Oct 232019

Claire Hetzel, from 3000acres, discusses land use inheritance and soil contamination

Healthy plants are grown on productive soils and, while it is important to note that not all soils are ‘born equal’, we can influence soil/plant health factors by how we manage land and grow our food.

Soils contaminated with toxins are perhaps the hardest land use ‘inheritance’ to remediate. Urban soils often contain substances that are toxic to plants and/or humans at certain concentrations. The presence of these contaminants may relate to a history of industrial activity, heavy road or rail traffic, pesticide use or applications of lead-based paint on buildings.

It is important to investigate soil contamination risks before beginning a new growing project. Be sure to research the history of your site, investigate the physical soil make-up, and undertake a low-cost test for heavy metal contaminants.

If land is found to be contaminated, there are a range of strategies available to minimise the potential for harm, including:

  • Installing raised beds or ‘no dig’ gardens with soil barriers.
  • Raising pH levels above 5.5 to limit the bioavailability of toxins e.g. by applying lime, biochar or manure.
  • Reducing contact with the soil by wearing gloves, growing ground covers and applying mulch.
  • Choosing crops that are less likely to uptake contaminants (whilst fruits and seeds are largely protected from metal accumulation, plants grown for their leaves and roots are at higher risk).

Notably, both CERES and the Melbourne Food Hub are former quarries and landfill sites with potential contamination risks. For both, effective safeguards/ workarounds have allowed for safe food growing and revitalised previously under-utilised urban spaces.

Read more discussions of issues by 3000acres.

Mac’s blast from the past – fruit thinning

When it comes to fruit trees, it is often a case of less is more! Now that your fruit tree flowers are ending and the fruit is starting to form, it is a great time to remove some of the fruit! When a tree is carrying a very heavy crop, the fruits are often small and of poor quality. Fruit thinning can improve fruit size and quality on many fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums, peaches and nectarines. Simply remove some of the fruit by hand. Thinning will also stop your fruit trees bearing biennially (i.e. a heavy crop one year is followed by a light crop the year after) plus you will prevent branches breaking from bearing too much fruit and allow better air flow (which helps protect your fruit against both fungal disease and insect attack).

Read more of Mac’s tips.

Another cafe giving away their spent coffee grounds

Cruze Lounge, 13a/78 Nepean Street, Watsonia. Please ring (9433 2135) in advance to check that they have some available. Thanks for the heads up, Margot Meredith!

That brings the total number of cafes on our list to 13.

If you know of any other cafes who want to give away the coffee grounds, email me. If there are any of our list who shouldn’t be there, also email me.

Bread, cheese and wine in St Andrews

As some of you will know (and may have participated in), last Sunday was the annual tour of mudbrick houses, this time held in St Andrews. Its end point was at the corner of Scott Street and Burns Street, which is now an enclave containing the shops of three of the local food producers: A Local Baker, Punch Wines and The Cheese Rebels. They are all open every Saturday and work together so that you can (as I did) have a lunch of locally made bread, cheese and wine. Yum!


Corrections and clarifications

Karen Sutherland’s pop-up spring plant sale at Gunyah garden on Sunday, 17th November is from 2-4pm, not 7-9pm as stated in last week’s newsletter. A very strange typo by me. Sorry, Karen.

The preparing a Spring/Summer garden workshop on 27th October has changed venue and will now be at Macleod Organic Community Garden.

Choy Lai has written in to say that Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics at Preston Market stock How Now’s milk.

Linda Samson has written in to say that: “Sadly, Yarrambat no longer has a general store. Some of us miss it very much.

More on the mega seed giveaway

Thanks to Anna, Anna, Carrie, Cathy, Deb, Emily, Helen, Luke, Mala, Monique, Pat, Prue, Sabi, Sid, Sonia and Vanessa for taking some of the seeds from last week’s giveaway. Thanks, again, to Bruno for donating the seeds.

I’ve still got lots of seeds for bunching onions (untreated), salad rocket (untreated) and baby leaf spinach (treated). Pickup at my house in Eltham. Email me to arrange pickup.

Every newsletter needs a good picture

Lauren Ko makes pies with geometric patterns. View some of her pies. View more of her pies.

Free plant identification apps

I was visiting a local community garden the other day and someone asked me to identify a particular plant. So, I got my phone out, took a picture and voila: Sambucus nigra (European black elderberry).

Some free plant identification plant apps for smartphones really do work! The two that I have found to be the most effective are PlantNet and PlantSnap.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The list of people who collect bee swarms across North East Melbourne..

Joke of the week

When the waiter asked if I wanted my pizza cut into four or eight slices, I said, “Four. I don’t think I can eat eight.”

Read more jokes.

New events – not cooking

Great tomato giveaway: Tuesday, 29th October, from 10am; Watsonia Library.

What: The Watsonia Community Garden is continuing their tradition of giving away tomato seedlings for you to take home and grow, compliments of the garden volunteers.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.

Beeswax wraps and candlemaking workshop: Thursday, 31st October, 1.30-3.30pm; Wonga Park.

What: Tutor: Holly from Holly’s Backyard Bees. Learn how to use beeswax to make your own food wraps and candles. Holly will teach you the skills to be able to make these items at home in any shape or size you like. You will take home a beeswax wrap and a beeswax candle.
Cost: $50.
Bookings: Humanitix.

Zero-waste skills and sustainable food systems (6 sessions): on 6 consecutive Thursdays, starting 7th November, 9.30am-1.30pm; Brunswick.

What: This is a new ecological literacy pilot program where you will develop skills on how to manage your household waste and better understand our food and energy system. Topics will include: understanding food systems & climate change; zero-waste kitchen skills; how to be a sustainable food shopper; being wise with water; and understanding energy & climate change.
Cost: free.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Farming-for-change: an introduction with Meg Yates: Saturday, 9th November, 1.30-3pm; Lilydale Library.

What: Farming-for-Change is a small farm in the Dandenong Ranges that grows heirloom produce using organic and permaculture principles. Along with their partners Trek Learning Centre, it offers a program for young people who have become disengaged with education or employment and are facing a range of barriers that have impacted their lives. Go along and hear how the project allows vulnerable youth a chance to immerse themselves in a range of farming, building and various life skills in a safe, holistic space where they can experience a sense of belonging.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.

Moreland Local Food Forum and networking: Thursday, 14th November, 6-8pm; Coburg.

What: Celebrate the achievements of the local food community. Participate in conversations about local food projects. There will also be facilitated networking, providing opportunities to connect with others who are passionate about creating a sustainable, just and vibrant food system.
Cost: free.
Bookings: EventBrite.

New events – cooking

Truffle workshop at Ratio Cocoa Roasters: Saturday, 7th December, 10.30am-midday; Fawkner Library.

What: A behind-the-scenes tour of the 10 step chocolate making process at Ratio Cocoa Roasters. Followed by a guided chocolate tasting. Then make your own milk or dark truffles with a selection of toppings.
Cost: $75.
Bookings: EventBrite.

Fermentation veg ferments and cultured condiments: Sunday, 8th December, 10am-2pm; CERES, Brunswick East.

What: What you will learn: all about ferments; and how to ferment your own food. What you will get: recipes to take home; and samples of what you make. Presenter: Monique Miller. Focusing on sauerkraut, fermented condiments such as lacto-fermented salsa, apple sauce, and also a broader range of fermented vegetables & fruits.
Cost: $100.
Bookings: WeTeachMe.

Creative Chinese vegetarian cooking: Sunday, 8th December, 1.30-3pm; Watsonia Library.

What: The EZ Veggie cooking group will show you how to make tasty, healthy, vegetarian dishes and will offer tastings during the session.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.

Christmas gingerbread house demonstration: Monday, 9th December, 10.30-11.30am; Watsonia Library.

What: Irene Williams will demonstrate how to make a gingerbread house for Christmas.
Cost: free.
Bookings: their website.

Cookie cake and fondant cookies with Emelia Jackson: Tuesday, 10th December and again on Wednesday, 11th December, both 7-9pm; Gourmet Living, Templestowe.

What: You will learn: how to make a gingerbread tree cookie cake with shipped chocolate ganache; about fondant – how to colour it, roll and cut it out to perfectly fit your cookie; how to decorate cookies in a festive style with watercolour painted fondant, marble fondant, embossed lettering and gold/silver leaf; how to make your own stencils and cut out a large cookie cake; and how to decorate and fill a large cookie cake. Snacks and sparkling on arrival; tart and bruschetta to eat while you watch; cookies to take home.
Cost: $70.
Bookings: WeTeachMe (Tuesday, Wednesday).

Stress free Christmas cooking (thermomix): Tuesday, 10th December, 7.30-9pm; Kilsyth.

What: Christmas can be stressful because you just want it to be perfect. In this class, they will show you how to use your thermomix to make your Christmas easier, from pre-preparing dishes, downloading easy recipes and following our own thermomix favourites.
Cost: $21.
Bookings: EventBrite, .

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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