Are you set to get into spring and all that it entails – making your garden ready for the next few months of warming conditions? In some gardens on the south coast, plants (as well as animals and birds!) have already begun their explosion of flowers, perfume, and accelerated growth.
What to do?
Well, hopefully you’ve survived the challenge of a very dry winter. Some of the crops I planted were very slow to grow, but since the last good drop of rain a few weeks ago, my garden has started to pump again. I have broccoli, parsley, three types of lettuce and mizuna really taking off, keeping me in greens.
A little slow to start at first, the peas have finally come in and the broadbeans are also flowering and fruiting fast.
But I’m contemplating what to do to get my beds ready for even more food.
I’ve got some horses that have moved in next door and my chickens are making an excellent pile of poo for me too. So it’s out in the paddock with a couple of big buckets and a shovel for the horse manure then I am raking up the chicken debris under the roost to help my garden along.
Usually, I would put both manures through my composting system – which I did throughout winter – but I am also going to put it straight onto the beds and lightly dig them in. This will give the micro-life in the beds a real boost, plus I am going to add some potash and dolomite and to top it off a healthy dose of mulch.
Choose your mulches wisely, if you are buying from a produce store make sure you enquire where the bales have come from. Organically grown or chemical free is the best to get – or slash your own if you can – as long as seed heads have not appeared, most grasses are good for mulching. I am lashing out and have bought a couple of organic sugar cane bales.
But rice straw, lucerne (horse food grade), wheat and oat straw work well too. Lucerne has more goodies in it because it is a nitrogen fixing plant. I steer away from pea straw as I have heard that it is sprayed with herbicide to make it easier for baling. It’s good to always check.
I’m making up seed trays out of old styrofoam vege boxes (free at the back of most supermarkets – goes straight to landfill otherwise).
My soil mix for planting seeds is two parts old sawdust, one part old manure, one part compost.
I’ve already got tomatoes going and springing into life! I placed a couple of old glass louvres on top to make a simple greenhouse – keeping the moisture and warmth in. As the weather warms overnight I will take the glass off.
Next to go in the boxes with be all my summer lovers – zucchini, cucumber, more lettuce, and maybe some extra different heritage tomatoes. I plant beans, corn, carrot and beetroot straight into the soil.
This year I am also experimenting with more subtropical plants – two types of sweet potato, ginger, turmeric and choko.
I did plant some yacon one year, but it doesn’t agree with my belly! (A bit like Jerusalem artichoke). I’ve also planted more tamarillo and passionfruit as my older plants are on their way out now after 4 years of growth – both plants usually only last 5 years.
So get out there and get started!
Fruit trees have already started flowering, the soil is receptive for more planting after the good rain we’ve had so it’s an ideal time to get into it!
I wake before 6am to the sounds of the Sisters and the congregation singing during early morning prayers. The beauty of their voices and harmonies is mesmerising, an absolute joy to experience…
The day dawns overcast, hot & sticky. The temperature hovers around 34 degrees during the day dipping to just 24 overnight. So I have no complaint about the cold shower on offer, it provides much-needed relief.
Breakfast is just after seven (corn flakes, egg, bread rolls, sliced cheese, jam and those delicious sweet little local bananas) and as we gather with the Sisters and the young acolytes something special is brewing.
One of the Sisters has a guitar and they launch into a joyful song. It is the birthday of one of the young trainees and she is moved to tears by the singing, a gift of flowers and a small present. The realisation that this young woman has grown up in poverty, that this little birthday celebration is one that she has probably never experienced before, is very moving. As she stands we all file by to greet and hug her, the tears are rolling down my cheeks.
Tonight Dave has arranged for us to meet up with Ego Lemos, permaculturist, singer, songwriter of renown in Timor Leste. If you’ve seen the 2009 film Balibo you’ve heard his haunting song of the same name, or perhaps you were in the audience in the Candelo Town Hall in 2012 when Ego performed there.
This morning though, Balibo itself beckons.
There are four of us in the Toyota for the journey – Jose, Dave, Augus, and me.
The 130 kilometres is about a four-hour drive from Dili mostly along the coast towards the border with Indonesian West Timor.
We take to the chaotic early morning Dili traffic fueling up at one of the local service stations. Diesel is around 79 cents a litre. That I think equates to about $1 Aus. There’s a steady stream of motor scooters lined up at the petrol bowsers, out on the roads it often seems there are more motor scooters than people in Dili.
What is so striking here in Dili and across Timor is the youth. Everywhere you see the vibrancy of young people, children, young families. Imagine a country where 42% of the population is under 15 years, 62% under 25, more than 90% under 55! You ask, why so young? Where are the older people?
You ask, why so young? Where are the older people?
Well there’s the life expectancy of 65 years for men, 69 for women. Then there’s the Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999, during which time the lives of up to a quarter or more of the population were lost.
Timor Leste is one humongous lump of rock, and there is no shortage of the stuff. Rocks are used in just about every construction, for house footings, roadside drainage, and retaining walls, even the pots that Jose makes.
On this the northern coast of the island the steep hills rise rapidly to the mountainous interior. Those steep hillsides are much denuded and eroded, the soils seemingly very poor. No doubt firewood collection for cooking has decimated much of that vegetation. Along the roadsides are bundles of crisscrosses dried sticks of firewood waiting for collection and sale in Dili or other towns.
We pass several salt farms along the coast, small household farms that produce salt using traditional methods. A series of ponds allows the seawater to evaporate, the salt brine is collected and dried using firewood and boilers. The salt is then bagged and sold by the roadside.
We stop at a roadside stall at Tibar for water, then Loes for coffee. Rich black coffee from one of the roadside kiosks.
Next stop is Balibo.
Just out of Loes, Jose stops to pick up one of the students he has been encouraging, so now we are five.
It’s early afternoon when we arrive at Balibo, just ten kilometres from the border with Indonesian West Timor, we pull up on the road leading up to the Fort.
I have mixed emotions as we walk up the driveway towards the entrance. The Fort is some four hundred years old, and it is the site the Balibo Five were filming from when the Indonesian forces landed in Balibo.
The Fort and surrounds have been transformed into a restaurant and tourist destination with accommodation.
We order lunch – pumpkin soup at five dollars U.S a bowl for Dave and myself, Nasi Goreng for Jose, Augus and Nicolaij at ten U.S dollars per serve. Jose is not impressed. And with good reason. These are not prices the average Timorese can afford. Wages here typically three to five dollars a day. Certainly there are higher wages for government and corporate workers but that is not the norm.
Jose sees the Fort as part of Timor Leste’s history, a place for all Timorese and not a place exclusively for tourists and wealthy locals.
From the Fort, we wander down the hill to Balibo House and Museum where we meet Michele Rankin.
I’m humbled by the commitment of people like Michele and those from the Balibo House Trust. They are truly inspiring people. Michele has her two daughters visiting from Brisbane during the school holidays.
Balibo House was the last refuge of the five Australian-based journalists, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters who were murdered by Indonesian troops in 1975. Fellow newsman Roger East was murdered seven weeks later as he investigated the deaths of his five colleagues.
Balibo House Trust was established by the Victorian Government in October 2002, it has since been handed back to to the people of the Balibo district for use as a community learning centre.
As we prepare to leave Balibo there is one site I don’t have the stomach to visit.
Amongst the Timorese it is known as the ‘Kissing House’.
Heather from the Balibo House Trust explains to us that it was the place where the bodies of the Balibo Five were dragged to and burnt after they were shot.
Heather says she has heard two explanations about the origins of the name ‘Kissing House’ – both equally brutal and point to the depraved actions of the Indonesian forces over many years.
The souls who have been murdered here still move in this space and perhaps guide the good work that now takes place in their memory.
Promoting early childhood education through the Balibo Five Kindergarten.
Developing skills through the Balibo Community Learning Centre.
Creating employment and income through tourism at the historic Balibo Fort and Balibo Fort Hotel.
Fostering awareness of the relationships between Australia, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia.
Maintaining a permanent memorial to the five journalists murdered at Balibo in 1975 and to the Balibo people murdered during the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste.
From Balibo back to the border town of Batugade is about a 40-minute drive and we decide to take a closer look at the border crossing into Indonesian controlled West Timor.
The border crossing at Batugade is busy with trucks, buses, SUV’s, motorbikes and even the TNI – Indonesian Special Forces, who are taking advantage of the shops selling drinks and food on the Timor side.
After a short break at the border, it’s time for the long drive back to Dili for our much-anticipated meeting with Ego Lemos.
Apart from a few sections, the roads back to Dili are pretty good.
The late afternoon is hot and despite this being the dry season, storm clouds have been building. As we near Liquica the storm breaks, a fierce torrential downpour makes the winding sections of road more treacherous.
Back in Dili, Dave and I have time for a quick change of clothes and another application of DEET. The Mosquitos here carry malaria and dengue fever, so the daily ritual of the DEET spray is an essential precaution.
For us, long shirts, pants, and footwear, particularly in the evening guarantees the nasties have little-exposed flesh to attack. But they’re sneaky little buggers. Back home in Bega, I’m used to a tiger moth buzzing sound as a warning, but not here, these critters attack in silence. Thankfully the spray seems to work.
It is now after 7.30pm but it’s a fairly short drive to Ego’s home in the Comoro district of Dili, where we have been invited to share a meal with his family.
What an evening it is – food, wine, conversation, and song. The evening meal of traditional dishes is delicious. A soup of local corn and meat, rice, steamed greens and spicy dried small fish as an entree. And don’t forget the chili!
The evening meal of traditional dishes is delicious. A soup of local corn and meat, rice, steamed greens and spicy dried small fish as an entree. And don’t forget the chili!
With food, wine, and song, the conversation turns to the possibility of pulling together a Timorese choir to come to the Bega Valley and beyond in 2020.
Bringing a choir from Timor Leste to Australia is not new for Ego Lemos.
2012 saw the debut of Koro Loriko, a Timor-Leste choir formed by Ego Lemos and Victorian based arts advocate group – The Boite.
Ego also tells us about a school permaculture camp he’s leading in Maubisse towards the end of next year.
It is to be five days of workshops for around two thousand local students. The conversation suggests that perhaps there could be a choir workshop as well, with the choir that’s formed coming together with community singers from Melbourne and the Bega Valley for a tour of Australia. Perhaps in 2020!
Dave and Ego also get talking about Ego’s appearance at the Cobargo Folk Festival next year.
Ego Lemos is an inspirational singer, song writer, and performer, perhaps best described as the Paul Kelly of Timor Leste. He talks of plans to spend two months in Australia around the time of the 2018 Cobargo Folk Festival – exciting plans indeed.
It’s getting late, Jose takes a call from the Sisters at Fatuhada who are wondering when he will return us to the convent!
Time though for a few more songs with Egos’ 72-year-old mum on the harmonica, and some conversation about permaculture.
A dedicated permaculturist, Ego founded the country’s first permaculture centre, Permatil.
He also founded a highly successful sustainable agriculture network, HASATIL, both of which still flourish today.
At the beginning of this year, Permatil signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government to take over the schools garden program.
Inspired by Australian’s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, permaculture is now part of the school curriculum and a compulsory subject in all schools nationwide! A remarkable achievement and another bond to Australia.
With plans for next year and the formation of a choir still bubbling, it’s time to head for home.
For now, it’s back to Fatuhada, my head swimming with Timorese songs and the friendships formed with these wonderful people.
Words and photos by Tim Holt
Catch up on Postcard 1 and Postcard 2, thanks to About Regional Members – Kelly Murray, Shane O’Leary, Olwen Morris, and Oh’Allmhurain Films for supporting local story telling.
Major investment at Tilba Milk is underway as the artisan dairy company steps up to meet demand for its products, including a new contract with Woolworths supermarkets.
Bottling and labeling machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars has just arrived from the United States and is waiting to be installed at the historic ABC Cheese Factory on Bate Street, Central Tilba.
The site has been a hub for the local dairy industry since 1891 but under the ownership of Nic and Erica Dibden new life and opportunity has been injected into the building, the industry, and the community.
Another chapter is unfolding.
Building on the success they’d had at a smaller site in Bodalla over the six years prior, in 2012 Nic and Erica set out to expand their mostly cheese and yogurt business on the Tilba site using milk from their Jersey herd down the road.
However the buzz around their fresh, unhomogenised, cream on the top, Jersey milk has flipped the equation, 80% of the business is now milk.
“When we first set up the Tilba factory we put in a very small, very labour intensive milk filling machine which requires five or six people to stand around filling, capping, and carting milk,” Nic explains.
“That has worked fine, but our sales have continued to grow, this new machine will fill, cap, and label one bottle each second, with two to three staff.”
Between the factory and their lush farm, 22 people are employed and Nic believes more jobs will be created.
The new bottling machine will activate a different part of the factory, freeing up space for increased cheese production.
“Staff that have been bottling milk will move across to cheese, in fact we might need more staff,” Nic says.
A relationship with Woolworths has also been building. The supermarket giant has stocked Tilba Milk at its Bermagui outlet for the last two years, but in recent weeks the Dibdens have started supplying the Narooma and Bega supermarkets as well.
Butcher shops, small independent supermarkets, cafes, fruit shops, and delis have been the only go to place for Tilba Milk customers up until now.
“We supply about 200 stores from Eden to Nowra, and then Bowral, Mittagong, and into Canberra,” Nic says.
“60% of our business is in Canberra.
“We’ve never really gone out chasing stores, it has been consumer driven, consumers go in and ask stores to stock our products,” he says.
The new deal with Woolies was a long time in the making and adds an extra 1000 litres of milk each week to the business.
Nic says Woolies approached them and have been great to deal with.
“Woolworths like everybody else that sells food, wants safe food. So although we are audited by NSW Safe Foods, Woolies have their own independent auditing system which we had to pass, and that takes time,” he says.
The door is open for further growth with Woolworths but sustainable, manageable growth is important to the way the Dibdens approach their business.
“We have no intention of trying to conquer the world, we want to continue to produce a very good product and look after our staff and look after our community,” Nic says.
The financial security that comes with supplying a business like Woolworths is a key part of the Dibden’s drive but they are also mindful of the existing commercial arrangements that have been apart of their development.
“When we go into new stores we have tended to get new customers, it has made very little difference to existing suppliers in the same town, they have their loyal customers who support them,” Nic says.
“In any town that we go into we have a non-exclusive supply arrangement, for us to supply to one store in one town is uneconomic.”
In doing a deal with Woolworths, the Dibdens had to consider the controversy around $1 a litre supermarket milk.
“We have always gone into our stores at the price point that we are at, with no thought of competing against dollar milk,” Nic says.
“Dollar milk is a disaster for the dairy industry ultimately and you get what you pay for, dollar milk has been stripped, but I fully understand people buying dollar milk.
“But if you want to buy our milk it will be at the correct price point, that’s the way we operate,” he says.
Most of the core ingredient at the centre of the Tilba Real Dairy business comes from a Jersey herd approaching 300 at the Dibden’s farm, which sits in the shadow of Gulaga on the Princes Highway.
“We continuously grow our cow numbers to stay ahead of the production curve, but at some point we will have to take on more farms if we want to grow the business,” Nic explains.
“I am very much hoping we can find people who might start up a new operation, it has to be 100% Jersey milk of course, that is our brand.”
With spring creeping into the air and the busy tourist season approaching Nic is hoping specialist technicians from New Zealand will have the new bottling and labeling machines installed and working at the factory in the coming weeks.
“This has been a steep learning curve,” Nic says with a smile.
The ‘Festival of Daring Possibilities’ at the Funhouse in Bega has asked people to think big and solicited ideas that lead to new solutions and attitudes.
In stimulating the discussion, Funhouse founder, Cayce Hill said, “It’s the people not like us that make us grow.”
Cayce urging her audience of 30 people or more to inspire each other with their differences and unique perspectives.
“We’ve stopped telling the story of who we are and why, our identity gets weaker,” Cayce said.
The Festival was held as part of first birthday celebrations for the Funhouse, which over the last 12 months has become a hub for a range of artistic, sporting, social, and youth interests.
This old video shop come ‘community centre’ is itself a result of the big picture thinking the ‘Festival of Daring Possibilities’ looks to encourage.
“I started this place looking for a community, creating a space where not only I felt comfortable but also a place that welcomes and values strangers,” Cayce said.
Bega Valley Shire Councillor, Jo Dodds was also one of those planting seeds in the discussion.
“I love that random encounter and the challenge of finding common ground,” she said.
“We need to help the people in our community who are scared or afraid of difference.”
Offering an indigenous insight was Djiringanj and Ngarigo women, Tamika Townsend, who grew up in the Bega Valley but now works in Canberra across Aboriginal employment initiatives and more broadly – reconciliation.
“What if we could just start again?” Tamika pondered.
“What if the Djiringanj culture was more visible in this community?”
With family adding weight to Tamika’s message, Aunty Colleen Dixon spoke with strength to a captivated room about her experience growing up in Bega.
She spoke of not feeling welcome in town and an ever present racist attitude across every aspect of life.
“I was the eldest, and I remember walking along the river at Jellet one night with my brothers and sisters and bullets flying over our head, I just told them to get down,” Aunty Colleen said.
“There is a lot of trauma in this community,” Tamika said.
“Our history is very recent, there are people still traumatised.”
When asked to answer the question – What if? Aunty Colleen responded, “What if we had a cultural centre?”
The Djiringanj Elder suggesting such a space would bring all cultures together and create opportunities for connection and understanding, and build pride and purpose in her people.
Two more nights of discussion will roll out as part of the Festival of Daring Possibilities at the Funhouse – August 18 and September 15.
With a dinner of curry and spices infused in the air last Saturday night, festival goers were asked to add ideas to a wall of what if’s?
Click on each photo for a bigger view, and feel free to add your own ‘What if?’ in the comments box below…
Thanks to About Regional members Phil Martin, Gabrielle Powell, and Deborah Dixon for empowering local stories.
The new owner of the River Cottage Australia property at Central Tilba on the New South Wales Far South Coast is a 36-year-old single builder from Sydney looking for a place to put roots down and call home.
Tristan Diethelm says he is comfortable with the price he paid for the famous TV set but wouldn’t reveal the final figure.
“Considering it was River Cottage, I am sure I paid a bit more, but opportunities like this are rare,” Tristan says.
Reportedly listed for $895,000 in late April, Tristen told About Regional that the 9-hectare property was a dream come true.
Host Paul West has also moved on, his young family settling into Newcastle in recent months.
“We’re keen to get back to the South Coast in the next couple of years, especially as Otto gets ready to start school,” Paul says.
“I was so busy with the show, I needed to reconnect with family and take some time out and keep a low profile.”
The new owner of the property says he is keen to carry on the principles Paul put in place.
“I want to tap into local food and the community, that’s part of what attracted me in the first place,” Tristan says.
Currently living in and renovating a terrace house in Paddington, Tristan has plans for the Punkalla Tilba Road property.
River Cottage will be open for holiday rentals in time for spring 2017.
“It will be a place where family, friends and I can escape to, but I will be listing it for holiday rentals on Airbnb soon,” Tristen says.
All the animals that starred in the show alongside Paul were sold off late last year, the veggie beds remain and have continued to produce under their own steam, indeed a carrot from the River Cottage garden has become somewhat of a trophy for locals.
“I’ve pretty much bought the place as is,” Tristan says.
“Most of the furniture and what people saw on TV comes with the property, so it will feel like a River Cottage experience to fans of the show who want to stay.”
Being handy on the tools, the new owner also sees great potential in some of the property’s other buildings.
“The bedrooms in the house need a little bit of work, and the old dairy and silos could perhaps be turned into further accommodation,” Tristan says.
The vendor in the sale wasn’t Paul West, the property was owned by British TV production house Keo Films.
David Galloway, Executive Producer and Director of Programmes at Keo says, “After several seasons making the show and watching Paul grow the property it was a hard decision to sell.”
“Unfortunately without a TV commission, it was a business decision in the end.”
Up until tonight (July 3) the show was only available on pay TV and DVD, but SBS will screen all 64 episodes weeknights at 6pm, opening the show and the South East of New South Walse to a whole new audience.
“Who knows where that may lead to in terms of future programming,” the Keo TV boss says.
“For Keo, River Cottage Australia was a hugely successful venture, with four seasons airing on Foxtel’s Lifestyle Channel.
“It also gave the company a production base in Australia from which other highly successful Keo formats – like Struggle Street’ (SBS) and ‘War on Waste’ (ABC) have been produced,” Mr Galloway says.
As the new owner of the property, Tristan Diethelm chuckles as he confesses to only watching the first series of River Cottage Australia.
“But I’ve been looking for a property outside of Sydney for a while, there’s a buzz about the South Coast at the moment and I’ve been scanning the area for about a year,” he says.
“I am keen to nurture the property and would love to be working in the area down the track.
“There’s the beach nearby, a rural lifestyle, and a beautiful little town, it ticks so many boxes.”
While he lives in Sydney Tristan says he doesn’t feel like he has a hometown.
“My Dad is a yachtsman and we spent a lot of time sailing the world when I was young, so I am looking for a place to put down some roots,” Tristan says.
“And if Keo wants to film another series one day, I’d open up the property again for River Cottage.”
*Photos supplied by Julie Rutherford Real Estate, with photography by Kit Goldsworthy from Tathra (internal and some external photos) and Josh McHugh from Bermagui (drone aerial shots).
TEDx Sydney is the leading platform for promoting Australian ideas, creativity, and innovation to the rest of the world, and this year Bega gets a front row seat.
TED is a not for profit organisation devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’, you might be familiar with TED Talks – a global video and podcast sensation. These talks of between 5 and 20 minutes spark deep discussion and connection, TEDx Sydney is an extension of that.
People expert in their field, people you might not have never heard of stand up with something to say and usually stand up ‘for’ something.
On Friday, June 16, the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre (BVCCC) will plug into the exclusive live video stream from TEDx Sydney at the International Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.
About Regional will host local discussion around the program from Sydney.
“Full of brilliant ideas and extraordinary stories that bring heart and mind together.” – TEDx Sydney 2016 attendee
The program is packed with people and ideas that will be new, people and ideas that will build on your own thoughts, and people and ideas that will challenge your way of thinking.
The live stream program on the big screen at the BVCCC is non-stop from 9am on Friday, June 16:
9:00am – 10:30am
Airling, fast becoming one of the most talked about young artists in Australia.
Option 1: The live stream from TEDx Sydney will run all day, come and go as you please. An all-day pass, including gourmet finger food and a drink for the evening session, is $30.
Business people, entrepreneurs, students – anyone! Is invited to work from the BVCCC all day on June 16 with wifi and desk space provided. A chance to ‘get the job done’ and network with like-minded locals, all while being able to take part in TEDx Sydney. An all-day work pass costs $30, which gives you access to the BVCCC co-working space from 9am, as well as entry to the evening session with nibbls and a complimentary drink from 4:30.
Option 2: The lunch session runs 11:30 – 2:30 and costs just $10. Taking some inspiration from this year’s TEDx Sydney theme of ‘Unconventional’ you are encouraged to bring your own unconventional lunch along to the BVCCC, find a spot with friends in front of the big screen upstairs and take in the experience.
Option 3: The after work/evening session runs 4:30 till 7:00ish, come and enjoy TEDx Sydney with gourmet finger food and a drink, tickets are $25.
Bring your Friday drinks to the BVCCC, the bar will be open!
The colder months are here and our region really feels it.
Life retreats only planning to stir with the first rays of spring, but don’t you retreat from your vegepatch or orchard, there are things to be done and still food to grow.
First a bit of observance – with a cuppa and sitting in the sun in the middle of the garden to peruse some of the issues that came up last season.
Some thought starters…
Do you need to rearrange the beds? What beds worked well last season and what didn’t? Do you need to put in a green manure crop to reinvigorate a bed where plants didn’t really thrive?
Take the time to really see what went well and what didn’t.
Start to make a list of some of those jobs you’ve been putting off in the garden…
Clean up the old summer beds and compost all that you can. You have been feeding and improving your garden for a while now so it’s good to keep what you’ve grown in the system.
Remember to collect fully grown seedheads from the best plants, dry them out and store in airtight containers.
Fork and aerate beds, reinvigorate with dolomite, potash and your favourite type of fertilizer, mine is my compost with added chicken manure from my girls.
Mulch all the beds again, I use slashings from the farm, rotted bales from the produce store and sometimes grass clippings if they don’t contain seed heads.
Plant out winter crops – brassicas, rocket, parsley, peas, chives, onions, garlic, silverbeet, spinach, coriander, all the root crops and don’t forget the broad beans!
Have you thought about what flowers to plant around your patch?
I have lots of geraniums, nasturtiums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, salvias and daisy family around mine. Someone is guaranteed to be flowering all through the year. The good bugs will thank you and help you control the bad ones.
Keep on top of any pests – aphid, white moth, cabbage moth, snails, and slugs all appear around this time of year before the harsher temperatures make it difficult for them.
For the ‘slimers’ I put ash around my seedlings to protect them, for aphids and moths a small amount of mild eco-detergent mixed with water in a spray bottle helps. The key is to be consistent, once is usually never enough!
Feed the citrus – cow/chicken manure, some potash, and a little Epsom salt, and mulch them.
Rake up leaves from deciduous trees and compost them, or better still put them into the chicken yard and let them play around in the leaves and turn them into compost for spring. Most deciduous trees are ok, but research your trees toxicity to chickens first if you have any doubts.
Planting more fruit trees?
Bare-rooted stock is now in and autumn is a great time for planting out. Remember to plan where your trees will work best and how you’re going to manage them throughout their (and your) life.
Clean up under all your fruit trees.
If you’re growing stone fruit or any of the pomme (apples, pears, etc) family get some help from the chickens in cleaning up. It is fine to leave the ground bare under the trees for a couple of months.
Start to think about how you’re going to prune for next years crops. Plus how are your tools going? Maybe an afternoon of cleaning and sharpening is in order?
Look for dead or dying branches to remove. Your first prune of the year should be the apricots – June is the usual time for this group. Wait till it’s very cold and all leaves have dropped to prune the rest of your orchard, that’s mainly so you can easily see next year’s fruiting spurs.
If your fruit tree has wooly aphid, scale, or sooty mould then it is usually a sign the tree is not doing so well in its root system, or rot has set into the heart of the tree.
You’ll need to make a decision, whether to save the tree or cull and start again. Often the tree is failing because of an issue within itself – just like us!
Keep up the watering, this time in the afternoon, when it is a little warmer.
A lot to consider, you might need more than one cuppa!
The Eurobodalla food economy is pushing forward – like a pumpkin vine that sprouts from a compost heap.
“Growers are outgrowing the farmers market,” says local food advocate Kate Raymond.
“They need more avenues through which to sell at a high enough margin to keep doing what they’re doing.”
In recent years, the river town of Moruya has seen increasing numbers of market gardeners, spurred along by the community of people around the SAGE Farmers Market.
Shoppers gather like sprinters in the 100-metre race at the Olympics each Tuesday afternoon at 3 in Riverside Park waiting for the bell to ring – a signal that sales can start.
“Small-scale farmers are establishing businesses and creating a flourishing local food system,” Kate says.
“It’s a movement whose time has come.”
The river flats and volcanic soils of Moruya have a proud agricultural heritage that in their day supported large numbers of vegetable, dairy, and beef growers. For whatever reason, those practices all but died out but there is a growing sense ‘that day’ has come again.
The award winning farmers market that has been the backbone of the SAGE initiative has created an appetite and an industry that requires more.
“A farmers market once a week can’t service everyone who wants to eat locally grown food and local farmers need to reach more customers,” Kate says.
An increasingly common sales avenue for farmers around the world is to sell their products through what is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
A CSA is a farm share program, where the consumer and the farmer enter into an agreement of goodwill to exchange money for food. Consumers pledge to purchase the anticipated harvest well in advance.
“A farmer can plan their crops with greater confidence knowing that they will sell what they grow and sell it at a fair price,” Kate says.
“By supporting the farmer in this way, the customer receives a box of fresh seasonal produce every week, delivered to their door.”
The idea springs from frustration with the dominant and most familiar food distribution system – the supermarket, which mostly excludes local and small-scale growers from their supply chains, leaving local farmers no option but to sell directly to customers.
Woven into the arrangement is a sense of shared risk between the farmer and the consumer, which takes the CSA model beyond the usual commercial transaction we are used to.
If the season is difficult or hit by extreme events, pickings can be slim which impacts the quality and amount of produce a customer receives in their weekly box.
Council felt the risk of falling limbs was too great, and to be fair some in the community backed them.
Littleton Gardens was leveled to make way for a new civic precinct.
New trees were planted but the site has been the victim of vandalism a number of times – on one night in May last year around 50 mature trees were snapped, hacked or pulled out of the ground – the communities love and connection with the space had been broken.
In the last 6 months Littleton Gardens has got its mojo back, a partnership between Bega Valley Shire Council and SCPA – South East Producers – who use the space for a weekly farmer’s market, has seen leafy greens and other vegetables planted in the park.
The community is invited to pick the crop free of charge.
With autumn plantings going in a local charity will soon start grazing in the park, taking ingredients for the weekly meals they cook and serve to people and families doing it tough.
I caught up with the two volunteer gardeners working this space, Geoffrey Grigg and Marshall Campbell, also joining the conversation Sharon Zweck Coordinator of Ricky’s Place.
Thanks for tuning in and to my partners for this week’s program, Light to Light Camps, who let you explore the track between Boyd’s Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse in style, check their website for more info.
Everything is crispy, trees are turning up their toes and dust is now the common ground cover.
How on earth can we keep a productive vegetable patch and prevent fruit trees from losing their crop in these extreme dry times?
Part of the answer – grow plants that are up to the challenge.
Heat tolerant plants for the vegetable garden:
Arugula – wild rocket, spicy peppery flavour
Beans – dwarf varieties
Broccoli – picking varieties
Capsicums – all peppers including chili
Corn – nothing better than your own
Cucumbers – the small varieties work better in tough conditions
Eggplant – once again the smaller varieties work better and grow quicker
Hardy woody herbs – Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary or bush basil
Pumpkin – the smaller, quicker growing varieties
Silverbeet – perennial varieties work well
Spring onions – keep planting out to keep up a supply
Tomatoes – smaller varieties of fruiting toms grow well in tough conditions
Weeds – yep, you can eat’em. Purslane, warrigal greens, dandelion; all good to add to your menu
Zucchini – smaller varieties again do better
Fruit trees that cope with heat (to a point):
Apple – dwarf and smaller fruit varieties
Banana – on greywater if possible
Plum – Asian varieties
And once you have them in the ground, some tips on keeping the moisture up to them…
During the planning stage of making your garden it is vital to think about water – availability, easy access, recycling and ways of keeping it on (or off!) the block for as long as possible as needed. This determines the size of the garden and what you can produce using the resources you have.
If your garden or orchard is on a slope you may have to introduce terracing or swaling (a ditch on the contour) to help slow water down so that it seeps down into the ground instead of running off the top.
Do you have access to town water?
If you’re on town water you will have to decide if you’re prepared to pay for its use. If you are on dam water or tanks then it is important to manage your use over the drier seasons.
You have to regularly maintain all taps, connections, and joins – leaks stick out rather easily with lots of green turning up in unusual areas.
Remember 1 ml of rain on 1 square foot of roof catchment means 1 litre in the tank.
Watering the garden deeply once or twice a week, usually in the evening, really helps maintain good root coverage below ground. If you miss an evening, early morning is second best.
In prolonged extreme temps and hot winds, you may have to water every day or every second day depending on water availability.
You could also look at recycling your greywater out into the garden. There are certain rules to follow so read up on the local council regulations.
Kitchen, bathroom and laundry greywater will need to go through a filtration system to take out any impurities.
You can use laundry greywater straight out on the vegetable patch – but only if you aren’t washing nappies. If you do wash nappies you will have to put the water through a filtration system before it goes onto the garden.
There are many designs out there on the net, ranging from simple reedbed systems to very expensive technology.
And remember to use eco/soil/plant friendly detergents for greywater use.
Mulch deeply to keep in moisture
I start my beds with no-dig gardening techniques and keep adding throughout the seasons as needed.
I make sure I have at least 10cms of mulch around the summer vegetables that need it – leafy greens, tomatoes, soft herbs such as basil, brassica’s, capsicums, chilli, zuchinni, etc.
I don’t mulch around any alliums though – onions, spring onions, chives.
Remember to keep up the slug and snail baiting throughout this time too as deep mulch can also help them survive the heat.
With fruit trees, mulch to the drip line of the tree – where the end of the branch hangs down to the ground is the usual size of the root ball.
In extreme weather conditions, you may have to decide what to keep growing and what to let go?
If you do have to make the decision to stop using some garden beds, it is a good idea to ready that bed for fallowing – letting it sit there – weed free if possible, fertilised and mulched – until the weather turns and you can replant for the next season when it looks like enough rain has returned.
Plant out larger vegetables on the hottest side of the garden to help protect and shade the smaller, less hardy varieties. Companion planting guides will help you choose who can tolerate who.
If you have a netted orchard you could plant a shelterbelt of smaller trees on the west/northwest side of the fence to provide shade and wind shelter.
You need to make sure the shelter belt is far enough away so that root invasion isn’t a problem in the orchard. Choose trees with a small root ball.
Most eucalyptus have roots that can travel up to 45 metres looking for sustenance.
In extreme conditions, shade cloth can be hung above your fruit tree and to the windiest side to help keep them cool.
If you have limited water you may need to take half or more of the younger fruit off to help the tree cope.