Dear Diggers (Festive Gardens 2014)

Contributions and feedback from our readers following the Festive Gardens 2014 issue.

The fruits of Helen and Graham's labours in Scone, NSW

The fruits of our labours

Since ceasing to dairy we made the decision to stay on the farm! We built our proposed, purpose-built B&B in 2002. Since we have welcomed guests from all over the world. Enjoyed family and travel guests and gardening! Our garden mantra is 'fill it up' (so no room for weeds, or hopefully fewer!).

Our planting regime: Plant in autumn so hopefully plants are rooted (to survive their first summer). We don't grow frost tender ones, there are so many others! We plant/surround with wet newspaper/mulch and then water. We try to make them independent of watering, but sometimes we have to give a helping hand! My husband has built awesome stone walls with rocks picked up from the property! Most plants have thrived, some have gone to God (not survivors?)! Lavender is just amazing! Needs regular pruning and wants to bloom year round.

Graham has a very productive vegie patch! Helen loves to cook! Guests love fresh! So for many their first taste of fresh asparagus, strawberries, spinach, etc. (picked 5 minutes ago). One guest wanted to “see a fig growing”. She had never experienced that. She picked one and held it like a nugget of gold. Incredible.

Recently purchased Eryngium Sea Holly, oh, what a JOY! Thriving (now have 30! Just pick and pick (and it dries too). Iridescent purple-blue stems! Just an amazing plant! The plant in the foreground (above) is Prostrate Rosemary ‘Irene’. Blooms every time it rains. Spilling over the rock wall, it's just what the Dr. ordered! Prune annually!

P.S. Are long term Diggers! Have visited Heronswood, St Erth, Adelaide, and recently Cloudehill. Australia certainly is "The Lucky Country", let's make it beautiful!

Helen W

Climate change clamour

In response to 'Publishing Tim Flannery's lies', Spring Garden 2014

Dear Diggers, I enjoy reading Diggers magazines but I was very disappointed that in the Spring Garden 2014 magazine you published a letter from a climate change denier.

The spread of these dangerous ideas is already well funded by vested interests (with the purpose of muddying people's understanding of climate change) and there is nothing scientific about it. Will you also be giving space to other conspiracy theorists? Maybe we can hear about how aliens leave crop circles in lawns? That would be less dangerous than climate change denial is.

Kind regards, Anna

Dear Clive

You are right to point out the greenhouse gas polluting effects of motor cars (The Diggers Club Spring Garden 2014) and that much more should be done to ensure that the Australian motor vehicle fleet, and particularly passenger motor vehicles, are not greenhouse gas polluting. There is also an increasing threat to the natural environment of the irreplaceable Mornington Peninsula, where Heronswood is located, due to increased motor car use in the area. The Peninsula Link is pouring more and more cars onto the Peninsula every day.

There is now talk of extending the freeway to reduce motor car traffic on Point Nepean Road. If this occurs it will suck even more motor car traffic onto the Peninsula which will precipitate greater demand for local road space and parking facilities. No effort has been made by successive Victorian governments to increase the number of trips that could be taken to and on the Mornington Peninsula by public transport and by active transport (cycling and walking) rather than by motor car.

In the meantime the only route bus service between Frankston and Portsea in the Point Nepean Road area, the 788, provides a mediocre 45 minute service frequency on weekdays and an even worse 75 minute service frequency on weekends. We ignore at our peril this threat to the natural environment of the Mornington Peninsula. Please keep up your campaigning on the environment generally and on the ever growing threat of anthropogenic global warming in particular.

Ian H

Dear Diggers, Peter C’s letter ‘Publishing Tim Flannery’s lies’ needs to be totally refuted for the rubbish that it is. For starters whether or not you agree with Tim Flannery he is not lying and if Peter C had a decent argument he would not start it with a baseless accusation. Secondly, Peter C has no idea how to interpret data and absolutely no concept of time. He says “there has been a slow decline over the millennia from about 8000ppm”.

The wiki ‘Carbon Dioxide in the Earth’s Atmosphere’ details ice core samples which indicate we had levels of over 3000ppm 200 and 150 million years ago. A millennia is one thousand years not one million years so Peter C’s scale is not out by a ‘mere’ 200,000 years; it is out by 200,000 times! That’s the equivalent of believing the pyramids were built last week.

The fact is CO2 levels were last at current levels 3 million years ago. Folks that’s 2.8 million years before man first appeared. The sorts of CO2 levels Peter C is talking about have not been in earth’s atmosphere in the time of mammals and probably not even in the time of land plants. Certainly there were no tomatoes and nothing to eat them!

John B

Dear Editor, I picked up my Spring edition with great anticipation, looking for gardening inspiration and motivation as the season changes. To my horror the first thing I read was the letter from Peter C!

I put the magazine down and stewed on the sort of misinformation that the letter contained and what to do about it. Today I finally sat down to write to you and set the record straight that far from being discredited, the climate change is accelerating according to all the indices I am aware of. The point I wanted to make in my letter was that there are not two sides to this argument, the current technical and scientific paradigm is that anthropogenic climate change is caused by increasing levels of GHGs in the atmosphere, etc, etc. And that the real debate is about what we can and should do about it and how quickly we should act.

I resolutely opened the magazine just now to re-read Peter’s letter and then saw Clive Blazey’s wonderful reply – had I seen that earlier in the week, I could have saved myself so much despair! Please thank Clive for me.

Best regards, Meera V

Pushing your views onto your customers

Dear Diggers

As a Diggers member I have recently been mulling over whether to renew my membership. This has not been due to your product but rather the political comments, jibes and bias that does not do credit to your image.

You should not assume that because people like your product that they wholeheartedly agree with your politics as has been evidenced by three letters, ‘I am not an ignorant farmer’ – Linda C, ‘Give Tony a break’ – Janelle and ‘Tim Flannery's lies’ –Peter C.

You have a good product and perhaps you should consider concentrating on that rather than trying to push your political views on your customers.

With reference to your rather condescending reply to Peter C, you mention that you follow the views of 90% of scientists. Galileo, when he attempted to introduce heliocentrism (the planets all orbit around the sun and not around the earth), was at odds with 99% of the world's scientists and spent the rest of his life under house arrest for his beliefs. As time has shown he was right and 99% of those scientists were wrong.

Tony C

Getting up RACV's nose on car pollution

Dear Clive

RACV takes its commitment to the environment very seriously. We provide information and advice to our 2.1 members and the general public on environmental matters and we continue to develop and adopt appropriate environmental standards in a wide range of our own activities as can be found at. RACV is committed to ensure it is environmentally responsible in the conduct of its business, both through its RACV Environmental Management Framework and its Corporate Plan objectives. The RACV Environmental Management Framework includes objectives that:

♦ advocate to encourage more environmentally sustainable transport
♦ assists members to reduce their environmental impact
♦ ensures that RACV is environmentally responsible in the conduct of its business
♦ assists the wider community to help the environment.

Key Activities

RACV remains a leader in promoting electric and low emission vehicles to members and the community. In September 2013, we launched the largest Australian trial of electric vehicles for a business fleet in partnership with the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS). Eight electric vehicles are being trialled by RDNS for two years to test the viability of these vehicles as part of the metropolitan fleet. As RACV's Major Community Partner, the RDNS electric vehicle trial complements the work RACV is doing in sustainable motoring, including raising public awareness, understanding and acceptance of electric vehicles.

This works in conjunction with RACV being a premier partner of the Victorian Government's 4-year Electric Vehicle Trial, concluding in 2014 with the release of the Final Report.  Thus far, the Trial has met its primary objective to help Victorians better understand the process, timelines and barriers for transitioning to electric vehicles. With RACV's involvement, the Trial has delivered:

♦ Online ballots and surveys yielding more than 8,500 household applications from which 120 households were selected to “trial” an electric vehicle for three month periods;
♦ Extensive promotion and reporting of the Trial’s progress in RoyalAuto, InRoads and RACV website;
♦ Participation in the EV Fleet Trial incorporating evaluations of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissa LEAF, Toyota Plug-In Prius and Holden Volt;
♦ Activities that complement RACV's existing relationships with Club Assist (i.e. installation of five charging stations and promotion of the RACV-branded mobile EV charging trailer).
♦ An Electric Vehicles’ Environmental Impact Report outlining a detailed investigation into the environmental impacts of electric vehicles (EVs) in Victoria.

RACV has also raised awareness of low-emission vehicles through our Green Wheels initiative in partnership with Future Climate Australia. The Green Wheels website (www.greenwheels.com.au) provides a Buyers Guide and Fleet Calculator to compare vehicles by class according to greenhouse emissions.

Since 2010, more than seven RACV Drive Day events have provided more than 10,000 members and the community the opportunity to learn how easy it is to switch to a low-emission vehicle through complementary test drives, talks and information displays. At the most recent RACV Energy Breakthrough event in Maryborough, attendees were provided with the opportunity to test drive energy efficient cars from Mitsubishi, Nissan, Holden, Toyota, and Renault, with one person alerting RACV they subsequently purchased an electric car. We also launched new-look teacher resource packs at the event so students and teachers can continue learning about new low-emission vehicles. RACV's view on sustainable future motoring is that it will comprise a suite of different engine technologies and fuel types (not just electric cars) combined with behaviour change programs (e.g. eco-driving, car sharing).

RACV also participated in the launch of Victoria’s first public electric vehicle ‘fast charge’ stations located at Swinburne University of Technology’s Hawthorn campus and the Moreland Civic Centre in Coburg, complimenting Victoria’s expanding charge station network including those located at RACV City Club, Healesville, Noble Park and Torquay sites. The fast charge stations mark a significant advancement for electric vehicles, reducing the time to charge a car from eight hours to as little as 30 minutes. Data gathered on the use of these stations is helping to inform RACV about future installations and other electric vehicle services.

RACV provided comment on Victoria's proposed Environment Protection (Vehicle Emissions) Regulations 2013 released by EPA Victoria and the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. RACV's submission supported the Regulations as well as EPA's current positioning not to favour mechanism for a ‘mandatory maintenance program’ that would add to motorist costs who do not contribute heavily to pollution. It also supported EPA's position not to include a ‘vapour recovery system’, the costs of which would be passed to motorists through increased fuel costs.

RACV is also a sponsor of the Aurora Vehicle Association, a non-profit group of volunteers dedicated to promoting sustainable mobility and best known for building and demonstrating true zero emissions solar powered vehicles, one of which, the Aurora Evolution, winning the GoPro Adventure Class of the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

RACV is a Premium Partner of Cars of Tomorrow, an annual conference which focuses on challenges facing Australia's vehicle manufacturing capability and included high-level speakers with international experiences. At the most recent conference, RACV presented and displayed the work it is doing in the future mobility space and also hosted a post-conference workshop to identify a pathway forward for the sustainable transition of the Australian automotive industry that aligns with member value and AAA policies.

Our resorts continue to provide opportunities for us to promote environmental sustainability. The Nissan Leaf electric car that we offered as a trial courtesy car to guests at our Inverloch, Healesville, Cape Schanck, Torquay, Noosa and Royal Pines resorts proved a hit with resort visitors, staff and the local communities and helped to inform the Victorian Government as part of the Electric Vehicle Trial.

RACV collaborated with the Barwon Regional Waste Management Group and EPA Victoria in 2014 to launch a summer roadside litter campaign at the RACV Torquay Resort. The Campaign will educate and help motorists reduce their environmental impacts, especially in regional areas.

RACV's Royal Pines boosted its environmental reputation with its achievement of the first Silver EarthCheck Certification for a golf course and resort in the Asia Pacific, following on from its bronze achievement last year. Our Noosa resort's bronze certification was reconfirmed in an annual audit. The certifications recognise consistent and resort- wide commitment to sustainability and energy conservation. EarthCheck is the world's leading sustainable environmental benchmarking and certification program for the hospitality sector, with a rigorous process that validated the hard work of our Royal Pines and Noosa Resort staff.

Building on RACV's Waste Wise status, worm farms were launched at our Cape Schanck, Inverloch, Torquay, City Club and head office locations. Staff have enthusiastically embraced them, helping us avoid food waste to landfill, reduce emissions and promote environmental responsibility to members and guests.

More information on our environmental programs and activities (including RACV’s Fuel Saving Tips, and impacts of motoring on the environment), can be found at www.racv.com.au

Poison bales create toxic compost!

Dear Clive, I contacted you re hay bales that I tried to grow potatoes and tomatoes in, only to discover that they were poisoned. The QLD Government took samples and analysed for chemicals. The bales were indeed poisoned. The levels of clopyralid and picloram are especially high. Aminopyralid possibly was also present, as symptoms of plants indicated. The threshold of toxicity which is < ppb (parts per billion).

This part of our food garden will now be toxic for years. I have yet to decide how to deal with this, given that soil below the bales is also contaminated. I will probably burn the mess and try to chelate the soils.

This has become a global problem. Note that composting does not degrade the herbicides (at least for a very long time). They can also become bioconcentrated in manure of animals fed straw. This will be a potential problem with all grass-derived straws (oats, wheat stubble, sugar cane) but not pea straw as the herbicides would be toxic to the peas.

It would be useful if you could add some weight to alerting organic gardeners. I am not the first to be affected.

Best wishes, Dr Susan Quinnell
Aquatic Ecosystems Research

Diggers' CEO Tim Sansom talks about crowd-sourced vegetable pictures

Recently we saw an email from a local online seed vendor asking for members of the public to send in pictures of vegetables so they could be used on their website shopping cart.

A simple request with a nice crowd-sourcing story it would appear. But if you dig a little deeper this represents a concerning trend in the seed trade where seed is being offered to the public that is not trialled and tested as true-to-type or with any practical experience with the varieties that are being sold.

For more than twenty years Diggers has been trialling and photographing heirloom vegetables in our display and trial gardens. All of the growing information we provide online and in our magazines is based on our own experience, so we can be confident that gardeners are getting what they expect and can trust the information on spacing, yield, climatic suitability and timings. Sourcing pictures from unverified sources can only further degenerate the lack of good knowledge available to Australian gardeners.

Back to the gardening

Dear Clive, I have been a member and keen purchaser from Diggers for a few years now and love the heritage veg seeds, fruit and perennials.

Just a note on the paragraph pg.26 of Spring Garden 2014, re permaculture not art. I have created a permaculture garden and run workshops to help people get started. I did my Permaculture Design Certificate with Milkwood Permaculture and have to say that “keeping it beautiful” is part of the teaching. I encourage an ornamental garden as well, it doesn't have to be either/or and is important to have diversity with shrubs and perennials.

Let's face it, if your garden doesn't make you love being in it, you won't. My garden is open as part of the Bathurst Spring Spectacular in October to show what you can have in a normal backyard.

Karen G

Keep having a go at Tony!

Dear Diggers, I was amused to see Janelle's letter in the Spring Garden magazine claiming you should give Tony Abbott a break or you risk alienating your customers! I disagree completely! I've been a member of The Diggers Club whenever I've had a bit of land to grow things in, and it's not just for the seeds, it's for the shared commitment to our environment.

Tony Abbott leads a government that in just a year has reversed so many environmental measures that his government could well be seen as the biggest environmental vandals in Australian history. The RET is gone. The price on carbon is gone. Key environmental bodies axed and the CSIRO's funding slashed. Pushing to have World Heritage listing of Tassie forests revoked. The Great Barrier Reef to be damaged by coal mining. National environmental powers handed to the states – who can now green light potentially environmentally damaging energy projects in just ten days.

Please, keep having a go at Tony. The power of politicians to shape the future of our country's – and the world's – environment means it is a vital and necessary thing for all of us to hold them to account.

Best wishes, Rebekka P

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Spring 2014

St Arnaud's Pumpkin pageant and feedback on Tim Flannery's lecture.

Spring 2015

Feedback on Diggers selling heirlooms into Bunnings.

Spring 2016

Read what our members had to say in Dear Diggers, Spring Garden 2016

Spring Food Garden 2018

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Summer 2015

A wildflower waterfront and an organic garden scheme in Germany.

Summer 2016

On success with seeds, edible landscapes and more!

Summer Garden 2018

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SUMMER GARDEN 2019

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