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