Monday, 24 October 2011

Spring 2011 in Images

Soil Woes

Many plants planted out in late Winter and early Spring have sat in the ground not doing much at all.  And while the Food Forest flourishes, the large central garden beds with their ‘new’ trucked-in soil have proven as less than ideal growing environments for our seedlings and fledging germinated seeds.  Even the rhubarb and potatoes don’t look very happy (see below)!

Potatoes not doing much at all in the front garden bed
Sad looking rhubarb
Our solutions?
  • Broad Beans - At the very first planting day hundreds of broad bean seeds were planted as nitrogen fixers and as a ‘green manure’ crop.  Many of these plants will be shortly chopped down, as they are flowering, and added to the soil (by both digging in and some as a mulch).
Digging in broad beans -  October 2011
  • Manure – well rotted cow manure has been added to the bed and Dynamic Lifter has been added as fruit trees and fruiting plants are put into the ground.
  • Worm Tunnels – Charlie is leading an experiment with in-garden-bed composting worm tunnels.
Worm tunnel
  • Organic Matter – We are going to ‘bury’ a mass of green waste, no-dig garden bed style, in some areas of the garden to build the organic matter in the soil and encourage soil life.  Stay tuned to find out how this goes!
  • Mulching – we were lucky to score some hay bales which have, along with some pea-straw, been laid as mulch to help prevent weeds, reduce evaporation and to add organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
Of course a massive dose of compost would solve much of our soil woe and we would love a huge delivery of beautiful compost!  BUT, at this early stage of the garden we are without a budget and have only the beginnings of a healthy composting system.  Plans are afoot to increase the amount of green waste we can compost, including connecting with local cafes and constructing compost bays for garden waste.

Community Gardening Day Updates

September Gardening Day

It was great to see so many new and very keen gardeners at the September Gardening Day. 
  • Amy and Andrew tackled the ‘rosemary reduction project’ with gusto and have now opened up an additional area for planting in the North-West corner of the garden
  • Bryn and Mike erected berry trellis in the garden bed behind the water tank and in the Food Forest
  • Steph and Jess did a fabulous job of thinning out radish, beetroot and carrot seedlings and planting out Pak Choi seedlings, before giving all the plants a Seasol drink along with Kate
  • Lyle and Carola demonstrated determination and persistence putting together a set of shelves for the shed
  • Ivor took on mulching this month and began to build up a mound of cow manure and straw around the growing potato plants
  • Judy and Angelo labeled all the plants in the garden
  • Allison prepared the newest garden bed ready for planting summer capsicums, chillies and eggplants

Thanks to everyone for your hard work!

We noted that the soil needs improving in the two central garden beds and will embark on a mission to add organic matter (manures, compost, mulch) and encourage soil life in the coming months and before planting summer crops throughout October and November.

Trellis building in the Food Forest - September 2011

October Gardening Day

Our October Gardening Day saw lots of seedling planting, teepee construction, seed and cutting propagation and continuing efforts to improve the garden soil.

Seedlings of eggplant, capsicum and basil were planted in the garden bed adjoining the library’s brick wall.  This bed was prepared in September and, although it may be quite chilly to plant out these seedlings normally at this time of year, we believe the brick wall will produce a toasty microclimate perfect for growing heat-loving eggplants, capsicums and chillies.  Basil and spring onion plants are also now growing in this mixed bed, with berries trellised along the wall.

A happy mingling of squash seedlings and sweet corn and bean seeds were planted out by Damian in the front garden bed into well-rotted manure.  This type of planting, we are informed by Angelo, is known as ‘Three Sister’s Planting’.  Further investigation reveals it is the original companion planting practiced by Native Americans.  Find out more here

Gorgeous heirloom tomato varieties, including Tigerella, Black Russian and Mortgage Lifter, were planted into improved soil with a sprinkle of sulfate of potash to encourage flowering and fruiting.  We will plant out tomatoes, along with other seedlings at intervals over the next few months to ensure a long and productive summer season.

The bean teepee was erected by Jennifer, Lyle and Allison.  Nylon string has been tied onto a central pole and looped around metal pegs into the soil at regular intervals.  Three bean seeds have been planted at the base of each string and these will hopefully sprout and climb up the strings to create a fantastic living cubby.  The design was inspired by this one.  Rocket seeds have been planted on the teepee's 'inside' and hopefully all the rocket will be harvested by the time the teepee welcomes its first little visitors.

The bean teepee
Bush beans seeds were planted throughout the garden and a couple of smaller Lebanese zucchinis will start off the 2011-12 zucchini crop!

We also spent time propagating cuttings to add to the ornamental beds (which are looking a bit sad at the moment), and trays of new seeds, which will be ready for planting on the next gardening day in November.

The Food Forest - September 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Summer 2011-12 Plan

Devising the Plan
A group of gardeners met in late September to devise a plan for the communal planting, care and harvest of the Northcote Library Food Garden for the Summer 2011-12 season.  The result of the meeting is the map of the garden below, that incorporates the planting (and consumption!) wants of the gardeners with sustainable gardening and permaculture principles.  The plan will be used on the Community Gardening Days to inform ongoing planting and garden care and can be consulted when gardeners work in the garden in their own time.

Northcote Library Food Garden Summer 2011-12 Plan (devised September 2011)

Features of the Summer Plan
Succession Planting - Spaced planting of different varieties of tomatoes, beans, eggplants, zucchinis, green varieties etc. will ensure that is food to harvest throughout early, mid and late Summer.
Bean Tee-Pee -  A tee-pee has been created that will become a living, bean-producing cubby for children.
North-South staking - Tall varieties of plants, including tomatoes and beans, have been staked in rows running North-South to limit shading of plants growing behind them.
"Three Sisters" Planting - Sweetcorn seed, squash and climbing beans have been planting together in a large bed area.  The corn will become a living trellis for the beans to grow up and the squash will trail around the taller bean and corn plants.
Garden Hot Spot - The bed behind the water tank abuts a brick wall and will become a hot and exposed bed during warmer weather.  As a result, we have planted heat-loving vegetables there: eggplants, capsicums and chillies.
Melons - Watermelons, as the name suggests, are thirsty!  They've been planting close to the water tank.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Launch

The Northcote Library Food Garden was officially launched on Saturday 3rd September. Around one hundred people visited the garden on the day and enjoyed the great community atmosphere.

The Melbourne Ukulele Kollective (MUK) set a rollicking tone for the launch, entertaining the crowd with their garden-themed tunes and equally ‘green’-themed outfits. Cr Trent McCarthy, of the City of Darebin, launched the garden, noting that the Food Garden is the first in Australia adjacent to a public library and the possibilities that such a partnership could entail.

Visitors gathering in the sunshine to enjoy MUK

The Darebin Urban Harvest Food Swap re-located to the garden for the morning (find out more information about their monthly swap by clicking on the link). Angelo Eliades gave visitors a garden ‘tour’, explained the garden’s design, particularly that of the Food Forest, and described the broad permaculture principles at work throughout the garden.

Seila Hierk gave lots of tips for successful Spring planting
Children were able to propagate some summer vegetable seedlings to take home during the children’s gardening workshop,before planting sunflower seeds in the garden.

Our first two workshops were well attended and very informative. Seila Hierk ran an informative workshop on seasonal planting and preparation and John Pinnegar led a discussion on fruit production in the home garden. See his guide to Year Round Fruit in Melbourne below. Our thanks go to Seila and John for running these workshops. We hope to develop a regular schedule of gardening workshops for the community to attend throughout the coming seasons.

A gallery of more images from the launch will appear soon!

The Darebin Urban Harvest Food Swap table laden with produce

The crowd enjoying the musical stylings of MUK in the sunshine

Monday, 12 September 2011

Guide to Year Round Fruit

In one of the NLFG's inaugural workshops, John Pinnegar, of the Heritage Fruit Society, shared some of his knowledge about growing fruit trees locally and developed this fabulous guide to having fruit year-round in a Melbourne garden.

John Pinnegar's Guide to Year-Round Fruit in Melbourne

Plums (early, mid & late varieties)
Citrus: orange, grapefruit, mandarin, lemons, cumquat etc.

Apples (early, mid & late varieties)



Kiwi Fruit



Nuts: almonds, chestnuts, walnuts
Passion fruit
Raspberries (Autumn fruiting)

John's Pick of the Fruit Trees
Guava - fruits in Winter, great taste, high in Vitamin C, can be pruned into any shape and used as a hedging plant
Calmondin Cumquat - larger sized cumquat, juice can be used instead of lemon or lime in cooking (when you need just a squeeze without wasting a whole lemon!)

John discusses fruiting plants with a workshop group at the Garden Launch

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Northcote Library Food Garden's
Official Launch and Garden Party
Saturday September 3rd from 11am

Please come and celebrate the opening of Northcote's newest community garden with us.

  • Melbourne Ukulele Kollective play from 11am.
  • Food Swap 11am - 12pm.  Participate in the Urban Harvest swap.  Bring your excess garden produce and swap it for something you don't have!

  • Official Launch - 11.15am.  Join Cr Trent McCarthy he launches the garden, the 2011/2012 Backyard Harvest Festival and Darebin's Sustainable Food and Gardening guides.

  • Garden Tour and Talk - 11. 45am. Join local permaculturalist and Food Forest expert, Angelo Eliades, to reflect on the 2011 International Year of Forests and the role that Urban Food Forests can play in local food production.

  • Children's Gardening Workshop - 12.15pm.  Plant a sunflower, pot your own seedling to take home, visit our garden's busiest workers, the earthworms, and create some garden art.

  • Free Gardening Workshops
12.45pm - Seasonal Planting & Preparation   Find out what to plant and how to prepare your garden beds for the Spring season.
1.15pm - Fruit Trees for all Seasons How do I plant fruit trees for the best yield? Which trees are best? How do I keep away the yellow leaves and creepy-crawlies? Find out how to keep your fruit trees healthy and productive throughout Spring and Summer.

We would appreciate a RSVP to the Children's Gardening Activities and Workshops.  
Please email with your name and preferred activity.

Stepping Into Spring

August Working Bee
A small, yet energetic, group of gardeners manned shovels in the glorious sunshine to put into place the garden's pathways.  Gone are the temporary cardboard paths and in their place is a network of tree-trunk 'biscuits' and reclaimed brick paving stepping stones.  All the vegetables and herbs are now within easy arm-reach!  The pavers have been spaced to ensure children can easily wind their way around the beds and adventure through the food forest.

 Can you imagine little feet stepping their way through the fabulous food forest?

The back garden bed path is a mixture of log 'biscuits' and reclaimed bricks

Spring is in the air
Spring is so close we can feel it and there is evidence of the change of season everywhere in this new garden.  The plum and apple trees and the berries are 'waking up' in their new homes and are beginning to bud.  The broad beans and potatoes are shooting and the many perennials we planted in July are growing well.  Whilst some of our seedlings have prematurely gone to seed after being too long in trays, others, including the celery, onions, beetroot, kale and silverbeet, are celebrating the hint of Spring with healthy new growth.   

It is one of our last chances to plant fruit trees and a loquat, pomegranate, dwarf pomegranate, and a cherry guava have all been planted with a good handful of Dynamic Lifter and a Seasol chaser.  Improving the soil in the food forest and future 'berry bed' is an ongoing task, and we were pretty excited to see some earthworms over the weekend, indicating that we are on our way!

Among the more interesting plants in the garden is a spectacular looking and smelling Cuban oregano plant which has gone into the back perennial bed.  It has distinctive fleshy, slightly hairy, pale green leaves with an amazing minty-menthol aroma.  Apparently it has many culinary and medicinal uses.  See if you can find it when you visit the garden!

Some yacon tubers have also gone into the garden.  Yacon are also known as 'apples of the earth' or Peruvian ground apples and have crisp, sweet taste.  From the three tubers planted we should expect to harvest up to ten kilograms of yacon next Autumn.  More information about yacon can be found at Yacon - Green Harvest.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The First Winter

The First Planting Day
Our first planting day was a great success.  The sun shone brilliantly all day and the Winter gardeners, visitors and Friends of the Garden managed to complete a mass planting out, as well as learn a great deal from the experts present.  We were gifted with a large number of plant donations and the NLFG thanks its supporters including John Pinnegar, Peppertree Place Coburg, Angelo Eliades and Bunnings Preston, as well as countless individuals who donated cuttings and seedlings.

Pathways marked out ready for planting

Plum trees in the Food Forest

The back garden bed.  Look at all those plants!

Watering in at the end of the day

The Winter Season

Despite the slow growing season, planting out a new garden in Winter has provided an excellent opportunity to plant bare-rooted fruit trees, berry canes and root crops, and to establish perennial ornamentals and edibles in new homes.

The Food Forest has taken great shape under the direction of Angelo Eliades of Deep Green PermacultureThree plum trees (Santa Rosa, D’Agen and Donsworth), three apples, and a mulberry tree now stand as the forest canopy, with a dwarf mandarin, berries (raspberries, currents and a jostaberry), and scented and companion plants forming the mid-layer.  Ground covers include wild (alpine) strawberries, lettuce, Asian greens, herbs and violets.

The Food Forest Plan - Angelo Eliades

Winter edible planting throughout the garden includes strawberries, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tat soi, bok choi, Chinese cabbage, kale, silverbeet and rainbow chard, garlic, onions, leek, spring onions, edible cannas, lettuce varieties, mustard, parsley, coriander, watercress, dill, Warrigal greens, Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb, nasturtium and broad beans.

Companion, scented and flowering plants form an important part of the garden and a third of the front garden bed has been planted with a variety of plants including lavender, daisy varieties, calendula, cornflower, hollyhock, salvia varieties, as well as some native ground covers and shrubs.  These plants are dotted throughout the seasonal beds as well and will act as bee forage, attract beneficial insects to the garden and act as ‘helpers’ to our fruit and vegetable varieties.

August in the Garden
  • Trellis will be erected for the berries in the Food Forest, an additional berry bed and for a planned passion fruit plant near the water tank. 
  • Pathway construction awaits some enthusiastic volunteers!  Stepping stones will criss-cross the garden beds and the Food Forest and will allow for easy access to plants.  We plan to construct these paths from reclaimed and re-purposed materials, such as bricks and timber.
  • Succession planting will be an ongoing task in the garden and the back garden bed has been planned to ensure there will be food to harvest every month from the garden.
  • Growers will begin to propagate seed for the coming Spring season this month and we’re hoping to grow some interesting heritage/heirloom varieties.

The Darebin Council Sow What When brochure is helping to inform us of suitable planting times as well as the plants that do and do not get along together!

The next planting and working bee day is on Saturday August 20th from 10am.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

About the Garden

About the Garden
The Northcote Library Food Garden has been developed by the City of Darebin as part of its sustainable food program. A community consultation process began in late April 2011 and the first community planting day was held in July.

The garden is managed by a committed group of residents for the benefit of the community. It will become a productive growing space, as well as a place for gathering, for education and for demonstrating sustainable gardening practices. The Northcote Library Food Garden joins an exciting array of sustainability and gardening projects and networks operating in the inner-Northern suburbs of Melbourne.

The garden features two large communal growing beds, which have been planted out with annual and perennial edible plants, as well as a variety of companion and beneficial plants. In addition, a Food Forest is taking great shape in an additional bed. The Food Forest follows the principles of other forests, with a canopy, mid-layer and ground covers, however, the Food Forest’s layers are made up of fruit trees, and edible shrubs, berries and herbs. Children will love stepping along the forest pathway through the fruit trees, searching for berries to munch on!

The garden has been established as a communal plot in order to maximize growing space. It will function using a communal planting and harvest model. A monthly planting, harvest and working bee day will take place, with gardeners committing a further 1-2 hours a week of their available time. On the community days, the available harvest will be shared with those present, and gardeners are welcome to harvest a reasonable share of anything that is ready to pick at any other time. The garden will be chemical-free and operate using broad permaculture and organic principles.

Future plans for the garden include establishing a native plants and bush food area and growing a children’s sensory garden. Gardening workshops are planned as part of broad educational aims for the garden.

The Northcote Library Food Garden is open for members of the public to enjoy and it is hoped that it will become a place where the community can meet, children can explore and people can learn about growing their own food.

Becoming Involved with the Garden
Community members are invited to become involved with the garden, either as a Friend of the Garden or as a Gardener.  Please register your interest and join our mailing list by emailing the garden:

Donations of plants are always welcome.