Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures in urban agriculture

How incredible are these public herb and fruit gardens? They're right on a busy riverfront path in the centre of Brisbane. Full of lemongrass, basil, chillies, thyme, papayas, and (a real novelty for a southerner) pineapples.

It's somewhat amusing that I'm up in Brisbane for a media conference, where there's been lots of discussion about using technology to report news, and I'm busy blogging herb gardens from my phone - hardly breaking stuff, but certainly what I felt compelled to share here! (As an aside, the state library here is incredible! Highly recommend a visit.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mushrooms can save the world

I had thought that while I'm always learning about a gardening incrementally, I'm probably not likely to have any more blow my mind kind of lessons about the subject. I was so wrong.

A wee while ago I was at a compost workshop which was pretty interesting, but the most exciting thing I learned that day was after we'd finished the workshop and were talking about inner city community gardens, soil contamination and how to fix it. Apparently, a great way to clean up contaminated sites such as old petrol stations is by planting mushrooms.

The speaker said there are some groups in the US that decontaminate petrol stations by using human hair (which is very absorbent) to mop up any remaining oil and they impregante the hair with oyster mushrooms spores, as this is the type of mushroom which sucks up the most heavy metal contaminants. Once the mushrooms have grown everything is bundled off as hazardous waste.

The idea also came up in an amazing Ted talk, about a mushroom burial suit to speedily dispose of your body:


It's a topic that some people are super into, and I haven't even touched on mycelium. (Which people get even more excited about!) There's an info-dense website called Radical Mycology for anyone who wants to read more about the idea.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The waiting game

I am having a huge amount of fun at the new community garden. Lots of chatting to people, building ramps, scheming about the future, turning compost, all the good stuff. But I can't help feeling there's something missing.


Because we're growing everything from seed it is taking a lot longer to really feel like things are progressing. I guess when you start from scratch all over again you suddenly notice it more than when you already have plants to hang out with in the garden and you're just adding to them. But things are getting going now, so fingers crossed it won't be long until we have a box bursting with vegies!

At least the communal salad box that I tend is starting to put on a show. Rocket and lettuce seedlings are getting going, and radishes are looking promising.

If you ever need a gardener pick-me-up, just grow radishes. They are so quick that you feel like you must be doing something right!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Act your age!

Occasionally I feel like I live an overly sedate life for someone in their mid-twenties. For instance, last weekend there was the choice of bee keeping workshop or the offer of some tickets to Parklife.

I'm happy to say the bee keeping workshop was able to be put off for another weekend, and instead I wandered around a freezing cold festival site, still feeling older than my age because I had decided to opt for jeans and a jumper rather than hot pants and a crop top on a day with a top of 16 degrees. But at least I saw some awesome music! Lykke Li in particular was one to get excited about, but others I liked included Kimbra, Gossip, Santigold, and Example.

Photo by Karen Roe

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Landscaping with Pallets

I'm normally terrible at taking photos before I start a project, which is always somewhat disappointing because then I don't have a reminder of how far a garden or any other project has come since I started it. So this time I'm going to try to show the start as well, and while it might not be pretty, hopefully it will at least be interesting to watch a guerrilla community garden changing and taking shape.

So this is the view as it was on Saturday morning:

The closest garden box is ours, but I'll give more details on it another time.

We had decided to build a second entry point to the garden down at our end, and luckily someone pointed out that a ramp was far better for wheelbarrow access than the stairs I'd been happily plotting. So one friend did the major grunt work and dug out part of the bank to make a rough ramp.

But another friend and I were too excited to leave it at that, so we decided to build a retaining wall from pallets, which is the main building material at the site. So we cut a pallet into three sections of varying sizes and then dug a trench area for them.

We whacked them in place, chucked in some plastic lining and scoria, gravel and earth, and voila! The perfect start to our ramp and beautification of our end of the garden.

The same view, but with a ramp!

And the great thing about a community garden is that others continue to chip in. When I went to drop off our compost this evening I noticed that someone has driven in star pickets in front of the wall, and used some astro-turf that was lying around to cover it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


On the weekend we headed up to CERES to buy a stack of seeds for our new garden bed. The walk home took us close to the railway garden which I abandoned after getting spooked about soil quality, and it looks like no one has been harvesting much there. I couldn't resist pulling these up, because I've never grown them before.

They're called snowball turnips, and it's a great name for them, isn't it?

Now I just have to weigh up just how worried I am about heavy metals possibly being present in my food...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A riddle for you all

What's a gardening gal to do when she has spent a year getting an empty garden to a point of overflowing abundance...

...only for the landlord to insist that every single sliver of green be removed from the property upon departure? (And we are talking bare concrete and dust here.)

A) Be heartbroken for a little while and instead spend time in Ikea kitting out the one bedroom flat she now calls home, trying to fill the silverbeet-shaped hole in her heart with meaningless consumerism/pretty birch veneer products.

B) Cultivate a ridiculous houseplant per square metre ratio.

C) Look after a friend's railway-side guerrilla garden patch through most of its growing season but then freak out about heavy metals in the soil just as the winter harvest rolls around due to concerned words from friends who test soil for a living.

D) After despair and despondency find another guerrilla garden closer to home which has abundant community and potential, talk about it non-stop for weeks and then plunge headlong into it, forcing her poor boyfriend to spend entire weekends dawn to dusk helping her knock together garden beds, source soil, etc.

E) All of the above.

I think you folks know the answer. Which also means I feel excited about blogging again! (Not that it's just a garden blog, but let's face it, gardening is the backbone.)

Looking forward to chatting with you all again.

Here's a shot of the railway-side garden before we broke up. It was fun while it lasted!