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.

Autumn Alchemy

UntitledIt’s autumn and one’s thoughts naturally turn to compost making. It’s the nearest thing to alchemy I know of. We’re holding our annual big BD compost build workshop on Sunday May 17 for those who’d like to partake in a bit of magic – biology, chemistry and physics included.

Last year’s heap was a wonder to behold that kept giving (though we let it dry out over summer, which lessened it’s benefit) and it’s just about spent. So we now have space for a new heap, plus there’s the ongoing, smaller, cubic meter composts that can add much to the garden, much more quickly.

Join us on Sunday 17th from 10.30am to learn about BD basics and composting, help construct a large BD heap (also applicable to smaller home garden compost making) and learn by doing. We’ll provide sustenance and there will be BD preps available for you to buy for your own garden or property. See the flyer for more info.

Thanks to Jenny, Andrew, Ben and Jo at Powlett Hill who each year so generously sponsor our heap (and garden) through BD manure and spelt hulls. Also to staunch supporters Rosie and Ernst from Australian Biodynamics-Victoria who have attended all our builds and provide BD preps, enthusiasm and inspiration.

If you have materials to contribute to the heap – especially green (!) matter – the garden would welcome it. Please contact us (you’ll also receive a discount on the workshop cost). We’ll also be doing a collection run to Powlett Hill on Tuesday May 5, for those who have a trailer and/or some muscle to help shovel manure.

Compost is such an important part of our community garden; it enables us to keep growing and improving the soil and it allows gardeners to reap the benefits of a healthy soil. More important than any money in the bank, compost is our real ‘fundraiser’, ensuring the community garden can keep growing, and producing.

Don’t forget Joe Dolce at the garden as part of the Newstead Short Story Tattoo on 3 May. A big thankyou everyone who came along last Sunday at some stage and helped around the garden to get ready. Also to the pizza makers; yum, not sure that we’re any more prepared for Joe Dolce, but it was good practicing! We also sprayed a mix of BD500, compost preps and seaweed emulsion on a watered garden (sans rain) after we’d renovated the communal greens bed with more greens, shredded spent tomato crops and dug them back into the soil with compost, planted communal broadies and carrot seed (please keep an eye on the communal bed and keep moist till seeds germinate – for carrots this may be a fortnight or more) burnt the bramble prunings and some couch/bad weeds, started on preparing the communal fallow bed for leeks, celery and onions, cut back herbs, raked pathways, sowed pyrethrum in pots in igloo (please keep an eye on them and water) and generally weeded and gardened.

And now for the rain.

Join Joe Dolce at the Garden (and help us get ready)

The Newstead Short Story Tattoo comes to town again 1 – 3 May and the garden will be hosting an event with Joe Dolce. Joe will ply his trade as a performer, storyteller and orator extraordinaire whilst audience members dine on one of his renowned pizza recipes. Download the Tattoo brochure here: NSST program final.

We need to do a bit more around the garden to have it welcoming and abundant for Joe and guests. We also have some communal planting to do.

Come along this Sunday from 1.30pm and help – either with your own patch, or better still, in the wider garden. Mary will be getting the pizza oven lit and having a practice. I’ll be starting the BD500 stir at 3pm and we’ll be spraying the garden around 4pm (bring containers to take some home to do your own garden or purchase some unstirred BD500 for yourself).

If you haven’t helped yourself to the spud harvest, come and get some on Sunday, plus there’s a bit of garlic left over for plotholder planting.

generic A4 colour poster 20 March


Bat Matters and April Gardening

IMG_9417Did you know that our local bats consume over half their body weight in insects each night? In northern Victoria they’re known as the farmer’s friend, but I reckon they’d be the gardener’s friend too, especially here, and have been thinking about some bat boxes for the community garden after attending Newstead Landcare’s bat talk and workshop with Lindy Lumsden from DEWLP (the old DSE, NRE, CFL, etc.). A wonderful presentation and the experience of some bats up close – amazing creatures. For more info, here are some links. Australasian Bat Society; The Bat Pack (SA). Thanks Andrew Skeoch for the pic.

Forest bats go into torpor over the colder months, when their food source is less abundant, but April is no time for hibernating gardeners …. check out the April Notes for what to do in the garden this month. If you can get out into the garden over the easter break you’ll be rewarded, as we were with our spud harvest this week, and we got the garlic in as well. Thanks to all, especially the young folk! A watering roster for the garlic is in the making.

Autumn is a busy time in the garden. Along with the planting calendar, mark these dates in your diary:

  • Sat 4 April – Produce Exchange at Dig, 10.30am – 12
  • Sunday 12 April – BD500 spray at the garden (bring containers to do your own garden with leftovers) – 3pm to start the hour long stir
  • Sunday 19 April – Compost ingredients collection (to be confirmed)
  • Sunday 17 May – Big BD Compost Make – 10am – 3pm (we’ll be running our usual workshop)
  • NB. Amy at Maldon Neighbourhood Centre is running a casual and collaborative practical workshop on creating a wicking bed on Sat 9 May from 9-12. Rosie and Ernst are filling horns for BD500 on w/e of 23/24 May (more news coming).

See you in the garden in April. May it rain!

Environmental priorities – Council wants to know your top five

Passing Clouds make award winning wineMount Alexander Shire are developing their environmental strategy for the next few years. They’ve developed ‘a survey‘ to seek opinion on their five priorities. Most community gardeners in Newstead are also concerned with their surrounds, so please take the time to respond. Unfortunately there’s no room to add your own thoughts, or tick outside the box. However it is quick to complete.

Here’s the link: http://surveymonkey.com/s/fivepriorities.

Closer to home, we had a nice afternoon yesterday pruning the rest of the stonefruit, pear and apple trees (apart from the ones still bearing) and after discussions on Saturday have some plans for the year ahead, and some volunteers to act on them. We’ve all done well getting the garden through another long, hot and very dry summer.