Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sydney - James St Reserve Community Garden

This is a story about how neighbours can come together - despite the odds - to build a better community. And there's no better way of building community than with a garden.
In 2010 a group of locals in Redfern had spotted a dusty corner of the James St Reserve that was crying out to be transformed. It was a pedestrian thoroughfare to the local supermarket and a drug-users haunt.
But they saw the potential. So they applied for a matching grant from the City of Sydney.
 ... et viola -  after much hard work - a luscious vegetable garden was born.
 The garden is planted in raised beds
 The vegetable and herb plantings are seasonal so there's always something in the garden to enjoy
 The garden is surrounded by a low fence with unlocked gates. Residents are divided into groups which are assigned their own beds to look after - but everyone is welcome to enjoy the harvests. Of course there's a bit of pilfering and vandalism that goes on. But they're developing ways of managing this and encouraging all residents to have some ownership of the garden. And it's working.
There was such a strong sense of collaboration and 'pulling together' when I visited.
Hope this inspires you to get your community to come together to transform a bit of neglected space in your suburb into a thriving veggie patch. It is possible.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Brisbane Top 5 must-dos this week

1.MUST VISIT: It's warm and frisky outside and everyone has a bounce in their step. It's Ekka time. Ekka is Brisbane's Royal Show. I'm here amongst the rides, showbags, and cowboy boots to talk about small space gardening on the Garden Platform of the Horticultural Pavilion. A little time before my session for a quick trip down memory lane...

This show has all the favourites. Stomach-churning rides...

......... side show alley

 ...painted clowns...

..and of course the once a year deep-fried indulgence - the dagwood dog. Not for me this time.

2.MUST SHOP Just down the road is the Northey Street City Farm which is a wonderful permaculture model for city folk.

Hundreds come here on the weekend to enjoy the green space, to stock up on gardening supplies and get some ideas about how to grow fresh produce at home.

The farm has been ravaged by two floods in the past few years and is slowly being rehabilitated by dedicated volunteers
Loved this delicious healthy bed of broad beans

There are beds of greens, beetroot and herbs..

..and even some chickens

There are dozens of edible weeds and greens available at the farm's organic market

and edible flowers including nasturtiums

strawberrries are one of the fruits and vegetables often laced with chemicals. So if you can find some organic ones like these - grab them!

They really were some of the most delicious strawberries I've tasted.

3. MUST EAT- The Euro
This is what I've been looking forward to. So much praise has been heaped on this Brisbane restaurant. Can the hype match the expectation? The Euro shares the kitchen with its upmarket sister Urbane.

....... with the Laneway bar upstairs spinning cool tunes and serving beers, wines and cocktails with global influences.
Back downstairs the Euro is a warm, hip bistro space where you can have a conversation without shouting at your companions. Very grown-up.

This is a dining space with its ego in check.
But it's the food that steals the show. Every dish we sampled showed extraordinary
 technique and finesse without becoming too fussy or showy. We grazed through briny Smokey Bay oysters - plump and creamy, perfecly seared scallops on potato discs with crispy, earthy chunks of  black pudding. The pumpkin ravioli with goats cheese and sage was delicate and light. Even the  homemade breads and cultured butter hold their own in this company.
 The wine list takes you round the world and back with an eclectic selection of mid-range and high end options. We selected a pinot gris from Alsace which was fruity and complex. Very drinkable.

And the dish that left everyone scrambling for superlatives was the
onion and goats cheese souffle with black garlic powder. The souffle was a puff of cheesy air perfectly balanced with the sharpness of the sweet onions and the extraordinary texture and earthy allure of the garlic dust. A destination dish for sure.

4. MUST STAY- The Emporium

Why not a bit of pizzazz during your stay.... this is afterall BrisVEGAS.

The Emporium is in Fortitude Valley just around the corner from Ekka so very convenient for show-goers. Don't misread it's sparklyexterior  - there's a high level of service and an eye for detail behind those glossy good looks.

The rooms come close to being my perfect hotel room. And I've stayed in a few during my time. A bed you want to take home, a rich warm decor of creams and chocolates, a sensational shower with strong pressure and a tempting breakfast menu.

It's time to head to the airport. Luckily I've booked my Prius hybrid taxi. It doesn't negate the carbon emissions from my flight but a girl has to start somewhere.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Worm Farm arrives

My balcony farming adventures just got a little bit more exciting. I'm trialling a worm farm from Tumbleweed. Tumbleweed's worm farms come in different sizes depending on your space restrictions. This unit is called the 'Worm Cafe' and fits snuggly next to the BBQ in a shaded section of my balcony.

The tray system on legs is made from recycled plastic from car batteries and all the packaging is designed to be composted by your worms so no waste!

The first step is hydrating the worm bedding material made from coconut fibre. The worms will feed on this during their first week of settling in.

 The tight block of worm bedding takes about 15-20 mins to break down in a bucket of water.

 ...until you get a thick fibrous porridge.

 All of this is poured into your worm farm.

 Then it's time to add your worms. There are about 1000 in this cardboard tube.

 They come in a moist calico bag.

These are a special type of compost worm which are more effective than garden worms at breaking down waste. They can eat half their body weight in one day.

 Once they're all inside their new home, cover them with the bag....

.. and a special worm blanket

...soaked in water which will ensure the worms are kept moist and that no sunlight gets through. Your worm farm should be stored out of direct sunlight and should be watered once a week to help the worms cool down and the water run-off will also give you a nutritious worm juice which you can feed your plants.

 And then it's just a matter of putting on the lid and leaving your worms for a week to get used to their new home. Worms love to eat fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, and even hair and toe nail clippings.They don't eat meat, cheese and fats and don't like acidic vegies like garlic and onions in large quantities. I'm looking forward to tempting their taste buds with my delectable kitchen scraps.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Pothole Gardener- Steve Wheen

What I love about gardening on the balcony of a 13th floor apartment is that
 it changes my persepective about so many things.... gardens, food, cities, insects, my place on this finite planet.

But while I've looked 'up' for inspiration, British Aussie expat Steve Wheen has looked down. Down into all those little cracks in the footpath, in the road and in the gutters. This is where he gardens.

And how wondrous are his creations.

 Steve is not the first practitioner of 'guerilla gardening' but with the additions of his miniature props, his pot-hole gardens are grabbing attention around the world.

 From London, to India to the recent Milan Design Week, Steve's garden creations caused quite a stir.

They show us what is possible.

even amongst the grey urban landscape

(all photos courtesy of