Autumn Around the Community Garden

One of our garden Pixies, Joy, picking a basket of produce.

 The weather this May has been most forgiving.  Barely a frost (yet!) and beautiful sunny days to be out preparing our beds for winter and spring crops. Here is one of our garden pixies, Joy, collecting a basket of autumn abundance.

Around six weeks ago we created our wicking bed and our wall gardens and many of the veges we planted are ready for harvest.  See for yourself!

Six week old lettuces, brassicas and herbs in our new wicking bed.
Six week old lettuces, brassicas and herbs in our new wicking bed.
Our wall gardens looking pretty and productive.
Our wall gardens looking pretty and productive.

Our bell lantern chillies have ripened splendidly so once again we have dug up the plants, re-potted them and placed them back into the hothouse for winter.  We are experimenting to see how “perennial” we can make our chillies here in the cold temperate climes.

Our young heritage apple trees which have been espaliered along the fencelines have been producing their first crop of organic apples.  We have deliberately planted early, mid and late season varieties to extend our cropping period.  Check out the Lady Williams (parent of Pink Lady apples).Kilos of fruit on our dwarf Lady Williams apple tree.

Kilos of fruit on our dwarf Lady Williams apple tree.

Autumn is generally the most abundant season, with everything from pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbages filling our baskets.

A savoy cabbage.
A savoy cabbage.

Peanuts!!  In Moss Vale??

Peanuts!! In Moss Vale??

 

 

 

It follows that it is a good time for preserving the harvest, and this year our  members have bottled tomatoes, pickled an assortment of veges, dried fruits like apples, quince and figs and made jams and jellies from berries, figs and quinces.  They seem to be very popular on our stall at Moss Vale Markets.

Klever Kathi created a Five Senses Bouquet consisting mainly of edible leaves and fruit from the Community Garden.  What an imaginative and personalised gift it was!

Kathi's Five Senses Bouquet made predominantly with edible leaves and fruit.
Kathi’s Five Senses Bouquet made predominantly with edible leaves and fruit.

The Garden is now morphing into its winter entity.  Although it seems that there wouldn’t be much to do this time of year, it is actually quite busy – preparing the soil for Spring with green  manure crops, pruning the fruit trees, planting winter veges like onions and garlic, broad beans and peas, mulching the kikuyu and grasses into oblivion.

Think it must be time for a celebration of the bounty of last season and the promise of hearty foods from the winter garden!!

Watch this space for our Winter solstice open day celebration…….

Community Gardens & Environmental Sustainability

On 17th of April, we were pleased to host Wingecarribee Shire Council’s Environment and Sustainability committee members, staff and some of our Councillors for morning tea at Moss Vale Community Garden.  We have been partially supported in some of our initiatives by Council’s Environment Levy and we appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate and explain the role of community gardens in modelling and encouraging various aspects of environmental sustainability within our shire.

MVCG's team with Council's Environment and Sustainability Committee and friends
MVCG’s team with Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee and friends

How are we demonstrating environmentally sustainable practices?

  • By growing organic (chemical free) food on site and encouraging our members and visitors to do the same in their own backyards
  • By supporting other initiatives encouraging local food production (Slow Food etc) on a major scale for future food security for the Highlands
  • By recycling materials into compost and mulch that would normally go into the waste stream  (eg coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, lawn clippings from other gardens, shredded paper from Council offices)
  • By re-using tools and equipment, building materials, garden furniture etc, from Moss Vale Resource Recovery Centre and giving them a new life out of the waste stream
  • By building structures with renewable low embodied energy materials (strawbale shelter shed) as a model for others
  • By catching as much rainwater as we can store in tanks for use on our vege beds & mulching paths to reduce lawnmowing pollution
  • By installing solar panels for our energy requirements on site
  • By ‘growing’ community –  being open to all people in our shire regardless of ability, age or creed and interacting with other environmental groups to strengthen local environmental education
  • By taking part in Council’s School’s Environment Day activities
  • By developing a bush tucker bed and planning for future plantings of endemic native species for wildlife habitat and garden pest control.

Here we are enjoying a quick cuppa.

Council's Environment and Sustainability Committee learning a bit about the Community Garden's activities
Council’s Environment and Sustainability Committee learning a bit about the Community Garden’s activities

PENROSE HARVEST FAIR – APRIL 2013

Here we are at the Penrose Harvest Festival, enjoying a warm, sunny day whilst we chat with visitors to the fair and sell our seedlings and fruit trees.  It was a great day with lots of activities and entertainment throughout.  Lunch was a pizza cooked in the large wood-fired pizza oven (almost identical to the one at Moss Vale Community Garden and built by the same artisan – Manuel Alves).

We shared a site with Bundanoon Community Garden, who kindly loaned us a gazebo for the day and who sold lots of tickets in a raffle in which third prize was a selection of vege seedlings from our gardens and which raised money for both of our community gardens.  Many thanks to the Bundy group who diligently sold lots of raffle tickets.

Jill demonstrated how to create a worm tower in your vege garden to breed worms exactly where you want them – right there in the middle of the garden bed.  Very easy and very successful, so long as you feed them some kitchen scraps and wet shredded paper from time to time and give them some shade through the hottest months.  This worm tower looks like a red and white pine mushroom often seen growing wild in our district underneath radiata pine trees.

Side by side with Bundanoon Community Garden at the Penrose Harvest Fair
Side by side with Bundanoon Community Garden at the Penrose Harvest Fair

Mittagong Garden Club Tours MV Community Garden

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In early April, I was invited to Mittagong Garden Club to talk about community gardening.  It was great to see a room crowded with keen gardeners, some of whose faces were familiar to me.  The following Friday, the members of Mittagong Garden Club were invited to have a tour of Moss Vale Community Garden to see what sorts of activities we get up to.

Luckily the weather held out and we were able to have a cup of tea and a biscuit followed by a tour of some of the features of our garden.  The strawbale shelter was of particular interest, as was the pizza oven and our new raised wicking beds.

Explaining the workings of our new raised wicking bed.
Explaining the workings of our new raised wicking bed.

Autumn is a great time to show gardens off.  We still had masses of tomatoes and several varieties of dwarf apples fruiting in amongst all the salad greens and berries.  We are going to share some of our bell lantern chilli seeds with the Mittagong gardeners so they can spread the intriguing looking chilli around the Highlands.  That will ensure it’s survival in our area.

Mittagong Garden Club members check out our compost bays.
Mittagong Garden Club members check out our compost bays.

 

Seniors Week – The Hanging Gardens of MV Community Garden

Seniors Week came along in March, and we had been preparing the various demonstrations for several weeks so that we had all the materials and equipment ready to go.  These demonstrations were going to be a team effort with four of us demonstrating a particular type of raised gardening techniques that would be useful for older gardeners.

Seniors Week 2013 - preparing to demonstrate wall gardens
Seniors Week 2013 – preparing to demonstrate wall gardens

Jo demonstrated how to set up a wall garden consisting of several deep trays like window boxes that can be attached to a wall or fence, one under the other at a convenient height to plant, maintain and harvest.  It was filled with both edible and flowering plants for insect habitat.

Jo planting up the wall garden trays
Jo planting up the wall garden trays

Kathi showed how pallet gardens can be set up to enable raised gardening whilst recycling wooden pallets.  We had created a large pallet garden beforehand (see photos) but it suffered a little when it was erected vertically after a few weeks of growing in a horizontal position.  The smaller pallet lined with weedmat was much more successful and easier to plant up on the day .  Just a few weeks later we are harvesting lettuces and parsley!

Kathi filling the weedmat lined pallet with potting mix in preparating for planting up.Kathi filling the weedmat lined pallet with potting mix in preparating for planting up.

Rosina prepared a talk and demonstration for grandparents to give them some ideas on activities they can carry out with the grandkids, encouraging an early interest in gardening and the environment.  She showed us a very useful book on school gardens and gardening for kids which would be a most useful resource for our library.  Jiffy pots were the order of the day and such a simple and successful way for children to learn to propagate from seeds – in this case, sweet pea seeds which would be up in 10 days!

Rosina discussing gardening with grand children - some activities.
Rosina discussing gardening with grand children – some activities.

A wicking bed was the last demonstration, designed to show, step-by-step how to set up a waist-level raised bed which has a plastic-lined sump in the bottom for storing water which will wick up through the geotextile into the top layer of garden loam/potting mix.  This means you can go away on holidays after topping up the sump with water, and your garden will self-water for a couple of weeks.  Great for summer holidays. Our friends from Disability Services helped us set up and plant the bed, which we covered with shade cloth to ward of those damned white cabbage butterflies. You should see the produce springing out of this month-old wicking bed!  We are eating lettuces from it already.

The raised wicking bed being constructed.
The raised wicking bed being constructed.

Sam filling the wicking bed with premium potting mix and compost.Sam filling the wicking bed with premium potting mix and compost.

At this point I would like to thank a couple of local organisations:

  • Wingecarribee Shire Council’s Environment and Sustainability group who helped us advertise the event and loaned us Kimberly Elliott to help with the setting up and manning of our stall in the Queen Street Community Centre.
  • Moss Vale CWA who provided scrumptious sandwiches and slices for lunch on both days of the event.
The Garden Team showing off our new pallet gardens.
The Garden Team showing off our new pallet gardens.