All My Friends are Going Green

Hands-on Composting Workshop

Sunday 15 March, 2015
From 10am

$65 pp

Box Grove Vineyard
955 Avenel-Nagambie Road, Tabilk

As part of the 2015 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Little Veggie Patch and Box Grove Vineyard have joined forces to offer you this fun and educational composting workshop, with lunch and wines from in and around the vineyard.

Sustainability and recycling are the current buzz words. Everyone is 'into it' and taking it seriously: households, farms and businesses... children in school. We all want to take a 'clean and green approach' to everything we do, and to leave our farms, our beaches, our country in a better state than we found it.

My mother always recycled things and made her own compost. It was magical to watch all our green waste and the dry leaves she swept up from under the tall oak trees in our street, go into her big black tubs in the far end of our garden and weeks later emerge as mounds of sweet smelling earth! She found if she shovelled this strangely fragrant fresh dirt, wriggling with fat pink worms, into the hard, sterile, clay soil in our suburban back yard, the vegetation became lush and green, the garden bloomed. I remember seeing the power of this black magic when still small. I had tipped the seeds from the bottom of my budgie cage into the compost pile and to my amazement grew a fine corn plant right in the compost pile. The first thing I ever grew from a seed! The cob we picked was sweet and golden, nurtured by all the 'goodies' her compost had made and the summer sun.

At the vineyard we have embraced the principles of sustainability in everything we do. It is my philosophy in both the vineyard and in my winemaking 'to tread as lightly as I can' and to leave the farm with balanced and healthy soil for my children and what they chose to grow and nurture in it.

While not technically organic, we do a lot in the vineyard working with the vines’ natural growth habits to create canopies for shade and air flow, to avoid the use of sprays and chemicals.

We also make our own compost to improve the soil structure and water retention in the parts of the vineyard with light sandy or heavy clay soil - we have belts of both sand and clay in our granitic soils. Although we make it on a much larger scale than my mother ever did... in big piles which we turn with the bucket on the front of the tractor as it 'cooks'. We still get the same sense of satisfaction when we turn the pile over and see all the worms wriggling in it.

We use manure from local chicken farms, waste from the nearby mushroom farm, stable manure and straw from local horse studs, and bags and bags of oak leaves my 85 year old mother still sweeps up in her street in Melbourne. It transpires that oak leaves are rich in nutrients and trace elements when they break down and are a special ingredient of the final blend. We also throw in our own green waste and the straw and scratchings from our chicken run.

The compost we make here is spread in the bottom block of the vineyard near the creek, where the Italian varietals are planted. While I make compost on quite a large scale, it can of course be made on much smaller scale in your own backyard, and give you the same sense of satisfaction as you recycle your waste and regenerate the earth.

Who better to take you through the steps of Backyard Composting, than Thom Mitchell from the Little Veggie Patch Co. Many will be familiar with the community gardens LVPC run at Federation Square and the wooden veggie boxes they sell to home gardener for veggie patches. Thom lives and breathes all these philosophies of sustainability – composting and mulching - and will inspire you too. We’ll have a look at what we make here and then see how you can do it at home. We will have some of LVP boxes on hand to show you the difference composting can make to your garden and how easy it is to make.

Then we will settle in for a relaxed lunch in the Box Grove Osteria.

Thom is a wonderful warm personality and an engaging teacher, so it promises to be a fun day. He will have notes for you to take home and some useful gadgets for the garden and LVPC publications to buy. There is a market in Avenel that morning, so bring a basket and stock up on local olives, olive oils and chutneys, honey and veggies on the way.

Bring a hat - it's always warm and sunny up here in March - and some sensible shoes, as we’ll do a bit of walking. We could well be picking grapes in mid-March; we may even have some Primtivio grapes drying in the silos near the Osteria which I look forward to showing you.