Monday, December 23, 2013

Royal Veggies

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney has been collecting and studying plants since 1816.  Nearly two hundred years later, the gardens spread a massive 30 hectares south of the Sydney Harbour and house over 15 different feature gardens.  The first time I experienced the garden in 2012 I simply enjoyed a stroll around the park, as I made my way from The Rocks to Woolloomooloo.  Recently, as I showed my friend Carolyn the gardens for the first time, we stumbled upon the the vegetable gardening efforts currently going on in the park.

These raised beds are a great size and shape for easy maintenance.  Plants can be easily separated by size and variety.  I can't say I'm a huge fan of growing Papaya trees in raised beds, as I've gone through the process of removing them from my raised beds at home already.  However, there's plenty of room here and nearly a dozen raised beds so using one for some fruit trees works.

My favorite part of the garden, and what really caught my attention to document the project were these massive tomato trellises.  Around the base are about 10 different tomato plants, ready to take on the summer sun and use these structures to grow as tall as can be.  Tomatoes love support as they grow, and this setup really lets them reach their full potential.

Another great project going on here, and something I have yet to adopt at home, is worm farming.  As the sign reads, worm farming is easy and great for producing healthy organic fertilizer to be used on all of your plants.

And last, but certainly not least, composting!

These guys use multiple processes in their composting efforts, similar yet different to the multiple steps I use at home.  Here they use an open wooden container to collect their garden scraps and rubbish where the green matter breaks down before being added to the compost bins.

It's really important to see projects like this set up in a botanic garden.  Quite often gardening organizations forget about the importance of growing your own fruits and vegetables, and get lost in the pretty trees and fragrant flowers.  Amongst all of the beauty and flowering, there's plenty to learn while exploring the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's For Dinner? (First Zucchini Harvest)

About a month ago, Guy discovered a heap of rich soil that was dumped as extra when the raised vegetable beds were first installed here.  The soil has been covered by weeds, molasses grass, and other debris for years, until it's potential was recently discovered.  I'll have to go back and take some photos of what's growing up there (corn, watermelon, spring onions, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc...). For now, we've got our first zucchini harvest with a bunch of beans.  The zucchinis are a bit on the small side, but they were beginning to turn yellow so I wanted to take off this first group, so I can give the plant room to grow and energy for the forthcoming veggies.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Need More...

Working towards the goal of a self-sufficient food supply requires taking the initiative to plant new vegetables.  Lettuce usually has about a 10-20% success rate around these woods.  If the possums don't eat the growing leaves, the sun will scorch the seedlings or any number of other lettuce-killing circumstances will occur.  That doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying, so yesterday I tried some Greenpatch organic seeds in 8-in-1 punnets to test another variety.

Starting with a combination of horse manure and our house compost...

I added in a mixture of Organic Life and 5IN1 to make a perfect combination for starting these new seedlings.

The horse manure and our compost can be in the form of chunks, so this is a task where you really get your hands dirty.  It's important to break apart the horse manure because those droppings are nutrient bombs, and too much of a good thing can be overwhelming.

Look real hard, and you can see the seeds in each of those pockets, sitting 5mm below another layer of the soil mixture that I added on top.

We got a big rain last night (with some epic lightning and thunder that was shaking the house) but I protected these seeds from drowning.  A few more sunny mornings like today and we'll have some progress in these yellow punnets.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Room For More

There's a lot of open space on this property, and a good amount of it is north-facing.  I've been taking the opportunity (and most of the open space) to transform this land into a food-production haven.  Recently I've been feeling like no day is complete if I haven't planted something new beneath the earth's surface. My goal is to continue this progress for as long as possible, no matter where I am (this might change as soon as I get on my next flight).  All you need to get started:

Empty pots or containers...check beans and paprika pepper

Soil mixture...compost, horse manure, 5IN1 fertiliser

I filled the small square containers 80% with the soil mixture, dropped a seed around the middle of the container, and then filled another 10% of the container, so there's room to put mulch or more compost when the seedlings sprout.

The paprika peppers went into 6-in-1 containers, which are usually more ideal for lettuces or chards.  I'm a pretty keen observer of the development of my seedlings, I'll make sure whatever sprouts up doesn't outgrow it's container.  Below, you can't tell there are six individual slots for seedlings, but everything is covered with the soil mixture.

Now it's time to find a sunny spot to let the seedlings rest and start growing.  If you can tell from the background of the image (below) you'll see this is a really steep hill (a good 50 degree slope in some spots).  Ive made a terrace recently, and two new 'raised' vegetable beds for cucumbers and onions. Those seeds went in two days ago, so we're still waiting on them to come alive as well.

Here's a view of the second new veggie bed, with three other new seedling (bean and paprika) containers below.

I gave these guys a quick drink so they wouldn't dry out completely in the hot afternoon summer sun...but I'll be back tonight to water the whole area...and then tomorrow, and the next day, it never ends.

And from above...two new vegetable beds with green beans and paprika pepper ready to sprout below.

I feel like I've certainly accomplished my mission of planting something new today...what have you planted recently?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Event Recap: #4Good Brekky

From the first to the tenth of November, events are happening across Australia where social innovators and entrepreneurs are getting together to bring social change to life.  Add More Green chipped in by hosting a #4Good Brekky; a place for changemakers to enjoy great coffee, breakfast, and conversation with people who are working to make the world a better place.

We collaborated with The Empire Cafe to provide a comfortable space for discussion and inspirational thinking.  Below are some images of how I got the discussion going amongst participants.  Our topics were community, entrepreneurship, social innovation, and sustainability; I worked towards each of us defining these topics in our own words...

Going in to the discussion, my objective was for everyone coming to learn about one topic/idea (at least one) that they didn't know before coming.  Working in social change, we all have our own communities and tribes that we correlate and correspond with most frequently.  By learning new ideas, and seeing how those concepts work with other communities, it's inspiring to learn how we can adapt those strategies to benefit each of our individual communities.

Here's a recap I sent out to participants of what we learned, and what we can work on moving forward:

Hi Changemakers,

Thanks for joining our first #4Good Brekky in the Byron Shire.  It was really motivating to hear all the positive work people are doing in our community and globally.  As a recap, I wanted to provide some understanding of what we all seem to agree upon.

Community: common unity, a conscious collective, shared experience, desire of an individual to connect around a shared idea, togetherness
Entrepreneurship: one or more who ‘manifests’ ideas, the courage to share your ideas with the world, mindset/skillset to break down barriers, addressing needs
Social Innovation: necessary or optional positive interest, using entrepreneurship to facilitate change in community, addressing needs
Sustainability: to ensure longevity of resources, ecological balance, paramount to the triple bottom line, full use of resources, creating massive surplus that enriches the whole system to continue operating

Some innovative ideas we discussed:
- We discussed the plans Simon has to establish a Byron Precinct for Global Solutions, find out more here: We discussed the Byron Bay events app that Horst is working on, find out more here: Upon leaving, Jacquelina and Judy each mentioned transportation (including cycling) and the need for a more community-oriented method of transportation in the Byron Shire (even the idea of a light rail)…

Some conclusions we came to after defining our topics:
- there are heaps of innovators and entrepreneurs in our area, and there are plenty of community oriented individuals locally
- we lack risk takers, we lack the spirit that actually brings these community members together, we need to motivate these individuals to stand up and actually fight for the community they believe in

Moving forward, I’ll be working to tackle this issue, finding ways to motivate our community to actually BE A COMMUNITY!

I’m also keen to explore the space Paul was discussing, crowdfunding for the Byron Shire.  As a crowdfunding expert (from an online perspective) I’m not sure the internet is the way to go for our community.  However, I’m interested in the idea of an Elevator (Rocket) Pitch competition for our community.  The chance for innovators to pitch their ideas to the individuals (and wallets) they are affecting the most…let me know if you want to continue discussing this idea.

Thanks again to everyone who joined our first rural #4Good Brekky, and let's keep this momentum going.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's For Dinner?

It's been a while since I've done a feature on What's For Dinner? we have a sampling of some greens and veggies to add into tonight's mix.  Radishes are still growing really well here.  It's simply a matter of planting some seeds, waiting a few weeks and then planting some more seeds; that way there's always a crop to be harvested.  Some parsley and chives to add some flavour to the relatively bland kale.  Some silverbeet that I stir fried with the kale, and some lettuce for a salad.  Organic gardening is so easy, and tastes so good!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inspiration for Summer Shades

One important factor to remember while gardening through the summer months is the intensity of the sun on those scorching days.  Here in the Byron Shire, we've had some pretty strange weather patterns lately, with some early morning sun and heat, really strong afternoon winds, heavy rains from passing storms.  While protecting your vegetables from the wind and rain can prove worthwhile, I've really been tempted to implement a new shading system to lower the shock to some plants during the summer.  During my time volunteering at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens last week, I came across this structure...

On the left side of the frame, the shade is pulled over the top and is providing shade while still allowing any wind to pass through.  When you want to protect your plants even more, you can simply pull down the shade (at an angle) to go over the edge of the raised bed.

Growing inside is all sorts of green goodness: broccoli, silverbeet, bush beans, and a friendly reminder to respect the nature we got all of this greatness from.

So, now to build a structure similar to this one, based on the dimensions and location of the raised beds here at home; I'll keep you posted...

For now, keep track of the upcoming event I've been planning: #4Good Brekky in Mullumbimby at The Empire Cafe on Thursday 7 November.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This Hill Has Eyes

So I have to admit I've never seen the film that inspired me for this post's title.  When I was adding more green to this north-facing hill recently, I couldn't help but think of the movie as I was planting Carpobrotus Glaucescens, commonly known as 'Pig Face'.  Okay, faces, not eyes, and only one hill, not hills...leave us crazy gardeners alone.

Pig Face is a native creeper with green foliage and bright pink/purple flowers.  What's better; in February the plant produces red, 'sour' strawberries...edible of course.  Perusing the plants at Eden at Byron last week, I noticed native plants on sale; 4 for $20...couldn't resist.  Two of the plants chosen were Pig Face, an excellent addition to this abandoned hill.

Snow peas (below) are meant to be sown in autumn or midwinter at the latest.  These plants went in at the end of winter, I like to push the boundaries and limits of conventional gardening.  From my perspective (correct me if I'm wrong) these peas are alive and well, climbing nicely up this fence I've erected for them.

Zucchini; a plant that never seems to grow well here and always suffers from powdery mildew.  Try as I may to rid the plant of the infected leaves and the white fuzzy spots, the plants never seem to mature enough even to flower.  Behold, a flowering zucchini finally maturing well enough to start fruiting soon.

This is a variety of Cucurbiata maxima, Pumpkin - Baby Blue.  This blue variety comes from the Americas, but seems to like it here in the subtropics.

Cucumbers are another plant, like zucchini, that often have mixed outcomes.  Below are some seedlings finally sprouting up after I added in some 'Mary Sheehan' cucumber seeds last week.  My father will remember the roadside stand we bought these seeds from on our way to Crystal Castle.

And last but not least, Jap pumpkins basking on a sunny spring day...

All in all, there may not be any 'eyes' on this hill, but there are certainly 'faces', flowers, and fruits galore. The snow peas should start producing in the coming weeks, and the pumpkins are all waiting for gravity to take over so they begin climbing (or falling) along the hill.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Three of a Kind

As the first king sago palm to spread its new wings (leaves really) is starting to resemble more and more the look of a mature cycad (images 4 and 5), two other king sago palms are at different stages in the process as well.  This made for the perfect opportunity to show you in one post what the new leaves look like from start to finish...almost.

This second plant, seen from eye-level and above, is just about where the largest of these three was 7 days ago.  The developing leaves are about 20% of the size of the mature leaves they are growing into.

And the largest of the bunch, this plant only has a few more days to really unfold.  In just over 6 days, these leaves have grown from (image 2) to what they look like below.

Step aside George, this king is almost ready to take his throne.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Crystal Greens

Tucked peacefully up in the hills southwest of Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay hinterland is a labyrinth of gardens filled with beautiful flowering plants and some gigantic crystals.  I thoroughly enjoy the tranquil spirit flowing through this space, The Crystal Castle.  Something new I found this time grabbed even more of my attention...the vegetable garden!

There are nearly ten raised beds here on this sunny hill, with a variety of vegetables, herbs, greens, and inspiration for home-gardeners.

This rainbow chard is a mix of different colors and varieties, and everything looks healthy and happy here.  I wonder how these vegetables would look growing at the foot of some of the massive crystals around here...any thoughts @CrystalCastleBB?

The best part of this vegetable garden, and a design I plan to incporporate soon into my north-facing garden, are these sun shades.  Perfect for some of the more vulnerable lettuces, young seedlings, tomatoes; all vegetables that are subject to sun stress.  The sun is a really important element to growing food for myself all year round, but there are times that my plants could really use a bit of shade, and these screens are going to be a great solution.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Alive!

The growth of these king sago palm leaves has really been progressing rapidly.  It's exciting to watch this deep-sea creature-like plant stretch out.

They've doubled in size in the past three or four days, and we're in store for more.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hail to the King

For those of you not familiar with the Sago Palm, there are four species of seed plants in the cycas family of Cycads.  These short evergreen 'palms' (though not even closely related to real palms or ferns) can grow anywhere from a few centimeters to several meters tall.  The most widely cultivated (seen below) is the Cycas revoluta, also known as the king sago palm.

I didn't plant this cycad, and it's not a fruit-bearing plant, so you may be wondering why I felt the need to share this nugget of information with you.  Add More Green isn't just about spending your time to harvest your own fruits and's about living in harmony with the beauty of nature around you and stopping every now and again to see how Mother Earth adds more green on her own.  I'll keep you updated as this new set of leaves continues to develop.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Life in the Hill Part II

Last friday I introduced to you a new garden I'm working on; a rocky hill (really just a rock pile from debris that was cleared) that needs some life put back into it.  On one hand, the hill does still look like this from afar...

However, take a closer look, and you'll see all of the seedlings starting to really take shape.  First, all of the Jap Pumpkins I've planted, in three different places...

Above and below, you'll see eight Jap Pumpkins still remaining in the area that I initially planted all of the seeds; and since then have transplanted (another eight in total) seedlings to different areas.

The image above also gives you a perspective of the structure I just put in place today, getting ready for the young snow peas coming into their own beneath the 'fence'.

And last but not least, another bunch of pumpkins coming up.  These guys are Pumpkin - Baby Blue, one of the many varieties in the Cucurbita maxima species.  As a matter of fact, this species is said to have more cultivated forms than any other crop...this one happens to be a Baby Blue variety from the Americas.  The Jap Pumpkin seeds were collected from my last harvest (in a different area that I've been working to revitalize) but these Baby Blue seeds were purchased from Eden Seeds.

I'll continue to keep you posted as the life I'm adding back into the hill continues to rebuild itself and the soil beneath.

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Add More Green by Nick Kovaleski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.