Summer gardening ideas

Here we go with a brand-new year, which just has to be better than 2020.

What better way to celebrate than to create a pretty, productive garden to keep our spirits up and lower our living costs with fresh, full of flavor, home grown vegetables, surrounded by colourful scented flowers.

Number one after the new year is to plant some new tomato seedlings to ensure you can harvest a second crop later in the autumn. Our summer season has been forecast to last longer than usual and nothing sets off a salad better than home-grown tomatoes. Any excess tomatoes can always be frozen for use in winter casseroles or to make your own tomato sauce.

Most gardens have a shady area where you despair of ever growing something nice, but some plants prefer such a spot. A spectacular example is a Clivia, which comes in several shades from pale lemon to bright red and show to advantage against the bright green strappy leaves.

An added benefit is that they don’t require much water and don’t suffer much damage from slugs, snails and other pests. Upkeep is easy as they clump and they can stay in the same place and keep flowering for many years and stay green all year round, definitely a win/win situation.

One tip to remember is very simple – if using pine bark or wood chips as mulch, mix in a nitrogen-rich fertilizer before applying to the garden beds. This replaces the nitrogen lost from the soil in the process of the mulch breaking down and your plants will thrive instead of being deprived of this essential element.

Another couple of tips to make your summer easier and to ensure your plants get the best care and yield good results. Always water early in the day if possible, which makes sure the plants get the moisture required during the heat of the day.

Watering at night encourages insect life, particularly mosquitoes, which are tipped to be very bad this year. If the soil is shrinking away from the sides of your pots, soak them in a large container full of water that comes over the top of the pot until all the bubbles stop – these bubbles show that your pot has dried out. You can put a bit of liquid fertilizer in the water, which does two jobs in one.

St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally the time to plant sweet peas for the winter colour burst. What is more cheerful on a cold winter’s day than a vase of beautiful, sweet smelling sweet peas? Add some lime and well-rotted compost to the area where you want to plant the seeds.

Save money this year and plant seeds of winter vegies such as cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, silver beet and onions to name a few. These will then be ready to plant out at a later date, instead of buying seedlings, giving you a head start on the cooler weather and leaving more cash in your pocket. Other things to plant include broad beans, leeks, lettuce, radish, spring onions, parsnips and turnips.

Volunteer program a winner

Rosewall Neighbourhood Centre is celebrating the work of its volunteers after winning the 2020 Learn Local Volunteer Team Award.

The Learn Local Awards are held annually to recognise outstanding achievement in a range of categories. The Volunteer Team Award is for a group of up to 10 people who have worked together on a common project and demonstrated that effective or shared effort can achieve greater outcomes.

The award nomination said: “The dynamic Rosewall Learning and Creative Team from Rosewall Neighbourhood Centre, are sowing the seeds for a successful life in their English Conversation and Sewing Group.

“This humble activity is paying big dividends for new arrivals from across the globe. The six volunteers warmly receive women from places such as Afghanistan, Iran, Cambodia, Africa, Israel and Pakistan. Many of them have been victims of persecution in their home country and are faced with marginalisation in Australia.

“As they’re taught to sew, they develop their spoken English, literacy and problem-solving skills. Financial literacy comes from exploring moneymaking ventures and developing their long-term career aspirations.

“Some of the sewn items are sold through Rosewall’s small sales table and Torquay Community House. Funds raised are used to buy haberdashery and food vouchers for needy participants.

“Importantly, friendships develop as participants work as a team and connect with community. Rosewall volunteers have a diverse range of complementary skills from sewing machine mechanics, to sewing, crafting, and delivering ESL courses.

“With personal attention and care, they’ve created a robust, enduring program that boosts the confidence, morale and employability of women who might otherwise be disengaged and isolated.”

Cloverdale Community Centre also won a Learn Local Award in 2020, for its Collaboration with The Gordon TAFE. Cloverdale created and delivered education programs to help local learners pathway to TAFE and supported TAFE students who needed extra help with language and literacy.

Connecting with community

Friends of Cowies Creek (FoCC) is a community group in Norlane whose members foster care for Cowies Creek by connecting with the local community to protect and regenerate the creek and its native biodiversity. The group holds public clean-ups and indigenous planting days.

Spokesman Lachie Chomley said members acknowledge that their activities take place on the stolen land of the Wadawurrung people and that the creek was traditionally used by the Wadawurrung people as a source of fresh water, food and medicine. 

“The creek starts in the Moorabool hills and flows through Bell Post Hill and Norlane, out into Corio Bay at Corio Quay,” Lachie said. “It is home to lots of amazing wildlife including loads of birds, reptiles, fish, insects and frogs.

“The endangered growling grass frog (featured in our logo) makes a home along the creek. You might hear them if you stay quiet; their growling sounds more like snoring.

“Near any larger body of water, you might also find our native otter, the Rakali. Look out for the white tip of its tail as it dips down underwater in search of food.”
Lachie said FoCC members believe it’s important and exciting for locals to get connected with and help protect all of the precious life along Cowies Creek, particularly as in-fill development impacts the catchment.

“Lots of people we talk to don’t even know the creek exists,” he said. “We encourage everyone to respectfully spend time by the creek and see what you discover.” 
For people who want to get more involved, FoCC organises regular events for local community to get involved. A public rubbish clean-up will be held at the Fountain of Friendship Park on Sunday, February 14 from 10am-1pm.

To stay in touch with other future events and ‘creekly’ happenings you can find the group on Facebook or email

Renee rewarded for kindness

Norlane West Scout Group member Renee Brown has been recognised for her compassion, integrity and kindness by winning the Fred Hollows Humanity Award.

The Humanity Award is a national initiative of The Fred Hollows Foundation that acknowledges Year Six students who follow in Fred’s footsteps by demonstrating humanitarian values towards others. It includes a scholarship for secondary schooling in 2021.

Renee (pictured) was nominated by Scout Leader Kim Brian, for her enthusiasm for helping others and doing the right thing.

“Renee has volunteered countless hours of her time helping those less fortunate than herself – from cooking snacks and meals for the local food bank, to collecting toys and winter clothes for the homeless,” Kim said. “She is one of our younger, quieter members but stands her ground for what she believes in.”

Kim was delighted that the nomination was successful and that Renee’s activities and experiences in Scouting helped her achieve it.

Since 2012, the Fred Hollows Humanity Award has recognised more than 1500 students who follow in Fred’s footsteps by making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Founding Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation Gabi Hollows congratulated 254 students from across the nation, for their kindness, compassion and integrity.

“This year, more than ever, it’s important to recognise these values,” Gabi Hollows said.

“So it thrills me to know that amidst everything going on in the world, The Foundation was able to celebrate these fine young leaders and highlight the differences they are making in their communities.

“Fred would have been incredibly proud of the contribution these students are making to society, no matter how big or small their actions.”

Fitness, fun and connection

A group of Northern Bay College’s Year 9 students will this year be the first in Geelong to participate in Blue Edge, the flagship program of Blue Light Victoria.

Blue Edge is based on the concept of local police members engaging with youth in positive ways. It uses a physical activity program to bring local police and students together twice-weekly.

State program co-ordinator Cathy Williams said the program includes 45-minute fitness sessions before school, where the police members are out of uniform and getting sweaty alongside the students. The fitness sessions also include team-building activities.

Following the session, the group has breakfast together where there are opportunities for the students to be mentored, learn life skills, goal setting, leadership and opportunities for them after the program – in work, social and sport settings.

Ms Williams said the program aligns well with the school’s SEED (Sports, Empowerment, Education and Development) program. She said Director of Sport Steven ‘Stoofa’ Lewry had played a key part in bringing Blue Edge to Geelong.

Acting Sergeant Shaun Johnson and Leading Senior Constable Alecia Spalding, from Corio Police, will be involved in the pilot.

Acting Sergeant Johnson, who is the co-ordinator, said he and the other officers who will be regulars are excited to be involved in the program, the first of its kind in Geelong.

“This is a way we can give back to the school,” he said. “It’s good for us to work with the kids and important for us to know the up-and-coming youth in the northern suburbs. They are the next generation of community leaders. They will be changing the face of the northern suburbs.”

Students Laura, Elmin and Josh were successful applicants and are looking forward to participating. All three are keen to develop their fitness and skills, have some fun and get to know their local police.

Friendship and ‘visitors’

Australian Red Cross is providing social companionship and friendship for older people through its Community Visitors Scheme.

The Community Visitors Scheme is a free program where volunteers are matched with an older person for social companionship and friendship on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

During COVID-19 restrictions the program has transitioned to phone calls, cards, letters and video calls, until it is safe to resume face-to-face visiting. Participants and their volunteers might have a cuppa, do puzzles together, reminisce or otherwise enjoy each other’s company.

The Community Visitors Scheme is available to older people who are living in a public aged care facility or receiving a home care package. It is an initiative of the Australian Government.

If you are interested in volunteer with the program or would like to know more about receiving a volunteer, email

Spring delight in flowering fruit trees

Nothing says spring more loudly than the sight of a flowering fruit tree – all that lovely blossom with the promise of freshly picked fruit.

But what do you do if you don’t have room for a fruit tree? They do take up a lot of space and even though they do look great in the garden, they also give you heaps of leaves to clean up in autumn. The answer is a miniature tree.

These trees can be planted in the garden or grown in large pot. I have two – a peach tree in the garden that is 35 years old and stands 1.2 metres high which yielded about 50 peaches last year, and a pear growing in a pot which yielded two pears in its first year. I have high hopes of more this year.

A little extra care is needed to ensure they don’t dry out and monthly feeding of a liquid fertilizer will ensure a happy result when the fruit crop comes in. If you’re not sure where to site them in your garden, they are easily moved to that particular spot where they look at home. A special benefit is that if you are renting you can take them with you.

Tomatoes are always the subject of discussion in my house at this time of year – what type, height and size of the crop we want to try. If growing from seed they should be planted now to have healthy seedlings ready for planting out in November, the popular idea being that Melbourne Cup day is the ideal time.

I don’t suppose the tomatoes will object if the Melbourne Cup is not actually run, but the soil should be warmed up a little by then and this will give your plants a good start. Staggering the planting time with a two-week break between plantings will see you with a continuous supply during the summer months instead of having them all coming in at the same time.

If growing the taller varieties, placing the stakes or other supports in place when planting the seedlings will prevent root disturbance which will affect their progress. Leave at least one metre between plants (I prefer a little more) which helps prevent overcrowding and transmission of disease. It also makes it easier to pick your fruit and to control weeds around the base of the plant.

Plants need fertilizing on a regular basis with either granular or liquid types and if you are short on space you can also grow these in pots if you take a little extra care of them.

Happy gardening,


Students name the crane

Young Northern Bay College students have helped name the crane being used on the GMHBA rebuild site in the Geelong CBD.

The new building is rising out of a hole in the ground at the corner of Corio and Moorabool streets, where the large crane is rising high into the sky.

Kane Builders, Quintessential developers and GMHBA recognised that naming cranes is a great community initiative and invited Northern Bay College students to take on the task.

All of the college’s Prep and Kindergarten children across the five college campuses – all 170 of them – were given the opportunity to colour a drawing of the crane and then give it a name. All of the names were then sent off and a winner was chosen by a panel representing the three major stakeholders. 

The children don’t yet know who won the naming rights, but one day in September the lucky youngster will be invited to visit the site, look at the crane up close and have a picture taken with ‘their’ crane. The icing on the cake will be a prize for the College’s Family Learning Centre to say thank you for participating in the naming project.

Walking for community impact

Norlane resident Ben Le Fevre has completed a significant personal challenge to honour lost loved ones, raise money and awareness of suicide prevention activities in Geelong.

As well as playing a key role in the annual Geelong Suicide Prevention Awareness Network (SPAN) walk this month, during July he walked 200 kilometres on his way to raising $2791 for RUOK?

The RUOK? event raised money to help provide counselling in remote areas and develop programs for schools and workplaces about how to ask RUOK? and know how to follow up if the answer is no.

The 200 kilometres, about six kilometres a day, were at night and mostly alone. Sponsors supported his effort and contributed to his fundraising result, which exceeded his original goal of $1000.

“I decided to do the kilometres at night because my loved ones were in a dark place at the time,” he said. “I also carried a weighted bag, because I know they would have been carrying a lot of emotions with them.”

Ben, 26, is a Geelong SPAN committee member and has joined its annual walk since it began in 2010. Ben has lost six loved ones to suicide since 2008 and joined SPAN to get support for himself.

“I then realised that Geelong still had an issue with suicide and depression being a taboo subject,” he said. “I wanted to help raise awareness.”

The traditional SPAN walk was replaced by a virtual walk on September 13, with Ben providing a welcome to participants via a Facebook live feed. He said the walk helps dismantle the stigma around the taboo subject and is a safe place to talk about loved ones lost to suicide.

Ben said he has experienced depression himself and knows what a merry-go-round it can be. He wants everyone to have access to support when they need it most.

If you or someone you know needs help phone, Lifeline on 131-114 or Beyond Blue on 1300-224-636. You can support SPAN Geelong by going to its website

Fiona recognised for caring

MatchWorks Corio site manager Fiona McIntyre has been recognised for an important role she plays outside of her work. Earlier this year, Fiona was crowned the 2020 Lady of Racing for her work in retraining and rehoming former racehorses.

The award is run by The Victorian Wakeful Club in partnership with Racing Victoria and aims to celebrate women who have made an outstanding contribution to the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries.

Fiona has several former champions of racing in her care, but it was her work with two former champions that set her apart in the award. She looks after Bart Cummings’ former grand stayer Precedence, who competed in four Melbourne Cups and won two Moonee Valley Cups.

Precedence and Fiona have competed in the past two Garryowen Equestrienne Turnout events held during the Melbourne Show and widely recognised as the pinnacle of the horse showing world. Another of Bart Cummings’ former stars, Sirmione, is also in Fiona’s care and has also had a successful equestrian career.

RV CEO Giles Thompson said Fiona was a very worthy winner.

“Fiona has long been an advocate for life after racing, and has worked tirelessly to ensure former racehorses lead happy and healthy lives once they have left the track,” he said.

“We are very fortunate to have Fiona as one of the RV Acknowledged Re-trainers who support our Off The Track program, which aims to facilitate the placement of retired racehorses in secondary careers and drive demand for thoroughbreds as performance and pleasure horses.”

Fiona said was honoured to receive the award for doing something she loves.