Nillumbik’s Community Grow Guide has been published As it says in the introduction: “Nillumbik’s Community Grow Guide is an easy-to-follow guide to vegetable gardening in Nillumbik. The illustrated booklet guides you through some popular vegetables to plant, how to care for them and how to save seeds. Gardening advice can be overwhelming for a beginner. There is a lot of information available describing different climates, soil types and weather conditions. This guide provides simple advice that is specific to the Nillumbik area. The importance of gardening for our physical and mental wellbeing is widely acknowledged and this illustrated guide provides an accessible entry point for beginner gardeners. Nillumbik’s Community Grow Guide aims to encourage more people to start gardening, connect with a community of gardeners and experience the joy that is associated with being outdoors and producing your own food.

Pick up a hard copy at any of Edendale Farm, Eltham Library, Hurstbridge Hub, Nillumbik Nursery, Wadambuk St Andrews Community Centre, or seed libraries throughout Banyule & Nillumbik. (posted November 16 2022)

This page lists 58 vegan cafes in Melbourne, each with a description, photo and map location. (posted July 13 2022)

Here is a great graphic about food chains. (posted September 15 2021)

Newsletter reader Sarah Hardgrove’s Master’s research apparently focused on the effects of spent coffee grounds on garden plants. It is in that context that she was recently interviewed by the ABC. Read the interview. (posted June 23 2021)

Karen Coulston, from Yarrambat, who is an erstwhile wine maker and well-known local wine connoisseur, has published some notes on her favourite wines by variety and place. It is a comprehensive guide about what wines she likes and doesn’t like, and why. The wines that it covers include white wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio / Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon), sparkling wines (Champagne, Prosecco), red wines (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz) and fortified wines (Sherry, Port, Muscat, Tokay). (posted December 2 2020)

Paul West, from River Cottage Australia and, until recently, a resident of Thornbury, has been interviewed by PIP magazine. Listen to the podcast. (posted November 13 2019)

Did you know that a third of public green space in Melbourne is apparently nature strips? And that, whilst nature strips are public land, their upkeep is the responsibility of private citizens (e.g. the people who live next to the strip)? Listen to someone called Adrian Marshall debate whether nature strips should all be turned into gardens. (posted November 13 2019)

Here is a great graphic from a website called Beekeeping Basics about how worker honey bees have different jobs according to their age. Here are some more web pages that discuss the same subject: National Geographic, Perfect Bee and Hobby Farms.

  • 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. (posted November 6 2019)

Read this article about how to make your own seed packets. (posted October 16 2019)

Using (or, rather, not using) gravel in potted plants Like many other people, I habitually put gravel into the bottom of pots in the belief that it will improve drainage. Well, according to this article, it's a myth. (posted September 11 2019)

Tracey Bjorksten has written in: “This is a topic that always seems to get people talking, I think because the physics feels counter-intuitive to many. This old research paper has some pictures that illustrate the phenomenon of the perched water table. The degree to which the raising of the perched water table by a layer of gravel is going to cause a problem will vary according to pot size, shape, particle size of potting mix used, watering habits, the tolerance of the plant to waterlogging, etc and I suspect this is a reason why people are reluctant to give up their gravel.”

Angelo Eliades has also weighed in: “The short answer is that generally it’s a bad idea to use gravel at the bottom of plant pots. For a longer answer, see the new article on my website, which goes heavily into the science, delving into the physics and physical chemistry.

Five edible native plants to grow at home. Coastal saltbush, murnong (aka yam daisy), vanilla lily, warrigal greens (aka native spinach) and appleberry. (posted August 21 2019)

The flavour of a piece of cheese varies throughout – the flavour is often more intense near the rind, and the texture there will be different from that at the centre. In order to get a taste of everything in each piece, different cheese shapes require different cutting techniques. Read how to cut each shape of cheese. (posted August 7 2019)

Read this article in The Guardian about the ancient art of silvopasture – combining livestock with productive trees. (posted July 17 2019)

Cocoa vs cacao – what is the difference? is the subject of an article by the local chocolate maker Organic Times. Spoiler alert: the article says that they are synonyms(!) but it also gives some interesting additional info. (posted June 26 2019)

Read this page on the ABC News website for newsletter reader Richard Rowe‘s tips on being a water-smart gardener. Richard was also interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne. (posted January 23 2019)

Newsletter reader Kathy Gardiner writes a monthly article about gardening for the Warrandyte Diary. See the picture right for her latest article. (posted December 5 2018)



Newsletter reader Katrina Forstner (aka Buzz and Dig) has written an article on how to build a bee hotel and encourage some native solitary bees into your garden. (posted November 21 2018)



Tomato: know, sow, grow, feast is a new book about Australian heirloom tomatoes. One of its authors is newsletter reader Karen Sutherland, with the others being Penny Woodward and Janice Sutton. Here is what the back cover says: “Heirloom, organic, Australian. Karen leads you through organic heirloom tomato growing, from seed sowing to feeding, pruning and training. She outlines a variety of ways to grow, tells stories of some passionate growers, and helps you to keep problems at bay with an extensive illustrated pest and disease section. Penny chronicles the history of heirloom tomato varieties in Australia and explains how to breed your own heirloom tomatoes. She also details why tomatoes are so good for you, and why a red tomato is red! Finally Penny lists, and describes in detail, more than 220 different heirloom tomatoes that can be sourced in Australia today. Janice explores the enticing and diverse range of heirloom tomato flavours, describes in detail how to select, prepare and cook heirloom tomatoes, and explains how to create the perfect tomato passata and paste. Finally, she shares more than 60 delectable tomato recipes from renowned chefs from all over Australia.” Booktopia says: “What [sets the book apart] is the extensive list and descriptions of heirloom tomato pests and diseases, painstakingly researched by gardening expert Karen Sutherland, that includes an indispensable pest and disease chart to help gardeners identify and control them.” (posted September 19 2018)

Talking about people who have written books – here’s something that you don’t know (and probably don’t want to know): I (Guy Palmer) am an erstwhile book author and you can still buy some of my books online at Amazon. For example, my 2006 book on housing and my 2002 book on poverty & social exclusion. (posted September 19 2018)

Some articles by Ben Moore from Ben’s Bees:

Interview with Joe Garita on wikinorthia – erstwhile market gardener on Merri Creek: Joe Garita had a 5 acre market garden on the Merri Creek in Coburg. Note that, although recently published, the interview actually took place in 2012. (posted September 12 2018)

How to Grow Great Tomatoes in Melbourne: a typically comprehensive article by Leaf, Root & Fruit. (posted September 5 2018)

I happened to come across this seasonal edible weed calendar on the SBS website. The article was written by North East Melbourne resident Adam Grubb and is apparently an extract from The Weed Forager’s Handbook, which was co-authored by Adam and has now sold 20,000 copies. Adam is also the facilitator of the regular edible weed walks along Merri Creek. (posted July 4 2018)

New free range egg laws have just come into effect. From now on, eggs labelled free range must come from chooks that: have regular and meaningful access to an outdoor range; are able to roam and forage on an outdoor range; and are subject to a maximum stocking density of 10,000 hens per hectare. The bad news is that hens with a stocking density of 10,000 per hectare can be described as ‘free range’. The good news, however, is that the new rules require eggs labelled ‘free range’ to display the stocking density on pack, so you can easily distinguish eggs that come from hens with lots of room to move from those that don’t. Received wisdom is that you should be looking for a stocking density of 1,500 hens per hectare or less. (posted May 9 2018)

Seed raising mix: does it work?. From the Deep Green Permaculture website: “Want to sow seeds in pots? What do you need? Seed raising mix? Guess again! Working part-time in the garden nursery industry, I meet many gardeners who have had problems sowing seeds in seed raising mix – they find that their seeds sprout but their seedlings only reach a very small size and then completely stop growing, and the resultant seedlings are very thin and spindly! That’s because seed raising mix has absolutely no nutrients in it, and is totally unsuitable for growing seeds in. It’s actually misnamed, it really should be called ‘seed covering mix’ or ‘seed germination mix’, because that’s what it’s designed for, and does well.” Read more. (posted April 11 2018)

A great graphic. (posted March 28 2018)


Question: what do you use to die eggs blue for Easter? Answer: purple cabbage, of course. (posted March 7 2018)


Our colleagues at Sustainable Gardening Australia have recently published a number of gardening guides: choosing mulch; feeding your plants; green manure; and the science of composting. (posted October 4 2017)

Surprising pics that show how food looks before it’s harvested: these 30 pictures of ‘unusual’ fruit and veggies (across 3 pages) are quite interesting. How many of them have you grown and with what success? I have grown 11, 4 successfully (asparagus, globe artichoke, peanut and pomegranate), 1 unsuccessfully (brussels sprouts) and 6 works in progress (almond, avocado, banana, jabuticaba, kiwifruit and pineapple). (posted April 26 2017)

This picture includes my current favourite veggie for home growing: golden frills, which is a variety of mustard greens. (posted April 5 2017)

Three ways to save tomato seeds: fermenting, drying and burying. (posted March 1 2017)

How do we keep gardening in the face of a changing climate?. (posted March 1 2017)

Plant nutrients explained: have a look at this article from the Sustainable Gardening Australia website. It explains the roles of not only N, P and K, but also Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, B, Mo, Cu and Zn. (posted February 1 2017)

10 tips for eating locally and cutting the energy used to produce your food. (posted October 26 2016)

Are coffee grounds actually helpful to growing veggies? See a paper evaluating a trial in Vietnam which concludes that coffee husks are a good addition to compost. Also, an article published by Sustainable Gardening Australia agrees re compost but warns against adding uncomposted coffee to the garden. (posted September 14 2016)

Meet and eat: characters made from fruit and veg – in pictures: just to demonstrate that this is a highbrow newsletter, have a look at this wonderful array of pictures. My favourite is probably Stephen (the rightmost one below), whilst my wife likes Albert (the leftmost one below). (posted August 3 2016)

Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens newsletter: if you want to receive regular (weekly) newsletters about all aspects of growing fruit trees in Victoria, you might want to consider subscribing to the Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens newsletter (posted June 15 2016)

When is it time to harvest? Here is a plant-by-plant guide to help you decide when to harvest each fruit or vegetable. (posted June 29 2016)

50 resources to help you become more self-sufficient: there are lots of tips and ideas within this article. (posted April 6 2016)

10 steps towards greener cooking and eating. (posted April 6 2016)

How to make a self-watering pot: Carolyn Leach-Paholski, a regular at the monthly Box Hill South Urban Harvest swap, has created a great illustration of how to make a self-watering pot. It comprises 8 simple steps, which are numbered on the illustration as 1-2i-2ii-3i-3ii-4i-4ii-4iii. In summary, cut a plastic soft drink bottle in half, punch a hole in the lid and thread a length of string to wick water up to the soil. (posted February 24 2016)
self-watering pot          self-watering pot2

Wonky veggies: ‘Wonky’ veggies in the UK. Also ‘wonky’ veggies in Australia. If you want to know more, just google ‘wonky veggies’. (posted February 10 2016)

How to make seed pots from old newspapers: Sustainable Gardening Australia’s most popular Facebook link thus far in 2016. (posted February 10 2016)

Government announces new labelling system for Australian food: read about the planned, new labelling system on the ABC website. According to the article, the labels will initially be voluntary, but manufacturers will be forced to use them from next year if the states and territories agree to the proposal. (posted July 22 2015)

A classification scheme of local food business models. (posted June 10 2015)

France passes new law forbidding food waste: France has recently passed a law which bans grocery stores from throwing away unsold food. See, for example, an article on Treehugger which discusses the law. (posted June 3 2015)

France passes new law on green roofs: Something is obviously afoot in France as they also recently passed a law that requires new buildings in commercial zones to be partially covered in either plants or solar panels. See, for example, the article on TriplePundit. (posted June 3 2015)

Testing the pH of your soil: Milkwood has posted a comprehensive article on how to test and balance your soil’s pH. The difference between a pH of 6 and and a pH of 7 might not sound much but remember that it is a logarithmic scale. So, for example there is a tenfold difference in the number of hydrogen ions between pHs 6 and 7 and a hundredfold difference between pHs 6 and 8. (posted April 1 2015)

Around the world in 80 plants: This is a book to take you on an inspiring edible adventure, introducing author Stephen Barstow’s top 80 perennial vegetables. (posted November 5 2014)

Country of origin labelling: Australian vegetable growers support the Victorian Farmers’ Federation calling for authorities to tighten the law against incorrect labelling. Read more. (posted October 29 2014)

Australian agriculture must adapt to climate change.: Peanuts have moved north, tuna has moved east, wine has moved south, but sooner or later, Australia is going to run out of places to shift agricultural production to avoid the harsh effects of climate change. You can read more here. (posted October 22 2014)

The Future of Food: Read about this in the Age Good Food guide. (posted October 10 2014)

Dahr Jamail; Open source farming; a renaissance man tackles the food crisis: This is an interesting article, where Joe Breskin has increased vegetable yields in greenhouses by recycling heat from fans. (posted September 25 2014)

Nethercote Community funds its own market gardeners: This is an article about two ladies in NSW who have established a scheme to pay market gardeners to grow vegetables for the region’s farmers’ markets. (posted September 25 2014)

The Good Chocolate Guide provides a list of fair trade certified producers as well as UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certified. UTZ and Rainforest Alliance do not go as far as fairtrade certified products in working with communities to break the poverty cycle, but still may be worth considering. If you are looking for a very local stockist, especially with Easter coming up, Fair Trade Choc is available through Only Just in Monty. (posted April 3 2014)

Pretty looking sugar-free drinks from this site. (posted February 27 2014)

Local food garden educator: Seila Hierk has been teaching adults and children about food gardening for several years, in and around Melbourne. It is great to read about him in the Herald Sun. (posted February 20 2014)

Elisabet Sahtouris, fascinating interview: Elisabet Sahtouris is an evolution biologist, futurist, author and consultant. In her unique approach, called “Living Systems Design,” she applies the principles of biology and evolution to organizational development so that organizations may become more functional, healthy living systems, with increased resilience, stability, and cooperation. Heard on youtube. (posted October 3 2013)

Polyface Farm: Those of you who are fans of Joel Salatin may like to see these photos of his property and the fun that people were having. Our local equivalent of this style of farming is Taranaki Farm. (posted September 20 2013)

The love and peas revolution: Read about other street planter boxes around the world here: “…replacing geraniums and petunias in public areas with rhubarb, carrots, parsley, strawberries, and raspberries. As a result of all this effort, people not only enjoy eating fresh and locally produced food, but they also experience sustainability and science!” (posted September 20 2013)

Vegetable information cards: These cards are used in the Milkwood Market Gardening courses. These or similar cards would make a great resource for local home growers! (posted September 20 2013)

Transition: It is interesting to read that some people in government around the world are beginning to realise that Economic growth is an outdated model and are looking at the Transition model. Here is a story from Rob Hopkins about a recent conference in Paris. (posted September 5 2013)

Citrus gall wasp: Interesting article about this pest at SGA. (posted August 22 2013)

Worm wicking one year on: This is a great article by John Ashworth at the SGA site, on how a worm wicking bed has worked for him. (posted August 15 2013)

Should we ban “Shop Local”? Here is an interesting point of view. (posted July 18 2013)

Mushroom farming: Those of you who would love to grow mushrooms may like this story from Milkwood. (posted July 11 2013)

Food nutrition: How nutritious are our fruits and veg? Read about a study here. (posted June 27 2013)

Distribution costs: As we look more into the possibilities of developing local food systems, one issue that arises is distribution costs, in terms of both money and energy used. This site offers some interesting information. (posted May 9 2013)

Bhutan is the first country to go 100% organic. It “reminds us about the true lunacy of designating foods as ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ in modern society. These Bhutan farmers are not growing magic beans or enchanted corn, they are growing real food. Actual food as it was grown for thousands of years.” (posted March 7 2013)

How to really grow food in your backyard: For more than fifteen years, Asphyxia been growing food. For most of that time she has had limited success, and have been pretty baffled as to how an ordinary backyard can really produce enough food to feed a family. The past three years, however, she has made changes. Read more. (posted January 17 2013)

Banana packaging. How ridiculous is our food system becoming? Here is a message from Permablitz Melbourne: “And lastly, how great to know that in this fast paced world where we’re all time poor, we no longer have to waste all that time peeling a banana; this time can now be spent unwrapping layers of plastic and disposing of the styrofoam instead. Much simpler! Oh dear…” (posted October 18 2012)

Milkwood says “If we want effective local food being grown in quantity, it’s time we start investing in and encouraging market gardeners to make this sort of thing happen, because that’s the only way we’ll actually get community-scale food… ” . Is anyone up for this project? (posted July 26 2012)

 Leave a Reply