Archive for November, 2009

The first proto-tomato sighting of the season.

I’m just so happy to see the first signs of ‘tomatoes’ in the garden that I had to post a picture.


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Interesting climatic weekend in Australia.  Here in Melbourne where I live we enjoyed 35 to 70 mil of rain in 48 hours – that is the whole of one months rain in 48 hours.  In Sydney, by contrast, they had the first Extreme Fire Danger Day yesterday with temperatures over 40 degrees celsius and 100 separate wildfire outbreaks.  This unpredictability is problematic from a gardeners point of view.

This time last year there was very little rain and I had already put mulch on the vegetable garden.  You might remember that I lost most of my bean seedlings to ‘ring-barking’ by Slaters (Wood Lice, Butcher Boys, Pill Bugs see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_lice ).  The most interesting thing about Slaters is that they are a land living crustacean – that’s right tiny lobsters.  Slaters breath through gills which means they need to hang out in damp pockets in the garden in order to get the oxygen they need via water.  You would think that since we have been in drought for 10 years that Slater would be on the decline.  Unfortunately these introduced garden pests are on the increase.  I’ve heard speculation that our relatively new practice of mulching garden beds in Australian has created the ideal habitats for them to survive and thrive.

This year I am holding off on the mulching until the weather is really unforgivably hot and dry.  This should allow the soil to warm up, the plants to send their roots deeper into the beds and discourage the Slater population. I will report on how this experiment works.  So far so good.  You can see from the photo that I have both Bush Beans and Purple King Climbing Beans growing well.

Undressed Bean Bed

Another advantage of  ‘not mulching yet’ is that this weekends soaking rains went right into the soil rather than wetting the mulch and not reaching the roots.  I know this is all quiet heretical in gardening circles but gardening in the elemental extremes is going to need some experimentation to get it right – I’m hoping that by allowing my plants to send their roots down deep they will perform and survive much better once the big hot dry arrives.  The proof will be in the eatting.

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Getting the buzz on bee keeping

I attended my first bee keeping workshop on Sunday at a suburban community farm.  What a fabulous experience.  I learnt a lot from the experienced keepers present and spent two very enjoyable hours embedded in the swarm of bees. Hazaar!

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Farmer's Markets, Food Security and Food Miles




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Preserving Jar Installation 2 - Food Security

I’ve finished reading ‘Edible Estates’ by Fritz Haeg.  Feeling inspired I have spend the week debating the possibilities for vegetable gardening in our front garden.

I’d like to do something to actively support community building in our neighborhood – could producing vegetables in our front garden be a catalyst?


  • More space for vegetable production or fruit – got to be good.
  • Opportunity to informally interact with neighbours.
  • Chances to share seeds and produce?


  • More work soil building – as soil in the front garden is pure sand dune.
  • More water required – beyond our current rain water storage capacity.
  • Removal of trees would have a negative impact on possum community.
  • Removal of trees will mean our house would get hotter as they afford protection from hot north wind.

I’ve concluded that vegetable gardening in the front garden would have an overall negative environmental impact.

So what to do instead?


  • Invite our neighbors to a harvest garden party / afternoon tea when the tomatoes are ripe.
  • Join the ‘Open Garden Scheme’.
  • Start a ‘Vegetable Gardening Coffee Club’ in a local cafe.

These are my thoughts so far.  My goal is to pick at least one by next weekend and begin to implement.

Success will be measured by:

  • Number of neighbours who start vegetable gardening, talking about tanks, sharing seeds etc.
  • How connected we feel / become with our community.

Any other suggestions welcome.


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The fence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries over the last week.  Our new backyard fence is finally up.  I’m not crazy about the stark newness of this fence or its height.

The news this week has been full of reports that the population of Melbourne is growing by 200 people per day making us the fastest growing city in Australia.  As I’m still struggling to grow a meaningful amount of food in our backyard – I’ve been wondering if sharing yards would make vegetable gardening more productive – in short are subdivided backyards unsustainable?


Contemplating the containment of nature - Installation in Preserving Jar

As often happens, while trawling through a bookshop today, the appropriate book showed up – Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, A project by Fritz Haeg.  What an amazing book – since getting home I’ve not been able to put it down.

The garden began behind walls a truce, a compromise, between human need and natural resource.  In most languages the word ‘garden’ derives from the root ‘enclosure’.  The garden walls protected human cultivation from the wild threats in the untamed expanses.  Now that a wilderness unaffected by human intervention no longer exists, the garden walls have fallen.  The enclosed, cultivated space protected behind the house is nolonger a worthwhile model.  The entire street must be viewed as a garden, and by extension the entire city we are tending, and beyond.  We have intervened on all levels of environmental function and with no walls remaining we have taken on the role of planetary gardener by default.”

I often think that the way we garden is a reflection of how we think the world should be.  Are we creating an organic utopian paradise, the ultimate cricket pitch or a controlled weed-free universe.  Are our gardens our personal vision of ‘Eden’?  I think that there is truth in the Epicurean ideal that all one needs to be happy is to sit in a garden with good friends.  Perhaps, in my personal ideal, boundary fences don’t exist?

I am however of two minds, as I imagine we all are, since there is a tension between the desire to share and be open and the need to order and contain my private space.


See my beans standing all in a row - possible evidence of control issues.

I think this is an issue I will come back to after more thought.  I’d love to hear what you think?

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