WORDS & PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht
If you're anything like us, you can't resist a terrarium. Ever since 1827, when Nathaniel Ward accidentally discovered that plants could survive in covered jars, the world has embraced the terrarium for its ability to keep plants alive in much less friendly climes (including air-conditioned houses!).
So a whole hopeful bunch of us rocked up to Burnley Nursery for the Horticultured terrarium workshop with glass containers that just screamed 'put plants in me!' With the assistance of Burnley nursery technician Sascha, terrarium nut and living art expert, we were all soon assembling tiny enclosed gardens.
The key to a great terrarium are the layers of growing medium, starting with a sprinkling of horticultural charcoal, then a layer of horticultural sand, and a thicker layer of potting mix. And add plants! Sascha gave us a hot tip that Peperomia spp. are particularly good in terrariums.
With some hard work and determination we created some absolute beauties.
We're very proud of our efforts. The cool thing about these terrariums are that, once we get the balance right, they act as closed systems - meaning you never have to feed or water them again!
Are you jealous yet? Well, follow us on Facebook or sign up as a member, and you'll be the first to hear about the next terrarium workshop - the first one went so well we're planning to hold another one soon! We'll keep you posted.
WORDS: Karin Holzknecht, PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht & Bec Korossy-Horwood
Last weekend, on Saturday 12 October, some very curious Horticultured members gathered to hear all about the secret life of fungi from Dr Sapphire McMullan-Fisher.
Sapphire is a fungal ecology expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, an author for Fungi-Map and a passionate fungi lecturer from La Trobe University. She is also a gifted speaker and quickly had us all enthralled.
“Try to not to think like a discrete organism,” she challenged us all, before diving into her lecture. Over the next few hours she explained how complex fungi are and how integral to our world.
We covered basic biology of fungi, structure, form, physiology, and reproduction. Then Sapphire took us through the general understanding of what makes up the ecosystem (sun, water, herbivores, carnivores, decomposers etc.), and demonstrated the roles that fungi play at every point.
Ultimately, fungi are critical to ecosystem success. They create multiple connections and perform multiple jobs, and are the third largest group of species in Australia (after invertebrates and microbes). Yet we know hardly anything about them, and the vast majority of funding for research and conservation goes to plants and animals, which make up just 7 per cent of Australia’s total species.
As land managers, we should be asking, what diversity of fungi are needed for healthy, functioning environments? What are the fungi in our environments and what jobs are they doing? How can we manage the soil to take the critical functions of fungi into account?
All these revelations were hunger-making, so we feasted on pizza, some with fungi toppings, before heading out into Burnley Gardens in search of lab samples. We fossicked about, particularly near fallen trees, and found some great fungi to examine.
Back in the lab, Sapphire gave us some tips on what to look for when identifying a fungus (e.g. spore prints), handy tools for the field, and good reference books. And then we got out the microscopes and spent some time examining the samples we collected. They definitely look a lot different up close!
On the whole it was an action-packed day and all of us who went along are very grateful to Bec White, who volunteered her time as lab technician so we could hold the workshop, and to Sapphire, who gave so generously of her knowledge and her infectious enthusiasm for the subject. The life of fungi, not quite as secret as before!
Thank you also to everyone who came along - we know it's a tricky time of semester for some. If you missed out or would like to learn more about fungi, we're planning to host a fungi walk in prime fungi season (Autumn) next year. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on that! In the meantime we encourage you to check out the resources on Fungi-Map; you can even get involved in a spot of crowd-sourced citizen science by submitting records of fungi you find.
WORDS: Kim Kitchen, PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
Last sunny Thursday, Andrew Smith, the brilliant Gardens Coordinator at Burnley, took a bunch of Horticultured members on a behind-the-scenes tour of the field station.
Armed with a stack of old photos, we discovered all about the history of the station, including its original purpose as a field nursery, trialling all kinds of fruit trees (220 pear varieties, 200ish apples, 70+ cherry varieties and a whole bunch of other delicious things!). We learnt about two large floods that wiped out the area, and that it is the oldest continually operating teaching garden of its kind in the world, staying operational throughout the two world wars.
Did you know that the centre of the field station gates aligns with the big Sequoia tree within the Burnley Gardens? Check it out next time you head out of the station. Or that there was once an avenue of Chinese Pistachios lining the central path?
Or that the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) had its origins right here at Burnley? The array of mismatched gardens along the top fence are the remains of the first student-designed-and-built display gardens, built for a garden show held for a few years in the late 1980s.
The area now taken over by Chris William’s edible forest was installed initially as a teaching area for hort students, complete with hedges and fruit trees for pruning practice. A number of the trees, like the citrus and stone fruit, still remain.
And that leaning row of pears, that confuses all of us? These have been grown as cordons, a method of training fruiting pears and apples, and borders this area along with the espaliered apples, albeit in a somewhat neglected form.
Those little huts? Green infrastructure research! That eucalypt forest? A research project on drought-tolerant species. That house? Previously a centre for school kids to come and learn all about alternative energy.
We learnt all of this and more, and it was a great way to spend an hour or so away from the books. Many thanks to Andrew for his time, knowledge and expertise.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
On yet another gloriously warm spring day, Horticultured ventured out to CERES, joined by Engineers Without Borders Unimelb. CERES Community Park is also known as the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (not Ceres the Roman agricultural goddess, or dwarf planet).
Their main goal is to promote environmental sustainability - something both of our clubs are highly interested in. CERES do this through a range of initiatives including community gardens, educational workshops on everything from beekeeping to kombucha making, renewable energy demonstrations, and developing and trialling new green technologies.
While there is heaps to see and do on the 9-acre site, the main activity of the day was a tour of the sustainable water initiatives with Nick the site manager. CERES harvest and manage water from their carpark, sealed roads, roofs and the broader catchment area. This water is used to water their organic farm, in the Merri Table cafe and in a dam supporting biodiversity.
Nick is directly involved in many of the projects and gave us a great understanding of not only what they are doing and why, but also the challenges.
One example is the permeable pavement which CERES have been investigating in conjunction with industry and university partners. While it looks great on paper - roads which allow water to filter through and reduce stormwater peaks and floods - the reality is expensive and hard to maintain. Without labour intensive management, permeable roads can quickly become impermeable.
Recently re-surfacing a main service road required CERES to align reality with their goals of environmental sustainability. The solution was a convention impermeable road made of partially recycled tar and printer cartridges, with features to direct most of the runoff to a dam.
CERES is a very valuable urban site for investigating new technologies. The opportunity afforded by 9 acres of land in an inner-city suburb, passionate employees and generous donors and partners is rare in a city of ever-increasing development and density.
One of the themes that surfaced in the tour was that CERES should be a model for the future and innovation, but short-term grant funding and harsh regulatory compliance meant that they continually rely on tried-and-tested solutions and technologies. If we are serious about addressing the problems presented by climate change and expanding populations perhaps we need to show a little more bravery.
Thank you Nick for being so generous with your knowledge while showing us the water-saving initiatives operating at CERES. We had a great time and learned lots from walking around the gardens with you.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
On a gorgeous sunny Sunday, Horticultured gathered once more to work on our gardens.
We mattock-ed, forked and dug our way through a dense mat of weeds in the area that is destined to become the perennial-ish section. While clearing weeds, path-making and mulching are not most people's favourite gardening activities (although using a mattock on kikuyu is exceptional for relieving stress), they are incredibly important for setting up a garden. Using a bobcat or weed-killer might have been quicker, but would have damaged the soil and precious biota we rely on to, you know, grow stuff.
We also took plenty of tea and cake breaks, and chatted like a house on fire.
It was great to see the perennials we transplanted a couple of weeks ago into the border settling in. The alpine strawberries seem to be thriving - some are already putting out fruit! The rhubarb and artichoke are a bit slower out of the blocks, but getting better.
At the end of the day, we had created a blank canvas ripe for planting. What would you like to see growing there? Do you have a flair for planting design, or maybe an Australian native food plant you have read about but never tried?
Come along to our next working bee and share your wildest hopes and dreams.
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
Spring is here, the weather is beaut, and we have a garden that needs tending- what a brilliant combination. On Saturday, also Burnley Open Day, Horticultured gathered for the first of many weekend working bees. The main task of the day was to clear the eastern edge and plant a perennial edible border of artichokes, rhubarb and alpine strawberries.
We started with a lawn and lots of hope. It was quite a formidable task, but many hands, forks and shovels make light work.
The kikuyu, clover and other assorted hard-to-kill weeds we removed will be used in an upcoming hot compost workshop. Unlike cold composting, this should produce enough heat to render the seeds and runners dead.
We inherited artichokes, rhubarb and alpine strawberries with the gardens. However, they all needed dividing and the artichokes were being out-competed by weeds.
Arranging the artichokes in a border will demonstrate that edibles can be pretty too. Although at the moment it all looks like a sea of mulch…
All three species have survived utter neglect and no irrigation over summer for a couple of years. With a bit of care they should thrive. We’re pretty excited, so watch this space!
We also weeded the flower border planted a couple of months ago. There’s lots of buds, and with the sunshine and warmth finally kicking in they are taking off. And we began a rosemary hedge, using leftover stock from the nursery. A future task will be propagating cuttings from the existing rosemary bush and finishing it.
There is also heaps of fennel growing, so if anyone likes fennel…feel free to take it. Please. There is too much.
The day was extremely satisfying and provided a welcome distraction from assignments. Thank you to all that made it, and especially Brett and Bridey our community gardens officers.
WORDS: Julianna Rozek, PHOTO: Barbara Lee
Have you ever wanted to know more about the trees around the Parkville campus? We did. So we organised a tour with the people who know them best - Virginia McInlay, arborist, and Andrew Gay, grounds supervisor, in the University’s Property and Campus Services.
We started off in the Systems Gardens with a brief introduction by Andrew, and then Virgina took us on a wander. There was no way we could visit all the trees (this time) but we did hear some fascinating stories and gain an understanding of the challenges in maintaining them.
Perhaps the most amazing trees were the remnant River Red Gums around the footy field, towards the colleges. None in the group had given them much thought before, or even ventured so far. But these trees have been around for 400 years, or more. They are the only remains of what used to be on the site before white settlers and professors roamed.
Thanks to Pete for organising it, and Virginia and Andrew for sharing.
Seed bombs are a necessary item in the arsenal of the guerrilla gardener - they are small balls of clay, compost and seeds which can be thrown into plant-deprived places, such as vacant blocks, neglected car park gardens or beside train tracks. Today we rolled up our sleeves and made a whole bunch of seed bombs containing seeds for edible flowers and companion plants.
Once all the seeds were rolled up into little bombs we put them into egg cartons to dry out. Once they are dry we'll hurl them into drab patches of dirt around the place (most of the seeds we chose flower best in full sun, so we'll try to find sunny spots). Then, we wait for it to rain - the rain will wet the organic matter, which will swell and force the bomb apart. The seeds will also soak up the rain and germinate into a lovely clay and compost soil. Hopefully in late spring and early summer the 'bomb site' will be filled with delightful flowers - keep an eye out for updates!
And then we had cupcakes and tea, I'd like to think that this is also an integral part of the guerrilla gardener lifestyle.
WORDS: Peter Lee, PHOTOS: Courtesy of Unimelb Science Student News
Horticultured held an awesome early spring herb planting workshop at the Parkville MUC Garden today, as part of the University of Melbourne's Science Festival.
From 12–2pm, we had two massive groups turn up for the herb planting workshops, around forty people altogether. The sessions were overbooked and hugely popular. Participants were treated to a demo planting of a mini herb garden, and then given a pot to play around with to try transplanting seedlings. At the end they could take home their very own herb starter garden!
With the hard sowing work done by Horticultured members in May, the seedlings looked great and after a rapid-fire lesson, the workshop groups were off and planting.
We had a great selection of herbs available and covered a few bases for most users. Workshop participants were given pamphlets describing the herbs and their culinary uses. Parsley, marjoram and chives were popular, and the Zataar also gained lots of interest, so we foresee there will be middle-eastern cooking nights coming up! Catnip was also a favourite.
Thanks to Pete, Julianna and Bec for running the workshop and giving great propagating advice!
If you missed out, don't worry, there are more great events on for Science Festival, check out the program here.
P.S. There's going to be an amazing panel on Greening Cities for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation at Burnley. Maybe we'll see you there!
WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
MUC and Horticultured have similar goals, so it was only a matter of time before we conspired together. On a not-too-cold Friday afternoon, members from both clubs gathered at the Burnley Nursery to give spring and summer vegetables a bit of a head start in a greenhouse.
While the end of winter is still too cold outside for most seeds to germinate – they’d prefer to wait for warmer and sunnier times – a greenhouse provides an environment conducive to growing. Particularly a fancy one set at optimum temperature, sunlight and humidity for seed sprouting like the ones at Burnley.
After a bit of discussion at the start about how many of what we should plant, and into what size pots (there are surprisingly many to choose from), the potting shed turned into a well-oiled planting machine. There were labels to be made (a critical and often neglected step of planting – how many times have you ended up with fifty mystery tomatoes, and only one capsicum?), punnets to be filled with seed raising mix (finer than regular potting soil, and with a bit less fertiliser), holes to be made with super-special dibblers (aka chopsticks) and seeds to be carefully dropped in and covered with a fine dusting of soil. Finally, all the trays had to be watered in gently ‘like rain’, so as not to disturb the seeds.
We planted Burnley Surecrop Tomatoes, which were actually developed at Burnley back in ye olde days, plus a rainbow of other tomatoes, sunflowers, a few capsicums and cucumbers, pumpkins and basil. They will go into the MUC and Horticultured gardens, and some will be sold at the Farmers Market.
We’ll keep you updated on their progress! Eventually they will need to be re-planted into bigger pots and moved to a brighter and less humid greenhouse to keep growing, so if you couldn’t make it this times, don't worry, you didn’t miss out on all the fun.
Because of the good turnout, we finished the seed planting early and had a bit of time to wander down to the Horticultured Community Gardens. We did some weeding (as always), put down more tanbark to keep the weeds down, installed a sign, AND DISCOVERED ASPARAGUS GROWING. Some of it was unintentionally blanched under a thick pile of mulch, but look at those big fat beauties!
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.