Double the crop?

a second crop?

In the dim dark Ag. Science past, I researched intercropping – growing cereal crops (annuals) into stands of lucerne (a perennial) in the mixed farming areas of central Victoria. The theory was that farmers could benefit from a cash crop (grain or hay) whilst also retaining/establishing/improving their lucerne pastures. Potentially doubling their return in a season, since animals could be grazed as well as the cereal harvested. The key was working with plants that had differing root patterns, nutrient needs, growth habits and timing.

I was reminded of that work when examining our garlic crop today.

Q: Where’s the garlic?

garlic 0ctober 2016 - double cropping!

A: Under the mulch!

after good winter and spring rains the mulch has sprouted and outgrown the gardlic, and we have oats, faba beans and maybe some lentils

Our barley mulch has sprouted and outgrown the garlic. Luckily it’s grown mostly in the mulch layer and the roots haven’t penetrated the soil, so it hasn’t really been competing with the garlic – except for light! – and the wet season has meant enough moisture for eveyone. Normally garlic doesn’t do at all well with competition. Plus, luckily, a few feeds of fish emulsion during the winter. Another benefit (?) is that the cockatoos haven’t found the garlic to chew and destroy, so netting not needed this year.

It looks like a good barley crop! Had me thinking that perhaps we should pull it up before it sets seed and keep it to use as mulch at the garden. A potential double crop! Hopefully we will get a decent yield from the garlic as well, because that was the main aim of the exercise. Small spots where I did get in and weed a bit, shows large the benefit of weeding your sprouting mulch!

The other bed which was sown to oats, lentils and broadies (or faba beans when you see them growing en mass on a broadacre scale) has grown really well, all except the lentils, despite a (non-mulch) weed burden. The oats and beans are taller than me. I’m thinking rolled oats, porridge, anzacs!

Looking at the garlic today I was also reminded that it was that dim dark ag science past, especially the lucerne intercropping trials, that steered me towards organics and then biodynamics. Those trials (replicated plots and at several sites – locations chosen in part on the quality of the nearest bakery) involved covering individual lucerne plants with literally thousands of chinese takeaway containers (easy to get in Bendigo in the early 90s) and then spraying the plots with chemical to ensure that there was a certain number of lucerne plants in each. Seemed a good idea at the time …  I’d never have thought of garlic intercropping though.

Posting the November Notes now, since the Festival of Gardens is imminent. Get into the garden early this month and don’t forget the mozzie repellant (citronella, palmwood, lemon balm, lavender are some good herbs/oils – Penny Woodward will have more in her pest repellent plant book and on-line). You can also try this recipe. See you in the, swot, whack, garden.


Visit us in the FOG

Weeding and compost creating and discovering huge, mutant asparagus

Next Saturday is the start of the Castlemaine & District Festival of Gardens and in Newstead we have four gardens involved. Ours, plus Rogers McKindley’s amazing, sculptural, ‘Antares’, Jen and Barry ‘Laceys’ and ‘Serenity’, Chris and Richard Dixon’s secret treasure. All a worth a wander through; perhaps worth a visit to Newstead for the day? The local Historical Society have an exhbition on the the Railway Station Arts Hub, if you tire of looking at greenstuff …

The FOG is our major fundraising effort for the year – $4 of the $5 entry fee will go to the garden’s coffers, to help us to pay for our water bill (a charge we pay annually, regardless of yearly rainfall, and it’s not insignificant) as well as the ongoing costs of running a community garden – mulch, petrol for the mower, maintenance and replacement costs, seeds, rent for the land, insurance, power, etc. And hopefully it might also contribute to some projects we’d love to complete (the pizza oven area pergola), or start (lots of them!) …

Tackling the couch and barley grass along the apple row today, the brilliant idea was raised – why not build a chook enclosure along the apples – save us having to do this!! – plus the usefulness of chooks cleaning up windfalls and codling moth – plus eggs to make our community garden cake. Lets hope we make a mint!

The garden is looking fantastic. And we’ll have plants and seeds, dried and fresh herbs for sale, also cuppas & cakes.

Hope to see you in the garden over the Festival.

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.