March 2017

Page 26

26 Warrandyte Diary


MARCH in Warrandyte brings the Warrandyte Market on the first Saturday of the month and the Warrandyte Festival on the last; both are great opportunities to buy seedlings, tube stock, native and indigenous stock and potted plants for your Warrandyte garden. Often these plants are “toughened” ones, not the ones that have been primped and primed and grown in perfect growing conditions so I find they settle into the ground quickly. It is a great chance to buy a bunch of sunflowers (or banksias), when you have missed the timing to sow seeds — usually sunflower seeds need to be planted anytime between August and January. Choose which type you would like to grow, there are tall ones, short ones, double blooms and different colours. Sunflowers need six to eight hours of sunshine a day, so pick a sunny but well drained spot in your garden to plant the seeds. If you have sunflowers growing now (lucky you) make sure you save the seeds for next year’s crop or to share with family and friends. Seed and cutting sharing brings communities together, a floral token of cuttings interspersed with stems of flowers from the garden wrapped in brown paper is a gift that will brighten most people’s day. Warrandyte birds love cotoneaster trees and their berries; a veritable smorgasbord for parrots, finches and wrens. They are a weed in Warrandyte so we need to be vigilant when we are out walking in the bushland or by the river. Try to be on the look-out for weedy nasties and pull them out — don’t wait for the Council to come through and “nuke” them with poisons. So sweet pittosporum, thistles, cotoneaster, agapanthus, blackberries, nettles, broom, if you see little seedlings or small sucker pull it out, don’t leave it for someone else. These all grow so quickly in just a week; if we, as a community, are on the look-out for weedy plants then we can make a positive impact on

the green edge By REV-BECCA LEE

TUMULTUOUS times are abounding in the energy arena at present. We are seeing some positive progress towards cleaning up our Electricity Grid, with the closure of Australia’s dirtiest coal power station in Hazelwood at the end of this month, the massive increase of rooftop solar energy being produced by consumers-cum-generators (now more than twice as much energy as the country’s largest power station!), and a new tidal power pilot project currently generating 250kW off the coast of Victoria. The federal government have even started talking about utilising the cleaner options of battery storage and pumped hydro to assist stability in the grid during peak demand times. The good news is unfortunately

March 2017

A gardener’s guide to autumn

the bushland. If you are unsure what the plant is make sure you research what are weeds and what are indigenous, what should be there and what shouldn’t. Pick up one of the booklets produced by Manningham council on the Weeds of Manningham and Native Splendor, available at the council or various locations around Warrandyte – they are great FREE resources. Take notice of what birds are visiting your garden and where they like hanging out. I have a willy wagtail that is always waiting for me when I go out the door and accompanies me when I make rounds of the garden. Make sure when you are selecting or designing with plants you have an idea of what birds you would like to attract. Choose plants of different heights or layers. Make sure you plant at least some

local native plants like tea trees (leptospermum), hakeas, correas, wattles, kunzeas and paperbarks (melaleuca) to name a few; as well as providing nectar, these plants attract insects that are another food source for birds. Small flowered grevilleas bring little birds into the garden — the pardalotes, wrens and fire tail finches. Seed eating finches and parrots love the native grasses as well, and the thin leaves provide nesting material for all. Ringtail possums use the melaleuca twigs and leaves in constructing their “dreys” or nests.

for the birds; many little birds prefer dense and prickly shrubs in which they make their nest, find food and feel safe from predators. Acacia, bursaria, hakeas, isopogon (related to grevilleas and banksias), leptospermum, proteas and prostanthera are all great first choices when buying plants for Warrandyte gardens. Don’t forget March is the month for deadheading everything that has flowered over the summer. Prune crepe myrtles, buddleias, deadhead agapanthus, native hibiscus (alyogyne huegelii), plumbago, rosemary, lavenders, roses, summer flowering

Have a go at putting in some nesting boxes into the garden. Different birds like different shaped boxes so do some research into what the bird you are attempting to attract prefers, but make sure you keep an eye on the nesting box to make sure you don’t attract squatters in the form of starlings, mynas or wasps. Plant plants that provide shelter

bulbs and annuals. Top up your mulch but keep in mind fire retardant mulches as the fire danger period is not yet over. Inorganic materials such as coarse gravel or pebbles provide a non-flammable option, or you can also use succulents as a fire-retardant ground cover. Closely grouped strappy leaved plants can also be fire retardant as

embers will drop on the leaves rather than the dead leaf matter of mulch (lomandras, dianellas and dietes are easy care examples of these). Near the end of March is a great time for some early Autumn planting so do some planning and research now. It is the perfect time to plant evergreen trees and shrubs. Acacias, eucalyptus, emu bushes (eremophila), Grevilleas, magnolias (michelia fuscata) for example will all do well now. The soil will be warm and damp and it gets plants off to a good start, enabling the roots to grow and establish before the cold of winter. Start to pull out the summer flowering vegetables (pop into the compost heap) and prepare the soil for the winter vegetable planting. March is the time to plant cabbage, onions, silverbeet, spring onions, turnips and beetroot. Broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts are the easiest to grow for someone just becoming interested in having a vegetable garden. All need to be planted in March either as seedlings or seeds directly into a well-prepared bed with plenty of organic matter (compost, animal manure) and a complete fertiliser added to it. Cauliflower takes a long time to grow (between 14 and 24 weeks) so be patient. Maybe try planting some warrigal greens or finger limes as a couple of easy to grow native options—use warrigal greens as a substitute for spinach or silver beet in recipes. I would recommend planting in a pot as it tend to take off. Finger limes bushes have spiky foliage which can serve as a nesting site for small birds. You will need to protect it from frost. So while the weather is still delicious get out there in the garden. Experiment with new plants, notice the small visitors to the garden, make mistakes, learn from them, talk to others, read, google and every day feel blessed that we live in beautiful Warrandyte.

Power play: let’s get clear on what’s clean being overshadowed by non-factual negative talk about instability renewable energy creates in the grid, and the Prime Minister revisiting the contradictory catch-phrase concept of Clean Coal (I believe they mean ‘cleaner’). Many are beginning to ponder who stands to benefit from this throwback to the pre-Inconvenient-Truth era, and how (and why) they are creating this doubt in people’s minds about the viability of a clean energy future for Australia. Could the fossil fuel lobby possibly have that much sway? If you followed the mainstream media narrative over the last few months, you could be forgiven for thinking that renewable energy was actually causing recent failures in South Australia’s electricity network

— despite this contradicting all the evidence. Official reports indicate the most recent blackout on February 8 was caused by a number of factors, including an incorrect forecast of wind generation, the underestimation of the predicted usage by consumers, overuse of electricity by industry at peak time, an overload of the interconnector from Victoria, and failure to turn on other available generators which led to the outages. Yet the media seem to jump at the chance to criticise the wind for not blowing the way it was predicted to, rather than pointing out that the backup generators take far too long to fire up when they need to be called on — several hours for gas-fired power stations and up to days for coal power stations — so are not very responsive to poorly predicted events. Clean Coal as a convenient business-as-usual source of baseload power is a concept clearly designed by a marketing genius! It doesn’t take much to figure out that digging up, transporting and burning tonnes of coal produces carbon emissions. Even if the $590 million our governments have invested in Clean Coal technological research and pilot projects since 2009 could manage to produce a result in reducing carbon emissions by the “up to 40%” of a regular coal power plant, that is still a much dirtier power station than a solar, wind or tidal farm.

So how can we transition to a reliable clean power economy with renewables? The wholesale electricity market is highly volatile, with spot prices fluctuating between $0 and $14 per kilowatt hour. The Victorian average price this year to date is 4.4c per kilowatt hour — compared to 6.1c/kWh 10 years ago interestingly. Demand and supply dictate these wholesale spot prices, which currently are fixed in half hour blocks, but will soon vary every 5 minutes. At the peak demand times when our power retailers are paying over $10 per kWh (when they charge us about 30c/kWh to buy it), there is obviously a problem. Here lies the opportunity for stored energy; the chance to be able to sell into the grid during these peak times when it’s desperately needed, for much more favourable financial returns. On the small scale, grid-connected consumers with solar power and battery storage systems are able to take advantage of these spikes in spot-prices on the wholesale electricity market. Add-ons such as the Reposit Box allow your power company (with your permission) to use pricing trigger points to draw your battery power into the grid at times of peak demand, when the spot price for them to buy grid power is sky-high. Companies such as Diamond Ener-

gy offer “GridCredits” of $1 per kWh under their arrangement, which is much higher than any Feed-In Tariff. There is a great opportunity here to create a decentralised community power station of sorts. The benefit of power companies encouraging this type of consumer energy storage capacity is obvious, there is no investment required on their part. The large-scale opportunity is harder, due to high costs of energy storage systems at present. Models do exist where solar energy is stored in towers of molten salt, which can then deliver energy to the grid after dark, or whenever required — and the cost of lithium battery storage is rapidly falling. There are viable options for the future. If the electricity is there to be dumped into the grid in peak demand times, this will lower the spot prices, and therefore overall retail prices too Beyond Zero Emissions developed their Stationary Energy Plan several years ago, which was a 10-year roadmap to 100% renewable energy in Australia, costing very little in the scheme of things. Sadly, it has not been adopted, and we still seem to expect the government to solve this problem through taxpayer funded investments or incentives. We have so many solutions at our fingertips, and are on the brink of massive change in this space. I look forward to keeping you informed through this column as new developments arise.