Full Moon Means Frost

Credit and copyright: Alan Walters

Credit and copyright: Alan Walters

Did you see the moonrise tonight? Spectacular. And after a chilly winter’s day, despite the welcome sunshine, it all augers well for a very, very cold night and a big frost. Say goodbye to all those still flowering, or producing, late summer and autumn crops! Oh well, it is mid July.

But the garlic will welcome it, as will the other alliums and hardy greens, like kale, silverbeet, broccoli, as well as caulis and celery. Root  crops like parsnip, carrot, celeriac, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, etc. also do well with a frost or more; they will all taste sweeter. I wish I had got my act together in late summer to plant celeriac, and many more greens! Next year …

A few of us made the most of the sun and popped out for a potter in the garden today – still very cold out, but it’s very easy (almost enjoyable) weeding, and the soil seems CWA sponge-light to dig in. The biodynamic preps and our hard working worms could be the reason.

Even if it is too cold now, calling all gardeners out in August,  for our August 27th Sunday gardening session. More news to follow, but we’ll be doing some dreaming, planning and talking about how the community garden is now and could be in the future, thanks to Jinette de Gooijer (Innovative Practice) who has offered to help us. It’s four years on in the garden and with many new plotholders and time passing, it’s ripe to revisit our original aims and how the garden is working. Plus, we need to work out what to write on our tank!

Stay warm and enjoy the weeding - and the full moon.

Calling tree planters and friends …

A call to friends of Powlett Hill, from Andrew & Jenny Fawcett, Ben & Jo Fawcett:

As part of the 2 million tree project the state government offered community and private groups the opportunity to apply for grants for vegetation projects. We have been fortunate to receive funding for 1000 trees and shrubs.

At Powlett Hill we have a long term plan to develop a wildlife corridor throughout the farm, already vegetated areas will eventually be connected along waterways and shelter plantations, the corridor will extend from the Campbelltown bush at the northern edge of the farm throughout the whole farm.

We would be very appreciative of friends of the farm to come on either Sunday 27th July (National tree planting day ) or Tuesday 29th July from 11.00 am and plant 10 trees each, we will have piping hot soup and fresh bread to warm the soul.

Please bring yourself a mug so we can save another tree.

If you are able to assist with this project please respond by email or phone so we can be sure to have plenty of soup .

We’ll be organising carpooling from Newstead for community gardeners. Let us know if you can come – 0439 003 469 or ecologica@bigpond.com and which day - alternatively, contact the Fawcett’s direct, see below. We’ve been well supported by Powlett Hill since our garden began, especially through compost makings, now we can repay their generosity.

Location - 110 Kellys Road, Glengower VIC 3370 (look up google maps), Email: powletthill@bigpond.com, Phone: 0353 456287.


Midwinter, by the Calendar

We’re planting a couple of apricots this month. In Newstead, frost-prone as it is. Not only because of the changing conditions, but because we have a couple of microclimates (protected by pepper tree, north facing, sheltered) that, hopefully, will see the trees through flowering and fruit set should we get 21 june2014 03those usually big, early Spring Newstead frosts.

I’m thinking about playing around with the generally acceptable planting times and plant types for this area, since things seem anything but seasonal to me over these past several years (I have roses and lavender flowering in my garden at present). Having said all that, the July Notes are now posted – all conventional, conservative, business as usual – so feel free to follow as writ, or have your own play. Keen to hear if you are altering planting dates and types/varieties as well. Our Newstead Tomato (late maturing according to historical annecdote) did no good this year, though some seeds have been saved, but I also wonder if there’s a newer, improved version in the offing. And for other fruits and veges as well? Perhaps we’ll soon be able to grow lemons out in the open, like they do in Maldon?!

Back to winter, and the ABV(Australia Biodynamics – Victoria) have just sent their  Winter Newsletter  – Ernst and Rosie and fellow members have been very busy all over the State, laying horns, making composts and making biodynamics real … and there’s some other BD garden events as well. Brian Keats is warning of weather extremes this month, see the July Notes for more info. Don’t forget the Produce Exchange on 5th July.

Enjoy the depth of quiet stillness (apart from the munching of snails and slugs)  in your garden this month. Let’s hope for cold, wet, miserable conditions, for the garden’s sake.

It’s the weather for making biochar

Biochar WorkshopA cold Sunday morning, quite still, drizzle holding off. Perfect conditions for making a batch of biochar, where temperatures in the burner reach between 400 and 600 (or more) degrees Celcius. Depending on what sort of device you use, you can even boil a cuppa whilst you char!

Anthony gave participants a run down on the origin (Terra Preta, around 400BC) and values of biochar, it’s uses in agriculture and other areas, and importantly how to use or activate it once you’ve made it. We produced around 3 or 4 kilograms of biochar from about 20kg of starting material. But you can scale up to farm level, and also make use of the other byproducts of the process – ‘biogas’ (for energy, heat) and ‘bioliquid’ (also called wood vinegar).

Biochar WorkshopThe process involves burning material which is high in carbon, fibre and cellulose under conditions of low oxygen and high temperature (and no smoke).  After you’ve produced the biochar, you then need to ‘condition’ or ‘activate’ it  before applying it to the soil. Anthony has built his own TLUD (Top Load Up Draft) furnace from 44 gallon drums, but you can also buy smaller TLUDs specifically made for use in developing countries (where continued exposure to smoke from cooking fires is a major health issue).

Watch the slideshow or the picture gallery for more info on the method. Anthony has used the ‘bible of biochar’ – The Biochar Revolution – to guide his learning and also presented an interesting paper outlining fifty-five uses of biochar … and counting?


Discover the wonders of Biochar

Our Sunday gardening session on 22 June will include a workshop from 10.00am -12.00noon, to introduce gardeners to biochar and how to make your own, run by Anthony Santamaria. He’s been experimenting with making and using this amazing substance.

Essentially charcoal – biochar is made by burning carbon rich materials, in the absence of oxygen (pyrolysis). The result is a soil additive that is stable, has a large surface area that provides a perfect home for soil microbes, and holds large amounts of moisture. It is also a way of sequestering or storing carbon in the soil that is not easily released into the atmosphere. (think hundreds, or thousands, of years).


You can also download the flyer here: Biochar Intensive June. Feel free to pass onto any interested gardeners in your networks. For more info or to book, contact Anthony on 0490 055 918.

Yes, it’s mid-year, and winter

toms from juliaHard to believe. But yes, we are on the cusp of winter - June; the middle of the year … And if you’re like me, you’ll still be eating – and ripening – tomatoes. It’s barely believable - what happened with autumn?

On the subject of tomatoes, Saide and Julia are keen to know how the garden ones performed this year, remembering that Margot gave us an array of varieties, and that some gardeners also put them in at home. How did yours go? I reckon the Yellow Pear were very productive, but not so tasty and the San Marzano, though supposed to be a drying/preserving variety, were exceptionally good (so much so I failed to save seeds). Whippersnapper and Snow Apple also tasted pretty good to me.

Be keen to hear of your tomato tastings, even though it hasn’t been a great year for them to truly shine. But it will help guide our growing next year and work out what suits Newstead climes. I’ve also got some Newstead Tomatoes ripening in the fruit bowl for seed saving (a bit nervewracking, having to be a keeper of the seed).

Autumn 2014 Newstead Community GardenSo to June. For what it’s worth, the seasonal June Notes are now posted. I suspect the cold is finally coming, and along with it let’s hope for some wet, though El Nino is looking likely. Brian Keats is predicting cold and frosts for the first part of the month, and through it.

Have fun in the June garden at any rate. Still plenty to do. Don’t forget our biochar workshop with Anthony on 22nd, the Produce Exchange on the 7th and our regular gardening dates.

Maldon Neighborhood House are running a mosiac tile making workshop at their garden on Saturday 14 June - more info here: tiles.pdf. Could be a good way to identify our plots at the garden, and yours, at home.

After the compost, heaps more

Diana and Sarah had a go at a heap after our big build; some pics below. The next build will be at Sarah’s in the next couple of weeks, an invite, if anyone wants to join in … practice makes perfect, or at least a fairly decent compost. Others have also been busy with heaps!

During a coffee and cake brainstorm Diana and Sarah thought that it may be a good idea to see if any garden members were interested in joining in on a working bee to be held at each other’s properties when required. As Diana suggests:

Perhaps, one member may have fruit trees that need a winter prune and are unable or don’t know how to do this, or perhaps another member may need some assistance in making a small garden patch in their yard. We would all help each other in lending our skills and know how to assist each other. What are your thoughts?

Let us know. In the meantime, our big BD heap is ‘cooking’ and now also several smaller bays, thanks to Joan’s efforts on the weekend. Nothing like a good compost build to create the basis for community gardening.

Thanks also to Frances Cincotta from Newstead Natives who has generously donated more plants to our indigenous planting areas, to replace those poor plants lost over last summer’s blast (and our lack of nurturing). The rest of her plantings are doing exceptionally well - it’s good to see what local species are thriving at the garden. We’ve seen wrens and small birds about, apart from the very resident (and fat) maggies, so hoping that the native plantings are attracting more small birds that will eat the pesky bugs. Thanks Frances!

Happy Birthday to Us!

On Sunday we celebrated four years of Newstead Community Gardening. Time flies when you are in the garden - and it did on Sunday with many spending just about the whole day digging, planting, composting, weeding, harvesting, chatting. We celebrated, with what else, but cake! An array, including our Commnity Garden Cake (thanks to Barwon Heads), Upsidedown Quince, Lemon & Coconut Semolina, Scones, Jam & Cream, Lemon Slice, and something savory (relief after the sweet things) in Spanikopita ala Saide. The garden cake recipe is on our website … hope the rest will be forthcoming, very soon. Hint.

Welcome to new members Carolyn and Marcus (and thanks to Marcus for providing musical accompaniment to our gardening, very lovely) and thanks to all who attended. The Church folk gave us a lovely birthday card; thanks to Rev Fiona and all the congregation for being such wonderful neighbours and landlords.

We look forward to the next year as one of growth, bounty, generosity and connection.


Those Green Tomatoes

Diana and Carol harvested the bulk of the rest of our tomatoes on Sunday as we were waiting for the flowforms to do their thing with the BD500. We have a mix of ripening and green tomatoes ready for the eating, preserving, ripening …

Good thing that Anthony has provided this simple recipe for green tomatoes – no doubt there are many Central Victorian gardeners in the same boat.

Go to our food and recipe pages for  Anthony’s Pomodori Verdi Sott’aceto e Olio (Green Tomatoes in Vinegar and Oil) and enjoy.

And if you are wondering if they will ever ripen, if your tomatoes have a blotch or touch of yellowing and coloration they will ripen, especially if snuggled up against pears, quinces, apples, bananas in the fruit bowl. Be patient and enjoy the out of season tomato taste sensation.

growing tomatoes