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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!

Iconic nursery under threat

February 22, 2018

Rushall Garden has had a long association with the Bulleen Art and Garden centre, known affectionately as BAAG. We have often ordered truck loads of compost, soil or mushroom compost from them and many of our members value BAAG as a source for their seeds and seedlings season by season. The gardening advice that BAAG gives is invaluable, and I know some members have attended some of their gardening workshops over the years. Those of you who have been to BAAG will know what a wonderful space it is, backed by the large gum trees on the Yarra, and their commitment to sustainablity is well known.

Now all this is under threat from the North East Link project. Regardless of our views on the road project, it would be a great loss to the gardening community in Melbourne if BAAG is forced to close or relocate. Although the prosposed route does not go along the road where BAAG is located, staff at the nursery have told me that the BAAG site has been earmarked for a depot for trucks and machinery during the construction period.

BAAG has organised a petition to try and save the nursery. You will find it here if you want to add you name.

A glut of tomatoes

February 14, 2018

This summer has been an excellent one for tomatoes, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how many we may have harvested.

A glut awaiting processing

So we are always looking for ways of using and preserving them. Apart from the usual tomato soup, pasta sauces and chopping and freezing them, here are some more ideas.

If you like spicy relishes, why not make some Indian tomato kasundi. This chutney originated in Bengal and is delicious with any Indian food as well as roasted or cold meat,  and of course in a cheese sandwich. There are many versions of the recipe, but here is a simple one from the Urban Food Garden website, a fantastic resource about growing your own food, based in Ballarat.

Another idea is to roast then freeze the surplus tomatoes. Roasting intensifies the flavour in a way that doesn’t happen with simple freezing of the raw tomato. Cut the tomatoes in half, toss in a little olive oil, spread out on a baking tray with the cut side up, sprinkle with salt and roast in a low oven (maybe 140oC) until they have shrunk. Cool then freeze.

A more unusual idea is to make tomato jam.

Turkish tomato jam

This is a Turkisk recipe and it is often served at breakfast with fresh bread and feta cheese. Yum! If you like jam making, why not give it a go. Wash and roughly cut the tomatoes and put in a pan with half the quantity of sugar (eg for 1 kg tomatoes, use 500 gm of sugar), and a teaspoon of salt. Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to bring to the boil and reduce to keep it simmering. When it has thicked sufficiently, remove and put into warm sterilized jars. Seal tightly.

If you want to free up space for your autumn plantings, and the tomato plants are still in the ground, why not pick all the tomatoes, even if they are green, and turn them into a traditional green tomato chutney.

And don’t forget to seed save from your favourite tomatoes so that you have a bumper crop again next year!

February working bees

February 1, 2018

Now that the summer holiday season is all but over, the rhythm of monthly working bees resumes. With the recent hot weather, then heavy rain, the garden has really flourished.

On Sunday, Febuary 4 there will be a mini working bee from 10-11, followed by a shared morning tea. These mini bees are coordinated by Lynda and Pam, and Lynda describes what will happen at this on as follows:

Mini working bee: 10-11 am:  There’s plenty of smaller task to do to keep our garden in fine form. The nashi pears should be ready about now so we could pick a basket or two to share. We should make sure the netting on all the trees is pegged closed to keep the birds away from the ripening fruit and pick up any fallen fruit. It would be good to also check all the communal beds and remove any plants that haven’t survived the recent extreme heat, dead-head the roses, weed and generally tidy up.

Morning tea 11 am: Bring a plate to share if you can and your favourite cup if you’re fussy. And, while we’re at it, how about bringing a zucchini recipe? At this time of year, zucchinis are in abundance and many of us would welcome new ideas on what to do with them. Morning tea is a great time to swap ideas.

The first major working bee for the year is also in February. This will be from 10-12 on Sunday, February 18. It will be followed as usual  by a BBQ, which always includes salad or grilled veggies from the garden and  drinks.

Working bees are a fabulous way for members to get to know each other and help maintain the communal areas of the garden – the full list of working bee dates can be found here.


University research in the garden during the summer

January 24, 2018

Researcher Monika Egerer

Monika Egerer is a visiting doctoral student of Environmental Studies from California, US. She is working at the University of Melbourne, Burnley for the summer and since the beginning of December has been using our garden as one of her research sites. Read Monika’s description of her project:

“Using temperature loggers, I am monitoring the temperatures of 10 community gardens over the course of the summer in Melbourne neighborhoods, from Essendon to Nunawading. I am interested to learn whether planting practices influences the temperature of gardens in relation to the gardens regional context. What explains the fluctuations in temperatures at a plot from day to day? Is it more local, or more regional factors? I have placed temperature loggers in four garden plots (thanks Michelle, John, Paul and Tony) for hourly temperature data collection. I am  also collecting information on vegetation diversity – what trees the garden has, what is growing in plots, and the groundcover composition.

Temperature logger at the top of a tomato stake on Tony’s plot

I am also using a survey to find out more about how weather patterns (like heat, drought, rainfall) influence peoples’ gardening, and what motivates people to grow different things and participate in gardens. I am  hoping to compare these results with my findings in 25 community gardens in the California central coast region. This region has a somewhat similar climate and a history of recent drought conditions that impact urban gardeners.”

If you haven’t already completed the survey about your gardening practices, Monika would really appreciate it if you could take 10 minutes to fill out this short survey  so that she can learn from your thoughts and collect information about your gardening. You’ll get a pack of seeds as a thanks!

If you have any questions, you can contact her at:

Phone: 0434 372 632


You can see more of Monika’s work on her website

Looking Back on 2017 in the Garden

December 16, 2017

What a busy year it’s been in the garden!

Geofabric being laid

April saw the final round of the laying of the geofabric on the plots.

Newly planted plot after the laying of geofabric

It was great to have a completely empty plot to plan and replant, perhaps in a very different way.

Lots of new soil and compost was brought in, so that all plots now have a very good soil structure, which hopefully will lead to greater productivity.

A small group has been working very hard to realise our dream of a new and improved shed and an extension to the pergola. We are now in the final planning stages and this project should become a reality during 2018.

Another gourmet BBQ at a working bee – thanks Cynthia!

Major working bees with their associated BBQ and drinks, and mini working bees with morning tea on the first weekend of each month continue to be very successful and well attended.

These are a great opportunity for members to contibute to the maintainance of the communal parts of the garden, as well as enjoying each others company.


Another successful Open Day took place in October, with the theme ‘Gardening in Small Spaces’. This year we ran some workshops on composting, worm farms and seed raising using a self wicking system made from plasic drink bottles. The workshops were a hit with the children – great to get them interested in gardening at an early age.

The children are fascinated by the worms!

Fresh produce for sale at the Open Day








We  also tried a new initiative – members actively working on their plots – which gave visitors an opportunity to ask questions about growing vegetables, and the fresh produce stall enabled them to buy our produce.

The garden continues to have a productive relationship with the City of Yarra – this year we renewed our lease and negotiated a new Service Agreement. We also received a $4000 grant from them to improve and expand the community composting facility at the garden.

Our annual Open Day is on next Saturday 14th October!

October 6, 2017