Community Funded Solar Project in WA

Transition Town Guildford and its members have been fund raising for Citizen’s Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA) for over a year now, collectively contributing over $1,100 towards various projects during this time.

We were very excited to learn that CORENA’s next project is in WA: the Nannup Community Resource Centre is next in line for a 10kW solar PV system, and it won’t cost them a cent. TT Guildford has already chipped in towards this project, including $50 raised at our monthly movie night this week. We invite you to chip in too, which you can do here.

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CORENA (Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia Inc.) provides interest-free loans of up to $20,000 to pay for community projects consisting of solar PV installations and energy efficiency measures for non-profit organisations. Recipient organisations pay back the loan just out of the resultant savings on their power bills, generally within 5 years. After that, the organisation continues to enjoy lower power bills for another 20-25 years, meaning more of their funds will be available to spend on valued community services.

Loan repayments from CORENA’s first 4 projects help to fund the Nannup solar PV installation, and the rest of the funds will be sourced from donations from people all over Australia, not just the Nannup area. TT Guildford is proud to be a contributor. Loan repayments from the Nannup CRC project will feed back into CORENA’s revolving funding pool to help fund future Quick Win solar projects. Once around 20 community funded solar projects have been completed, the funds in the revolving pool will be sufficient to continue funding one new project every month, forever, without needing any more donations.

CORENA is a non-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers. CORENA has raised over $57,000 to provide interest-free loans for solar power to non-profit community organisations in all parts of Australia. Over 40kW of solar PV capacity have already been installed, saving each of the respective community organisations thousands of dollars that are now available to serve the local community. Nannup CRC is CORENA’s 5th project.

We invite you to join us in chiping in to help fund the Nannup solar project. This will greatly reduce carbon emissions, not just for Nannup CRC but also for other non-profit organisations as your contribution revolves forward to help fund future CORENA projects, and that is something that benefits everyone.  For more details and to chip in, see http://corenafund.org.au/quick-win-projects/

Winter garden workshop 22 March

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On a perfect Sunday afternoon we gathered under the trees at Peter and Jane’s place to discuss all things winter gardens. There was a great turnout of eager green thumbs looking to learn some tips and tricks for garden prosperity in the cooler months!

Laura (my wife) took us through the basics of building a resilient garden – lessons that are relevant for all seasons.

The fundamental building block for a successful garden is good soil. Cakey, dark, rich soil, black as midnight on a moonless night. If you’re starting with soil that has a high clay content, your path to the holy grail of great soil is a bit easier than for those of us who have sandy soils. See the tips section at the bottom of this post for some sure-fire tips.

We then looked at what to plant. The diggers calendar is a great resource here – this provides advice on what to plant when across all of the basic plant groups. The winter staples are root vegetables, brassicas, alliums (onion family), legumes and spinach. But we’re lucky in Perth – our mild, frostless winters can support a broader range of plants than these traditional items. For example, Laura and I established tomatoes over winter last year and enjoyed a nice yield of tomatoes at the start of spring. There are some exceptions to this though – in particular, winter tends to be too cold to grow any vines as they need pretty hot weather.

Next we learnt about establishing and raising your seeds and seedlings. Now that the weather has cooled, it’s time to get your seeds in the ground, or to buy seedlings from a trusted source.

If you’re planting from seed, read the instructions on the packet regarding the depth of planting and distance between plants. The general rule of thumb is to plant the seed 2x its height below the soil. Make up a soil mixture using coir (a coconut fibre available in nurseries), or some regular soil. We use snail bait as we haven’t found a reliable organic equivalent. Leave the soil mixture with the planted seeds in a warm place to ensure sufficient sunlight but not too much to dry out the seeds. Water lightly every second day – we use the green micro nozzles on a 1.25L bottle to provide a light watering.

After a week or two (depending on the seed germination time), you should start to see some seeds sprouting. Don’t be alarmed if you get more misses than hits – we expect about a 50 per cent success rate when we plant seeds. Move seedlings into your garden bed when the “true” leaves appear (usually the second set of leaves) – these are the first leaves than can properly photosynthesise sunlight so your little plant needs them to fend for itself in the big wide world. Even in cooler weather, we put some mulch (pea straw mulch is perfect) around the base of the seedlings, leaving about an inch between the mulch and the stalk to ensure there isn’t any rotting.

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The second half of the session was the hands-on part, with Peter cajoling us into planting his garden up for him! Peter expertly showed us his forking method for arranging compost across the beds and preparing the soil for planting. He also showed some handy tools, including a wooden stake that creates perfect divots for seeds and enables the stealthy gardener to fend off attacks from approaching vampires.

This was the first Kitchen Gardener’s workshop for Laura and I, and we had a great time! Looking forward to more fun, informative afternoons.

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Tips and tricks for your soil

Maintain a balance of sand and clay

  • If your soil is clay-based you probably need to add gypsum to help break it down, and sand to assist with drainage.
  • If your soil is sandy, add clay. There are a number of good options here. The cheapest is bentonite (clumping kitty litter) but we’ve had better results with sand remedies like Sand to Soil.

Add Zeolite/zeochlor to help your soil retain nutrients.

  • This product is a pool filtering material and can be found in pool shops. It is great for holding nutrients in your soil – a boost for sandy soil in particular.

Keep your soil happy

  • Set up a compost bin. Great way to get rid of scraps, although it is tricky to get your compost right. The next workshop will help with that!
  • Bokashi bins are another option. This is a product that enables composting of vegetable and other food scraps in a bucket. A powder is used to “pickle” the scraps and when the bucket is full it can be buried a foot or so under your garden bed. We have had fantastic results with this compost.
  • Mulch is essential in Perth. Pea straw is a great option as it has nitrogen in it. Green mulch is also a good option for winter to restore nutrients and limit weeds in beds. In spring cut plants off at base and spread over garden.
  • Manure / dynamic lifter are important but only in limited amounts. Slow release fertilisers are great products. We usually use animal poo around fruit trees at the start of each season.
  • Seasol is a great organic booster – the red bottle is much more nutrient dense.

Some things to try

  • Wicking beds are a fantastic idea and we can’t wait to set ours up. This link is very useful -http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4010599.htm
  • Another good option is to create natural shade in your microclimate by creating a fruit-tree grove around your garden beds
  • Next summer, try 20-30% shade cloth – anything with a higher density doesn’t allow enough sunlight to get through
  • Establish a native garden – autumn’s a perfect time to get one going. Looks great, helps cool the garden and attracts birds and insects.
  • Worm farms are also a great idea.

Trusted resources and companies

  • Great Gardens / the Forever Project – the best (free!) gardening workshops in town. Here’s the facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Great-Gardens/152130211501350
  • Wilderness Garden – Jackie French – the current Senior Australian of the Year has written some great books on gardening, including this one
  • http://www.diggers.com.au – our number one stop for seeds. Good idea to pool orders with friends as postage can be expensive
  • Yilgarn seeds (http://yilgarnseeds.drylands.org.au/) recommended by Pete – one we are keen to try

Join us on Facebook! Share with us on the Transition Town Guildford – Kitchen Gardeners’ Group.

Verge Gardening busy bees

Transition Town Guildford’s verge gardening group got off to a great start the other week with locals from Guildford, South Guildford and Bassendean. Discussion centred on possible verge development options within the shire guidelines such as natives or veggies, raised garden beds and wicking beds.

Verge gardens

The main topic was non-chemical options for getting rid of grass and weeds before starting verge treatment. Quite a few very useful tips were shared on a range of related subjects. Then, coffee, tea and cake :)

Our next meeting  will be on Saturday 18th April from 2 – 4 pm which will include a short working bee to set up a mulching experiment at Barb’s in Bassendean – testing 2 different block out methods for eliminating couch grass.

This project aims to meet 5 times at approximately 3 week intervals over the autumn and early winter period to help each other get organised in time for plants to establish well over the rest of winter

If you’d like to join in, please RSVP to Pam for the address on 9378 2523 or email pamela.riordan@gmail.com

Here’s some useful resources: