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!

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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! 

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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.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nasturtiums - torn up and used!

There go the nasturtiums! 

Ms Tagalong winces as the nasturtiums are wrenched out. The chooks had done a fairly good job of shredding this bed, but now they were all gone. Lucky that Ms Tagalong had been harvesting the green, crisp seeds last week for an experiment.

Smoked salmon - mmm. They are not the same unless you add some capers. So here Ms Tagalong is looking to make some Poor man's capers. Steeping silently in the fridge, judgement awaits for a later time.
Spot the capers! 

In the meantime, why are the nasturtiums being ripped up?

The members of the garden and some interested locals want to learn how to make compost, specifically hot compost.
Neat bays! 

As it happens, it morphs, moves and becomes bigger than Ben Hur. The compost becomes three constructed bays ably made by all.

Firstly a layer of twigs for carbon, then leaves, gutter clearings, manure and pulled up vegetables gone to seed and of course the aforesaid nasturtiums.

And it doesn't finish until all the collected green waste is added to the bays.

Ms Tagalong will need some new names for some of these new willing workers.

While Mr Permie explains all about the process, (aerobic, anaerobic, carbon are words which float past Ms Tagalong's ears,) The Constant Composter makes sure that all the manure is added, tidied up and the bananas are looking happy in their new abode. All was watered and settled in.

What a productive day!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Spring comes to Bendigo

Bendigo. Goldfields. Ornate buildings. Sweeping boulevards. Fourteen hours bus ride.

If Mr Ideasman ever suggests a trip to accompany him to Bendigo, turn and run the other way.
Ms Tagalong in her inimitable fashion decided to go along. She did not however , anticipate fourteen hours in a bus packed with forty-five pre-pubescents off to play in the national Futsal championships.

But that aside, the sun is shining, a mug of tea awaits on the verandah and Ms Tagalong is laying plans to visit gardens, community and otherwise, which abound in this city of ‘unparalleled opulence and glamour.’

Mmm, Ms Tagalong should fit right in!

Stepping over the tram lines the first port of call is the conservatory on Pall Mall where the annual tulip display is over its best as the lady at the information centre offers.

Not quite Amsterdam. Not quite Spalding. Nevertheless the colours bounce and jostle in the spring sunshine, the object of many a visitor’s lens.

The conservatory houses a strange garden. A garden fashioned out of cardboard, retwisted and designed into organic shapes, decorated and be-tasselled. Sculpture from children’s workshops in and around Bendigo adorn the vestibule where would-be-artists scribble wildly on large pieces of paper anxious to have their efforts included.

Sitting in the sunshine, the nightmare journey recedes and Ms Tagalong consults her map to find her way to the nearest community garden.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Springing to life!

Self seeded coriander

Spring has sprung and Ms Tagalong has come out of winter hibernation ready to start chattering. In fact she is so garrulous you might wish she was still sleeping....

It's time for workshops, time for Cocktails in the Garden, pizzas and laughter. Time for planting, time for weeding and making compost. Time to listen to the birds, attract the bees and feed the chickens.

Ms Mova is feeling very smug and so she should be. Ms Tagalong is feeling equally excited. We welcome back the Chicken Whisperer into our midst, fresh from a southerly sojourn, ready to add her wisdom and knowledge to the garden.

Mr Ideasman is of course full of ideas and so plans are afoot for a fabulous Splendour in the Garden. Not to be outdone by Byron Bay, there will be music by local bands, pizza from the famous oven, coffee from a coffee cart and oh of course plenty of gardening activity from our workshop presenters.

Our wonderful community garden hasn't been left totally in the dark, comments, photos are to be found on our facebook page and if you would like newsletter updates just give us your email address.

So that's it, from the dark to the light, we welcome all into the garden!

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't you love a working bee?

The chickens are murmuring as Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman pass the gate. Hang on, they are supposed to be inside the coop, not roosting on the water barrel or squeezed between the chair and the railway sleepers.

The two latest additions to the coop, our beautiful black (Australorp?) and another Isa Brown had been kicked out by the others and had sought refuge by flying over the fence into the garden.

Purring gently they are encouraged back into the coop. It was the end to a very hot, sweaty and busy day in the garden.

Mr Ideasman had raised the roof literally on the water tanks. Something to do with the drop/fall. Ms Tagalong who had lent a little muscle to the operation nodded sagely.

The weeds were everywhere, mostly grass, probably from immature horse manure and the rampant sweet potato covered every walkway, let alone every bed!

Many piles later and a few beds revealed self-seeded lettuce, rocket and mustard. Great, good to get a head start on winter crops.

Each working bee participant got to take home some seed trays to nurture and bring back to the next session.

Spinach, endive, celery, dill, mustard lettuce, pak choy – can’t wait!

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Pocket Parks

So who knows what a pocket park is? Our guest blogger Melanie McKinnon is about to tell us.

A pocket park is a small park accessible to the general public. Pocket parks are frequently created on a single vacant building lot or on small, irregular pieces of land. Wikipedia

A Google search on this topic yielded lots of information not only about the benefits of green spaces in busy urban environments but also findings from specific projects around the world. Anyone who has visited New York will be familiar with the fabulous pocket parks that have grown up around the city. The impact of pocket parks in cities such as Philadelphia with high crime rates and dysfunctional communities is described in the following extract

Research from Philadelphia ‘has found that distressed neighborhoods where vacant lots have been converted into small parks and community green spaces are associated with reduced crime when compared to neighborhoods with unimproved vacant lots.  In some sections of the city, residents of neighborhoods with improved vacant lots also reported ‘significantly less stress and more exercise,’ suggesting that the improvements had an effect on residents’ perceptions of safety outdoors.'
I am sure most would agree that Tighes Hill boasts two outstanding examples of how the conversion of vacant sites into community gardens has contributed to the physical and emotional well-being of individual residents and to the general sense of safety and neighbourliness that exists within the suburb. More recently the residents of Mitchell St and surrounds used a vacant site on Throsby creek to create a pop up pocket park with minimal resources but maximum benefit for its users
And there can be no doubt that the work undertaken in Islington Park over recent years has had huge benefits in changing the image of the park, creating a stronger sense of ownership and community pride and contributing to the overall wellbeing of those who use the park.
There may be a number of potential pocket park sites around Tighes Hill ranging from larger spaces that can be used for recreational purposes to smaller spaces that once cleaned and greened may generate a stronger sense of ownership and pride. An additional benefit might be that those passing through our suburb see that we care about our physical environment
One such spot is a small irregular plot of ground on the shoulder of the bridge at the end of Bryant St  - anyone using the steps that lead from Bryant St down to Tighes Terrace will be familiar with the site. In recent times there have been some attempts to clean and green the area the most recent being to remove weeds, cut grass and lay mulch – courtesy of Kings Rd Community garden. 
In spite of the dry conditions cuttings of low growing shrubs have survived providing the motivation to persevere with the project. Not surprisingly the activity at the site has been the impetus for interaction with numerous passers- by whose comments have been encouraging and whose conversation has provided insights and stories about the suburb
Anyone passing this site is welcome to pull a weed or two or pour a bottle of water on the plants – identified by small wooden stakes at the site of the plant.
Is there an area crying out to be a pocket park near you?

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

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Washout?

Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong rubbed the sleep out of their eyes as they unpacked the car with the carefully prepared packs of chillies, lemon verbena, lemongrass, bunches of rosemary, pots of aloe vera and paraphernalia for the first appearance of a community garden at the Newcastle Show.

It was not promising. The rain had fallen all night, the ground was waterlogged, but inside the marquee it was dry if not cosy and warm.

The table was set, arranged and down came the rain. Streams, nay torrents raced through the marquee under the table and out the other side. Habitant in Harmony volunteers emerged from the sheeting rain like drowned rats. They should have got up early like Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong! Shouldn’t be rude, they dispensed some wonderful hot carob milk. (More about that at a later date)

As it was, it made for a very long, wet day with few viewers and even fewer takers. There was a highlight (there always is) Ms Mova and Tagalong were asked to judge the school scarecrow exhibition.
The task taken seriously they pondered, scratched their heads and carefully judged according to the criteria given.
Such wonderful prizes it seemed a shame more schools hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunity to show their artistic side.

Ms Tagalong dodged the showers and looked at the piglets, the baby goats and the very entertaining chickens. Some of them definitely needed to be kept behind bars.

Later, it was a damp, cool night for the Film in the Garden, but those who dressed up and came along enjoyed every minute of it. The group decamped to a member’s living room and were captivated by the charismatic Diana Vreeland.

The opening salvo set the scene.

‘You just have to arrange to be born in Paris. The rest is easy!’

What a character.

So don’t let the weather put you off, here at Tighes Hill Community Garden – it’s never a washout! 
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Air Gardens

Ms Tagalong is always on the lookout for gardens to report on. Gardens here, gardens there, gardens anywhere. Mostly her eyes are groundwards, maybe sweeping upwards to some bushes and trees.
Strolling along the North Bank of the Yarra in Melbourne her beady eyes were taken with some strange shapes swinging and twirling in the breeze above her head. So what were they? Cobweb encrusted coathangers? Weird and wonderful.

Stopping to read, she notes:

‘The concept is to suspend series of super sustainable rotating air gardens within the Melbourne environment.’Lloyd Godman is the artist.  It says Godman’s artworks are purifiers of the air as well as the soul, suppliers of colour as well as calmness, and filters of water as well as the human spirit.

Ms Tagalong calls to Mr Ideasman to see if his spirit feels filtered as she points out the recycled bicycle wheels wrapped in air plants. Enjoying a conversation with his Mum he barely glances and Ms Tagalong feels that perhaps his mind has already sieved out Ms T’s prattle.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lazarus - the chicken

The distressed faces of Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong said it all. They grimaced and gawped as the lovely Isa Brown, so vibrant a few hours ago fell headlong into its porridge. Eyes closed, she was limp in the hands of Ms Tagalong.

It might do to back up a little and say that as they were working in the garden on Saturday, they noticed one of the girls, who should have been happily tearing up one of the allocated beds, squatting down and seemingly heaving, tail down.

‘Might be eggbound, ‘ said Ms Mova authoritatively. Then added, ‘Shall I look it up?’ and went off to consult the Great God Google.

‘Could be,’ she said, ‘do you want to hear the cures? 1. Hold her rear end over a bowl of steaming water hoping that it will relax her to lay the egg. 2. Massage some olive oil over the nether regions and 3. Never put in a finger to get her to release it.’

Ms Tagalong was glad the last option was off the agenda.

‘Let’s try the steaming water,’she said. And so it was. Ten minutes after the steaming started, a few gentle pooping sounds later, the definitely off colour hen emitted a strangled sound and collapsed into some carefully mixed porridge oats and olive oil.

‘Well, there’s another one gone then. I wonder what it was for her to go down so quickly?’ Ms Tagalong said.

As Ms Tagalong gently lay her hands to the ground the lifeless chicken moved her head. She did, she really did. She opened her eyes and started pecking the oats in the container. Ms Tagalong and Ms Mova watched agape as she then took in water from the small stainless steel bowl next to her. She regained strength and in a few minutes was standing up!

‘Well I never,’ said Ms Tagalong, ‘I thought she’d died in my arms.’

But no, she was back. Ten minutes later she waddled back into the run and as she sat down Ms Mova thought the small pen might be better equipped to deal with an egg the size of which no-one in Tighes Hill had ever seen.

Don’t know if she ever laid the giant egg but she is happily pecking around today with the best of them.

‘Is this normal chook behaviour?’ pondered Ms Mova.

Any answersanyone?
Is this the offending egg?
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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Veg out this year!

Hard to believe whilst the country swelters under the heat Ms Tagalong found a cool spot just a few weeks ago at the Veg Out Community Garden in St Kilda.

Strolling through the ‘co-ordinated whimsy’ from pirate ships to ranch gates Ms Tagalong came across Peter, a 3 years long participant, watering his plot.

‘It’s all about community rather than the plot itself,’ he said.

It certainly seems to be so with over $200,000 raised for local charity projects in the last 10 years, free weekly lunches for the homeless and a thriving Organic Farmer’s Market.

Ideally located in a former bowling club the garden has a working kitchen, classrooms, arts studios, pizza oven, mains water, tanks for watering and toilets. So lucky, thought Ms Tagalong as she listened wide-eyed to the upcoming plans for an extended ‘art fence’ a 3 year long-term project, saw the just completed vine structure and all the sitting areas and art installations.

Hugh, the Vice President relates how they rent out 150 individual plots with participation in 2 working bees for the year which helps install the infrastructure such as the sleeper surrounded beds, the bedhead trellises etc.

An added bonus to membership is the sampling of the 30 litres of wine they made last year!

Mr Ideasman struck up conversation with a lady with a very expensive chicken. A chicken who had had a $2,300 hysterectomy!  She now can’t lay eggs but still tries.  Mmm

So that's it: the community garden Veg Out in Melbourne.

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