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Looking back on 2018 in the Garden

December 1, 2018

If last year was all about geofabric and by-laws, then this year has been about composting and new facilities.

At the end of 2017 we recieved a grant from the City of Yarra for our community composting facilities. This enabled us to run three very successful composting workshops during the year all of which were well attended by garden members as well as the local communty.

Two of the workshops were given by Kat Lavers from My Smart Garden and the other by Maria Ciavarella from My Green Garden. In these workshops we learnt about composting techniques, including bokashi buckets and worm farms. 

Maria’s workshop at Open Day

With the grant we also bought some more ‘Hungry Bin’ worm farms that are now located outside the garden under the fig tree. The community composting facilities at the garden are now operating at capacity under the watchful eye of committee member Michelle and her team of helpers.

 

After many, many months of hard work by Lynda, we finally obtained the necessary permits from council for the new shed and Tom set about organising for it’s installation. This involved coordinating the electrian, concreter, installers and plumber, as well as the dismantling of the old shed and the relocating of its contents. Well done team!

See more photos and details of the project here.

Work has now begun on the extension to the pergola. This will more than double our under-cover seating area and will be a fantastic gathering place for members.

 Open Day 2018 was one of the most successful ever thanks to a large group of members who met regularly throughout the year to plan every aspect of the event.

The entrance to the garden has been transformed this year with the addition of 6 circular raised beds that were donated by the City of Yarra. These are now being managed by a team of members from the waiting list, while the bee-attracting plantings around gate further enhance the entry to the garden. 

Working bees continue to be very well attended and this is one of the reasons why the garden is looking so splendid. The regular first Sunday of the month mini working bees have become a regular fixture on many members’ calendars. At these get-togethers, members exchange ideas for what to do with their produce – at the most recent one, we swapped ideas for cooking broad beans and peas. These recipes will find their way into a garden cookbook that will hopefully be ready for next year’s Open Day. 

The garden continues to be a welcoming space for other community groups and researchers. Over the summer, Monika Egerer, a visiting doctoral student of Environmental Studies from California used our garden as one of her research sites. She investigated how the micro climate of a plot was affected by the crops grown. More recently, Eve Gilles, a student from Richmond, Virginia interviewd one of our members for her research into women farmers and sustainability and Bailey McNeill from University of North Carolina interviewed Michelle for her research on community composting facilities.  We also hosted visits from the  Earl St Community Garden, a new garden being established in Kew, and the Willsmere Kitchen Garden, a new community garden that has been developed on the site of the old Kew Asylum garden, which was a working kitchen garden for a century.

We are looking forward to an exciting year in 2019 when the facilities upgrade is complete. We will be able to have far more activities at the garden and further build on that all important sense of community.

We have a new shed: stage 1 upgrade completed!

November 24, 2018

Here at Rushall Community Garden, we’re excited about our new state-of-the-art shed. Slightly larger than our old shed, it has a place for everything with shelves along one wall, hooks for hanging the larger tools along another, and a shadow board for the smaller tools. Rainwater will be harvested from its roof and pumped into our large water tank to add to the rain we already harvest from the nearby substation and use to water our plots. It’s so different from the rather jumbled, crowded, leaky space we’ve been using and have long outgrown.

Many members have contributed to this shed project, but one in particular has played a very important role: Tom, who’s on the wait list for a plot. After talking with our gardeners about what would best serve our needs, Tom and another member, Lynda, met with Yarra City Council, who we lease this piece of Crown Land from, to discuss the requirements for getting permission to do the work. Tom drew up the plans for the Council and the Building Surveyor, and found a shed supplier who could meet our requirements and the electrician, concreter and plumber needed to erect and install the shed and the water harvesting system. In short, Tom’s been the driver behind our new shed, and his significant contribution will be a huge benefit to our gardening community.

The new shed now sits proudly at the other end of the garden to the old one. With the old shed dismantled and gone to new home elsewhere, Stage 1 of our overall plan to upgrade our facilities is completed. Now we have a vacant space where the old shed stood and we can move on to Stage 2 of our plans – extending our pergola into that space so we have an enhanced communal area for our growing population of gardeners. Watch this space for updates!

Open Day 2018 – what a success!

October 16, 2018

Saturday 13 October – the weather was perfect, sunny, no wind and a temperature around 23. This brought a larger than usual crowd of garden members and visitors to what was our most successful Open Day yet.

As usual there were the stalls selling fresh garden produce, seedlings lovingly raised from seeds that had been saved, and  jams, pickles and baked goods contributed by many members.

The bumper raffle, organised by Pauline was filled with lovely donations from local businesses – wine, vouchers for meals and massages and so much more. There was the ever popular BBQ and homemade lemon cordial, and this year we had some great Eureka coffee provided by our local coffee roaster and cafe Growers Espresso.

This year we also had a stall for making flower garlands as well as a place for children to do drawings of flowers and veggies. Maria Ciavarella from My Green Garden  gave two informative demonstrations on how to manage kitchen waste at home through composting, bokashi buckets or worm farms.

We were very fortunate to have Clive Blazey, the founder of the Diggers Club, with us for a chat about the importance of heritage seeds and the dangers associated with both genetically modified seeds and glyphosate. Clive also donated a signed copy of his latest book for the raffle.

Thanks to Cr Jackie Fristacky and the Hon Richard Wynne for coming along and for their continued support for Open Day over many years.

Open Day doesn’t just happen. Way back in May, Julie gathered together a team of hardworking members – who met regularly over the many months to plan every aspect of the day. A huge ‘thank you’ to Julie, Dani, Tricia, Pauline, Pam, Debbie, Lyn, Jane & Cathryn. We also had more than 60 members who volunteered their time setting up for the day, working on stalls, selling raffle tickets, and even more who made goods to sell, raised seedlings and donated fresh produce. A big thank you to you too!

It was great to see so many members actively involved and the local community enjoying our beautiful Garden.

Program for Open Day

October 12, 2018

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Open Day

September 24, 2018

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Spring is in the air!

September 8, 2018

A walk around the garden at this time of the year is a lovely experience and evidence that spring is certainly upon us. Even though the nights are still cold, the warmer days are telling us that spring is in the air.

Nectarine blossom

The apricot, nectarine and plum trees are covered in their delicate blossoms, buzzing with bees doing that all important work of pollinating the flowers.

Many plots have large blocks of broad beans with the beans starting to develop.These are surely one of the best spring vegetables, along with artichokes and asparagus.

Most cabbages and cauliflowers have been harvested by now, but there are still  a few waiting to be cut. Fennel, leeks and garlic are still evident and of course, there is plenty of silverbeet. The new circular beds outside the garden have been planted up with crops to sell at Open Day. Plots are gradually being cleared and planted for summer while work on the new shed has started with the intallation of the electrics.

 

 

How to raise seedlings from seed

August 3, 2018

One of the most satisfying aspects of growing vegetables is raising seedlings from seed, especially if that seed was saved from a previous year’s crop.  It does require some forward planning and patience but it will result in seedlings that are stronger and healthier than those that you will usually find in any nursery. If you haven’t saved seeds, try to use quality heritage seeds from somewher like Diggers or Eden Seeds.

Thermostatically controlled propagator

The key to successful germination of the seeds is to have an environment with constant temperature and moisture. This can be achieved with a special home propagator – the most efficient are those with a thermostat to regulate temperature. But any warm environment will do, such as a window ledge or airing cupboard. If the temperature is stable the seeds will germinate quickly, usually 5-7 days. The more the temperature varies, the longer it will take. The humidity needs to be maintained, and this can be done by misting the seed tray but it is important not to overwater.

 

Seed raising tool kit – propogating mix, mister, pots and labels

Small seeds such as tomatoes and chillies can be sown in small seed trays or egg cartons, and larger seeds such as pumpkin or zucchini can be sown directly into small pots. It is best to use a seed propagating mixture rather than potting mix as the mixture is lighter and more open so that the tiny roots and shoots can devlop easily. If you are raising lots of seedlings it is useful to label the trays or pots – there is nothing worse than forgetting what is in each!

Once the seeds have germinated, they should be removed from the propagator or they will quickly become ‘leggy’ and at no time should they be allowed to dry out. When the seedlings have their second set of true leaves, they can be potted up from the seed tray into seeedling sized pots. You can always get these from a local nursery such as BAAG which always has a big tub of plastic pots to give away. At this stage, the seedlings will benefit from regular feeding – worm tea is excellent.

The aim when raising from seed is to have the seedlings well developed and strong by the time you want to transplant them out into the garden. If they have been mainly raised indoors or in a very sheltered spot, they need to be ‘hardened off’ prior to transplanting. This simply means placing them outdoors in an enviroment similar to where they will be planted for a few days before transplanting.

The forward planning referrred to at the start means that you will need to work backwards from when you want the seedlings to be transpalanted. For example, if you want tomato seedlings planted out by mid October, you will need to start raising them by mid August. As the weather could still be cold the growth might be slow, so allow 6-8 weeks. This generally is the case for most seedlings, but those grown from larger seeds such as zucchini need less time.

And finally, have a look at this amazing timelapse video showing the germination of a bean seed.