Make hay, I mean compost …

Weeds and growth are rampant after good winter and spring rains at the garden.


Remember every other year when we have been scratching around trying to find greens and begging for lawn clippings and kitchens scraps all over town? I never thought I’d be searching and scratching for enough carbon to make compost!

Thanks to organic farmer John Hanley, we have a small, neat, haystack of mulch just outside the gate. Very welcome, because it means we can continue to make compost from all the georgous weeds and greens we are dealing with at the garden. We still have plenty of manure from our Powlett Hill shearing shed ‘experience’ (though the pile is diminishing rapidly). Making another big BD heap is easy enough. We are onto our third large pile now. The first one made back in Autumn is just about ready to use. Good timing. We should have used it all by the time the transformation of these spring piles are complete.

And there’s plenty of water to create compost – usually another factor for gardeners. Compost uses significant amounts of water (but will pay you back in the long term, as your soils become better at holding water all year round).

So, just like making hay whilst the sun shines, we should enjoy the opportunity to make compost whilst it keeps raining.

Don’t forget our big working bee on Sunday 23 October from 10am. It’s our last chance to tidy things up for the Festival of Gardens which begins on Saturday 29th October. See you in the garden.


Weeds; friend not fiend …. mostly

Garlic at Helen's field - the mulch has almost outgrown the garlic!

We made a little indent on the rampant growth at our working bee last Sunday. The garden was a busy place – and not just with bees foraging on the borage, capeweed and masses of other flowering plants we have at the moment. Earlier in the morning the joint congregations of Newstead and Maldon’s Anglican Church held a garden service, led by Rev Donald Bellamy. Gardeners Gen and Angella attended on behalf of the garden (thanks Gen for the pics).

Later in the morning we mowed, weeded and planted asparagus crowns, in between a visit by Stefania Netcu and her family. Stepfania is behind the Thornhill Lane biodynamics range (as mentioned last post) and she had a wander through the garden looking at our herb collection, enthusing about the role of herbs in health and skincare, and sharing some secrets on how to dry, process and create skincare products. And Sophia enjoyed eating our calendulas – lots!

We are still weeding and planting, and in fact will try for a regular Sunday morning stint leading up to the Festival of Gardens. And another Working Bee on Sunday 23 October 10ish to 2ish. Although a little overwhelming, it is inspiring to see the garden going crazy with growth after so many years of dry, trying to get the plants through hot dry summers when no amount of watering seemed to make a difference. Now our subsoils are being topped up and the plants are taking advantage of years of soil building with composts and the BD preps. Proves there is just no subsitute for real rain!

On the topic of weeds, go to the October 2016 Garden Notes for some weed wisdom, as well as a guide to planting and gardening for the next month. Don’t forget the Produce Exchange (tomorrow) outside the Red Store (silverbeet, lettuce, coriander anyone?!) from 10.30am.

Also, the Dunnolly Community Garden have an open garden and worm cafe workshop on the 8th October – find out how to make a low input, low maintenance worm farm for your garden. And visit us during the Festival of Gardens which starts on October 29th.

See you in the garden.



Herbal lore

The river approached the levee but the garden stayed dry - ish. Rampant spring growth, but the deluge may have put paid to hopes of a good stonefruit season, unless the bees had already done their pollinating - drenched and dropped blossoms.

We have a special treat for this Sunday’s working bee at the Newstead Community garden which starts at 10am and goes through until about 2.30pm

Thornhill Lane Biodynamics skincare owner and skincare product maker Stefania Netcu will be with us from midday for about an hour. Thanks to Gen for inviting her and organising it.

Stefania is from Romania. Making her own skin creams and lotions using wild harvested herbs was part of family life in her old country. These skills, cultivated during communism when it was impossible to buy such things, were handed down through her family
She has brought these skills to Australia and now lives at Elphinstone and sells at locals farmers markets and at Green Goes the Grocer.

Stefania is interested to visit our garden & see what we grow. She will explain how she makes skin care products using herbs and plants (and will bring some to sell, but’s not a commercial visit for her). Rather it’s for fun and to make a connection with us & our biodynamic garden. (But we may be in need of some decent hand cream after a bit of gardening)

Working bee starts at 10am. Weeding and planting conditions are tip-top and the garden looks magnificent in its overgrown state. We don’t have many more chances to get things ready for the Castlemaine Festival of Gardens in late Oct/early Nov.

It will be a busy morning in the garden on Sunday as the Anglican church will hold a special service in the garden at 9.30am, with the Newstead and Maldon congregations coming together. Gardeners are invited to attend both gatherings.

After the Deluge

During, at the garden levee

Unplanned, uncontrolled growth. And I’m not talking about Melbourne, or its hinterlands. Our garden has sprung, sprawled and sprouted after the recent rains. Messy could be one word, but there’s something very lovely about the way the plants have responded to a good drenching, weed or not. It’s also a bit overwhelming. Mowing anyone? I’m also concerned about the flowering stonefruit and whether the deluge has put paid to any fruit this year.

The water lapped the levee again (thanks Gen for the photo) but the garden and most of Newstead stayed safe. Local tourists, kept home from work, bandied about. Out of towners couldn’t enter. Lots of excitement about Water and Weather, though thoughts are with other communities where it is a lot more than ‘exciting’. However, the soils will be loving it, especially our subsoils, which are the equivalent of a gardener’s gold mine, bank, or just plain, basic, security.

We had suggested an event on for 23rd or 24th this month, however let’s just go back to Sundays, when most gardeners manage it, and try the 25th September for a catch up, survey the ‘carnage’  and enjoy the fecundity of the garden (whilst it lasts)  … See below.

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Hope springs eternal

hard core composters turned out to build the early spring heap

Happy Spring! The first of September, a date we conventionally associate with the start of spring (though I’ve mentioned the observed nature of spring’s beginning/s in earlier posts). And this year it is a happy and hopeful one, after a good wet winter, not too many frosts, and lots of growth.

Soils should be more than top-wet and even if the spring dries up, there should be enough sub-soil moisture to sustain growth through the next few months, with only a few top-ups. One could ‘make hay’ and make the most of the season by growing some plants that we won’t have bothered with in past, drier years because they are use lots of water (think corn, cuke, melons, etc).

The September Growing Notes are now posted, so visit them and see what else to sow and tend to this month. With blossoms, bees and increasing warmth, you’ll be wanting to spend more time in the garden this Spring.

Don’t forget the Produce exchange on Saturday at Dig cafe (10.30-12) and see you in the garden.