August – light and warmth ahead

Newstead garden raised beds installed august 2012, garden in winterThe eighth month already? Upon us quickly, even with the winter darkness and chill. I feel spring in the air, even though temperatures haven’t budged much. Still time to get those winter chores done, and time also for the early warm season ones. So, a busy time in the garden!

See the very august August Notes for what to do next in the late winter/early spring garden.

Brian Keats is warning of severe weather during 6-12th August and he has been pretty spot on so far this year with his predictions. On the 11th August, the moon will be full and closest to the earth, so we can expect severe tidal flows, and severe weather in general, including snow falls in the alpine areas. Brian suspects New Zealand will bear the brunt, but here in central Vic we should get some big frosts Newstead garden raised beds installed august 2012, garden in winterduring that time (he’s also warning of bad ‘Mars rising’ weather for NZ around the 26th).

Speaking of Brian Keats, he’s presenting at a workshop in September- download the details here: Brian Keats flyer. This workshop is sure to be booked out quickly! Also events for heritage apple grafting. Closer to home, Growing Abundance have something happening all through July and August in relation to fruit trees.

And closest to home, our Produce Exchange happens on Saturday 2nd, 10am-ish outside the Red Store. Please come along on the 27th for our session with Jinette, to set sail for the next four, five or more years ahead in the community garden. See you in the garden in August.

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 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:, Phone: 0353 456287.


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.


BD Spray on Sunday

This Sunday 18th May is perfect timing for our first BD500 (Horn Manure) spray for the year – the moon is descending, waning, perigee and moving into a “root” day (see the gardening notes or BD basics for more info on this), plus the soil has some residual warmth and moisture.

We’ll start the stir through our flowforms at 3pm and it’ll be ready to apply at 4pm. We always have more than enough for the garden, so bring bucket with lid, large juice containers or similar covered receptacles and take some home to spray on your own patch. It needs to go out within an hour of the completed stirring for best effect. A hearth brush is a good applicator, or there’s always a leafy branch!

Come at 3pm and join us to see the whole process and do a bit of scratching while you wait, or pop by at 4pm to help apply it and take a share home. We’ll also spray the garlic at Helen’s.  On the garlic front, it’s up and weeded, fed and watered (with BD seaweed emulsion) and snug under a thick blanket of weed supressing mulch. See the latest pics.

And don’t forget May 25th is our birthday – 4 years old – join us for cake and spend an hour or two at our first and much needed working bee for the year. Tasks include fruit tree care (codling moth traps and sticky goo, feeding, weeding) and communal bed preparation and planting (good bug mix, green manures, food crops) and some herb work (striking cuttings, sowing seeds, transplanting) –  there’s jobs for both the fit and not so able.