Published in Eumundi Green Issue 183
Last week in Melbourne, I stumbled upon a gorgeous community garden, smack bang in the middle of the city. Now when I say smack bang, I really mean smack bang, right in the centre – on the rooftop of the Federation Square car park.
Although the gardens weren’t open to the public at the time I was there I was lucky enough to be having a sticky beak through the fence when a lovely couple came along to water their patch and invited me in.
Not only did I delight in the plethora of photographic subjects but enjoyed learning how the city folk bring the outdoors, gardening and fresh produce into their lives.
All of the raised garden beds had quaint stencilled signs on them, indicating their owners, and I was thrilled to recognise the name of the restaurant I had just eaten in – no wonder their food had tasted so fresh! It sure limited the food miles I contributed to that day.
My hosts, Roy and Lisa (pictured) were retired school teachers living in the city centre; however, like many city dwellers, their high-rise balcony-less lifestyle didn’t allow for much more than a pot of herbs on a windowsill.
Although we hinterland folk would just about choke at the price, residents of the CBD pay $25 a week to use the facilities and become a part of the community gardens.
This cost raised quite a bit of discussion amongst us but was put neatly into perspective when the price differences between apartments with balconies or gardens were compared to those without, and the cost of buying fresh herbs and greens at the supermarket each week was factored in.
There were other benefits too, like getting an extra raised bed if you were prepared to water the communal gardens and other people’s plots, the sense of community that grows out of meeting those who share similar interests and ideals, not to mention the perfect positioning of the patch, practically on the banks of the Yarra, making it an ideal party location for fireworks and cultural celebrations.
You can find out more about the Pop Up Patch (run by the Little Veggie Co), on their website littleveggiepatchco.com.au, and also on Facebook, and see the other magnificent ways they are bringing like-minded members of the community together with healthy and life-affirming pastimes.
Published in The Green Issue 207
Since the reign and subsequent demise of the sunflowers on our herb spiral, we’ve experienced a great flush of growth. The chickens received the sunflower heads, and the stalks were chopped in as mulch. The legumes we grew as green manure have also mulched down nicely, and the soil on the spiral has become rich and friable.
The longer, warmer days and a few showers of rain have produced some impressive early growth with flourishing herbs making it to our plates daily.
If you haven’t already discovered the health and taste benefits of herbs, now is a great time to start experimenting. Cooked, raw, in drinks, salads or stews; there’s rarely a wrong place to add herbs.
Whether you have a dedicated herb spiral, a simple garden bed or a few pots on a windowsill, all produce the same results; beautiful, healthy herbs. Regardless of the preferred growing method (from seed, seeding or runner), this time of year is excellent for planting basil, oregano, dill, coriander, chives, thyme, sage and parsley and it’s always a good time for mint and nasturtiums.
The stronger smelling herbs are great as companion plants and can protect more delicate species from pest attack. With their own scent, they mask or altogether hide the other plants, ultimately making them invisible to otherwise invasive species. Garlic chives do a great job of keeping pests, such as aphids and thrips, off roses. They also look pretty when they flower. A lush bunch of garlic chives can hide a rose bush’s gnarled and prickly stem, and also, are a great addition to a stew, risotto or frittata.
Nasturtiums are a great all-rounder and are one plant I can never imagine being without. Not only are all parts of the plant edible, but they are also great as cut flowers and will equally brighten up a salad or a table in an instant. Luckily they grow easily, as they make the perfect decoy species. Their sweet, peppery scent is rather irresistible to pests, and many will feast on their showy blooms rather than your tasty vegetables. With nothing more than a bit of regular watering, they will play defence in the garden on your behalf. To be honest, that kind of ‘not gardening’ brings me as much joy as the successful harvest of any crop to date.
Published in The Green Issue 203
We’ve rounded out August with a few cool, windy days (just to remind us what winter is all about) and we’re heading into the new growing season with a suitable drenching and topping up of the liquid supplies that our plants and we require.
Given the relatively warm winter, we’ve been given somewhat of a head start in the garden, but how do we best capitalise on this? Well, the soil has been nicely softened by the rain, which has made it easy to pull out sneaky weeds, old tomatoes, the peas and beans that have finished fruiting and any other spent or neglected reminders of those cooler days. You remember the ones, where you stayed inside in bed, waiting until it got nicer, rather than going outside tiling the beds to make them nicer!
Well, now it’s time to make amends with your veggie patch. Feed it up with some Blood and Bone, chook manure or seaweed-based fertiliser and a few shovelfuls of compost and dig it over, so it’s nice and friable. The next thing to consider is what you put in these beautiful beds that are suitable for our region and the time of year?
While there are good times of the year to plant all types of veges, now is when we get the most success with the largest variety. We have the chance to establish many of the plants that would never make it as tender seedlings in the punishing heat of summer.
To extend your harvest, you could pop in some new tomatoes and beans, get the kids involved in creating a quick-growing radish patch and if eggplants and pumpkin get started now, they should end up robust enough to cope with any mildew that attacks these plants as the weather becomes more humid. It’s always a good time for lettuce, and other salad greens and root crops like beetroot and carrot will have a good head start if planted now.
As flowering annuals finish with their last blooms, it’s a good time to cut them back so they are ready for their new foliage and it’s a good time for pruning larger bushes and shrubs, especially natives like Callistemon and Grevilleas, to keep them from becoming straggly.
Not only is spring a great time for our gardens, but it’s a wonderful time to renew our connection with Mother Nature, get our hands dirty and enjoy the glorious outdoor lifestyle that our beautiful hinterland location offers us.