Saturday, 13 October 2012

The NLFG turns 1!

The Northcote Library Food Garden is excited to be celebrating its first birthday!  Everyone is warmly invited to help us celebrate on Sunday 11th November 2012 with a garden party.  Our live gypsy music group will set the scene for a fun and lively event!

Children's activities will run all afternoon and will include a paper pot and seed planting stall, art activities and scarecrow building.

Bring your excess garden produce to swap for something new and try some of the garden's delicious herbs and greens.

A plant stall will sell seasonal seedlings and seeds and we will celebrate with afternoon tea in the garden from 3.00pm.

The workshops running as part of the celebration are now fully booked.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Indigenous / Native Food Garden

The first plants in the Northcote Library Food Garden’s indigenous/native* food garden are in and appear to be enjoying their new home at the Southern end of the garden.

The indigenous/native garden was proposed way back in April last year in the community consultation phase of the garden’s establishment.  Members of the local community felt it would be fitting and beneficial to include an area that showcased the growing of native and local indigenous plants within the garden and the gardening group earmarked the project early on as an important ‘Phase 2’ action.  The indigenous/native garden’s inclusion is an exciting step towards the educational and sustainability vision for the NLFG as outlined by the community in 2011.

We feel the inclusion of the indigenous garden offers benefits including:
  • Educational – people can familiarise themselves with native bush food plants and see their viability.  Visitors will be able to observe edible natives and even taste the produce, possibly encouraging them to plant more bush foods in other private and public spaces.
  • Biodiversity – having a native food forest alongside the existing exotic food forest and vegetable gardens encourages pollinators such as bees, and attracts native birds to the area, which will eat insects and provide more natural pest control.
Gardeners tidy up existing native vegetation
The site includes many established native plants including eucalypts, grevilleas, correas, callistemons and acacia and these plants were maintained as an essential part of the ‘native food forest’.

The project had three phases:
1.  Identification of the existing native plants
2.  Researching and identification of suitable indigenous and native food plants for inclusion
3.  Tidying of the site, acquisition and planting of the first plants

The native forest garden design incorporates the existing natives from the tall eucalypts to the prostrate grevilleas to create a multi-layered native ecosystem. New plants were sourced from our local native plant experts VINC and other local nurseries.  All plants are labelled clearly and we plan to add further signage and annotations in the future.  Delicate varieties such as yam daisy (Microseris lanceolata), chocolate lily (Arthropodium strictum), vanilla lily (Arthropodium milleflorum), and bulbine lily (Bulbine bulbosa) are being grown in large pots at present so as to not be ‘overwhelmed’ and lost in the garden.  

Credit must go to Angelo and Damien, of the NLFG’s advisory group, who gave their time, expertise and enthusiasm to the project and several of our gardeners who, through their research and hard work, were instrumental to the project’s success.

The indigenous/native garden is an ongoing project and will be added to over time.

Pruning off lower branches on the newly planted macadamia tree

Useful links:
Merri Creek Management Committee -

* Please note that here we have used the term indigenous to denote plants that are indigenous to the local Darebin area and native as plants that are indigenous to Australia, but not necessarily to the local area.

Matted Flax Lily  (Dianella amoena)
Native Mint (Menthos Australis) protected by twiggy tripod
Native Mint (Menthos Australis)
Cut Leaf Daisy (Brachyscome multifida) protected by plastic cover
Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium strictum) 
planted in pots to protect delicate foliage
Small-Leaf Bramble or Native Raspberry (Rubus parvifolius)
Common Apple Berry or Dumpling Apple (Billardiera scandens)
Nodding Salt Bush (Einadia nutans)

Text for this article has been contributed by Allison and Angelo

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Jerusalem Artichokes

Our Jerusalem artichokes were planted during our first planting day in July 2011.  The tubers went into the ground in an area earmarked for perennial planting with a bit of discussion that included warnings from the experienced amongst us, “Be careful or they’ll take over!”.  They were buried at about twice their depth (20 centimetres or so) and were not much thought about again, until they began emerging from the ground with the sunflowers at the start of Summer.

No reading about Jerusalem artichokes seems complete without mention of their perplexing misnomer, being neither an artichoke, nor from the Middle East.  They are actually an edible tuber that, according to the seasoned cooks in our gardening group, can be roasted with a bit of garlic and butter and eaten thus, or turned into a delicious soup.

The tall plants (two metres plus)  flowered in late Summer with large daisy-like yellow flowers and could have been confused with the nearby sunflowers, but for their more spindly form.  They appeared to cope well without any attention or extra maintenance at all, even in the alkaline soil conditions that the NLFG has offered in the first year.  A quick read on the Gardening Australia website reveals, however, that they do enjoy a rich, well-drained soil and benefit from some added fertilizer from time to time. 

Image from
The gardeners decided to harvest some of the tubers on our late April gardening day.  At this stage, the plants were still green, but they can be harvested after the leaves wilt at the beginning of Winter as well.  From a handful of tubers that were planted last year, we harvested a couple of kilograms of Jerusalem artichokes.

It also seems negligent to write about Jerusalem artichokes without alluding to their potentially...ahem...windy side-effects.  Tamara and Ducky have experimented to reduce The Fartichoke Effect and, short of standing downwind at your next social gathering, it may just be worth a go.

Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes - April 2012

The hat runneth over!  Some of our tuber harvest.
See also:

Friday, 30 March 2012

Ladybird, Ladybird

Thanks to Ivor for this contribution to the NLFG's blog.

I have been confused as to which ladybird is a good ladybird. It turns out that there are so many varieties that it may be a little difficult to work out. The following is an excerpt from a Gardening Australia factsheet by Jerry Coleby-Williams.  The full factsheet can be found here.
There are over 100 species of ladybirds in Australia and the vast majority are beneficial, but it pays to know the difference between the good and the bad - beware the vegetarians! 
There are four common garden species of ladybird in Australia. The common spotted ladybird is bright orange with black dots on its back. They're voracious predators of aphids, scale insects and mites. Adults will consume 2,500 aphids during their life. 
The fungus eating ladybird has very bold black and yellow colouration. Both adults and larvae feed on mildew fungus, which is a really common problem in gardens. 
The villain is the 28 spotted or leaf eating ladybird. They're easy to identify. Adults are up to 1cm long, a light orange colour and they have 28 spots. Both adults and larvae feed on a range of plants - cabbagepotato and bean family are preferred foods. The larvae are easy to recognise because they are yellowish creamy colour, with a frizzy outline and they feed on the undersides of the leaves. The best way to control leaf eating ladybirds is to handpick them from plants.

A garden variety superhero - The Common Spotted Ladybird
Image from
The delightfully named Fungus-eating Ladybird
Image from
Villainous, leaf-munching 28 Spot Ladybird
Image from

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Northcote Dinners

All this digging, planting, weeding, paving, mulching and watering can sure make a gardener hungry!

Whilst I would describe the first potato crop as meagre 
(the poor plants struggled in the alkaline conditions), the creamy, 
starchy goodness was concentrated into the delicious few that we 
harvested during January.  Eaten simply with rosemary and sea salt.
 A summer risotto with green beans, zucchini, and
chard all from the NLFG (and some peas thrown in).

Simple, seasonal, and very local food.  Yum.


During the quiet, hazy summer days at the garden:
  • Bees and insects are busy pollinating
  • The beans that waited patiently for summer proper are suddenly creeping and climbing skyward
  • Sunflowers, planted long ago by tiny hands, shine bright yellow across the garden 
  • Finger-like zucchinis lurk beneath jungle green leaves
  • Giant seed heads of silverbeet and parsley reach shoulder-high in the food forest
  • Tiny, sherbety wild strawberries are gobbled up by garden visitors
  • Green caterpillars munch on juicy leaves
  • Tomatoes struggle in the tough soil conditions, but are trying hard to flower and fruit
  • Berry canes stretch out in all directions – a promise of a very berry crop to come next season!
  • Busy hands are watering, weeding, tending to compost and digging in coffee grounds 

What else have you noticed at the garden this Summer?

Zucchinis and Sunflowers

Edible cannas and climbing beans
Food Forest January 2012

Monday, 9 January 2012

Filters, Flush valves and Flow rates - Irrigation 101

Sunday 11th December saw an energetic crew gather at the garden to install the new drip irrigation system.  Angelo Eliades led the hands-on workshop and capably ran the attendees through the parts of the system and demonstrated how the parts fit together to water efficiently. Under the guidance of Angelo and John Pinnegar, small teams worked collaboratively to lay out and peg just under two hundred metres of drip irrigation hose line in giant looping zig-zag formations across the four garden beds, as well as connect all the valves, filters, connectors and extenders required.
Angelo demonstrates how all the parts fit together

Laying out the drip line
The benefits of drip irrigation for the garden will be:
  • greater water efficiency by delivering water directly to the root zone of plants
  • reduced water run-off and evaporation
  • prevention of disease by minimising water contact with the leaves, stems, and fruit of plants
  • decreased labour (less lugging of hoses around and across garden beds)
  • greater effectiveness of watering on uneven ground (all our garden beds slope)

The watering at the garden is managed by a roster system.  Gardeners are rostered on in pairs for a week at a time and for that week manage the irrigation needs of the garden.  If it rains, you’re lucky!  One potential drawback of the system is that it does take longer to water, with each bed needing at least 25-30 minutes for a deep watering.  However, given where the garden is situated, this means that waterers can duck into the library, have a coffee or go shopping between watering beds!

Our sincere thanks are extended to the City of Darebin for supplying the irrigation equipment and for its ongoing support of the garden.  Angelo and John continue to be great teachers and facilitators in the garden and we thank them for lending us their time and expertise once again.

Laying out the drip line
It's a team effort!
Many hands...