Sunday, February 15, 2015

Habitat in Harmony or Harmony in Habitat

The amazing turmeric flower
It doesn’t really matter which way you say it, Habitat in Harmony community garden at Belmont Neighbourhood Centre is an absolute delight.

Ms Tagalong had been promising Chris Brown ( the co-ordinator ) that she would visit for so long that it was just becoming plain embarrassing every time she saw him.

‘Ms Mova and I will come next week,’ she said last November, ‘ I promise!’ And then Ms Mova was unwell and yet another visit was postponed.

Last week Ms Tagalong dragged Mr Ideasman along with the promise of a beach swim at nearby Redhead dangled carrotlike before him.  There were some mutterings of something sounding like this wasn’t what he thought semi-retirement might mean.

But he enjoyed the outing. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t be caught up with the infectious enthusiasm that Chris brings to his role?

A gardener’s garden overflowing with abundant fruit and vegetables, a veritable cornucopia of produce familiar and not so familiar.

Looking for ideas that could be adopted in Tighes Hill Community Garden Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman wandered through taking photographs, scratching and sniffing, plucking and tearing.

‘So what’s that?’ Ms Tagalong enquired spying a large healthy looking plant looking somewhat like an eggplant/aubergine.

Peruvian Ground Apple or Yacon

A Peruvian ground apple,’ Chris said, ‘it is a great plant for using the leaves as mulch, leaving with little care, growing under shade or sun, tubers tasting like apple, an all round star.’

Although she begged, this was not the time to be taking cuttings or breaking off small pieces of tuber so Ms Tagalong had to be content to wait. (But as a postscript this weekend she spied some growing in a neighbour’s garden and vows to do some clandestine night time digging sometime soon.)

‘And what is that gorgeous flower?’ Ms Tagalong crouches down to get a closeup of what turns out to be a turmeric blossom. Heavenly.
Attracting insects in the habitat area

Wandering down by the stormwater area Ms Tagalong spies bush tucker, frog habitat and native bee attractors. Feeling incredibly green by this stage, Ms Tagalong enquires how all this is possible?  She knew really, she had already seen the people industriously weeding, watering and propagating.  A veritable battalion work force.  Well, not really 300 -800, but 9 regular volunteers who satisfy their Centrelink requirements by volunteering here 15 hours a week.

Ms Tagalong’s eyes lit up. Surely, surely there must be some folks in our community who would like to do this too? What a difference a regular commitment would make to the garden production.

They all chat about irrigation, weeds, mulch and other earthly delights and weighed down with plant gifts and cuttings Ms Tagalong has much food for thought!

Thank you Chris for being such an inspiration and if you have time go down to the garden, it is truly inspiring.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Three sisters for Christmas!

It was hot and windy in the garden but Ms Tagalong was determined to plant the three sisters out.

She was amazed how dry the soil was even after all that rain oh what about a week ago? Two weeks you say, yes it may have been. With hot windy conditions since.

So who are the three sisters?

Not Ms Mova, Ms Tagalong and Red – although they could be. Companionable, supporting each other and giving each other the best conditions to survive and flourish!

The three sisters is a well regarded and documented way of growing three nutritious crops by the plains Indians in the Americas.

As Ms Tagalong gently eased the corn seedlings from the pot she was sure she caught a whiff of buffalo on the breeze. As she planted the beans, fortuitously self sown in the garden, she could see tepees in the distance and when the squash plants went in, previously bravely germinated in the chicken run, she could hear, Me Big Chief Corn Belly, or some such totally politically incorrect statement rattling around her noggin.

So that’s it, tall corn used as a climbing pole for the beans and an anchor for them in the wind, and squash to shade and keep moist the ground underneath. The beans fix nitrogen and allow the land to be used again and again.

When you are next in the garden take a look and more importantly keep watering the three sisters. Long may they flourish.

You might also take a look at the tomatoes and water them too. Ms Tagalong took to them with some string and a pair of scissors in the time-honoured way of helping them along by wrapping the string around the growing shoot.

As Ms Tagalong will be far away perusing rice paddies and the suchlike take care of the babies and give them love, support and water.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Edible Garden Report

The winning garden

‘Come quickly. It’s so inspiring,’ said Ms Mova.

Ms Tagalong was standing haplessly outside the wrong house in the wrong street, mobile phone pressed to her ear. This was not entirely her own fault, it must be said, as Ms Button Pusher had mentioned a different order of events for viewing some of the winning gardens.

Walking as fast as her mother-in-law would allow Ms Tagalong meandered down the back lane amongst a profusion of mint and nasturtiums. This looks like it, she thought, and it certainly was.

An amazing sight greeted her eyes, lush green overflowing from beds, tubs, containers, pots, and wall baskets. Every square centimetre packed with greens. Lettuce, rocket, carrots, turmeric, galangal, edible flowers like violas and nasturtiums, abundant ground covers and more.

So what was the secret? A comprehensive irrigation system. Karina explained that they had three types, soaker, drip and mister. An intricate ribbonway of hoses connected every single pot.

The avid gardener group oohed and aahed, admired the smoking meats hanging in the garage and viewed more production in the front courtyard. A prolific grape (actually four different varieties) spread under the eaves and along the front of the next door neighbour’s house. Ms Tagalong knew there was an advantage of living in a suburb with houses packed so closely together!

Smoked meats

Standing at the front then, we marvelled at tomatoes, basil, finger lime, kaffir lime, raspberry and loganberry. Spontaneous applause rippled through the group as they contemplated ripping out their own plots and implementing an irrigation system. Ms Tagalong was grateful she had Mr Ideasman. In his spare time surely this is what he would like to do!

Off to the next garden, a scattered profusion of fruit trees and vegetables with a wonderful passionfruit vine snaking up through a tree house.  Ms Tagalong scuffed her way over the pennyroyal. ‘Good for deterring fleas and ticks,’ she murmured.

She admired the walking ring of banana palms, the healthy looking hands and a magnificent specimen of an avocado tree with fruit hanging by the dozen awaiting the grasp of the pole catcher.

Ms Tagalong’s last visit was to wick bed paradise. Every bed wicked to perfection. Wicked or wick-ed?  So healthy, all the eggplants, corn and beans. Grow your own food  and feed your family. Magic!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Roll out the red carpet!

One of the prizes! 

Ms Button Pusher decided that the awards ceremony for the Edible Gardens competition should be somewhat akin to the Oscars.

‘You know,’ she said, ‘maybe a red carpet and perhaps evening gowns and wellington boots, to keep  the gardening theme.’

She even threatened that no-one would receive their prize, stunning garden sculpture, unless you were so attired. We shall see.

So for those of you have not had a chance to grace an Oscars’ carpet, come along to the garden this Sunday and take part in the workshops.

Ms Button Pusher arranged a judge from Sydney who she has cajoled into doing a Permaculture Cottage Garden workshop. Come on down, you know you want to.

Our very famous Chicken Whisperer who has returned to our midst is also giving a workshop on weeds. Yes, she says, they can be useful, so roll up for this one too.

Talking about red, Red confided in Ms Tagalong the other day that she didn’t think she deserved to be called red anymore. Ms Tagalong disagrees, there are many ways to be red and the least of it is the hair! Red, you are still Red!

Ms Tagalong is very pleased to see that the wick bathtub is now sporting healthy eggplant seedlings.

Thank you to the Garden Fairy who has also planted some great companion planting, tomatoes, basil and marigolds. Keep them watered in this stinking heat!

Before the eggplants! 

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gravel Hill Gardens

‘There’s only one community garden within walking distance,’ says the teller at Bendigo wholefoods. 'Gravel Hill Gardens.' 

He wasn’t too friendly as Ms Tagalong explained her mission. Must have been because she had no purchases in hand.

Smiling anyway she sets off on her awfully big adventure into the wilds of Bendigo, well about three streets down and as many across.

The garden spreads down the hill, a mixture of private and communal plots with red private signs advising you not to pick others’ produce. On this sunny lunchtime only one couple are working in the garden.

A softly smiling lady bows her head in acknowledgement of Ms Tagalong’s greeting.  She shyly explains that she, Jkyawparnt, and her husband, Lahsu, came from Burma as refugees in 2007.

We were first Asians here,’ he proudly says as he guides Ms Tagalong under the grape arch and into his fenced plot with beds piled high with manure.

Ms Tagalong wasn’t sure if this was the time to tell him that the Chinese were here over a hundred years ago, an integral part of the goldrush hereabouts.  He assented but repeated that he and his wife came from the borders of Thailand and Burma, the forerunners of about four to five hundred Asian refugees settled here.

He explains that these are water beds, ridged high with the seedlings planted in the shallow of the furrows. Ms Tagalong was not able to ascertain what crops were actually grown here as they were not familiar to her but she thought he said they tasted good with frogs!

Lahsu said that Ms Tagalong should come back on Thursday to speak to the co-ordinator Mark but she had other obligations. Remember the futsal tournament?

Ms Tagalong left them to their hard work and meandered the many plots cordoned off by fences, stones and hedges of beans.

At the foot of the hill she was very impressed by the mounds of lawn clippings left by locals which contribute to the much needed compost. An idea which should be adopted at Tighes Hill she thought. 
On her return to Kings Road she got out the chalkboard and scrawled a sign asking for lawn clippings to be placed HERE!

So far the mound is not very impressive - in fact no-one seems to have noticed the sign.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Of bikes and trailers!

A determined walk along the Bendigo Creek takes Ms Tagalong behind houses, over bridges, past the tennis courts and Lake Weerona, over the oldest remaining bridge and into Peppergreen Farm by the back way climbing over the fence.

A group of industrious men are busy painting bundles of stakes. Not for an upcoming Vampire’s convention but for local surveyors.

This community garden is mostly run by Access Industries providing work for disabled clients in the area. They mow, they whipper snip and paint stakes.

Ros Woodburn who has been co-ordinator for 2 ½ years proudly points out her transport. A bicycle with a trailer.

Keen as mustard, not the mustard lettuce growing so prolifically in Tighes Hill garden, but mustard nevertheless, she explains what she uses the trailer for.

Under a large canopied area trays of lettuces and salad greens grow. They are harvested daily and bags taken to four local restaurants who in turn provide bags of coffee grounds to be used in the compost.

Ros’s eyes glisten as she imagines fleets of these bikes traversing Bendigo taking some of the excess produce people drop off at the garden, completing the urban food cycle as it were.

Ms Tagalong tries to glimpse the ghosts that must inhabit this garden, the location of the Bendigo Chinese Market Garden but all she can see are the happily waving employees hard at work under the canopied area and a vision on a bicycle, produce in tow.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Our own Edible Gardens Competition

This is your chance. This is your moment in the spotlight. Proud of your veggies? Proud of your fruit? Enter in the Throsby Villages Competition, open to residents of the Throsby Villages. 

Some of you assiduous readers may remember Ms Tagalong visiting Todmordern in Yorkshire and admiring their Incredible Edibles. Now it’s your turn. How sustainable are we as a community?

Do you have chooks? A bush tucker garden? A garden run on organic or permaculture principles? 

There are many categories, verge garden, container gardening, balcony gardening etc. Just download an entry form from the Facebook site and get to work on that garden!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.