15 April 2021

Harvest festivals (and wicking beds) take regional produce to next level

| Michael Weaver
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Apples from Mamma Rita's Farm

She’s all apples for Mamma Rita’s Farm at the Harvest Festival in Bungendore this weekend. Photo: Southern Harvest Farmers Market.

It’s the traditional harvest period for gardeners in the region, and a number of groups are celebrating the extreme conditions of late with an open day in Queanbeyan and the Bungendore Harvest Festival this weekend, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.

The event features local farmers markets and the Harvest (Against All the Odds) Long Lunch event, and physical farm tours and workshops.

In Canberra, week two of the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival brings a program of diverse events ahead of World Heritage Day on Sunday (18 April) including Harvest Day Out at Lanyon Homestead and Googong Heritage Day.

These events reflect on sustainable practices such as permaculture on Sunday (18 April) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at Lanyon Homestead.

In Queanbeyan, the Queanbeyan Sustainability Group will hold its Harvest Open Day at the Railway Park Organic Community Garden on Saturday (17 April), featuring new wicking beds purchased with a grant from Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

A member of the Queanbeyan Sustainability Group

A member of the Queanbeyan Sustainability Group checks plants in one of their wicking beds. Photo: Queanbeyan Sustainability Group.

The community garden near the Queanbeyan Railway Station on Henderson Road will be open to the community from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

The group’s convener, Katrina Willis, said the wicking beds are part of their research to find more water-efficient ways to grow food in the community garden.

“We installed six wicking beds in spring 2020. This followed several years of very dry summers, with the added challenge of the 2019-20 bushfires,” Ms Willis said.

“Added to this is the knowledge that, with weather patterns shifting under climate change, we’re likely to experience tough growing conditions into the future.”

Ms Willis said the wicking beds are ideal for gardeners with limited space.

“Wicking beds are based on the same concept as self-watering plants. Plants take up water from a reservoir in the bottom of the bed only when they need it. This is more efficient than watering on the surface of a garden bed, especially in hot summers,” she said.

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The council grant of just under $2,000 covered the cost of six two-square-metre wicking beds, including soil and compost. People in working bees helped set them up, and they noticed an immediate difference in the produce.

“The wicking beds had better colour and were in better condition than similar crops in regular garden beds. This difference was noticeable even with the relatively mild and wet season we have had. This gives us confidence that the wicking beds will be particularly useful during a hotter season,” Ms Willis said.

Wicking beds have been used to grow tomatoes, small eggplants, capsicum, herbs, carrots, beetroot and leafy greens. The depth of the wicking beds was useful for root vegetables which are more of a challenge to grow in regular plots.

“The wicking beds also freed up regular plots which meant we could offer more people a space to grow food for themselves in other beds,” said Ms Willis.

Visitors to the garden’s open day will also see their worm farms and composting systems along with seasonal planting guides, seedlings, dried herbs and pre-loved gardening magazines.

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