Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Absolutely Famished Community Day - food and plant sales

Absolutely Famished Community Day

Food * Plant sale * Gardening workshops * Stories

Date and time: Saturday 3 December, 12 – 3pm Venue: LAB-14, 700 Swanston Street, Carlton
Explore the food cultures and gardening traditions of migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East living in inner city Melbourne, sample a selection of culturally diverse foods, and talk to cooks and gardeners from the local community.
Rare and unusual food plants for summer growing will be on sale including Sweet Potato, Kang Kong, Ginger and Turmeric. All plants have been grown through a collaboration between participants at the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre and staff and students at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne. Dr. Chris Williams from Burnley will lead free consultations on growing these food crops in Melbourne’s climate.
The Absolutely Famished Community Day is funded through the University of Melbourne engagement grant program and the Carlton Connect Initiative, and is part of Absolutely Famished, a creative exploration of future food and the 22nd century market place.

3000 acres fund raising campaign

3000acres is an organisation I've known since it was a thought bubble in Kate Dundas' head to the the fully fledged NGO doing great work in urban agriculture that it is today! One of its dedicated staff is Pippa French, brainy botanist and (more importantly?) recent graduate of the Associate Degree In Urban Horticulture at Burnley. 3000 acres have just launched their first crowdfunding campaign to get another big project off the ground. The target is $10,000 and beyond... Support brings rewards from grow-your-own mushroom kits, Tallboy and Moose locally brewed beer and Patagonia adventure gear. Plus with the generous support of their sponsoring partner Patagonia - every dollar they raise will be matched!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My first taste of Hosta shoots

Last weekend I ate my first Hosta shoots - just two for now as I want my clumps of Hosta to grow without any set-backs. I simply boiled them and ate them and they were great - very close to Asparagus I thought. Here's a photo of them emerging from the ground with another shot of a shoot ready to cook. There's a couple of Youtube videos of people cooking Hosta shoots and I've embedded one here. In another post I'd like to look in more depth at the traditional home of Hosta eating - northern Japan.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The science is in: gardening is good for you

I've published an article in The Conversation about the therapeutic benefits of gardening.  See the link below:

Here's the first paragraph. 

The science is in: gardening is good for you

“That’s all very well put,” says Candide, in the final line of Voltaire’s novel of the same name, “but we must go and work our garden.”
I studied this text at high school before I became a gardener and professional horticulturist. We were taught that Candide’s gardening imperative was metaphorical not literal; a command for finding an authentic vocation, not a call to take up trowels and secateurs.
In fact, Voltaire himself really believed that active gardening was a great way to stay sane, healthy and free from stress. That was 300 years ago.
As it turns out, the science suggests he was right.

There's also a link to my colleague Steven Wells (nurse and gardener extraordinare) talking about his work as a horticultural therapist and garden creator in hospitals. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

As part of the Absolutely Famished Project of the Carlton Connect Initiative for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, I'm appearing at the following event later this month:

ThoughtLAB-14: My Veggie Garden Rules

Competition will be fierce in this series of My Veggie Garden Rules. Four new contestants don their gumboots and raise their gardening tools to battle for the title of MasterGrower 2050.

From its humble beginnings in 2016, MVGR is now in its 34th season and last year claimed the title of most popular reality experience fired straight to your neurons on demand.
With your insightful science rock band, Ologism, we invite you to advise, inspire, and cheer on your favourite contestant as they plan how to negotiate searing temperatures, limited water supply, and tiny plots of arid soil to produce the greatest quantity and quality of edible crop. Who will lay claim to the veggie garden to rule them all!
Date and time: Tuesday 27 September, 6pm-7.30pm Venue: studioFive, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Level 5, 234 Queensberry St, Parkville Getting there: Train stop – Melbourne Central, then tram. Tram stop – Melbourne University (Stop 1) Bookings essential, register here.
My Veggie Garden Rules is a ThoughtLAB-14 event presented by the Carlton Connect Initiative in partnership with Ologism and University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education’s studioFive where we invite a guest panel to interact with the audience to collaborate on ideas, analyse evidence and dream alternative futures.
The event is part of Absolutely Famished, a creative exploration of future food curated by Dr Renee Beale. Underpinned by scientific research Absolutely Famished imagines the 22nd century marketplace.
Dr Renee Beale, Creative Community Animator, the Carlton Connect Initiative

Dr Chris Williams, Urban Horticulturalist, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Dr David Sequeira, artist and freelance curator
Bonnie Shaw, Strategy Lead, Smart City Office, City of Melbourne
Belinda Smith, Online Editor, COSMOS Magazine
Chris Krishna-Pillay, Darren Vogrig, Marty Lubran and Luke Fitzgerald
This event is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2016.

Belated pics of some Autumn crops - April-May 2016

A giant turnip shaped Kumera sweet potato

Mixed sweet potatoes

Ginger plants and rhizomes mixed in sweet potatoes and yams

Leaf axils bulbils from Dioscorea bulbifera
Oca tubers grown from summer cuttings

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Time to plant Oca/New Zealand Yam cuttings

I've written before about how you can save space and time with Oca by taking cuttings from mother or stock plants in mid to late summer into early autumn and plonking these into spare space that becomes available as another crop finishes. All the reasons for doing this are here:

It's all about being realistic about the fact the Oca will not start forming tubers until after the autumn equinox (March 20 this year in Melbourne). We have very mild autumns here, perfect for Oca, and as they strike so easily from cuttings, there's no need to devote vast amounts of space to Oca plants  in spring when nothing is really going to start happening until around late March.

Today, February 28, I put this theory into practice as I now do every year. I pulled out some mostly dead heirloom tomatoes (with poor resistance to wilt!) and replaced them with Oca cuttings from a spot I had planted with Oca in September. The photos below more or less show the whole process: from the bed with the dead tomato plants, the tree kale bed with the Oca mother plants, the cuttings ready for planting and the cuttings pushed a few inches into the ground and mulched. I didn't add any fertiliser given the amount preparation that went into the tomato bed in spring. I'll post about the progress of this bed a couple of times up to harvest in say late May or June. It's a great trick and makes Oca one of the most convenient, easily grown crops in our warm temperate climate.

Tomatoes - embarrassingly dead and diseased, time to go!

Tomatoes cleared

Oca stock or mother plants growing under a Tree Kale

Mother plants cut back and stems removed as cuttings

Oca cuttings ready to be planted in old tomato bed

Cuttings planted and mulched February 28 - they should be ready to harvest from mid-May into winter

5 weeks since the cuttings went in - growth to April 2