Garden Update 16.10.17

Over the last few months we’ve had a growing number of visits from school classes, which most children appear to love, not least the mulberry experience at present.  We’re excited to continue to offer the Garden as a community teaching and learning resource and an example of the joys, challenges and beauty of gardens and nature. Success hasn’t come without thought and effort though as we’re constantly striving to keep the Garden interesting, healthy and productive.

To a significant degree we rely on all our plot holders to keep their plot plantings rotating and on the move. And to assist we try to keep our compost bays cooking and rotating, cattle manure always on hand and spoilt hay for mulching when we can.

We do urge plot holders and Garden friends to join in our Sunday morning working bees. The bees are generally most rewarding both for our volunteers and the Garden. There’s really plenty to learn about and contribute to gardening in Alice. Working bees happen every first and third and Sunday of every month. (8.30am-10.30am).

On the last Friday evening of every month we hold an informal social get together at the Garden. On Friday October 27  we want to make it a bigger event and so we’re inviting members and the general public to our Alice Springs Community Garden Spring Social from 5pm-7.00. We’ll be cutting the ribbon on the Ben’s amazing Pizza Station and inviting pizza gurus to do their best. There will be Garden tours and other attractions including green pasta making with Franca Frederiksen. Please come along and bring friends.

There’s much to report on in the Garden.

  • Wildlife: Snakes have been seen but many more lizards and a variety of birds appear to be calling the Garden home. We’d love some photos if you spot the right moment.
  • Fruit tree care: Without the grasshoppers (touch wood!) and with improvements in the irrigation methods, including heavy mulching with buffel grass, our fruit trees are looking exceptionally healthy and flowering profusely. Hopefully from now on we’ll have mulberries, figs, olives, grapes and citrus coming along during the year.
  • Picking: There are still heaps of winter crops for the picking in the Gardens at the moment and there will never be a better time for picking them than now! The heat has brought back the aphids that will soon spoil anything left!
  • Manure: Behind the compost huts we have a new huge heap of cow manure mixed with a lot of spoilt hay. As the manure pats are much fresher than our last lot, I’d be inclined to use a spade to chop them into small pieces and spread them mixed with straw as a mulch rather than digging them in. With a few months to mature and some summer rain the mix will compost down perfectly.
  • Worm juice: We have a worm farm in the yellow fridge in the compost area. It has a pipe and bucket underneath to collect the juice which can be diluted and poured onto seedlings for an extra boost.
  • Compost Bays: We have been making large batches of rich compost and many of the community and private plots have benefitted greatly from this garden delight. It can be dug in lightly or used as a planting medium. There should be a new batch ready in a week or two’s time in the easternmost bay.
  • Compost Bins: Opposite the bays are 4 bins with lids. You can bring your vegetable kitchen scraps from home and put them in one or more bins. Please don’t use this compost yet.
  • Composting Materials: Most weeds and pulled plants should be taken to the compost area straight away and preferably chopped up. If pulled out weeds are left to dry out on paths or beds their seeds will usually mature and sprout as soon as the ground is wet. One year’s seeding leads to seven years weeding! In the compost seeds will generally rot and/or be cooked. We can compost grass cuttings if you want to bring them from home in bags and leave them in the compost area.
  • What to plant right now?  All the summer flowers and veggies should be planted ASAP to get them established before the heat really hits. Tomatoes don’t form fruit when the days are consistently over 35C so the sooner you get them in the better. I’d suggest it’s worth buying a few big plants that are already flowering. It’s way too late for planting winter veggies including all the brassicas (cabbage, caulis, broccoli and Brussel sprouts), bulbing onions, hearting lettuces, all peas, coriander and calendulas. But that still leaves you with a choice from an enormous number of both all year round veggies and summer veggies, flowers and herbs. Ask at the Garden or at the nursery about your options.  Email any queries to [email protected]
  •  Mulch: We have collected loose spoilt hay suitable for mulching from the Showgrounds. It’s in a smaller pile sitting on black plastic next to the manure. The hay has many seeds in it so be prepared for a spot of exercise weeding if you choose to use it!  Commercially available alternatives include lucerne, pea straw and sugar cane mulch.
  • Shade: Geoff Miers recommends a 50% white shade cloth over all your garden from now on. Some hardy plants survive without shade but it can be tough going for both plants and owners. Remember too that mulch not only retains moisture but also reduces the temperature of the surface soil by many degrees allowing fine roots near the surface to survive. Growing plants close together also has some benefits especially if you choose companion planting.
  • Watering: The plot irrigation has been in ‘cool months mode’ (15mins daily) but last week was rescheduled for 8 mins every morning, lunchtime and evening. For established plants this should be plenty of water but I’d strongly recommend hand watering all new seedlings at least daily after planting for at least the first week, especially if it’s hot.
  • Water Watch!  Please immediately contact Bruce (0451457335) if you spot a leak in a line or a tap. Similarly, we should be contacted if the watering system doesn’t seem to be working satisfactorily. If a Galcon timer battery fails, then watering stops. A couple of days without water in mid-summer can be disastrous. Please continue to sound the alarm if you find things haven’t been fixed
  • New Plots: There has been quite a bit of interest in the new plots. Ben Wall and his work for the dole team have been framing up and laying out irrigation in our third and last batch of plots. Please fill out a plot holders expression of interest form at if you would like to be listed for a plot or email [email protected] Once you have been signed up for a plot, you must have an orientation with our Plots Rep, Philippe Freidel or myself.
  • Mandala and entrance demo beds: There are four community beds open to all interested gardeners to contribute some time to and to pick plants from. Carmel and Food for Alice people are picking from the beds on Friday evenings to support the Food For Alice local produce market, every Saturday morning at ALEC 90 Gap Road. If you own a private plot and would like to share your produce please contact Carmel [email protected] or call ALEC on 895222497.
  • Nematodes and Garden Hygiene: As hard as we have tried to keep harmful levels of root nematodes out of our plots, there is a certain inevitability that they will appear from time to time. I’ve noticed a couple of silver beet plants with very large nodular roots caused by nematodes that had been pulled out and placed in the yellow bin outside the gate. As a general rule, any plant that you pull out with nodules (lumps) on the roots is best placed in the bin. Please contact Bruce if any nematodes are found at [email protected]. If a plot is heavily infested we might have to rest and treat it and offer another alternative bed. Planting marigolds through your plot will help reduce root nematodes as will digging in more organic matter.
  • Bird baths: We have two bird baths that should always be kept filled to encourage our feathered friends. Please assist if you see a water level down.
  • Cutting down Acacia Salicinas: We have chopped down a couple more trees as their roots were invading nearby plots. We will replace them with smaller natives.
  • Ben Wall and his team: Every week some new, transforming and colourful art work and infrastructure appears in our Garden for which we must truly thank Ben and his work for the dole team.
  • Become a Friend of the Garden: The garden is auspiced by the Arid Lands Environment Centre and supported by ALEC staff. Plot holders must be members of ALEC to be eligible for a plot, and regular volunteers are encouraged to join ALEC and become Friends of the Garden - receiving access to the garden gate code. Join online at Memberships are $10 Concession, $30 Individual, $50 Family and $90 Institution. Alternatively drop into ALEC at 90 Gap Road or call the office 89522497.

The Garden Committee hopes you can make our Spring Social and enjoy celebrating together what is now a feature of the Central Australian community.