victoria or NSW whilst sugar cane is transported from Queensland.

This tip complements a previous tip on mulching: “Lock in that moisture in the soil by applying a good layer of mulch. 5cm min to 10cm max. Larger mulch particles (10mm plus) insulate the soil and still allow summer rain to get to the soil, whereas finer particles may lock in your moisture but block rainfall. When mulching, take care to clear mulch from stems/base of plants to prevent collar rot.

Read all of Mac’s tips.

Fruit thinning

In the 11th October newsletter, Mac’s tip of the week was on the subject of fruit thinning. Yvonne Ashby writes in: “I followed Mac’s tip to thin out half of my heavy laden nectarine tree a few weeks ago, but half of the remaining nectarines have subsequently dropped onto the ground so the net result is that only a quarter of the original fruit remain to grow into bigger size. I am definitely getting much better quality nectarines than I expected. I will not be thinning them out next year but let the nature do the work.

Here’s Mac’s response: “I think that nature has done its work this year as well and that Yvonne’s fruit drop was not caused by her thinning but would have happened anyway. Indeed, by thinning a couple of weeks earlier, she may have actually helped the tree to retain the ‘quarter’ of the fruit that remains. Fruit dropping is a natural thing for a tree to do if there are not enough ‘food reserves’ for all the fruit to develop and set seed. The practice of thinning allows the grower to interfere and decide which branches are the strongest to support fruit, space the fruit for ventilation, and allow all stored ‘food reserves’ to be directed to the remaining fruit. Sure, you don’t have to thin fruit, but it is good practice on younger trees and helps to improve fruit quality on more established trees. Applications of potash can also help the quality of the fruit. Fingers crossed for your remaining nectarines, Yvonne.“.

Coincidently, this month’ newsletter from Leaf, Root & Fruit included a discussion on fruit thinning: “For fruit that is already set on your trees, thinning of fruit is an important task. This ensures good size and quality of remaining fruit. You should gradually thin the fruit until you have one every 10cm along the branch. Thinning should be completed over the next month. Many fruit trees can go into a biennial fruiting pattern. This is where they have a massive crop one year, followed by a very small crop the next year. Thinning of fruit can help to avoid the tree getting into a biennial cropping pattern.“.

Several of the recent weekly newsletters from Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens have also discussed the subject: “Fruit thinning is the practice of pulling some of the fruit off the tree by hand, while the fruit is still tiny. It can be really hard to make yourself do it (and to take enough off) but it’s very much worth it.” “One of the least understood reasons for doing this job is to try to break the cycle of biennial bearing that many fruit trees naturally adopt. The good news is that, if you do this job early enough you are sacrificing very little actual fruit production as the tree will put the same amount of energy into the fruit you leave on the tree as it would have to the big bunches of fruit.

Also, “The second main reason to do thinning is to protect the structure of our trees. Most fruit is carried on the small side shoots, or laterals, that grow from the main branches. Left to its own devices, the tree will frequently set so much fruit on a branch or lateral that the weight of the fruit breaks the branch. Usually a short lateral can only bear the weight of one piece of fruit, and a longer or stronger lateral can bear two or more pieces.

Growing good tomatoes

Here’s a tip from the My Green Garden Facebook page: as your seedlings 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.

The Diamond Village Food Swap at Watsonia is now monthly

Following a successful first event in October, The Diamond Village food swap will now take place every month, on the 2nd Saturday, 10-11am, at the Diamond Village Shopping Centre (beside the Cruze Lounge cafe). If you want more information, contact Ken by phone (0434 906773) or email.

That means there are now 31(!) monthly food swaps in North East Melbourne. See where and when they all are.

Do your chickens eat Certified Organic food?

Aziza De Fazio is looking at ordering some bulk, Certified Organic coarse layer chook food from Country Heritage. She is not yet 100% sure of the price, but a 20kg bag would be around $35. She is also interested in buying some Certified Organic feed wheat from Four Leaf Milling (around $25 for a 20Kg bag). If you are interest in joining with her, email Aziza.

Want to sell your produce in Thomastown?

Thomastown Neighbourhood House run a monthly market, with around 600 people visiting each market. They currently don’t have any fruit, vegetable, bread or produce stalls and are seeking some. The market is held indoors, but there is opportunity to have a couple of stalls out the front of the library. They charge $15 per stall and provide a trestle and 2 chairs. Their last market for 2017 is on 2nd December, and they then recommence in March. If you are potentially interested in being a stallholder, contact Justine Sless by phone (8376 6939) or email.

The Food Justice Truck is no more

Until recently, The Food Justice Truck visited Northcote weekly and Thomastown fortnightly. Now it appears to have stopped. According to their website: “the truck’s project team has been working to implement changes to the operation of the truck that would help reduce costs while striving to increase impact. Strong progress has been made, however this work highlighted the current model is not sufficiently scalable to meet the geographic need for people seeking asylum across Melbourne to access affordable, fresh food. The decision has been made to cease operation of the Food Justice Truck in its current capacity and to explore alternative models to meet these food security challenges, focussing on reach and accessibility for those most in need.

Every newsletter deserves a good picture

Photographer Loes Heerink takes aerial shots of street vendors in Vietnam.

Which link was clicked most times in last week’s newsletter?

Marina’s interview with Robin and Paul Gale-Baker.

Corrections and clarifications

In last week’s newsletter, I talked about Tiny Trowel’s initiative to encourage gardeners with excess seeds to donate them to designated not-for profit organisations. I referred to this initiative as ‘Crowd harvest – Father’s Day’ but I should have referred to it as ‘Crowd harvest – seeds for Christmas’. Sorry, Cath. Too much copy-pasting! Incidently, the crowding harvest initiative was one of 5 finalists in ‘Communication for Change’ category in the recent 2017 Banksia Foundation Sustainability Awards.

Joke of the week

My sister bet me a hundred dollars I couldn’t build a car out of spaghetti. You should have seen the look on her face when I drove pasta!

Read all the jokes.

New events

A local sustainable communities forum

What: What does a sustainable community look like? At this event they will be showing the highlights and thoughts that were shared at the 2017 Sustainable Communities National Summit in September, and following it up with discussion of what steps could be taken next in Greensborough, Watsonia and Montmorency to support sustainability measures and local food growers and businesses. You will also be able to meet members of Sustainable Greensborough – a new local volunteer group hoping to raise awareness and build a growing community of like-minded individuals that help and support each other to live sustainably, as well as other local groups.
When: Thursday, 9th November, 7-9pm.
Where: Greensborough.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Trybooking.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Fresh and local EVOO

What: Try some chocolate cake, lalamata biscuits and tapenade, all made with Victorian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Learn how to identify and buy high quality olive oils, watch an olive oil making demonstration, and see how easy it is to cure table olives. The program: 10.30am – evaluating EVOOs; how to taste and what to look for; 11.30am – how to buy a high quality EVOO; understanding the importance of region, climate, harvest time and oil age; midday – olive oil making demonstration; 12.30pm – how to cure table olives; 1.30pm – how to cure table olives (repeat); 2.30pm – evaluating EVOOs; how to taste and what to look for (repeat); 3pm – olive oil making demonstration (repeat); and 3.30pm – how to buy a high quality EVOO; understanding the importance of region, climate, harvest time and oil age (repeat).
When: Saturday, 11th November, 10am-4pm.
Where: Abbotsford.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Indoor plant sale and cactus ice-cream party

What: They will have lots of indoor plants, including fiddle leafs, monstera, birds of paradise, pilea’s, mothers in law tongue, rubber figs, ferns, hanging plants and bangalow palms. They will also have cactuses and succulents. In addition, there will be a vintage ice cream van and mexican music.
If you wear a sombrero, you will get $5 off your purchase!
When: Saturday, 11th November, 10am-4pm.
Where: Abbotsford.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

The Hibi Farm and pottery studio open day

What: 11am – farm tour and produce tasting. Midday – ‘good bug’ garden walk. Ceramic wares will be on display in the pottery studio and available for purchase. The Hibi Farm is a micro suburban farm that produces bread, beer, cheese, chocolate, honey, preserves, pottery and bicycles from scratch, amid thriving fruit and vegetable gardens. It is a social experiment in sustainable living, and the hub of a spontaneous community known as ‘the hood’. Care of dairy goats has matured into an intricate, cooperative system involving over 25 people from the hood. Sharing resources, converting front and back yards to orchards and edible gardens, cycling, and keeping dairy goats, chooks and bees, are all conscious steps towards pursuing the good life. The farm is home to two families in a small two bedroom house, and hosts two artisan studios where ceramics and custom bicycle frames are crafted.
When: Saturday, 18th November, 10am-2pm.
Where: Heidelberg West.
Cost: free.
Bookings: by email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Garden master class with Jane Edmanson

What: Jane will look into organic products used in the garden plus local plants for Diamond Valley. Ask Jane about your garden problems and show her your garden creations.
When: Saturday, 18th November, midday-1pm.
Where: Mitre 10, Diamond Creek.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

View the complete calendar of upcoming events.

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