Republic of Moreland

June 5, 2007

The grass is always greener

Filed under: Brunswick,Coburg,environment,food,gardening,gardens,mischief,neighbours — Faithh @ 11:11 am

As promised, oh so long ago, I took some photos of revegetated nature strips I’ve stumbled across (sometimes literally). There are actually a lot more than I was expecting, once I started looking for them, so I’ve created a spot for them on flickr. This also means others will also be able to upload any photos they have that they think are worth sharing. If you go to http://www.flickr.com/groups/republicofmoreland/ you can see the ones I’ve uploaded, upload your own, and also start other topics relevant to the greater Republic of Moreland. Of course what we really need is some photos of guerilla planting in action!

What I can show you right now is my own first tentative steps in nature strip revegetation. Our street doesn’t actually have nature strips, just some holes in the asphalt where the council planted trees several years ago. Discussions with the neighbours reveal that almost every tree without exception was trashed by, well, they got a bit vague at this point, but it finally came out that it would have been by their sons and friends. The sons are now older and I think even they would look down their noses at tree trashing these days. One neighbour has planted an olive and donated one to me so I have supplemented it with some grasses from my front garden. I plan to imperceptibly extend the boundaries of my ‘nature strip’ until the breadth of our house has been ‘greened’ without anyone having really noticed it. I’ve also promised another neighbour that if she provides a tree I will plant it and then provide all the grasses she needs from my garden. If you are interested in Moreland’s Naturestrip Beautification Guidelines (!) you can download them from here.
its a beginning

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May 25, 2007

How Exxon-Mobil and the Howard government meddled with my backyard

Filed under: Backyard experiment,gardening,gardens,politics,urban farming — Kath @ 10:40 am

Somehow I doubt the Howard government’s $23 million advertising blitz to try and persuade Australians that the government is tackling global warming is going to wash with my apple tree. Without losing its leaves, it has started blossoming. That’s right: my apple tree thinks it’s spring.

Pictured above is a branch from my plum tree, against this morning’s newspaper. That’s right: it’s started blossoming, too! Despite the carbon lobbyists’ campaigns, it too thinks it’s spring. It’ll get a rude shock when winter finally does arrive, and all that energy will be wasted. I wonder if it will fruit at all. I wonder when I can take cuttings to graft, since the plants’ hormones are so out of whack.

Just as I was gearing up to the miserable end of my summer vegie patch, just as I contemplated building a hothouse, I get a whole new bumper crop of tomatoes. In autumn. It’s almost mid-year, almost winter, and I’m still picking summer produce. I’ve still got lettuces, broccholi and beans in force.

I should be overjoyed, of course. With climate change, as The Age reported this morning, autumn is the new spring. With record temperature rises:

Normally flowering in the hottest months of summer, they are blooming with profusion right now.

Experts say temperature changes are reducing the difference between seasons, sending many plant varieties into a spin.

Melbourne is heading for a record warm May as the average maximum temperature hovers at 20 degrees, significantly higher than the historic monthly average of 16.7 degrees.

We can expect to enjoy longer vegie seasons with global warming. But we can expect the downside, too: extreme weather and very confused plants. The warmer weather is also bringing unseasonal fungi and insects into our backyards. Just last week I cut a budding citrus-wasp nest out of my lime tree. They’re suppossed to happen around September.

My nectarine tree hasn’t even started losing its leaves. My nashi tree, peach tree and grape vines haven’t lost theirs.

I’m really interested in how these weather patterns are affecting back yards, so I’d be grateful if anyone visiting would record their experiences in the comments.

May 21, 2007

Solar info for Morelanders

Filed under: architecture,environment,gardens,notices — Kath @ 7:14 pm

These pictures are for Faith, who asked about integrating roof gardens and solar panels.

There’s a site which explains about integration of green roofs and solar panels here.

Faith also alerted me to the Moreland Energy Foundation‘s solar power information session on 31 May.

The sesssion will cover:

  • Information on solar power technology
  • Displays of solar paneles and hot water systems
  • Information on prices for various systems
  • An opportunity to register interest in group discounts for people living in the same area.
  • May 13, 2007

    Revegetating our nature strips

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    • Revegetated nature strip in Rennie Street, Coburg.

    Fanged if I can figure why urban councils don’t encourage nature-strip vegetation (other than lawn and maybe a single tree). After all, it’s in their best interests.

    The Age reports that “big leafy trees can often add more value to a house than an expensive renovation”, and that “Real estate agents agree that a good streetscape can add 30 per cent to the price of a property.”

    There’s nothing to suggest this isn’t true of understory vegetation too. The Age also reports that

    Houses in and around Separation Street, Northcote, used to overlook a municipal tip until the council transformed the site into All Nations Park, he says. Not surprisingly, values soared.

    “Property values went up overnight by 20 to 30 per cent,” Mr Valentic says.

    The reason is obvious. As Michael Pollan has written, it seems we’re hard-wired to enjoy a pastoral sensibility that lies in that comfort zone between nature and culture. (Where in that zone your comfort range falls is probably cultural and generational: my elderly Italian neighbours on one side and my middle-age Lebanese neighbours on the other prioritise pavers, stones and cement over living landscape.)

    In light of current urban planning values, lawns are as outmoded as the Cyprus hedge.

    • most residents use fossil fuel to mow lawns
    • lawns are high-maintenance
    • exotic lawn grasses seed competitive weeds on our creek banks
    • you get better stormwater and weed management from a bush garden than a strip of lawn

    There are some very inspirational native nature-strips around Westgarth, and some orchard strips as well. I was intrigued by a link provided by Marty in his comment about an earlier post on urban farming. He linked to a site discussing the philosophy and practice of guerrilla gardening (or ‘green graffiti’). I’m scheming a bit of guerrilla gardening myself. My Loquat tree spawned hundreds of baby trees this summer, and I’m nursing them to replanting stage. I’m going to target specific bare nature-strip sites around Coburg and plant them at the end of winter. Hopefully people will leave them to grow and fruit, so Coburg can enjoy the Victory garden philosophy. I shall document my endeavours: watch this space.

    May 10, 2007

    Green roofs could make more land in Moreland

    This is what I’d like to see more of in residential Moreland:

    And, in our light industrial areas, this:

    A brand new gallery of photographs of green roofs from around the world is on the Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities website. Just follow the links to the photo gallery.

    April 16, 2007

    Backyard experiment #3: cheap green roof

    I’ve started a garden on my rooftop: a very simple and cheap one. I picked up some large rectangular plastic containers from the hardware ($12 each) and drilled holes in the bottom. I chucked them on the north-facing lean-to roof and then lay Hydrocell in the bottom of the containers and cow poo (from Andrew’s Stock Feed in Sydney Rd) and soil up the sides. Inside the north side of the containers, where the sun hits the black plastic, I put more Hydrocell to act as an insulator. Then I planted a fruit vine in each: passionfruit and kiwi-fruit. I’ll lay some lightweight weldmesh on the roof at some stage: by summer I’m hoping the roof will be a facade of green. Not just beautiful, but a great thermal insulator, and good for the city environment, too, as it reduces the heat-island effect. I shouldn’t need to water them over winter, and the hydrocell should allow for minimal watering in other seasons. Fingers crossed.

    That’s not my green roof pictured above: that’s a living wall. You can find out much more about living walls and green roofs in Australia by joining Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities. One of its board members, the lovely Sidonie Carpenter (who took this picture), is on a travelling fellowship to study green roofs and living walls around SE Asia and north America. Here are some of her pics:

    Getty Centre, LA

    Botanic Gardens, Singapore:

    School of Art and Design, Singapore:

    You can see more of Sidonie’s pics here, and find out more about Green Roofs in Australia here.

    February 12, 2007

    Backyard experiment


    With Hydrocell, watered twice weekly


    Without Hydrocell, watered twice weekly (more…)

    February 10, 2007

    Bird-busters wanted

    Filed under: Birds,environment,gardens,urban farming — Kath @ 10:00 pm

    I need advice. Since planting my vegies, putting in a couple of ponds and installing a seed-feeder for the chooks, my garden has become the bird hub of Coburg. By the hundreds the little shites are eating the chook-food, the tomatoes and the figs, and making a goddam mess of the garden with their carryings-on. They’re digging up my seedlings, tossing earth out of the beds and making my vegies and fruit trees root-bare. Little One and I made an alarming Mrs Scarecrow and mantled her in the chook pen, and they laughed at me. I tried hanging Little One’s sterner-looking Bert from the shed roof, no change. Someone suggested hanging CDs from the trees: a good call, as I’ve been pondering ways to deal with Bloke on The Avenue’s Skinny Puppy albums. But I tried suspending a few CDs, and while I think they’ve had marginal effect on blackbirds and sparrows, they’ve been ignored by the doves, crows and miner birds. I also fear they’ll scare off native songbirds. Help.

    February 6, 2007

    Rally to save Coburg parklands

    Filed under: Coburg,events,gardens,notices,politics,urban planning — Kath @ 4:57 pm

    The Merri and Edgar’s Creek Parkland Group is holding a public rally next Tuesday 13 February, to stop the sale of public parkland in Coburg into private hands. It’s on the steps of Parliament, so those working in town could perhaps take an early lunchbreak. The MECPG says: (more…)

    January 28, 2007

    Why Moreland Council should invest in groofs

    I had the good fortune recently to meet an urban planning graduate from RMIT, Ben Nicholson. I had the further good fortune to read his elegant thesis about Melbourne’s ‘groofs’. Urban rooftop gardens reduce our environmental footprint in so many ways, but more than that, they’re bringing new ecologies, aesthetics and social behaviours into cities. They’re even reducing urban management problems. And they’re profitable! Not so much in Melbourne: we’re woefuly behind the rest of the world in the green roofs movement. (more…)

    January 16, 2007

    New ways with water


    Can you guess what these are? A hint: they’re not marital aids. They are in fact the one device. This device is very interesting in light of the argument that currrent water restrictions, which target individuals (residents), are systemically unfair. (more…)

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