Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Food swap group fertile ground for kitchen garden ideas

A group of keen Heathcote gardeners has been holding workshops and excursions to improve their vegie growing skills in the face of challenging climatic conditions.

BARBARA SUNGAILA April 3, 2014 4:10am

The Heathcote food swap group is two years old and still going strong.

One of the founding members, Mark Hooke, said there had been some demographic shifts due to people moving to and from the district, and the weather had changed.

‘‘The cliché of heaps of zucchinis and tomatoes hasn’t eventuated this year,’’ he said.

The group’s members all value the chance to share produce and knowledge.

Liz Murfitt said the current prolonged dry spell had created new challenges for members.

‘‘Things that were flourishing are now struggling,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s interesting to see how what works in one area doesn’t in another.

‘‘And people who live in town know they’re always going to have water.’’

Linda Cornelissen said growing fresh vegetables was important, but difficult in current conditions.

‘‘Being able to get together over the summer we’ve just had has been great because we give each other support,’’ she said.

‘‘We also get propagating material from each other.’’

Mark said the group was not just about food, but about food production.

They have been producing a database of foraging opportunities in the district so that fruit from roadside trees, for example, does not go to waste.

Linda said trying to find what was available was not easy but there were old apple and quince trees which members had identified.

The group held a weed workshop and visited Ceres Environment Park in East Brunswick, as well as the Newstead Community Garden.

Skills, such as grafting, have been shared and members have visited each other’s gardens.

Liz said they did not just share produce.

‘‘There have been jams, pony poo and other items, such as worm castings and twine,’’ she said.

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