Eurobodalla and Bega Valley locals say “Stop Adani”

Eurobodalla locals gather on Congo Beach near Moruya. Photo: supplied
Eurobodalla locals gather on Congo Beach near Moruya. Photo: supplied

South East locals have been part of national protest action against the Adani coal mine proposed for North Queensland.

Protesters turned out in forty-five locations from Adelaide to Bondi to Bunbury over the weekend.

Locally, Eurobodalla 350 estimates around 250 people attended their protest at Congo Beach on Saturday, holding placards to spell out #STOP ADANI.

“We demand the federal government halt Adani’s enormous proposed coal mine,” spokesperson Allan Rees says.

In Bega, a colourful group marched through town on Friday and gathered in Littleton Gardens.

Organiser Sue Andrew sees the Adani mine as a litmus paper issue for a globe preparing for a climate change future.

“I feel now more than ever we have to unite to stand up against the fossil fuel industries and other extractive industries if we are serious about addressing climate change,” Ms Andrew says.

The Indian based Adani is seeking a billion dollar government loan to build a railway line linking its proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port on the Great Barrier Reef.

Once complete, Carmichael would be Australia’s largest coal mine, with six open-cut pits and up to five underground mines, with a lifespan of between 25 and 60 years.

Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the ABC the project will bring new jobs to communities like Rockhampton, Towsnville, Charters Towers, Mackay, and Claremont.

“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she told the ABC

The Queensland Premier is also confident environmental concerns have been heard.

“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine,” she said.

Allan Rees says those that gathered at Congo on Saturday are angry that taxpayer dollars might be used to subsidise something “so destructive”.

“Adani’s mine may be far away, but the Eurobodalla can’t escape the climate change caused by burning that coal,” Mr Rees says.

“Australia has enormous reserves of coal which we must keep in the ground if we are to halt climate change.

“Climate change is here and is harming our agriculture and fishing.

“Beekeepers tell us how gum trees are blossoming at the wrong time, orchardists have lost trees from extreme heat, graziers and fishing people tell us how the climate is changing and harming their livelihoods,” Mr Rees says.

Bega locals march thorugh town with their marine puppets. Photo: Ian Campbell
Bega locals march through town with their marine puppets. Photo: Ian Campbell

Local fears also extend to the future of the Great Barrier Reef itself if the mine goes ahead with Bega protesters carrying a series of handmade marine creatures along Carp Street and into the town’s civic space.

“We know the Great Barrier Reef is highly endangered already and any further development or shipping would only increase the destruction of this incredible ecosystem,” Sue Andrew believes.

The exact number of jobs the $22 billion Adani investment will create is disputed, Adani claims 10,000 however the Land Court of Queensland has put the number at closer to 2,600.

That same court deemed the development could go ahead but added a number of new environmental safeguards.

While accepting new jobs are important for regional communities Allan Rees suggests the jobs created by the mine are floored and points to new jobs in greener industries.

“We have to support communities which currently rely on coal to have new industries to employ people,” he says.

“State and federal governments must develop programs to change to wind and solar, batteries and hydro, as well as energy efficiency.

“Australia has to give up coal mining and change to a renewable energy economy,” Mr Rees says.

“We should be retrofitting homes and businesses with insulation and using better designs for new buildings.”

Debate has been renewed on the back of a Four Corners investigation that aired last week on ABC TV.

“Adani has been exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program as damaging people’s health, the livelihoods of farmers and fishing people and the environment in India,” Mr Rees says.

“Adani is using foreign tax havens and has a corporate structure that would allow them to minimise tax paid in Australia.

“The former Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said that it was almost beyond belief that the Australian Government would look to provide concessional loans and other taxpayer support to facilitate Adani Group’s coal mining project,” he says.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sees huge potential in the mine going forward – should it be built.

“It will generate, over the course of its life, an enormous amount in taxes and in royalties, revenues for state and federal ­governments,” he told The Australian back in April.

Adani has suggested it will break ground on the mine site before the end of this month with the first coal produced in early 2020.

The billion dollar loan from the Federal Government’s National Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) remains undetermined.

However, News Limited has reported comments by Adani chairman Gautam Adani saying, “The project will be funded by internal accruals, NAIF and foreign banks.”

Bega’s Sue Andrew is positive people power will prevail.

“There is so much opposition. It is not viable; economically, ethically, or environmentally,” she says.

It is really a no-brainer, why not spend the proposed billion dollars from NAIF on building renewable energy infrastructure and thousands of sustainable jobs and show our commitment to our children’s future?”

Those behind the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley protests are committed to further action.

 

About Regional content is supported by the contributions of members. Thank you to Julie Klugman, Cathy Griff, Kate Liston-Mills, Shane O’Leary, Jenny Anderson, and Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui.

About Regional, podcast 14 – your solar power questions answered

Interest in installing solar panels is strong. Source: NSW OEH
Interest in installing solar panels is strong. Source: NSW OEH

Long before Donald Trump turned America’s back on the Paris Agreement, Australian families decided that investing in solar energy for their homes and businesses made sense, in fact Australia has the highest take-up rate in the world.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is keen to build on that and have just been in the region, dropping in on towns where the take up of solar panels hasn’t been as great as it has been in other communities.

Free community seminars in Queanbeyan, Cooma, Eden and Ulladulla have helped “Demystify Solar Power’.

OEH staff were on hand to answer questions and lead discussion – explaining the different options for businesses and households wanting to switch to solar; saving money and saving the planet.

The Paris Agreement was part of the conversation that took place at these seminars, but this all happened just before Trump quite, not that I think the local response would have been different.

Lisa Miller is a confessed solar geek from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Or listen and subscribe via Audioboom, iTunes, or bitesz.com

Resources recommended by Lisa: Clean Energy Council, Australian PV Institute, OEH – Energy Efficiency

Thanks to my partners in this program – Light to Light Camps rolling out the red carpet on the 31 km track between Boyd’s Tower and Greencape Lighthouse south of Eden.

Feedback, story ideas, and advertising inquiries are really welcome – send your email to hello@aboutregional.com.au

Thanks for tuning in, see you out and about in South East NSW.

Cheers

Ian

#Sponsored post

Demystifying solar power in Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla and Queanbeyan

The NSW Government are hosting free solar seminars are coming to Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla, and Queanbeyan.
The NSW Government is hosting free solar in Cooma, Eden, Ulladulla, and Queanbeyan.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) are hosting free ‘Demystifying Solar’ seminars for businesses and households across South East NSW.

Mark Fleming, from OEH said the seminars will explain in plain-English the different types of solar technology available and the trends in solar power use in Australia and around the world.

“We had such a positive response to the last seminars that we are again encouraging people to come along and get the info they need to make decisions that are best for their circumstances,” Mr Fleming said.

“We’ll also explain the different options available for local businesses wanting to switch to solar and save money on bills.

“Businesses and households often get unsolicited approaches from companies wanting to install solar panels and while most people agree that solar is a good thing, it’s hard to compare these offers.

“At the seminars, you’ll find out the exact questions you should ask suppliers if you are thinking about installing solar panels,” said Mr Fleming.

Mark Fleming talks to About Regional, click play…

 

Around 800 people attended the seminars held last year across the region and since then more than 50% of those surveys have either installed solar or are in the process of getting quotes.

“Our goals to make people comfortable to ask the questions on their minds and leave with a much clearer understanding as to if solar is right for them,” Mr Fleming said.

The seminars:

  • Tuesday, 16 May 2017, 2:00pm to 4:30pm @ Queanbeyan City Library, Rutledge St, Queanbeyan.
  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 8:30am to 11:00am @ Alpine Hotel,  Sharp Street, Cooma
  • Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 2:00pm to 4:00pm @ Eden Fishermen’s Club, Imlay Street Eden
  • Thursday, 18 May 2017, 1:00pm to 3:30pm @ Milton Ulladulla Ex-Servos Club, Princes Highway, Ulladulla.

For more information go to solarpvqueanbeyan.eventbrite.com

The seminars are free, but bookings must be made with OEH via (02) 6229 7139 or rog.illawarra@environment.nsw.gov.au

 

#Sponsored post

The big dry – how to help your garden survive with plants up to the challenge

Kathleen McCann
Kathleen McCann

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):

Almond
Apple – dwarf and smaller fruit varieties
Apricot
Avocado
Banana – on greywater if possible
Pear
Passionfruit
Plum – Asian varieties
Pomegranate
Macadamia
Red Mulberry
Walnut

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.

Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.
Check your taps and connections, every drop counts.

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.

Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.
Too many apples, remove half or more to help the tree cope in dry times.

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.

Play, plant and go well my gardening friends.

‘Very soon I will crack and destroy everything’ – a 14 year old’s call for action

Tathra Surf Club pic from ABC
Tathra Surf Life Saving Club pic from ABC

It’s eleven years since Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) was first conceived.

On New Years Day 2006, orthopedic surgeon Dr Matthew Nott was on duty with Tathra Surf Life Saving Club, enduring the hottest day his town had ever experienced – 42 degrees.

There have been hotter days since, 44.6 degrees on January 18, 2013 is Tathra’s current record.

While keeping an eye on swimmers, Dr Nott was reading ‘The Weather Makers‘ by Tim Flannery, a look at the history and catastrophic future impacts of a warming planet.

And a warming planet we have.

The region’s run of beautiful beaches and cool mountain streams will offer blessed respite as South East NSW heads into a week of warm days, with forecast top temperatures above 30 degrees every day for most centres.

The sweaty weather is no surprise, it’s January, a month where records are set. But it coincides with news that 2016 was the world’s hottest year on record, due to the continuing influence of global warming according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Dr Nott says he remains committed to the cause of addressing global warming eleven years after that famous beach patrol but despairs that people and governments fail to respond to the mounting science.

“It’s really so terribly clear that we are hurtling towards an environmental disaster,” he says.

“That’s going to be something that has an enormous impact on my kids.”

Dr Nott is frustrated by but appreciates the fact that many people don’t understand or ignore the science.

“People think about climate change in the [same] way they think about death,” Dr Nott says.

“They think it’s a long way away and I am not going to think about it now.

“I find that really frustrating because that’s putting my kids future at risk,” he says.

There’s no hiding from the science for those who will inherit the future.

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) boast over 110,000 members.

Like CEFE, the AYCC recognises the opportunities climate change presents, while also warning of the total fossil fuels take on our future.

The impacts include rising sea levels and more extreme weather events and the myriad of human, environmental and security challenges that follow.

The opportunities include cleaner cheaper power production using renewable energy sources.

The understanding youth have for this issue was further highlighted to me in the run up to New Years Day 2017, when my eldest son produced a poem – at the pushing and pulling of his Bega based English tutor Elizabeth Blackmore.


Neptune Unleashed

by Jim Campbell, 14 years

I am the meanest thing on earth yet also the calmest

I have seen changes that no human could imagine

I was here at the beginning

And I will be here at the end

I am the most powerful on this earth

Nothing rivals me

Except

You

Why do you kill me? Yet you wouldn’t be alive without me

I am getting bigger

With every factory you build

With every atom that you let go

Very soon I will crack and destroy everything

I will rule again just like I did

A few billion years ago

I am the sea


Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Jim was just three years old when CEFE went about installing solar panels on community buildings around South East NSW.

Every community building in Tathra now generates it’s own power and puts the excess back into the grid. Countless Rural Fire Service sheds, surf life-saving clubs, community halls, and schools in other towns now do the same, all with the backing of CEFE.

Eleven years on similar projects continue, building towards CEFE’s 2020 goal of reducing the Bega Valley’s power needs by 50% while at the same time generating 50% of the Shire’s energy needs from renewable sources – 50/50 by 2020.

If you are keen to add some science to the emotion and colour of Jim’s words, the BOM’s Annual Climate Statement is great reading (and viewing) for weather nerds and paints the full picture.

In short 2016 was:

*The world’s hottest year on record and the third year in a row where that record was broken.

*Australia’s fourth warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temp 0.87 degrees above average.

*Ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, with the annual mean sea surface temperature 0.73 degrees above average.

*A year of extreme weather events.

Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA
Larsen C Ice Shelf, pic from NASA

News too this week that the crack in the big Larsen C Ice Shelf has grown by a further 18km.

Only 20km of ice now connects this 5000sq km (twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory) ice sheet to the Antartic continent. The result’s come from the MIDAS Project, a collaboration of UK universities and academics monitoring the effects of global warming in West Antarctica.

As Matthew Nott suggests, the future is being shaped now.

The science gives the facts and figures of it, my 14-year-old son gives it a voice.

As adults imagine being one of the next generation/s knowing that this is part of your future.

*Poem reproduced with permission of the author, he even made me pay an artist fee!

 

About Regional – the podcast, episode five, December 14 2016

About Regional – the podcast, episode five, December 14 2016

Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News
Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News

About Regional – a new place for the people and stories of South East NSW.

The last program for 2016:

*The Funhouse crowdfunding campaign succeeds; Bega gets a youth and community centre in 2017! Read more HERE.

*Dr Matthew Nott, the founder of Clean Energy for Eternity says households in the region need to rethink the way they use their rooftop solar panels. Read more HERE.

*The Tour de France comes to the Snowy Mountains, some advice from a local personal trainer that will get you ready for round two of L’Etape Australia. Fresh from this year’s ride, Adrian Day from the School of Strength says it’s all about doing the k’s.

*We chat to a hairdresser whose career has taken her around the world, including on tour with The Village People. Jo Greenwood is now keen to give young people in the region the same opportunities.

Stonewave Taiko by Ben Marden
Stonewave Taiko by Ben Marden

*The Bega Valley’s Stonewave Taiko have been booked for their biggest gig yet.

Find your preferred listening option below to learn more.

Feedback, story ideas and advertising opportunities are always welcome, we can connect via hello@aboutregional.com.au

More via the About Regional Facebook page.

Have a great summer, thanks for tuning in.

Ian

Listening options:

Click here to listen here via AudioBoom

Coming soon to iTunes!

Money from the sun even after Solar Bonus Scheme ends

NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jallat to raise awarness of climate change
NYD 2007 CEFE use washing machines at Jellat Jellat to raise awareness of climate change

The days of money from the sun are coming to an end – at least in the way many of us have become accustomed to.

The NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme ends on December 31.

As dogs go running for cover from New Years Eve fireworks, much of the money households with solar panels have received over the last seven years will go the way of 2016.

Around 7,700 homes in South East NSW have rooftop panels. Since 2010 most have received a payment of 60 cents or 20 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar power exported to the State’s electricity grid.

Those payments have been delivered as credits and deducted from the total price on electricity bills, offsetting the cost of installing a solar system.

Perhaps what many didn’t realise or had forgotten was that the scheme and those payments had an end date.

A letter in the post back in March from the NSW Department of Industry was the first call to action for Solar Bonus Scheme customers; the Deputy Secretary of Resources and Energy nudging people towards an electricity retailer to work out a new deal.

Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end
Letters warning the Solar Bonus Scheme is coming to an end

It seems the best you can expect from January 1, 2017, is around 6 cents/kWh.

Tathra based renewable energy champion, Dr Matthew Nott says it won’t be worth much for a household to export energy to the grid.

“The fact that the [premium] feed-in tariff is going means we have to start thinking a little differently about solar panels on the roof,” Dr Nott says.

The success of the scheme has prompted nips and tucks along the way by the Government.

In October 2010 under Premier Kristina Keneally, the tariff was cut by 40 cents/kWh for new subscribers as households rushed the generous 60 cents scheme.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported that solar grid connections had jumped from 2900 in 2008 to 50,000 in 2010 when the scheme was launched.

The Labor Government at the time said it acted in order to stop costs blowing out by $2.5 billion.

The Government says 146,000 NSW homes have joined the scheme, around 20% of households.

Matthew Nott says it has been an enormous boom for renewable energy, and a positive step towards reducing the impacts of climate change.

The action group he founded in early 2006 – ‘Clean Energy for Eternity’ has used the generosity of the scheme to install solar panels on Rural Fire Service sheds, surf clubs, and other community buildings across the Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Monaro and Snowy Mountains.

The group’s aim is that by 2020, 50% of the Bega Valley’s energy needs will come from clean, green sources.

“The feed-in tariff was always going to expire by the end of 2016,” Dr Nott says.

“Although I think as that date gets closer and closer it’s taking a lot of people by surprise.”

With 86% of NSW households saying they installed panels to reduce the cost of electricity, that surprise is likely to turn into bill-shock as the first electricity bills of 2017 roll in.

But Dr Nott believes there are still ways to save money and that solar panels are still a good investment.

“What a household with solar now needs to think very carefully about, is using the electrons that are generating on their rooftop to power their house,” he says.

Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega with solar panels installed with the support of CEFE
Tarraganda RFS shed near Bega, the solar panels were installed with the support of CEFE

Rather than exporting that power to the grid Dr Nott says it makes more sense to keep as much of that energy as possible on site.

“Put timers on your appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers and dryers – those high energy appliances, so that they are being used during the day and powered by your solar panels,” he suggests.

“That stops you from having to purchase electricity from the energy retailers.

“We have got to get smarter and be using more electricity during the day,” the orthopedic surgeon says.

Night time should be the only time you need to purchase electricity from an external supplier according to Dr Nott – however, there is a ‘but’.

“There are some options on the horizon, in fact very close on the horizon,” he says.

“Look at investing in household battery storage, so that you can use the electrons generated during the day – at night.”

Dr Nott accepts that there is still a little way to go for those storage options to be affordable for the average family, but believes the winding back of the tariff will be a game changer.

“You’re looking at about $10,000 with a 15-year payback on your investment,” he says.

“But there’s a lot of companies in Australia making household batteries now.

“I think the cost is going to come down dramatically over the next couple of years and make it much more affordable, shorten the payback time and allow people to use less and less electricity from the grid,” Dr Nott says.

Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News
Dr Matthew Nott, founder of Clean Energy for Eternity. By Bega District News

For those considering battery storage, Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) recommend that you at least have a 3kW rooftop system in place, but ideally a 5kW system.

“You want to have a system that is big enough to power the majority of your house,” Dr Nott says.

To help people start making the transition to battery storage, Dr Nott has flagged a new initiative from CEFE.

“We’re just starting to have discussions with some Australian companies about doing a bulk buy for the community,” he explains.

“If we can bring the cost down by doing that, it would be more affordable for people and reduce the payback time on their investment.

Clean Energy for Eternity want to do whatever we can to raise awareness about the value of household batteries in the same way as we have done with solar panels,” he says.

Money from the sun continues, but as always you need to have a few dollars first to make the most of it, but as Matthew Nott and Clean Energy for Eternity believe, the price for not investing is our children’s future.

For further info on the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme and what to do now, click HERE.

*Listen for more from Matthew Nott in episode five of the About Regional podcast out in the second week of December

Veges galore – What is the secret to an abundant garden?

It’s all about the base, ’bout the base, ’bout the base…the garden bed base that is. If you want to grow luscious healthy, strong and abundant vegetables, herbs and flowers, you are going to need good quality soil.

As well as good soils, a vegetable bed needs aeration, sunshine, water and lots and lots of food – if you want to have a continual abundance in plant life.

The soil itself can be made up of different types of sediments: clay, sand, loam or decomposed rock – a combo of all four is the best – lucky you if you have it!

Most of us in Australia have either a clay issue or a sand issue, but you can bring it to life with the following:

  • Broken down manure – cow, sheep, chicken, horse, alpaca
  • Some sort of organic mulch – like straw, broken down sawdust, seedless cut grass, shredded leaves
  • Compost – made at home if possible, the bagged stuff you see in stores isn’t that fantastic, so I’d steer clear of it if possible
  • Mineral enhancers – rock dust, potassium sulphate, dolomite
  • Moisture – not too wet, not too dry – consistency in moisture is the key
  • Worms and other good little helpers for decomposition

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned commercial fertilisers.

You can use them – blood and bone, pelleted chicken manure with additional minerals, etc, but these are commercial, processed animal products from who knows where and are often advertised as ‘organic’ but that can simply mean that the contents of the bag came from something that was once living.

You should look for the Australian organic label when buying processed fertiliser and always read the list of ingredients and mineral components on the back of the pack – some products contain elements of heavy metals.

The trick to continual good vege bed health and excellent cropping is regular top-ups as you harvest.

Most people don’t pull everything up in their home gardens at once, it’s usually a continual picking regime for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As you start to make space in your beds, you want to keep planting – add some more goodies if you can. Remember what you take out in mass (in terms of the size of your veg) you really should put that and a bit more back in as compost, manure and mulch. Aerate with a fork first if needed and then add the goodies.

Remember what you take out in mass (in terms of the size of your veg) you really should put that and a bit more back in as compost, manure and mulch. Aerate with a fork first if needed and then add the goodies.

Aerating works better than turning the sod over – biologists have discovered different microbes and small invertebrates live at different levels in the soil profile. Turning the sod means they are in the wrong place and can die, leaving your soil without little helpers for breaking down nutrients for the plants to eat.

I also suggest that you don’t put the same type of plant back into the same spot, a practice that helps to reduce the risk of disease. Follow a root crop with a leafy crop, follow a leafy crop with a heading crop, follow a heading crop with a vine crop. For instance, carrot then lettuce then broccoli then pea. All while keeping an eye on the seasons and what works best when!

I started off my vegetable garden with the no-dig method, mainly because my soils are clay-based and were rock-hard. From that start I have just kept up the layering, adding more and more good stuff and 4 years later I have a bed that sits around 15cms above the path. Fifteen to 20cms is a good depth for most vegetables.

Next bit is – should I go seedlings or seeds?

There are guidelines on most packaged seed. Root crops do better when sown direct into your bed, so do corn, peas, beans and cucumbers. Other seeds should be sprouted and raised in boxes or pots before planting out. Getting tomatoes off to a good start in a greenhouse or glass-lidded box is a good idea and some people start them off as early as June or July ready to be planted out when the frost has (finally) gone.

You could be like me and not worry about it and just chuck stuff (seeds) around randomly and hope for the best – it’s haphazard, works 70% – 90% of the time, and it does confuse the pests a bit too.

You can let plants self-seed and run wild through your garden, but sometimes you run the risk of inbreeding, stunted growth and bitter tasting veg as the plant returns to a wilder form.

I save the healthiest, slow to bolt plants for seed. Remember though that the one lettuce head can produce 60,000 seeds, yes you read right 60,000! Non-hybrid and heirloom plants are the best to collect seeds from.

Seedlings raised at home are generally strong and healthy. Commercially grown plants are often forced into growth to look good for the consumer and have little resistance to pests and disease.

Locally grown seedlings from your farmers market are generally better quality than from a supermarket or hardware store.

I always follow a planting out of seedlings with seaweed concentrate or worm juice, just to give the plants a feed to get over the shock of transplant. If a plant looks poorly, I will follow-up with regular liquid feeds every few days, till I see an improvement – if it doesn’t improve after 2 weeks, pull it out and start again.

Watering consistently will also help in vegetable abundance – early morning or late afternoons are the best times through the warmer months.

Splitting fruit and bolting to seed are an indicator that you are not watering regularly enough. Never be cuaght out with the notion that just because it has rained your vege garden will be okay – you should check the soil after rain to see just how far the rain penetrated.

Happy spring planting!