top of page

January 2023 Newsletter

Happy New Year to all our members

I hope 2023 brings bounty to your garden and you have plenty of thyme to spend in it so it can nurture your soul. Today is the full moon of midsummer.

If you would like to contribute to the newsletter or have a notice or event you would like to submit, please email it to

Melissa Fogarty, Blue Boat Farm (Newsletter Editor)

2022 was certainly a busy year for HOGS.... here is a short recap of our activities:

February - Workshop about bugs at Newcastle Foreshore

March - Toronto Community Garden tour and sourdough demonstration

April - Working Bee at Sue and Mike's in Beresfield

May - Tour of Sevasti's Hideaway at Mount Vincent

June - Feedback Farms visit in Kurri Kurri

July - Seedbomb making and garden tour of Paul and Barb's in Wangi

August - Insect hotel and garden tour of Gerda and Marcel's in Cardiff

September - Designing for Bushfire Resilience in Duns Creek

October - AGM and Bushtucker foods tour of Waratah Community Garden

November - Christmas party and garden tour of Nestor and Chiala's in Bolton Point


MESSAGE from the President

Hi everyone I hope this email finds you well and out in the garden. This is the first newsletter for the year but our first event will be in February. The new committee will be planning this event and future events. I've been busy planting and planning my future garden. I received 2 Papaya and Red Shahtoot Mulberry both dwarf varieties recently and I am planning where to put them. I had seeds marked 'plant X' and I put these in a seed raising mixture. There were 2 plants where I took the original seeds from so I was not sure if it was Boneset or Herb Bennet. The seeds germinated and produced Herb Bennet plants which I have planted. I have written about Herb Bennet further in the newsletter and there are other interesting things to read. So good reading.

Mike Lorraine (President)


PRINCIPLES in Action - Pathways

Each month, Will from Maplewood Permaculture will be sharing an example of permaculture principles in action from their farm. The principles are integrated concepts, illustrating how they apply several in concert when decision making.

Back in winter, I relaid the wood-chip pathways between the step-over beds in our market garden. We prefer wood-chips to gravel, weed mat, or living pathways in this situation for the numerous benefits they hold as a pathway material. They keep our feet dry, suppress weed growth when laid deeply, retain moisture, and provide the medium for a terrific fungal network to exist across our garden. They are a biological solution and represent the use of a renewable resource, that in a closed-loop system can be readily produced to the quantity needed on a small acreage like ours. While we are always trying to reduce inputs, when we do have to introduce an external influence to the property we look to use an organic or biological agent, rather than the alternative such as weed matting, due to the embodied energy. The aim to produce no waste is all the more possible when using biological resources over artificial ones, because everything gardens and will cycle natural elements through the food web. Over time, the wood-chips are decomposed by the microorganisms living between our beds. We value this edge environment, looking at the pathways, just wide enough for a wheelbarrow, as a powerhouse of soil building. Nutrient cycling is happening here, and we are catching and storing this energy. The breakdown of the wood chips means we do have to replenish the paths about every twelve to eighteen months, depending on the weather conditions. The problem is the solution here, however, as we creatively respond to the change in the decomposed wood-chip, as it has now become excellent compost material, which we used to fill the raised beds in the foreground of the accompanying photograph.

Among many gardening myths, there is the notion of wood-chips ’nitrogen-robbing’ the soil. The wood-chips do no such thing, but the soil micro-organisms do require nitrogen as they get on with decomposing the freshly added source of carbon, among other elements, to the garden. Indeed, a genuine movement of nitrogen does take place, but we must remind ourselves to observe and interact with our garden in a cycle, not just the point in time that we perceive the problem. The nitrogen will be returned in the long term.

The decomposition of the wood-chips occurs over several cycles, as different microbes and fungi specialise in breaking down the cellulose, lignin and other wood-chip constituents over different intervals. They are a (very, very) small and slow solution that we use to complement our own compost building, to ensure we are always building soil, a critical regenerative practice. The soil populations require nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients from the soil for growth, so the concern is that this is ‘robbed’ from our soil, and thus is not available to our plants. The effect is localised however, so if the wood chips are not incorporated into the soil (which they are not as we practise no-till methods), but just on top, then it’s only a surface level problem. Consider the root zone of your crops, and also where weed seed germination is taking place. Soil organisms locking up some surface level nitrogen could actually help in weakening the growth of weeds at that level. While we’re on the subject of nutrients, there are of course different choices of hardwood, cedar, pine bark, etc for your wood-chips. A great approach is consider the value of diversity. A mixed load that contains plenty of smaller diameter, young, and green branches (referred to as ramial wood- chips, as in ramus=branch) will introduce a higher ratio of nutrients to your garden, making for a great mulch around your perennials. At an observed and practical level, our use of wood-chips between growing beds has been going on for a few years now, and we are yet to observe any negative impact on crops - just beautiful, rich compost after the wood-chips have performed their role in the pathways. The selection of any resource can be guided by the principles, looking for multiple functions to bring to the garden.

Maplewood Permaculture Farm (Member)


MEMBER ARTICLE from That Herb Guy

The Herb Bennett

Names Herb Bennet (Geum urbanum) includes these common names Wood Avens, Colewort, St Benedict's Herb and Yellow Avens. It gets the name Herb Bennet from Herba Benedicta because of its many beneficial uses. It's from the Rose family and it likes shade.

Growth and Habit I've got it growing under bushes where it gets morning sun but is in afternoon shade; so far it's doing well. It's a perennial plant growing 20-60cm high with a spread of similar width. It has yellow 5 petal flowers and flowers in Spring.

Uses The name Geum comes from Geno pleasant smell and it is the roots which have a clove-like smell. It's the smell and the clove flavour of the roots which give it one of its uses. Which is as a mulling spice for wine, syrup, beer. The roots can be harvested in Winter leaving some for further growth. It propagates with seeds which can cling to animal fur. They look like little footballs with curly soft spikes. It germinates easily so could become a pest but if it grows by paths it does look an attractive border. It has medicinal uses past and present; an antidote for poison and dog bite but its present uses include gout, diarrhoea and heart disease.

The photo shows Herb Bennet growing under Chaste Tree.

By Mike Lorraine (President)


Biodynamic Practical Workshop

Purple Pear Farm

January 21- January 22 8am - 4pm

The weekend will be driven largely by the participants and their need for clarity. We will start with an overview of the origin of the practical side of biodynamics and get involved in stirring and application of the prime preparations Horn Manure (BD500) and Horn Silica (BD501). We will look at the Compost Preparations (BD502 to 507) individually as well as the work they do as a set both in Compost and in Cow Pat Pit and the role they play in Biodynamic Soil Activator. We encourage you to camp and make a weekend of it. Saturday night will be campfire and pizza (weather permitting) Early Sunday morning will be a time for spraying the Horn Silica (BD501)

The weekend is valued at $300 though it is important that all who wish to participate can and we ask that you pay as you can.

Maitland Show

17-19 February

Maitland Showground

Competitions in horticulture, cookery, animals and more.

Permaculture at the Pub

The Paterson Courthouse

Thursday 2 February, 6pm

Casual dining and chats with other like minded folks with Maplewood Permaculture

Sow: Amaranth, Basil, Beans, Beetroot, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Coriander, Dill, Eggplant, Gourd, Herbs, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Mustard Greens, Nasturtiums, Okra, Parsley, Parsnip, Potato, Pumpkin, Rockmelon, Spinach, Squash, Sunflowers, Corn, Tomato, Turnip, Watercress, Watermelon, Zucchini

Other jobs to do:

  • harvest, harvest, harvest

  • water deeply and maintain mulch cover

  • fertilise regularly to replace leached nutrients

  • deadhead for continual flowering - Geraniums, Dianthus, Roses, Zinnias, Daisies, Cosmos

  • watch out for mildew on grapes and cucurbits

  • keep compost moist and turn heaps regularly

  • monitor fruit-fly controls

  • clear gutters and pipes for harvesting rainfall

  • check irrigation systems and unblock drippers

  • cover your berries with nets

  • clean up your banana suckers

  • continue to check citrus for bronze-orange bugs

  • remember to keep your worms out of the hot sun

  • seed saving from your winter crops

  • plan your winter crops and review or purchase seed as necessary

  • order bare rooted fruit trees you want to plant this winter

  • consider which garlic you will grow this year

Beetroot Kvass

Kvass is a Ukrainian fermented infusion of beets in water.

You will need a large beetroot or a few small ones and a litre jar with a lid.

Wash and chop the beetroot into 1cm cubes, filling the jar until it is quarter full of chopped beets. If you do not have enough beets you can add ginger, garlic, turnips, etc chopped in the same way.

Fill the jar with water (preferably unchlorinated) and add a pinch of salt.

Ferment for a few days, tasting each day until it is at your liking. When it starts to develop a deep, dark colour and pleasing taste, strain out the beets (which will be nearly tasteless). You can feed the beets to your animals, compost them or use them in other recipes.

Drink it now as it is or conduct a second ferment to carbonate. Enjoy!

Paterson Farm Gate Saturday mornings from 8am

4-8 Count Street, Paterson for CSA membership information

Earth Market Maitland First and Third Thursday mornings of the month

Maitland City Mall


Raymond Terrace Farmers Markets

Second and Fourth Thursday mornings of the month

Raymond Terrace Rectory



Community Gardens are a great opportunity to talk to the gardeners about what makes their community garden special and to get your hands dirty.

  • LARGS Tuesdays 9:30AM - 1:30PM Please contact Evelyn on 0419492016 for the address and more information

  • MEDOWIE Wednesdays 9:30AM - 12:30PM 6 Waropara Road Medowie, within the Medowie Baptist Church grounds, behind the Church building

  • MEREWETHER 1st Thursday 5PM-7PM 3rd Sunday 8AM - 10AM Townson Oval/Mitchell Park, Merewether

  • NEWCASTLE 1st Sunday of the month 9AM - 2PM Fig Tree Community Garden 20 Albert Street, Newcastle

  • WARATAH/MAYFIELD Wednesday mornings Hunter Multicultural Community Garden 2A Platt St, Waratah

  • SINGLETON 1st & 3rd Sunday of each month Singleton Community Garden 42 Bathurst St, Singleton

If you are part of a community garden, meet up or event then please send us a message so we can share with the Hunter Valley community. Find your local community garden here


Current Committee Members

President - Mike Lorraine

Vice President - Nestor Gutierrez

General Secretary - Gerda Maeder

Treasurer - Tracey Evans

Public Officer - Barbara Nudd

Membership Officer - Melissa Fogarty

Agenda and Minutes Secretary - Karen Miller

Newsletter Editor - Melissa Fogarty

Event Coordinator - Tracey Evans

Website Manager - Bec Evans

Social Media & Publicity - Chiala Hernandez

Tea & Coffee - Jennifer Richards


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page