Bring out your Greens!

Don’t forget this Sunday our annual BD compost build is on.

We have all the makings of a fantastic heap, thanks to local BD farmers and several of our gardener members (and some young muscle!). Green material the last thing to collect - lawn clippings, autumn leaves, kitchen scraps, fresh weeds, spent crops. The green bit is crucial as it will determine the final size of the heap. So bring out your greens!

If you are wanting to know more about biodynamic compost, learn how to construct your own heap (big or small) and how to care for and use your compost, come along this Sunday 27th April. There’ll be soup and cuppas. If you bring a contribution to the heap (esp. green matter) the workshop is free. Come and be a part of this important event for our community garden, and our soil.

Bad Moon Rising

lunar-eclipse-600 (reuters)

Well, not really. But if you can look out and up tomorrow night, Tuesday 15th April, it’ll be worth it. A lunar eclipse.

Ernst from Biodynamics Victoria has this to say…

Since Biodynamics is a lot about the moon and its influence, there is a rare opportunity coming up tomorrow to watch a Full Moon combined with a Lunar Eclipse. The ‘stargazers’ in our membership certainly do know about this, and the Astro Calendar shows the occasion as well.
From ancient mystery to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, this from dark pale to red (depending on the air pollution) appearing moon has kept people puzzled.

Watch out for this total lunar eclipse right after moonrise, when it is halfway through this phase at 7.30pm. The weather seems to be kind to us to see the event.


And our garlic is emerging …

Enjoy the current productive conditions for gardening – moisture, warmth, sunlight!

Come and Create Compost

learning the art of composting at Newstead Community GardenAnother autumn, another big compost build … this year our BD compost making day will be on Sunday April 27, 10am – 3pmcompost flyer 2014.

Building a large compost heap is not only critical for soil building but it is also a great community activity and we couldn’t do it without extra hands. Over the past three years, gardeners have come from Newstead, Castlemaine, Taradale, Maldon, Guildford and other areas to learn about the basics and help build our heap.

Compost is the most important tool in organic and biodynamic gardening, where the focus is on feeding the soil. It’s the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that do the work for us, turning ‘waste’ into a rich resource, improving the soil and providing plant nutrients.

Checking out the compostWe build our heap with successive layers of carbon (brown) and nitrogen (green) and include the
biodynamic herb-based preparations of valerian, chamomile, nettle, yarrow, oak bark and dandelion. Other materials like eggshells, lime, dolomite and rockdust add minerals. Aeration, heaps of water and then a covering ‘blanket’ of thick straw sets up the ideal conditions for composting. Then we wait, and let the organisms do the work over the next six – eight months – easy. Even the Governor General was impressed!

Biodynamics also works with the wider cosmos – the rhythms and cycles of the moon, stars and planets: ‘as above, so below’. We will make the most of a waning (synodal rhythm) and descending moon (tropical rhythm) and a “leaf” day when the moon is passing through the water constellation or sign of Pisces (sidereal rhythm). All perfect for compost making.

compost day - saide's picOur garden is really starting to show the benefit of incorporating the compost each year as well as the other BD preps. We are fortunate to have local biodynamic sheep and grain growers and access to certified organic straw and manure further afield.

We are off to collect sheep manure from under the BD farm shearing shed on Wednesday 16th April, leaving Newstead at 2pm – if you’d like to come or offer a trailer, please join us (contact Gen 54762 633 for more info) for some earthy work! The workshop will be free to attend for those who help contribute through collecting materials.

Want to learn more about composting and try some hands-on construction? Come along on April 27th. By the end of the day you’ll be able to make your own heap, small or large, at home. BYO fork, shovel, gloves, appropriate footware and clothing, wheelbarrow if you can. Gifts of green material, lawn clippings, leaves and manure are also very welcome (though not manure if animals have been drenched).

compost flyer 2014

Getting the Garlic In

I always love spontaneity and especially those rare times when ideas, organisation and activity all coincide. Such was the case last Sunday when we got our main crop of Flinders Island Purple garlic sown. We had been mulling over the lack of planting options at the garden because of crop rotation (garlic beds should be given 3 seasons of other crops, before planting back to garlic) and space. A query to Helen about her paddock, followed by a couple of phone calls and by Sunday evening Leon, Helen, Sarah, Gayle, Gen and I had loaded and carted compost, ploughed, levelled, planted and watered in the crop.

With many thanks to Helen for her generosity and response to our request, to Leon for providing tractor, plough and his time free of charge - and staying on to help us plant - and to all for making it so enjoyable and easy.

Hold your mouse over the images to find out more or enlarge pics:

We still have a bit more of the Dunnolly Purple Italian to plant, and a bit more space in the paddock. The field has a good history and organic produce has been grown in it previously, as well as oats and green manure crops, so there was not much soil prep needed. Hopefully we can complete the garlic on Thursday and maybe some broadies as well. The paddock isn’t rabbit or roo proofed, so fingers crossed! (we may have to set up some temporary protection) The compost supplies have been dropping and by the time we feed fruit trees and other growing areas, will be timely for our “big build” on 27th and to make some smaller, quicker  to transform (6 weeks) bays as well.

Get out in the Garden

ahead of another summer scorcher  Thursday was the start of an auspicious few days for gardening – moon descending and waning and a perigee all mean greater lunar forces and a good effect on plants over the weekend. Moon in Saturn, plus we are in a “root” sign (and “flower” for a day or two). Perfect time for planting seedlings, especially root crops and “flower” veges (like cauliflower and broccoli). After the rain, and with the warm conditions, plants will leap away. If you can get into the garden this weekend, do so.

The April notes are now posted so you can see when else to make the most of your April activities. Autumn is a great time for renewal, growth and development in the garden; it can seem like a “spring flush” and be just as beautiful.

It’s also an ideal time for building the soil, through conditioning, biodynamic preparations and fertilisers. Think about planting perennials; herbs, fruit trees and the like. I also like to plant garlic now so that root and leaf areas can become established before the cold sets in. Leafy greens – kale, rocket, lettuce, mustards, chinese and japanese greens, all grow well now right through the winter and make good nightly picking. And get your broad beans in!ahead of another summer scorcher

Find out more in the Garden Notes for April. And let’s hope the warm days and not too cool nights continue so the tomatoes and other summer crops can finally ripen!

Don’t forget the Produce Exchange next Saturday 5th outside the Red Store, 10.30-12 also our visit to bury cow horns for BD500 (05-april.pdf.) And of course our big compost build on April 27. Daylight saving ends next weekend so we’ll change our Thursday evening gardening time to 4-6pm.

A reminder garden memberships are due next month. If you are interested in a plot or want to relinquish yours, please get in touch. Enjoy gardening conditions this autumn during April.

Cake, and meeting notes

zuchcake2Those who missed our planning meeting yesterday also missed the food – we always eat well at the garden!

Sarah’s gluten free rhubarb cake (using our rhubarb) can be found here and in the recipe and food section, along with the zuke and carrot cake (though I never can stick to the recipe!) we also had quiche, hommous and biscuits… oh, and our meeting: click here to download or view: Newstead Community Garden annual planning session notes .

Gardening on Thursday will involve more preparing ground for garlic and, perhaps, planting it. As well the shed does need a tidy up – an autumn clean?

April 5 – interested in car pooling to Little Hampton to help bury cow horns for BD500? Sarah is organising this. See the flyer: Fieldday 05 April.

On the subject of dates, here’s a draft calendar: Workshop calendar 2014 of local happenings amongst gardening groups in our Shire. We’re looking at ways to have a central calendar that can be updated and viewed easily.

What’s your take?

Bruce Plain from Sustainable Gardening Australia has asked for input into a scoping study on community gardens:

Between 2010 and 2013, Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust (HMSTrust) joined together to build community gardens in bushfire-affected areas of Victoria.  In all we worked with eleven regional communities and, at the end of this very successful project, produced a Community Gardens Manual that is freely downloadable from SGA’s website. The HMSTrust recently announced a scoping study to determine whether they should expand this project to other regional Victorian communities and they have asked for our assistance in gathering information for the study.  HMSTrust needs to establish where current community gardens are and where they are possibly needed.  In addition, they want to know what challenges existing community gardens are facing in regional areas, as well as the opportunities that are presenting themselves. To complete the survey please click here You don’t need to belong to a community garden to participate in this survey and we encourage you to take part so that a complete picture can be formed. When you have completed the survey, you will be provided with a link to the free downloadable Community Gardens Manual released in February 2014 and specifically targeted to regional Victorian community gardeners.

With thanks, Bruce Plain, Volunteers Coordinator & President, Sustainable Gardening Australia

The survey is easy to fill in and won’t take too long. Timely also in light of the AusVeg stance (this article caused quite a bit of discussion amongst our community gardeners!) and our own wish to look at where are garden is at currently, and where we’re heading …

March Meeting and Eating

We have our planning meeting on 23rd March as part of our monthly gardening get togethers.

Last month on Sunday we had about a dozen of us pruning – enjoyable, not to mention the harvest we hope for as a result. Everything apart from the autumn fruiting raspberries (yes they are) is now pruned, the pears are picked and we will share them and the unsold garlic at the meeting on Sunday 23rd March.

Newstead Twilight Dinner flyer (22Mar14)_1Please come to this gathering as it is our best opportunity to catch up and get mandates for spending funds and to plan seasonal activities for the whole garden, outside the regular gardening sessions.  If you haven’t been to the garden for a while, no problem, we welcome your input. And there will be cake!

See the suggested agenda (perhaps we should get together more often!) but we don’t anticipate a very long meeting, 10am – 12, plus it’s now the perfect time of year for planting garlic and broadies (and other crops) so if time allows we could do some scratching as well.

Please get in touch if you have other items for the agenda or issues, concerns, ideas, wishes. See you on Sunday 23rd. An RSVP to Gen, Mary or myself would be helpful.

And the Newstead Twilight Dinner  in the garden flyer is attached … sounds like a lovely way to get the pizza oven started for the year….

Newstead Community Garden Agenda 23 March
1. Welcome, Intros
2.New gardeners/plotholders/diggers and membership changes
- who’s new, who’s left, plot changes
3. How’s your Garden Growing?
- feedback on season; what’s worked, what hasn’t, how have you experienced the garden
- suggested facilitated planning session to revisit the garden aims and vision, discussion how it operates, succession and renewal – later in the year or early next year
4. Communication
- the calendar, blog – is it working, improvements, suggestions?
- other ways to communicate – see budget/funding
4. Budget/Spending/Funding
- current state of budget: funding grants spent/unspent/fundraising
- new grants – MAS Community Grants – improving communication in the garden ($850)
5. Upcoming Events
- BD500 Horn burial with BDVic at Little Hampton – 5 April (community bus trip?)
- BD compost build 27 April
- Biochar – June
- Childrens Literature Festival – September
- Garden Fundraising Dinner – October
- Festival of Gardens – November
- other events in the shire – The Hub, Growing Abundance, etc
6. Growing, Works, Wishes
- loddon seedlings, herbs
- this year’s garlic crop and other communal plantings
- pizza oven pergola, pond
7. Other items
- MASC Environmental Roundtable report back?
- sustainable gardening survey on community gardens 
8. Next gathering date

Biodynamics in the Garden in March

garlic harvest 2013/14With the passing of summer and the ‘post summer-pre autumn’ season here, thoughts turn to the soil and to biodynamics. There is quite a bit of activity across Victoria and perhaps a resurgent interest in biodynamics. Closer to home Bress winery are a regular venue for workshops run through Biodynamics Victoria and there’s our own annual BD compost building day – on Sunday April 27 this year. And Celia Cornick who has also helped with our composting days in the past, has sent info about three upcoming events at Warranwood – see the flyers below, or down load them for more info: Elements.pages; Astro Calendar.pages; 500 flier.pages.

Just starting out? Ute Mueller has produced a good starting point for gardeners interested in BD methods. She’s based in Tasmania and her booklet “Biodynamics in the Backyard and Beyond” might help inspire you to give it a go. We have a couple of copies in our ‘library’ for members, or email Ute. There’s also a brief explanation of BD for the the community garden here.

March is upon us. Time to busy yourself preparing beds for planting if you want to eat this autumn and winter! Find out what else to do, plant and sow in the March Notes - download them, or print and stick on your frig. Lets hope March is a long month of ripening and harvest because we are looking forward to finally seeing the fruits of our heirloom and heritage tomatoes, and hopefully a taste-off, and then to seed saving, from the best performers for both plot and palate. And a bit of rain would be lovely.

Don’t forget our Produce Exchange on Saturday 1st outside the Red Store (10.30 – 12) and importantly, our garden planning session on Sunday March 23rd (10 – 12) for all gardeners – plotholders and diggers alike.

Happy, Hopeful, Pruners

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We had a lovely morning doing some pruning of nectarines, peaches and pears, and looked at what needs to be done with the apples. And the scones & jam, hommous, and cake/slice were all good too.

More info on summer pruning here, but it’s best done by … doing.

Click on the pics to enlarge them.

We’ll find out the fruits of our labours next spring when the trees flower and then hopefully when they bear fruit. A couple of the trees need a few more drastic cuts which will be done in winter. Rule of thumb for summer pruning is it should only need secateurs and be up to finger thickness. Active sap flow at this time of the season means the trees can recover from an ‘attack by a thousand small cuts’ but that anything greater means too much sap loss and potential set-back for the trees.

We are currently giving them a deep water and a dose of diluted seaweed and worm-juice will also help them recover.  Let’s hope there’s not too much hot weather ahead; there may be a slight danger of sunburn, since we did take a bit of growth off – the stonefruits in particular.

Julia is STILL harvesting her zukes and trying to give them to anyone who’s about and unsuspecting!