Getting out into the garden

Well I have no idea what’s been happening in the garden for the past few weeks, but am sure it’s been hotter and drier than in NZ. This past week saw frost and several single digit degree mornings in central Otago. Where I’ve been, the vege patch garlic is still forming and filling bulbs, chives flowering, broad beans are just beginning to flower in earnest, with more plantings going in on a regular basis, and tomatoes and corn barely planted. In Wellington, wind protection is the order of the day for all plants and somewhat curtails the growing season (and even clotheslines are placed in a sheltered spot!)

A little late, however, thanks to Brian Keats, I can provide the best gardening times and activities, sight unseen. You can order the 2015 Calendar now through his website, or from ABV.

Go to the Gardening Notes for December to find out what to do, when, this month. In what for many will be a hectic December, find some time to spend in the garden; you’ll be grateful on many fronts.

Last month Saide represented the garden at a gathering at Loddon Prison, a thankyou to the many community groups who supported the Prison’s Nomination for a Corrections Victoria Community Partnership Award. Loddon’s horticultural project raises seedlings for community garden projects around the shire (including ours) and was named Joint Winner from a total of 13 nominations for the “”Most Outstanding New Project Award”.

I visited Loddon Prison last week for morning tea (more of a swish brunch) on behalf of the community garden. We went for a tour of their garden. Two large shade sheds, each about 2.5 times the size of ours is where they do the seed raising. A very small vegetable patch grows some veggies, but is not yet used to supply their own kitchen, although all kitchen scraps are used to make compost for the garden. There are five, or is it six, 3×1 metre, state-of-the-art, concrete based worms farms with in-ground juice collectors that churn through the vegetable scraps. All are in constant use as the prison is like a small town – larger than Newstead. The only item they buy in is some seed raising mix.

They were very grateful for the seeds we offered and have asked for any requests re types of Autumn/Winter vegetable or herb seedlings be sent soon, as they are in their planning stage. If you have particular requests maybe you could send them to Mary Park or Myself, and we will pass them on to the appropriate people.

I was very impressed by the staff and other participants in the prison gardening program. One horticulturalist told me that a number of participants had experienced the gardening program as a form of transformational reconciliation. He saw working with nature as one of the key aspects.

It was a great opportunity to meet some of the other gardening groups in the region and to see the source of so many of our seedlings.

Gardeners have also been busy harvesting broad beans and podding, blanching and freezing for future eating. See you in the December garden.


Garlic Mustering

Thanks to Sarah for documenting the harvest  …

We were about 10-12 hours awry of harvesting in the most ideal lunar/planetary phase for the month. Not bad looking Flinders Island Purple bulbs though. These started out as our best and biggest cloves from last year’s harvest. Now we wait four to six weeks, with baited (well, maybe garlicky) breath and hope the near-enough timing also imparts excellent storage properties.

For more info: growing garlic brochure (the bulbs pictured here were used to plant this crop) and more garlic! Plus a reminder on how it all started.

Garlic harvest – it’s time

I checked our Flinders Island Purple garlic this morning and after this hot weekend, reckon it’ll be ready to harvest next week.

So far it’s looking promising – Gen and I cut a plant in half to see if the cloves had fully formed. and yes, it looks like it …

Rule of thumb is when the basal leaves (lower couple) yellow off and the neck (in softneck varieties) softens. You can also feel the individual cloves in the bulb. If left too long in the ground,  the bulbs will split or form outer cloves – affecting storage and appearance.

Since planting the crop has had three decent waters, a couple of weeding sessions with (very thick) more mulch added, plus a few feeds of BD seaweed/worm juice solution. And netting when the local birds got bored and decided to nip the tops off, back in winter.

We plan to harvest on Monday arvo at 3pm, so some extra hands would be welcome. Then the crop will be cured for 4 – 6 weeks in a dry, airy, shaded spot so that  the bulbs can totally dry out and flavours develop and intensify. We’ll use our donated herb drying racks to do the job.

It’ll be worth the wait.

Thanks to Helen for the use of the land and water, Mel for helping pin down the netting, and for Leon for ploughing and slashing the ground.

For more info on garlic and it’s harvesting : or to see what Penny Woodward says. And there’s some info our own blog.

Digger meets Digger

Lyn Grocke welcomed Diggers CEO Tim Sansom and his wife Kylie and their daughters Charlie and  Ginger to the Newstead Community Garden on Sunday

Lyn Grocke welcomed Diggers CEO Tim Sansom and his wife Kylie and their daughters Charlie and Ginger to the Newstead Community Garden on Sunday. Photo: Gen Barlow

Diggers Club CEO Tim Sansom and his family were amongst the visitors to our garden this week, as part of the Castlemaine Festival of Gardens (1-9 November).

Over the four days our garden has been open, we’ve had about 150 people wandering through. Not bad, considering the wild weather on the first weekend. But then again, gardeners are hardy folk. We’ve enjoyed chatting to keen gardeners and sharing our joy of the garden and it’s been good to share some time with fellow garden members as we do a ‘shift’.

There has been plenty of interest in our biodynamic practices and many comments on the productivity and  lushness of the garden. The diversity of plants and flowers and the mix of communal and individual plots – no straight line demarkation – has also been commented on favorably. It’s good to see the garden anew, or at least through new eyes.

Thanks to all who’ve visited and helped fill our fundraising coffers thus far (out of every $5 entry fee – kids are free – $4 goes back into the community garden). Thanks also to Frances Cincotta from Newstead Natives whose plant sales have been an added attraction to visitors – gardeners always seem to be able find another small space, just to pop in a plant or two!!

We are open again over the final weekend, 8-9 November, from 10 til 5. Drop in and visit us,  you might even go home with a bag of broadies …


Fabulous Dinner, now for the Festival …

A wonderful evening, happy diners and a beautiful garden setting, including Sally’s stunning table centrepieces. What more could we ask for?!

Thanks to all who contributed to our main fundraising event for the year, especially chef Julie Patey, her assistants Julie Butler and Sue Pollard, and everyone involved in setting up and packing up for the big event. Sarah managed our ticket sales and raffles, Saide and Julia oversaw the logistics, and many others worked hard to make the event a success. As always, we are grateful for the support from local producers (Powlett Hill, Holy Goat Cheese, Werona Grove, Welshman’s Reef Vineyard, Goughs Range Olives) Rosie and Ernst from BD Vic and to the garden and our gardeners.

Thanks also to our great fan and supporter (garden patron?!) Mark Hennessey who took these fabulous photos on the night.

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Barely time to put our feet up and have a cuppa and we’re gearing up again for the Castlemaine Festival of Gardens starting this weekend. Great for Newstead that this year we have four gardens open – ours, Roger’s Antaraes Art Garden (well worth at least a couple of visits to take it all in), Liz and Doug Bell’s working kitchen garden, shades of the original Red Store’s era, and Jenny and Barry’s garden of whimsey – and activity (Barry will be holding tai chi, bonsai demos, and the mens’ shed will be bbqing amongst other things there). Visit us all!

We’ll be open both weekends of the November 1 – 9 festival, as well as Monday and Tuesday of the first week. We’ll have our own-grown seedlings for sale, dried herbs and teas from the garden, tea and coffee and cake. We will also have native plants for sale from Newstead Natives (see how they’ve grown in our garden) and over the second weekend hedgelayer Kate Ellis is scheduled to have her garden sculpture for display and sale. The theme of this year’s festival is “out of the box” and you’ll see our antithesis of this in our blueberry ‘patch’ (definitely not straight ‘out of the box’!) but I suspect it may be a bit opaque.

See you in the gardens. Oh, and in between visits, get into your own patch for a dig. The November Notes are now posted – tomatoes and beans are a better bet than the nags.

Penny Woodward’s new garlic book – be in it to win it

Be at our dinner, at any rate. Penny has generously donated a copy of her newest publication ” Garlic”  as part of our fundraising hamper. Tickets will be sold and raffle drawn at our dinner on Saturday 25th October (the hamper will contain many other other lovely items alongside, including a Listening Earth CD and  Welshman’s Reef Vineyard offerings). Dinner tickets are also still available at the Newstead RTC during business hours.

Two weeks to the dinner. The garden is verdant, especially the weeds, so we’re having a working bee on Sunday 19th starting at 10am, to prepare for it and the Festival of Gardens. Please come and help. If you can’t get there on Sunday, we’ll have a list of tasks and can find one to suit your level of ability and time, to take on over the following week. This will tide us over for the Castlemaine Festival of Gardens! But who wouldn’t want to be in the garden at this time of year?

Back to Penny Woodward’s book. You can read my longer review of it here. In a few words, it’s clove-full of all things garlic. Packed with stunning photos, lots of information about specific cultivars as well as case studies of commercial growers, recipes, medicinal uses and historical info, it would make a great addition to your (my!) gardening library, along with Penny’s ‘Garlic and Alliums’, ‘Pest Repellant Plants’, ‘Australian Herbal’, and other books.

And here’s a pic of our latest visitors to the garden – the Yea Gardening Club. Thanks Gen, for showing them around.

Yea Gardening club members














Last Exchange at the Red Store

Tomorrow, Saturday, will be the last time The Red Store hosts the Produce Exchange. All welcome to come along and share in the exchange of fresh and preserved produce from 10:30am till noon.
See you there,
Liz Bell

Bring out your greens, and come and thank Liz for hosting the Produce Exchange outside the Red Store for the past many years (since it’s start!).

We’ll exchange at the garden as part of the Castlemaine Festival of Gardens in November, but are searching for a prime location, perferably main street based, for future Exchanges.

Got spare seeds, seedlings, perhaps some spring garlic (scapes), salad greens, broccoli, radishes … bring them to swap and share. If you don’t have anything to swap, come along anyway to catch up with other gardeners or make a gold coin donation to the garden while you go home with atrms laden.

The groaning produce table

Springing Forth

spring in the garden 2014Spring has well and truly … especially after today’s heat and winds. Mulching and feeding and planting out are the main tasks for October.

Go to the October Notes and you’ll also find some tips on soil pH – well worth testing over time, since it will dictate nutrient availability. In short, the majority of plant nutrients are available in the pH range 6.5 – 7.5 and soil microbial life and also nitrogen fixation (by legumes and their bacteria) is most active within that range. If microbes are active, mineral reserves that would be otherwise locked up are made available to plants (eg. Potassium, Nitrogen, Phosphorus). Most veges and fruit prefer this range but there are outliers, as outlined in the notes. Soil is complex. But the most complex systems are also the most stable (as organic grower and guru Eliot Coleman says) so the better your compost is – made with a diversity of manures, nitrogen and carbon sources – the better your soil will be in the end.

October features a lunar eclipse, on Wednesday 8th, and a solar eclispe, on Friday 24th. Brian Keats says that during this fornight there will be many planetary influences taking place (well, it is Spring and changeable). He’s also warning about Weather – during 5th – 10th, 12th -17th and 21st-25th October. Take note!

At a Newstead level, besides direct gardening, October is busy with our annual Fundraising Dinner and getting ready for it. Grow, broad beans! Enjoy October in the garden. And our many scarecrows.

Come Dine with Us

It’s on again – our annual fundraising dinner. Join us on Saturday 25th October for a spring feast with the usual  garden hospitality. This year Julie Patey is taking up the cheffing apron to create a meal with shared harvest theme, supported by local producers and community gardeners. Tickets are always in demand, so be quick to secure yours for what is perhaps the highlight of the community garden calendar! See details below, or download the NCG dinner flyer.

NCG dinner flyer:1

On on the subject of events, the Mount Alexander Shire are holding a chook workshop at The Hub plot on 27 September, with our own Newstead chook fancier, Graeme Elshaugh. See the flyer-keeping-chooks-workshop.pdf here.


Seeding and Sowing

purple broccoli seedlings after about a week We’re sowing and seeding in all sorts of ways. Come along to gardening this Thursday 11th (see upcoming events – on the sidebar – for times) and on Sunday from 2pm as we sow seeds for Summer and also the Festival of Gardens fundraising. We have seeds, but bring any you have to contribute. Grow for your own plot or for all of us. The Newstead preschool will be starting some as well on Thursday from 11.30am and would welcome guidance from gardeners.

Meanwhile we’ve been busy post Jinette’s session developing thoughts and ideas and readying for the fundraising dinner – keep October 25th free – and the Festival of Gardens starting Melbourne Cup weekend, as well as the Childrens Literature Festival, soonest, on September 30th. Megan, Mary, Sarah, Gen, Julie and others are leading the way with these events, all important for our coffers, as well as fun things to be involved in.

Today the Newstead CWA held their Spring Fling at the garden with members from surrounding groups. Gayle,Carolyn and I gave them a bit of a tour and talk about the history of the garden, compared pesky critter control and enjoyed the sunshine and stonefruit blossoms. It’s wonderful having others visit the garden and share this special space. Thanks Janet and Daryl for all the organising.

CWA at the garden, september 10 2014 - spring fling