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Six Top Tips for your Plot

June 4, 2018

Six Top Tips for your Plot

1. Mulch, mulch, mulch!
Mulch helps to stop soil from drying out, protects soil microorganisms from the sun, helps regulate soil temperature and encourages earthworms and other beneficial bugs.
‘Chop and Drop mulching’ makes good use of spent plant materials on your plot, to do this chop garden prunings finely and spread as mulch on garden beds. You can use sugar cane mulch or pea straw on top for an attractive look.

2. Add Flowers

Include some flowers on your plot to attract beneficial bugs, butterflies and bees. My favourites include Flax (Linseed), Chicory, Marigolds (Tagetes or Calendula or both), Yarrow, Feverfew, Californian Poppy, Chamomile, Coriander and Alyssum.

3. Green Manure

Grow a green manure crop in any gaps to improve your soil. No need to buy expensive packs of green manure seeds, pick up some edible seeds up from your local whole foods grocery or a mixed bird seed pack from the supermarket. Some suggestions are Buckwheat, Flax (Linseed), Mustard, Sunflowers and Millet. When your plants have grown or you want the space for other plantings, cut the plants of at ground level and chop the stems and leaves up for mulch. The roots will break down in the soil and will help build the structure of your soil. No need to dig the green manure in (this ties up nitrogen in the soil to break down the plant material.)

4. Pest Control 

Stacked damp cardboard egg cartons (3 high) are great for reducing the amount of slaters, slugs and earwigs on your plot. The bugs love to hide in the damp cardboard and can be dispatched into the compost or taken to a friend with chickens.

5. Slugs and Snails beware

A ring of coffee grounds and crushed eggshells around new seedlings may help prevent slugs and snails from eating your new plantings.

6. Easy Storage for Soil Additives

Washed and dried 2L milk bottles are fantastic for storing smelly biodynamic lifter pellets, dolomite and blood and bone. The bottles are easy to store, stacked on the side or in a box. Contents can be easily spread with a quick sprinkle when needed.

Open Day 2018

June 4, 2018

RUSHALL GARDEN

OPEN DAY

 

Saturday 13th October 2018, 1 -4pm

Please mark this day in your diaries.

 

Planning is well underway and more information will be available in the next few weeks and months.

This initial notice is not only for  your diaries, but also to see if anyone has a gazebo or two that we could borrow for the day.

Gazebos such as the 2.4 x 2.4m Coleman below would be ideal.

 

 

Please let us know soon if you have a gazebo we could borrow.

Send us an email at nfcommunitygarden@gmail.com

With thanks

Open Day Working Group

A great autumn working bee

May 19, 2018

About 30 members along with some very enthusiatic young helpers came to the autumn working bee.

Clearing the site for the new shed

One of the most exciting tasks at the working bee was preparing the area behind the large water tank for the new shed. This is the first stage of the improvements to the garden infrastructure that a sub-committee has been working towards over the last 12 months.

Plans for the new shed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the new shed is erected, the old shed will be removed and the pergola area extended to create more communal space for BBQ’s, meetings and workshops. We are expecting the work to begin very soon – just waiting on the building permit.

When you are next at the garden you will see that the remaining nets have been removed from the fruit trees and those who came to the working bee enjoyed the apples that were picked.

Removing the netting

Yummy apples!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, there was plenty to do with mulching the paths and weeding, as well as mending the netting. All the hard work was followed by the usual BBQ, drinks and chat. Thanks to Margaret and Dani for organising the afternoon, and to Matt for doing the BBQ.

 

 

 

Essentials of seed saving

April 22, 2018

An earlier post described some of the reasons for seeds saving.

But what are the basics of seed saving? If you’ve never done it before, where to start?

There are several things to consider:

  • choice of seeds
  • collection of seeds
  • preparation of seeds
  • storage of seeds
A great resource is the Seed Savers Handbook, available from the Seed Savers Network based in Byron Bay

 

 

 

 

Choice of seeds

The easiest vegetables to save seeds from are peas, beans, chilli and peppers, and tomatoes. Choose seeds from the best plants and make sure they are from heritage varieties, not the hybrid plants that are sold in some of the more commercial nurseries. If you save from hybrids, the next generation may not be quite like the previous.

A selection of chillies drying out ready for seed saving

Collection of seeds 

With peas and beans, simply leave one of your plants in the ground for the seed pods to dry off, then pick the pods. With tomatoes, chillies and peppers, it is best to let the fruit get really ripe before picking for seed saving. If you don’t have any of your own plants to save from, you can always buy ripe heritage and organic tomatoes to use.

 

Preparation of seeds

Beans and peas can be left in the pod to dry out, then removed and placed on a plate or in a bowl in a dry place for a few days to ensure they are completely dry. Chillies and peppers can be cut in half and left to dry out before removing the seeds and again placing on a tray for several days to fully dry.

Tomatoes are a bit more complicated. Cut the tomato in half and scoop out the seeds into a glass. Half fill with tepid water and leave for 24 hours. This helps the gel around the seed to break down. Any seeds that float to the surface are not viable and should be scooped off and discarded. Pour the water and seeds through a kitchen strainer and rinsed well under cold water. The gel should now have come off. Place the seeds on a plate to dry out – you can use blotting paper to help absorb the moisture.

Seeds ready for next summer

Storage

When the seeds are completely dry, they can be stored in little glass jars, paper envelopes or plastic bags. Make sure you label each with the type of seed and the date of collection. Most of these seeds can be stored for 3-4 years.

Happy seed saving, and remember that one of the great things about seed saving is swapping your seeds with other gardeners.

 

Why seed saving mattters

April 12, 2018

Seed saving has a very long history, going back to the days of hunter gatherers.

Indian women are the custodians of the seeds from these amaranth and okra plants

Traditionally, women have been the custodians of seeds and so have largely been responsible for developing and adapting plants, especially for food and medicinal purposes. This has formed the basis of the world’s vast domestic food plant diversity.

Alarmingly, all this is being eroded by industrialised agriculture where the emphasis is on uniformity and monocultures. It is estimated that in the 20th century, 90% of the world’s seed diversity, that had taken more than 10000 years to develop, has been lost. Over the last couple of decades, the greatest threat has come from the development of genetically modified seeds which are harmful to both the environment and human health. Many of the world’s seeds are now patented to the large biotech companies and saving seeds from them is illegal. Australia currently imports about 93% of all seed used and the governement is about to introduce much stricter regulations that will require all brassica seeds to be fumigated. This will have an impact on the organic seed sector.

These are some compelling reasons why seed saving by home gardeners, especially organic gardeners is becoming more and more important. Some people, such as Vandana Shiva, the Indian ecologist, believe that seed saving is a political act of resistance. In a 2013 interview she says “the act of seed saving is such an important political act in this time. And that is the part that is linked to self-organizing—organizing yourself to save the seeds, have a community garden, create an exchange, do everything that it takes to protect and rejuvenate the seed. But at this point, industry is hungry to have absolute control. They will not tolerate a single farmer who has freedom in his seed supply. They will not stand a single seed that grows on its own terms.”

One of the marvellous things about plants is that they adapt to their environment. If a plant has done really well in your plot or garden, it is worth considering saving the seed from it for the next year. This is especially important for heritage plants.  Seed saving takes time, as does growing from seed rather than just planting seedlings. It is however, a deeply satisfying activity. You become part of a very long tradition, and also play a small but important role in preserving the world’s biodiversity and seed heritage.

Some tips on how to seed save will be posted later.

Friend or foe? Companion planting in the garden

March 27, 2018

We probably all know that we shouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same place in the garden two years in a row, and that basil and tomatoes grow very well together. But what about all the other plants that love or detest each other’s company?

As the seasons are now changing and winter crops are being planted, here are a few ideas on companion planting for the winter garden.

Most of us grow broad beans over the winter, but make sure you keep them away from onions and garlic. They will however be very happy if planted near anything from the cabbage family.

Leeks and carrots growing together (Winter 2017)

Leeks are a popular winter vegetable and have no foes.

They are particulary friendly with carrots, celery and onions.

The cabbage family gets on well with almost every vegetable, but try to keep them away from your strawberry patch.

 

Cabbages, lettuces and rocket enjoying each other’s company (Winter 2017)

One of the best plants to grow is lettuce which has no foes. It can be useful as a buffer between plants that are foes.

You might want to consider having a marjoram plant on your plot as this herb is benefical to all vegetables, as are french marigolds.

Companion planting is a fascinating aspect of gardening and understanding some of the basics can really help improve the productivity of your plot. Further information on companion planting can be found on the Sustainable Gardening Australia website.

Changing seasons

March 2, 2018

Walking around the garden, we are conscious  of the changing of the seasons. Most tomato plants are browning off and the remaining tomatoes are ripening quickly. Although there are still lots of zucchinis, most plants have stopped producing flowers. Chillies and peppers are ripening, basil is starting to flower and lettuces are bolting if they are not picked. The pumpkins are swelling on the vine.

So now is the time to start planting for the cooler month. You don’t need to wait for the plot to be empty – you can stagger your plantings across the next couple of months.

But first, some soil preparation. After the long summer growing season, the soil will be exhausted and possibly very dry. Many autumn and winter crops are leafy greens which are  heavy feeders so now is the time to add some compost and manure and maybe a sprinkling of dolomite to ‘sweeten’ the soil. You could also consider a green crop on a section of your plot. BAAG garden centre has a useful guide to preparing the garden for autumn/winter plantings.

What to plant will of course depend on what you like to eat! There is such a variety over the cooler months – the brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower), the alliums (onions, garlic, leeks), peas and broad beans and of course all the delicious root vegies – carrots, parsnips, beetroot, turnips. The Gardening Australia Vegie Guide is probably the best guide as to what to plant each month. Just click on ‘Temperate’ and then the month to get some ideas. And if you click on the name of a vegie, there is a pop-up box with lots more information. A really great resource from our ABC.

Happy gardening!