Farming Concrete is an initiative to measure and record data from gardens worldwide, allowing measurements of everything from produce harvested to happiness levels and producing reports that clearly display the benefits of these gardens.
We know that MUC garden has innumerable benefits, but recording these allows us to quantify them and really see the impact that it has on the environment and the community. We also hope that recording this data will make it easier for future community gardens to get established by raising awareness of their positive impacts.
Anyone can access our data, by visiting the 'Mill'.
1. Access the Farming Concrete website via this link.
2. Scroll down to "DOWNLOAD DATA'
3. In the 'Groups' box select 'Melbourne Uni Community Gardens.
3. The search results will look something like this:
4. Use the tabs at the top to see the different data that has been recorded (we are currently recording 'harvest count' and 'landfill waste diversion by weight').
Alternatively, you can create your own account here and add the MUC garden to your personal account. This will allow you to download detailed data that we have uploaded.
Once you've made an account, follow these instructions:
1. Under the 'Barn' tab, scroll down and MUC garden should be listed under 'Your Gardens'. Click 'add data' to access it.
2. Under the garden's page, you will be able to see all data we have collected. Please don't add your own data - we will record this at the garden and add it collectively. If you would like to be involved with data collection and recording for the garden as a whole, please get in touch!
3. Click 'add data' next to a topic you are interested in, for example 'landfill waste diversion by weight'. Not all categories will have data available. On the right of the page, click 'download data' to open an Excel spreadsheet, or click 'download report' to download a report automatically formulated by the Farming Concrete website.
4. There you have it! We will endeavour to put a monthly report up at the garden, so keep an eye out for it.
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 & 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.
We process a LOT of compost at the MUC Garden, which is great! It reduces waste, and is key to the health of our garden beds. We have three compost bins as well as a worm farm, and they all receive scraps not only from our garden, but from individuals and many staff kitchens around campus. We are really grateful that people take the time to drop off their scraps, and are thrilled that we can contribute to waste reduction on campus. All of this does require a bit of management though, and this post will cover how we make it happen!
The first consideration with composting in a busy urban location like the university is making sure the area looks good, isn't smelly and doesn't attract pests. Until recently, our compost area was temporarily constructed from pallets and lattice, which worked fine but wasn't super aesthetically pleasing. We are therefore very happy that the university recently constructed a new fence for us, seen below! It looks great and hides the unsightly (to most) compost bins - tick and tick!
To reduce smell and the likelihood of attracting pests, we only use enclosed compost bins. We try and make sure nothing too smelly ends up in the bins, which we'll get into in a minute! We also have to be very diligent about ensuring that enough carbon rich materials are added to the compost to balance out the large amounts of smelly nitrogen rich materials (i.e. the veggies and fruits). We do this by adding leaves, cardboard and more recently, coffee chaff! See our earlier post for info on how we source our coffee chaff and how awesomely sustainable it is.
To ensure our system operates effectively and doesn't smell, it's important that the right things go in the right bins! Signage is key here. We have signs informing people of what is suitable to compost and what is not, e.g. meat is no good as it smells! The worm farm has its own set of instructions, to make sure our little friends don't get smothered in the wrong foods. We also have signs on either side of each compost bin, one for 'fill me' and one for 'resting' (see the illustration below by our creative talent Leila). Once a bin is full, we simply rotate the whole thing around so that the 'resting' sign is facing outwards. Works a treat!
Finally, there's no way around it: we have to work at it! As you may have noticed from our previous blogs, every working bee involves turning the compost, either with an aerator or a shovel. The volunteers also periodically drop in during the week to give the compost a quick turn and check if we need to switch to a new bin.
Composting is such a rewarding thing to do, and we're glad we can produce this nutrient rich product right in the middle of our campus.
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.