A simple campaign to rid Bega’s Littleton Gardens of dirty cigarette butts is working, as spring takes hold and new growth claims its place.
Volunteer Gardener’s Geoffrey Grigg and Marshall Campbell erected handmade “Bin Your Butt” signs throughout the garden three weeks ago.
“We’ve seen an 80% reduction in the amount of cigarette butts littering the lawn and garden areas,” Geoffrey says.
“The number of cigarette butts being dropped or left behind was starting to get people down and make it hard to use and love this space, and cleaning it all up was a big part of our work.”
The recent addition of the Aboriginal ‘Biggah Garden’ prompted the action.
“This is Yuin Country and we need to treat it with respect,” Geoffrey says.
“The response from smokers has been very positive, no one has raised a concern or issue, once you point it out to people you start to see a change.”
The volunteer green thumbs would love to see the same response spread across the town.
“Everywhere you go you find cigarette butts, we just need to be more mindful of our actions,” Geoffrey says.
New signs will be displayed in the Garden shortly to update the message and maintain the momentum, and Council will soon add designated ‘but out’ bins to existing garbage bins.
With one problem solved the next is being tackled – bindies!
“It’s a big job, but we’ve been pulling them out by hand and trying to avoid the use of chemicals, this is a food garden after all,” he says.
A big crop of various edible greens are thriving in the spring sunshine throughout Littleton’s garden beds – lettuce, spinach, warrigal greens, lemon balm, and coriander, a donation from Bega Valley Seed Savers.
“People are invited to take a few leaves for lunch or dinner, that’s why the plants are here, just carefully pull leaves off from the base or stem so that the plant can keep growing,” Geoffrey says.
“As the weather warms up people will start to notice tomatoes and basil come through, and it won’t be long before we are eating strawberries.”
Geoffrey and Marshall tend to the garden each Wednesday and Thursday and invite people to stop for a chat.
“If you have any questions about the plants, how to pick them, how to cook with them, or if you have plants and time to donate, let us know,” Geoffrey says.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council
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!
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).
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.
Bindiis are the curse of summer 2016/17 in South East New South Wales.
Barefoot cricket is not an option and running under the sprinkler ends in tears. My dog Duke has even worked out a path around the bindiis when fetching a ball – smart fella!
Spread easily by foot traffic and in the fur of animals, bindiis AKA Soliva sessilis are a native of South America, but are now well established around the globe. Backyards in New Zealand, France, Hawaii, and California have also become no-go zones.
In 2016 it seems these little ‘pricks’ have made the most of a good growing season.
A spokesperson from the parks and gardens team at Eurobodalla Shire Council says bindiis generally flourish in spring, but especially so after a wet winter.
And a wet winter we have had.
Checking the rainfall stats, South East NSW received an average of 364mm of rain over the three months of winter. Bega was the top with 808mm, then came Batemans Bay with at least 400mm, Eden 236mm, Bombala 235mm, Jindabyne 258mm.
As a bonus, most backyards also had a good dump in early spring.
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.