A week later

Remember this?

It now looks like this …



I couldn’t quite capture the steam rising gently off the heap, but it was. The heap has slumped to two-thirds or less of the original height and is warm but not yet at the 60-70 degrees C it should get to, perhaps by next weekend.

Another year, and another splendid compost

compost 2015 019A quick look back of previous year’s compost builds and I see a little pattern emerging, perhaps, that after we make compost we get a nice little sprinkle of rain – on a few occasions anyway. Perhaps we should build more heaps, earlier in the year!

Thanks to all who contributed to our weekend compost build; we now have the makings of more humus for another season. Around 10 work-shoppers from Castlemaine, Barkers Creek and Welshman’s Reef joined a handful of garden members to construct the heap. It should be cooking nicely by next week, if not before. If you are passing by the garden in the early morning you may see a bit of steam rising from the heap – don’t call the CFA; it’s just the thermophillic bacteria and microbes at work. The heap will cool down after six to eight weeks as other microbes and fungi take over, with earthworms and other larger soil fauna the last workers to move in for a meal. The pile should be ready to apply in November.

We also welcomed members of the Anglican church congregation for lunch to thank them for their ongoing support as over the last five years, and look forward to the next five! On that note a reminder that membership renewals are now due. Contact Mary Park – mary.park3@bigpond.com – for the form, or download it here – https://newsteadgarden.wordpress.com/getting-involved/.  You will also find a copy of our garden guidelines on this page.

At the moment we have one “Individual Plot” available for use and welcome any number of new Digger members to share gardening in the communal plots and the “Digger Plot”. We have also introduced a “Supporter” membership, for those who want to support the garden, share in our events, activities and produce excesses, but may not have the time and/or ability to garden with us.

You can read or download more info on compost building – here and here, or more generally on the basics of biodynamics. Thanks to Caroline for the photos.


Help feed the heap, and our garden

IMG_9163Food is often foremost for our community garden. We had a wonderful feed – and afternoon of song and stories – with Joe and Lin and Newstead Short Story Tattooists last Sunday.

Thankfully our pizza doughs and toppings got the big seal of approval from Joe! You can find his recipe here.

Thanks to Joe for sending us a few pics from the day.

Still on the food front, we have our Compost Build on next Sunday 17th and need as much food for it as we can source – especially green material.

We made a run to the Powlett Hill sheepshed and thanks to Max and Ritchie (outstanding shovellers), our trailer bearers Carol, Carolyn, Gordon, we came home with five loads of biodynamic sheep poo and a double trailer of spelt hulls, thanks Ewen and Joan. Farmer John Hanley is to drop off certified organic straw bales this week. Council have left autumn leaves after ‘cleaning up’ our local streets and drains. The local General Store are dropping off some unread newspapers.

All that’s missing is some nitrogen rich material – weeds, lawn clippings, food and kitchen scraps, crop residues, herb cuttings, prunings. We’d love anything you can offer, no matter how small the amount.

Come along and learn how these raw ‘waste’ ingredients can be transformed into rich, nutritious, water-holding, worm-loving compost that will feed our garden – and us – for another season. The technique can also be used for smaller home garden composts and we will have BD preps for sale if you want to try for yourself.

On the topic of microorganisms, compost, soil and food/stomachs, here’s an interesting article from the Sustainable Food Trust in the UK. I like the idea of thinking about the soil as my stomach, and vice-versa!

Book for the compost workshop on 0439 003 469 so we know how much soup, bread and cake to make…

Busy May Days

May in the garden is a bit of a rush to get plants in before the cold really slows things down. It’s also an opportunity to prepare well for any bare rooted fruit trees you might be planting over winter – site it well, plan for it’s growth, espaliered or not, dig over the spot, add compost and rock dust … and get ready to dig a great big hole. Go to the Planting Notes for May to see what else to do in the garden this month.

digAlongside the gardening, this month is a busy one for the community garden – our Produce Exchange outside Dig on Saturday 2nd (10.30am – 12noon), Sunday 3rd is  Joe Dolce’s session as part of the Newstead Short Story Tattoo, Tuesday 5th we collect BD manure from Powlett Hill, and Sunday 17th we make compost – that weekend is also our fifth birthday.

Hoping it’s a lovely autumnal weekend for the Newstead Short Story Tattoo. But some rain on Monday would be nice, just to get a bit of growth and a tinge of green about. Green materials will be in short supply for our compost build, so even the weeds are welcome!

And for those interested in broader food gardening and environmental issues, the Mount Alexander Shire are inviting input/comment on their (ten-year) Environmental Strategy. Saide has been attending Council’s Sustainability and Environment Roundtable meetings, held four-monthly, on behalf of Newstead 2021 and the Newstead Community Garden. The draft document is available here on the Council website. Saide is also making a written response and welcomes any suggestions for inclusion. Please send her any comments before Sunday 10th May. There is also an opportunity to provide written feedback direct to the Shire via email to info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au.

What do you think would be the most useful thing our Shire could do for our environment in the next ten years?

Enjoy May’s days in the garden.

Queen of Queenscliffe Compost (and worms)

We’re fast approaching our compost build – and before that the Newstead Short Story Tattoo with Joe Dolce and his pizzas (and secret special sauce) at the garden. Still time to book for the event, which is sure to be food for self/soul/brain, as well as your stomach. In fact the whole weekend looks to provide, with Christos Tsiolkas, Clementine Ford, Gary Foley, MTC Cronin, and of course our own Neil Boyack amongst the writers.

_DSC0588But back to compost. Today I met Rose the Queenscliffe Queen of Compost and earthworm farmer extraordinaire. Thanks to Gayle for introducing us (and also showing me her vege patch and new, updated, worm farm). How wonderful to talk worms and composts and soils with fellow gardeners.

Rose is especially passionate. She moved to Queenscliffe to care for her ailing mother from inner city, high-rise Brisbane. And stayed. Her soil and garden is a sight to behold. Given the location – salty, sandy, windy, exposed – it’s amazing to see what she’s producing in a very small backyard (and front!) beside the boat harbour. Rose was specially enthused when we arrived as she’d just taken delivery of a Robo Coup – industrial-strength food processor (read compost-creator). And the worms are very happy too.

the compost queen of queenscliffe

Rose has a series of systems happening in her yard – a fantastic wormfarm (earthworms only), some compost bins, and a lasagne style open system in the front yard. She collects vege ‘scraps’ from the local fruit and veg retailers and chops them up (now faster c/- the new gadget) and layers them. Lots of them. The specifics depend upon the system, whether it be lasagne, compost bin or worm farm. Sugar cane mulch provides the carbon material, and she also applies yoghurt/milk products which supply extra microbial assistance, as well as lime and blood and bone.

Rose says she’s still learning and researching, but I reckon she’s onto something. Seeing the results, at different stages, and in-situ in the garden, it looks to me that she’s truly creating humus – without a hot compost method or using animal manures. And seeing this in sandy, seaside soil makes it especially impressive. It shows there’s more than one way to compost. And that patience, passion – and a multitude of earthworms – can create soil and a model for sustainability.

Thanks Gayle and Rose.

Click on the thumbnails to see the larger version or enter the slideshow.

Join us in creating some at the garden on May 17. And checkout some other gardening workshops at Mount Alexander Fruit Gardens.