The Canberra Gardener

November 7, 2010

Canberra Gardening identity and ABC Weather Presenter, Mr Mark Carmody was in fine form today for the launch of the 10th Edition of The Canberra Gardener yesterday. Complete with lapel adorned with the trademark flower – a Rhododendron no less. Mark informed the audience that this was a special occasion and he was both humbled and privileged to have been invited to launch the 10th Edition of The Canberra Gardener. It was a book and a passion that was very close to his heart. I was amongst the audience at the launch and it was indeed a privilege to be present. This was apparently the first time in 63 years that The Canberra Gardener has ever been officially launched!!! And what better person to launch The Canberra Gardener than Mark Carmody!!!!

ABC Weather Presenter and Gardener Mark Carmody launching the 10th Edition of The Canberra Gardener

The Paperchain book store in Manuka generously hosted the launch. The store was full of people passionate about gardens and gardening. Mark engaged the audience with a diverse range of stories and enriched the launch beautifully. Mark lamented that The Canberra Gardener has been an ongoing reference for him since the time he commenced his Gardening career. The audience wholeheartedly agreed with Mark’s suggestion that every household should have a copy of The Canberra Gardener on their bookshelves. In fact, the ACT Government should donate a copy to every Canberra household. What a magnificent gift for those newly arrived to Canberra!!!

There is no other town or city in Australia with a book like this. The Canberra Gardener is unique and has filled the niche in Canberra since 1948. It is fitting that the 10th Edition of The Canberra Gardener should be launched in 2010, a time when gardens, especially edible gardens are becoming so important and popular.

This latest edition is beautifully formatted and laid out. The content is beautiful, clear with a lovely balance of detail. The Horticultural Society of Canberra has also gone to great effort of ensure that The Canberra Gardener was published and printed locally in Australia on recycled paper.

At $25.00 a copy it’s great value. Do yourself a favour and buy a copy before it sells out.

Book Launch

October 7, 2010

I wasboth fortunate and humbled to have received an invite from Michael Mobbs to attend the launch of the Second Edition of his book, ‘Sustainable House’ in Sydney yesterday.

This was a day to celebrate the wonderful and diverse achievements Michael has made and continues to make in sustainability.

It was magnificent to have the former and longest continuous serving premier of NSW, Mr Bobb Carr in attendance to officially launch the 2nd Eddition of Michael’s book. For those who do not know the history, Bobb Carr officially opened Michael’s sustainable home on Monday 9 December 1996, so it was fitting and inspirational for Bobb to again be present at this landmark event.

Michael Mobbs and Bobb Carr (Image Courtesy Tina Perinotto – The Fifth Estate)

For me there are no finer examples of leaders and heroes than those that lead by example. When Michael spoke yesterday I felt a great connection with the message he calmly and quietly delivered. “The conversations surrounding food, water and energy are and will be uncomfortable for Australians to hold”.

I enjoyed the beautiful local food, all if it inspired by Michael’s magnificent roadside gardens in Myrtle Street, Chippendale. The sweet clear water we sipped was precious rainwater, collected from the roof of Michael’s terrace house. To my right was the entrance to a bee hive, buzzing with activity. Being allergic to bees I might have been a wee bit concerned were it not for the fact that these were in fact native stingless bees.

These are the conversations that need to be held and the conversations are starting right now as we come to grips with the reality of a changing climate and a battered Mother Earth. The truth is there will be implications for the water we drink, the energy we use and the essential food sustains us all.

Michael and his Sustainable House were part of the inspiration for our sustainable home here in Canberra. A well thumbed copy of the Michael’s first edition of Sustainable House takes pride of place on our bookshelf. I vividly remember handing a copy to our nominated plumber John Chiera, as we sat in the shade of a street tree at the front of our home discussing details of our water systems.

I now have the First and Second Editions of Sustainable House side by side. I can hardly wait to delve into this the latest edition. Every Australian should have both of these books in their libraries, so do yourself a favour and buy them!!!!

Copies of Sustainable House can be purchased via Michael’s website


Sustainable House Day

September 25, 2010

Sustainable House Day is a whole of community event and goes to the heart of key social aspects in our society, a critical component if we are to become a truly sustainable nation and global community.

Thank You

A big thank you to all the untiring volunteers who made the opening of Canberra’s Sustainable House possible on Sustainable House Day 12 September 2010. At this stage for privacy reasons I will not mention names, but you know who you are and you the visitor may have met and perhaps even know some of these fine people. If volunteers would like their names added here, please let me know and I will do so.

Thanks also to SHMECO, Australian Institute of Architects and the event sponsors. The organisation is a huge task and relies enormously on volunteers, paid staff and financial contributions of the sponsors. Let’s hope the Commonwealth Government reinstates financial sponsorship and support for Sustainable House Day 2011.

I also want to thank various parts of the Media for their contribution to promoting Sustainable House Day in 2010. I particularly make mention is no priority order of The Canberra Chronicle, The Canberra Times, WIN TV, and ABC Radio (666 Canberra).

Finally, I want to thank you, the public, who gave of your Sunday time to visit Canberra’s Sustainable House as you journey towards a sustainable future. Remember the summit of this mountain is well above above the 8 star altitudinal level. Remember to turn your frustrations into fascinations as you grapple with awkward times retrofitting, renovating or building new.

On The Day

Sustainable House Day 2010 dawned frosty, bright and sunny – we knew it would. All the solar aspects of Canberra’s Sustainable House were shining. The solar hot water system was heating at full tilt, our power station with it’s untiring work ethic was busily converting light to electricity. The north facing windows allowed in sunshine, gently warming our home. We opened some windows mid morning as the power of sunlight combined with the warmth emanating from our enthusiastic visitors brought Canberra’s leading sustainable house to a balmy 25 degrees celcius. The kitchen garden was of course showing off and leaves hard at work, magically converting light into gourmet ingredients. The link between Kitchen and Garden is a critical one as we move to the low carbon society.

300 visitors in all. My sincerest apologies to the countless others who were turned away. Guided tours are available everyday at Canberra’s Sustainable House. Sustainability education and learning is a key focus of our tours. It is as though Sustainable House Day is everyday here. Every hour is Earth Hour and every day is World Environment Day at Canberra’s Sustainable House.


I am always inspired to have young people on tours here at Canberra’s Sustainable House. Yes I have to rack the gravel paths after they visit, replant the flower beds and even wait for the next round of raspberries to fruit. But these are the people who inherit the future we leave them and it is a privilege to observe them learning about sustainability. Eating raspberries picked fresh from the vine is sustainability in action. I was fortunate to discover a piece of artwork left behind on our verandah on Sustainable House Day. The woodland trees festooned with mistletoe maybe seen in this artwork? And the sun is shining brightly – brilliant. I know not who the artist is, but I would be happy to both credit the work and return it to the rightful owner. Do let me know if you know more than I do.

Electric Vehicle Festival

September 2, 2010

The second annual National Electric Vehicle Festival is on again this year in Canberra.

Saturday 18 September 2010

An inspiring event organised by the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) and the ACT Electric Vehicle Council.

Visit their website for details and location.

Or for further details contact:

Julia McDonald


M:        0407 060 981

A Bloom’in Spring

September 2, 2010

It is ‘game on’ in the kitchen garden at Canberra’s Sustainable House. Winter is now behind us, the sweet scent of blossum is in the air and the saps moving again. This is the time of year that gardeners relish, planning and planting as the days grow continually longer and warmer.

Tremendous winter rains see the kitchen garden bursting with new life. Late plantings of heirloom carrots are being harvested. Perfect timing. The carrots overwintered and sweetened by the frosts of winter have all but been eaten.

The soil in the kitchen garden is rich and healthy. Old varieties of lettuce self seeded, germinating prolifically to form mosaics amongst the garlic, shallots and parsnips.

Sure, we’ll get some cold snaps in the next month or so, but it’s time to get moving. Sow some seed for tomatoes, capsicum and eggplants. Don’t forget the basil, pumpkins and melons. Stay tuned for the potato planting at Canberra’s Sustainable House – coming soon…….

Animal Visits For Kids

August 31, 2010

Creatures from all over Canberra are flocking from far and wide to see for themselves the environmentally friendly home and gardens at Nick’s former home once known as Canberra’s Sustainable House.

Take the beautiful local Canine, Leo for example. He was drawn immediately to the feature concrete floors of Canberra’s Sustainable House. “I just couldn’t resist” said Leo, a beautiful Husky dog from Canberra’s Inner North. “Why are new houses that use heaps of extra energy being built when there is a home like this one that uses none!! And it is way comfy?……..I just had to dash in and feel the luxurious warmth of Canberra’s Sustainable House while I had the chance”.

Fortunately for Leo (pictured here) former sustainable house Nick and visiting environmental glass guru, Dale were on hand to calmly guide young Leo to a comfortable spot on the verandah. Leo enjoyed the spectacular views across the productive kitchen garden and into the yellow box woodlands beyond, sipping serenely from a bucket of sweet, cool, rainwater. “The kitchen garden has been such an inspiration”, commented Leo, “I couldn’t just sit here gaining inspiration without getting ‘paws on’, so I broke open a few bales of hay and did some mulching – bloom’in marvelous this garden is!!!”.

And it is not only the Canines, renowned for their intelligence that have made a bee line for Canberra’s Sustainable House. An outgoing flock of Noisy Miners are the latest incomers, having taken up a roost in the Bay Tree near the verandah. The sustainable gardens at Canberra’s Sustainable House are also well known for their resident frogs and reptiles. A Shingleback couple overwinters each year in the kitchen garden at Canberra’s Sustainable House. The rapidly warming days will soon draw these amazing creatures out of their winter slumber. And we can hardly wait………

A Winter Kitchen Garden

August 19, 2010

The longer days and fantastic winter rains are transforming the kitchen garden at Canberra’s Sustainable House. The onions and garlic are working hard at developing tasty underground treats, bulbs in the case of the onions, corms in garlic.

The flower buds on the peaches are swelling and blushing pink, a key time to step in with some organic fungal treatments to avoid curly leaf disease and more to boot. I didn’t stop with the stone fruit, as plants such as Pomegranate can also succumb to curly leaf. The secret mix I use is also highly effective at reducing key bacterial infections in nashi pears too. And wouldn’t it be nice to get another bumper crop of those!!!

With the turnip supply almost eaten, not the resident rabbit the heirloom Broccoli has decided to step up to the plate, quite literally. It now threatens to overwhelm me. Such are the cycles in this loved and over producing kitchen garden. Have a good hard look at the broccoli I photographed last weekend – fabulous stuff, so sweet you can eat it raw.

The coming weeks and months will be busy times in the sustainable garden and is looking like a bumper spring this year.

Electric Vehicles

July 25, 2010

Electric vehicles in the form of battery electric cars, buses, motorcycles, planes boats and bicycles can and are likely to be an essential ingredient as we move to a sustainable transport solution. Electric motors are inherently more efficient, often operating at efficiencies of  70% or higher. The traditional internal combustion engine we are familiar with struggles to achieve 30% efficiency and rates even lower when the embodied energy associated with mining oil for fuel is taking into account, a process becoming known as “well to wheels”.

A recent announcement on Electric Vehicles by the federal minister, the honorable Mr Athony Albanese MP has disappointed many in the electric vehicle profession. Mr Albanese is the Speaker of the House and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. He recently announced that 40 imported Mitsubishi I – MiEVs would be leased to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia. The decision has been brought into the spotlight because there has been a local electric vehicle available for some time in the form of the Electron, remanufactured by Blade Electric Vehicles. Instead of supporting a locally manufactured, superior performing and cheaper electric car model this recent decision appears to undervalue local Australian electric vehicle manufacturers and there are several.

Mr Ross Blade of Blade Electric Vehicles, based in Castlemaine, Victoria has been attempting to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia for many years. It appears unfortunate that an innovative business and integral products cannot be showcased alongside one of the global automotive giants.

Winter Fruits

June 12, 2010

The crackling white frosts of Canberra’s winter signal harvest time for some of the prime fruits in our food forest. Pomegranates have been picked and store well. There are plans to juice and process these beauties in our eco kitchen to make that famous cocktail mixer, Granedine.

Our Feijoas fruited prolifically this year. Some fruits have been large, not far off the 200gm mark!!! Never eaten a feijoa!! Well it is like eating a tropical fruit salad. Tangy, sweet and almost sherbet like, they’ll have you coming back for more.

Carbon Commitment

May 17, 2010

Just how serious is Canberra about carbon emission reduction? Will the ACT government take the lead on this issue or will it be a case of, “when the people lead the leaders follow”?

Take Canberra’s Sustainable House for example. We are serious about greenhouse gas emissions – it is both our passion and our business afterall. Three and a half years of living in our home has seen us progressively move beyond carbon neutral into the zone known as carbon negative. We will not sell, trade, or otherwise deal away the emission reductions made in our home. We have not sold and will not or trade away the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) deemed on any of our renewable energy systems, something that is commonplace with the installation of solar hotwater and electricity systems.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are everyone’s responsibility. I spoke with Anne O’Brien of at the Inner North Community Fair, Sunday 16 May 2010. Love 40% is one of a several community groups working hard to encourage the ACT Government to make responsible decisions on carbon emission reductions. We are talking a reduction of 40% by 2020 at a minimum!!!!

I would encourage Canberra residents to sign the petition. Why not download the petition from the link below and ask your friends, family and work colleagues to sign on to this critical 40% Carbon Dioxide emission reduction by 2020. Petition deadline has been extended until 30 June 2010.

Reducing Canberra’s Emissions 40% by 2020