Saturday, December 17, 2011

An afternoon of community gardening

strawberry times...
Today we had our last session for 2011 at the Narre Warren North Community Garden. It was great. As well as admiring how much the plants had grown since last month, we were able to collect seeds, harvest, weed and plant. The lebanese cucumbers were ready for picking as was the rhubarb and some garlic, I scored some seeds of the Flanders Poppy which I have long wanted to include in my herbaceous border as well as some Moon and Stars Watermelon that someone kindly donated. I also bought a bale of straw at a great price which I shall use to cover my potatoes as they grow up our of the soil to increase the production of tubers. During the afternoon I sowed some bicolour sweet corn and I will look forward to seeing how it goes in the community garden.

As it was a hot day we also spent a fair bit of time chatting and sharing knowledge. I learned about the idea of compost tea for Peach leaf curl. We talked about where there were apple and plum trees on walking paths that we could harvest from to make some preserves. But I have the feeling that the week before Christmas is not the time for me to be doing any extra preserving.

I am looking forward to the next session at the Narre Warren North Community Garden in January. It is really satisfying to work on a common project together with others who live locally, especially when it's gardening.

Image: 'strawberry times...'

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Narre Warren North Organic Garden Club

It’s the last Narre Warren North Organic Gardening group session for 2012 this Saturday afternoon, 17th December, from 2-4pm. It is at the Narre Warren North Uniting Church, cnr. Tom Jones Court and Main Street, Narre Warren North. This is a gardening group and a community garden to assist people with small gardens to grow food. Participants can learn how to grow food organically, meet likeminded people and have fun. Please bring a plate to share, as well as your gardening implements, gloves and some spare seeds or seedlings to get into the ground. A gold coin donation for the session is appreciated. Refreshments provided.

For more information, please contact Jo on jbmcleay AT
See you all then!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Harvest Monday: potatoes, rhubarb and angelica

Like the author of Daphne's Dandelions, Suburban Tomato and the Urban Vegie Gardener Blog I will be recording my harvests on a Monday. It was only when I was writing this post that I realised I could harvest some of what was in my garden. Potatoes. I harvested some more potatoes and my first tiny little zucchini as well as some baby carrots this weekend. No photos though as I didn't think of it before we had eaten our harvest.
What I could still harvest in the next day or so is some iceberg lettuce, some other lettuce leaves, more carrots and zucchinis and more potatoes. I could also harvest the angelica and use it in this recipe along with my rhubarb.
I have been having lemon verbena tea which is delicious and some white alpine strawberries and a few raspberries.
Altogether quite delicious although none of it is enough yet (except the lemon verbena tea, the angelica and the rhubarb).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Half moon edger

Today I'm joining with Rhonda from Down to Earth for her Friday photo feature, "On my mind". I was excited to get an early Christmas present from Bob - a half moon edger.

I also treated my tree lucerne seeds to the hot water and sowed them in a mixture of worm castings and sand.

The heat and the rain certainly gave the garden a boost today.
halfmoon edger

Thursday, December 8, 2011

More bee plants

Going to sow another bee plant tomorrow, one that doubles as chook food and whose prunings can be used as mulch. Tagasaste or Tree Lucerne is a very useful plant that needs to be monitored for weed potential. Tagasaste

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Update on the bees

After 3 weeks in the hive
A bit more about my current obsession. Enjoy!

This is what the hive looks like normally:

hive Cross posted from 365 Countdown

Monday, December 5, 2011

What bees like

Today I didn't do much in the garden but bought beans to plant tomorrow. Of course there is always weeding and watering so I did a bit of that. Looked up into the beehive from underneath and saw five combs starting from the top bars looking exactly as they are supposed to as shown in this video. Yesterday I noticed that some of the bees were bringing pollen back to the hive which I learned may be an indication that there are larvae present as the worker bees feed pollen and honey to the baby larvae, a sign of hope that the colony is doing well.

My herbaceous border is extending and yesterday I also planted out some more herbs and flowers that bees like.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Harvest time

I planted out my late potatoes, and harvested some I planted in April (3 kgs) and some garlic.

potato harvest (some of)
3 kgs of potatoes

garlic 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Potato Plans

Tomorrow I am going to plant potatoes. I know I can do this so late because I checked on Peter Cundall's year round guide. I will be able to harvest them between 3-5 months later. The potatoes I planted in April and June have not done so well and I am a bit disappointed. So I will try again. I have bought 1 kg of seed potatoes and I will record their growth and how they go.

Image attribution: Photo by Lynne "Potatoes"

Transition Town Totnes

Rob Hokins with his Green Community Hero award
Town With Nicholas Crane This Friday on 2 December at 7.30-8.30pm, SBS TV1 is showing the documentary: Transition towns: Totnes - The description says: A Saxon river town in South Devon, Totnes is one of the UK's oldest towns. It has seen tough times through its long history, but adversity has taught it to innovate. Geographer and adventurer Nicholas Crane visits the home of one of the greatest social experiments of the 20th century, and uncovers the test bed for an ambitious new idea that aims to change our urban life forever.(From the UK)

Image attribution: Photo by Ed Mitchell 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guerilla Gardening

Today I found a new group on Facebook: "Guerilla Gardening is about planting functional plants, not just aesthetic plants, that can be shared by the surrounding community. The focus therefore tends to be on plants that will provide food being planted in public or abandoned but accessible locations.

We only encourage this to be done where the owners of the land cooperate. Please be sure to only use plants that will not cause a public nuisance or a hazard in the chosen location."

Just love it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A job for another day

Looking forward to doing a check on my bees on the next fine, still day. I will be taking my guide from this video by Phil Chandler.



Today I planted lettuce, eggplant and cucumber seedlings and sowed sweet corn and mulched the corn I already have growing. This was a job I planned to do yesterday. This fig tree with its cute little figs was just asking to be photographed so I did.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bee behaviour

Just watching the bees today and I saw they acted differently depending on whether they were collecting nectar or collecting pollen. The first picture shows a bee collecting nectar from a French lavender and the second, pollen from a Californian poppy. When the bees collect pollen they get right into the flower and roll around next to the stamens. I had read somewhere that the bees decide before they forage whether they are going to get nectar or pollen and eat more for the pollen collecting trips (which they often go further for) but I can't find the reference now. If anyone knows it can you let me know with a comment? Thanks.

bee collecting nectar

bee collecting pollen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sweetcorn and eggplant

Eggplant Right Before the Snow

Jobs for tomorrow: put compost in the round garden where I harvested the garlic and onions this afternoon, and prepare the soil ready for sowing more sweetcorn. Put more compost onto the raised beds so I can plant out the 5 eggplants Mum gave me. Water the new seedlings I planted in the bee garden.

Image attribution:'Eggplant Right Before the Snow' by Jan

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Palmieri, Firenze – Box garden  from level of tennis court

I've been enjoying Monty Don's Italian Gardens series on the ABC originally shown on the BBC. What I like about it is that he talks about they way gardeners were able to realise their passion. I know what that feels like, having a vision then planting and waiting and hoping it is like what you planned. I am amazed at how much patience gardening takes. My front garden has been a joy to plan and envisage and despite some problems I hope time will fix reality has been better than I hoped for.

Image attribution: This photo belongs to the Oregon State University Archives and was taken in circa 1915
It has no known copyright restrictions.

Friday, November 25, 2011

...'twould smell as sweet - Romeo and Juliet

English Rose, Austin Rose 'Heritage' Rosa

English Rose, Austin Rose 'Heritage' Rosa. Wow, this rose has just loved all the rain we have had this spring. It's never looked this good before

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Job for tomorrw

Section of the herbaceous border

This is a section of the herbaceous border at the front. It is lush and growing well as put lots of compost there before I planted. However the other section of this garden is not doing quite so well as I used soil bought from a supplier. I didn't get the best soil, which I now regret and the job for tomorrow is to spread compost and mulch all over it. I am using grass clippings, which I know a lot of people wouldn't do as it might get too hot, but I am spreading it reasonably thinly and often so that there is a continuous supply of organic matter rotting down over time. The worms that I add with the compost will help I hope.
What do you think?
Please comment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beekeeping and learning

Today I was at work till late so I did not get to see my bees although I said a quick hello to the seedlings I planted yesterday. But I have spent a bit of time on one of my favourite sites, the Biobees Forum. This Natural Beekeeping Network is to encourage "low-cost, low-impact, sustainable beekeeping for everyone."

Some of the topics in the forum are:
Beginners start here, Natural beekeeping discussions & questions, Your reports and updates (Post your reports here: tell us what is happening in your hives! Post links to pictures and videos if you have them, or just share your thoughts), Biodynamic beekeeping, Bright ideas, experiments, projects and research and Bee health: the treatment (or not) of diseases and parasites. Lots of learning here.

All different types of hives are discussed here and the photos are really superb helping me to know what to look for when I do the first inspection of my hive and giving me confidence. I particularly like the photos of a bee watering station that a member had built. The forum is a site that I will keep coming back to.
Image attribution:
Image: '' by Eric

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Front garden: before and after

In my efforts to make a garden that has lots of bee food I planted out lavenders, alyssum, thyme, chives, forget-me-nots, oregano along the footpath next to my retaining wall. This is what it looked like before and after. Yes I have a blister.
And after:


The meeting of the Perm-apiculture group was great. Lots of discussion of what people do with their bees and ideas of what I could do better. Just meeting people face to face after interacting with them online was so good. I do wish I'd joined this group before I got bees. I did have a look at the bees in my hive this morning from underneath and all is looking well so far. I really enjoyed watching this video and then looking at my hive. The video shows the colonisation of the empty beehive, then shows 3 months of activity (condensed into 2 minutes).

Monday, November 21, 2011

My first Perm-apiculture meeting

Tonight I will be going to a meeting of the Perm-apiculture club a subgroup of Permaculture Melbourne. I am sure I will learn a lot and hope to update you all here afterwards.
Today I went out and bought some bee friendly plants so my bees won't have to travel as far as if I didn't plant them. I will plant oregano, geranium, thyme, chives, lemon balm and borage propagated from already existing plants from my own garden and lavender, agastache and alyssum from my trip to the nursery. I got the information on bee friendly plants from here among other sites. There were lots of sites for UK and US gardens, but the sites for Australia that I could find did not cater so much for the European honey bee as for Australian native bees. I am guessing that since the European honey bee evolved with herbs and flowers of common garden plants that I couldn't really go wrong with my list. I will be observing them in any case to see how they go. I know they have been loving the borage, raspberries and thyme so far. Till next time..ciao.

Image attribution:
Image: '' by Christine Majul

Sunday, October 2, 2011

After the Permaculture Conference I feel very inspired

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The miracle of life

Just reflecting on the miracle of life. This pear tree had gone for ten years without and productivity for all the time we've been living at this house. Then this winter my sister Carmel pruned it, I removed the grass around its trunk and we've had an incredibly wonderful summer with lots of rain and warm weather. I don't know the reason but here is the result:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Too much in too small a space

The weather has been amazing for gardens here in Melbourne. Today it got to 38.9C here and yet it still flourishes. But I am still learning, clearly. I have planted everything too close and cannot even get near the plants for harvesting. There are tomatoes, asparagus and pumpkin (crawling though the tomatoes and asparagus) here as well as some self sown coriander. I think next year I need to think about both spacing and staking. And not be so greedy in spring time!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Some jobs to do and some of the harvest

Lots of tomatoes

Just got the new Diggers Summer Garden catalogue a few days ago. Just in time to spend my birthday money on stuff for the garden. Since Christmas I have collected 2 blueberry plants, a chervil, a valerian, mixed lettuce seedlings, spring onion seedlings, a Miss Donnington lavender, french tarragon, a Dianthus and society garlic. When it stops raining for a minute I am going to plant them.

When I get my order from Diggers I will have as well some Italian red garlic to plant next month, some rock dust fertilizer (don't know if it's any good, but want to try it out), some Allium drumstick bulbs, some anemones and some ranunculus. Lots of work still to be done and warm and wet weather makes for a lot of weeds. And of course the harvest is very good. Some eggs, beans, zucchinis and tomatoes.
The harvest

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jobs to be done

The no-work garden: Getting the Most Out of Your Garden for the Least Amount of Work by Bob Flowerdew has some good advice on what do in the garden.
The daily routine seems to be
  • watering and weeding,
  • harvesting,
  • daily inspection tour,
  • writing a list of anything that needs urgent attention and tasks coming up,
  • collect and dispose of any litter,
  • dead head and
  • tidy or tie up plants
My list for tomorrow is
  • deal with the powdery mildew on the eggplants,
  • sow some dill seeds,
  • take cutting of rosemary and thyme,
  • plant iris root that I bought at the Red Hill Market
  • harvest beans and zucchinis
  • weed the tomatoes near the chook shed
  • prepare soil in old garlic bed

Corn, beans and zucchinis
Three sisters garden: beans, corn and zuchini