Grow your own

Category Archives: Gardening

Grow your own
17th January, 2019

Get set for barrow loads of inspiration on the 2019 Blue Mountains Edible Garden Trail.

It’s only a few weeks until the Edible Garden Trail 2019 kicks off across the mountains.

Over 45 gardens including back and front yards, commercial, community and school gardens will be open to the pubic to showcase the various ways we are growing food, resilience and community.

It’s a great chance to get inspired to start your own vegie patch, learn new tricks and tips, and share advice with fellow green thumbs.

Check out our website instagram and facebook page for all the information and purchase your tickets online.

Grow your own
21st November, 2018

Small space gardening

Design and planting tips and tricks for maximizing your small garden from Steve Fleischmann.

Recently I have been asked about growing in small areas and growing in pots. A great question because so many people have small gardens and a few well-placed pots can help make unused corners of the garden become more productive and attractive.

Design is an important consideration here. Like many things, we don’t necessarily notice something well designed, we just enjoy its functionality. However, when something is poorly designed it can be really frustrating. Having your potted garden in a handy spot, that you both like and spend time in, means you are far more likely to water the garden, notice when plants are ready t harvest and generally enjoy the space.  Similarly, with a small garden, design it so that it draws you in – put a seat in the middle of it or plant aromatic herbs you can step on/brush past. Consider aspect and hierarchy. Most edibles need six hours of sunlight, and try to plant tall plants at the back of a bed and low sprawling ones at the front.

Map out the areas around the house that get the required sunlight and start thinking and researching what can be planted in these areas. If the sunniest spot is in the most remote/far removed area of the garden, don’t despair, plant something like oregano because it comes from rocky hillsides that are really dry, it can (usually) cope pretty well with some neglect, and it’s delicious as a fresh herb.

Pathways are also important. Ironically we tend to prefer curved pathways, but tend to walk straight from A to B. So designing a path through even the smallest of gardens can be a major design feat. Before you move a single shovel load, observe how you and others use the space. It is far easier to build to your habits than changing your habits to suit your build. Straight lines can be softened by herbs that tumble over the edge of a garden bed onto the path – making a straight line seem curved.  Furthermore, it can be good to have an “aim” at the end of a pathway – a herb and flower bed, a fruit tree in a pot, a water feature, a bench seat or something else that draws you into the garden.

From my own experience the hardest thing about growing in pots is the water issue. In Australia’s extreme heat of summer pots can dry out very quickly and that can spell disaster for many plants. A couple of solutions to this is to use saucer trays at the bottom of the pot, experience has shown me that they make all the world of difference. Another option is a wicking pot. Essentially this is a plant pot with a water reservoir in the bottom.

Additionally, pots need to be watered. I know, I know a no-brainer really, but hey, it has to be said because we have all forgotten to water the pots and had plants die. Having a watering can or hose handy (and by handy I mean between the house and the thing that needs watering!) will mean the job is more likely to get done.

The next serious consideration is plant choice. And this is a big topic regardless of the size of your garden. Some edibles are simply not worth growing in small gardens – I’m thinking of things like corn or even tomatoes (I know some will disagree with me on this!) because they take up a lot of space, take a long time to fruit and the season is relatively short. On the other hand, a mix of lettuces, mizuna, chives and parsley in a big pot can give you cut and come again leafy greens for ages in a short period of time. Many seed companies sell Mesclun mixes and these are great for small gardens and pot growing.  A potful of parsley will provide you with far more food over a growing season than a couple of corn plants. Other veg to try in small gardens include space-saver varieties of cucumber, zucchini, melons and pumpkins.

Finally, going back to design, but with a firm eye on plant choice, think vertical space. Grow up walls, create tepees or other trellis structures. Beans, peas and other vining plants love growing up support, look great, can hide ugly parts of the garden and are really productive.

Happy growing!

Steve will be hosting a gardening workshop at the Katoomba Community Garden Friday 23rd November see event for details.

It’s a village out there!
21st November, 2018

The Village by Matt and Lentil

A book to make you “yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.”

What an amazing book! Set out in three parts (the village, the growing and of course the eating) it is a thorough bible for sustainable living.

The authors’ shared experience of villages really makes you yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.

I loved Matt and Lentil’s advice on growing including ideas about how anyone can grow, even if you’re renting or living in a flat. The eight steps to natural gardening are so interesting and detailed. Being a novice in the garden, I found it really useful to read a frank description of what they do and when.

The planting projects are really inspiring and seem like a doable place to start. The idea to focus on one thing first up is great. I’m particularly drawn to grow an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini and rocket as suggested! Easy to grow, abundant harvest? Yes! The sweet potato crates sound pretty straight forward too.

Just as I started reading The Village I happened upon a bunch of zucchini that had split open. Sure enough, zucchini pickle featured in the book. I have it stewing away in the cupboard and can’t wait to be cracking it open over Xmas. Waste not want not.

The smoothie chart in the recipe section looks so simple and useful. It’s unique, setting out all the different elements and options/quantities to be used to build a great smoothie every time.

The beautiful photographs throughout draw you into a gardeny world and you just want to go live there…or recreate it.

Really inspiring.

Review by Bec Tyson, Co-op sales assistant

Bec’s home-made zucchini pickles. Recipe from The Village by Matt and Lentil, Published by Plum, RRP $45.00, Photography by Shantanu Starick.

10 minutes with Lis Bastian
17th October, 2018

Part of the solution

Environmental activist, teacher and The Big Fix founder, Lis Bastian, is combining permaculture and social enterprise to help mountains youth kick start sustainable careers. Learn more about Lis, solutions journalism and her passion project.

Q: What is The Big Fix and what are its aims?

A: The Big Fix Inc is a not for profit organisation that started in Blackheath in 2007 as a climate action group. We were originally called Blackheath CAN! We’ve grown to become an arts, media and community development service.

Our mission is to “Change the story” – to grow a collaborative solutions-focused culture and we do this via both show and tell. We ‘show’ by establishing projects (like Blackheath Community Farm) and ‘tell’ by supporting storytelling through a range of media services, including The Big Fix magazine, Global Solutions Digests and our template for other communities, Blackheath Local News.

Q: What is your background?

A: Previously I’ve had a range of roles in arts, community development and climate change work. As well as being an Art teacher, Education Officer at the Art Gallery of NSW and Curator of Orange Regional Gallery, I was CEO of Arts OutWest, a Climate Adaptation Officer for 17 Central NSW Councils, CEO of Varuna, Public Programs Manager for the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and Lecturer in Operations & Environmental Management at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School. I also co-founded the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute with Rowe Morrow.

Q: What are some of the positive outcomes of The Big Fix?

  • Started Blackheath Community Market and ran bulk buys for hazelnut trees and solar panels.
  • Attracted almost $100,000 of funding to Blackheath, which has employed lots of local storytellers, including young people, and helped establish the Community Farm.
  • Strengthened local community via the Community Farm and other projects.
  • Supported activities of other groups by sharing their stories.
  • Received feedback that people read our news first so that they’re not disheartened by mainstream media.
  • Helped switch businesses away from plastic straws and run a Youth Cafe.
  • Trained lots of permaculturists and permaculture teachers.
  • Created a model that can be scaled to other communities.

Q: Can you tell us about your new project to engage youth through permaculture and social enterprise?

Our most recent project is Grounded – a Youth Permaculture and Social Enterprise Project which has been funded by Blue Mountains City Council, Bendigo Bank and Sydney Water.

It emerged from an alliance of local businesses and organisations, including the Co-op, and we’re offering a free Permaculture Design Course for young people aged 16-24. The course will be quite an exciting new version of the internationally recognised PDC because it will include training to help students design land and their own social enterprise. Over the next six months, following the course, they’ll get ongoing mentorship and support to establish a local business or businesses for young people in the Blue Mountains.

Anyone interested in participating in the course can contact Lis on 0407 437 553 or email lis@thebigfix.org

 

 

Competition
17th October, 2018

Organic gardening tips

Did you know?

Attractive herb and flower hedgerows encourage diversity both above and below the soil by creating hotbeds of fungal mycelium, and providing habitat for native animals and beneficial bugs.

Tell us your top organic gardening tips to win a 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set.

How do you combat pests and diseases in your organic vegie patch?

Share your top tips to hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au and go into the draw to win an ABC 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set. Competition closes Friday October 26.

A dam good cause
17th October, 2018

Farm resilience

Local growers, Erika Watson and Hayden Druce of Epicurean Harvest, are throwing open the farm gates to future-proof their property. They took time out from farm chores to fill us in on life on the land and the hefty toll of drought.

Q: What got you into farming?

We both did horticultural science degrees at Sydney Uni. Trying to avoid being scuttled into conventional agricultural graduate employment streams we decided to take the skills we had gained and apply them in the most direct and fitting way we saw possible – growing vegetables responsibly for lovely people who appreciate them.

Q: What do you grow and who/where is your market?

A: We grow a very wide range of vegetables from eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers etc. to interesting herbs and unusual yams and things. We primarily grow for restaurants (including some pretty top-notch Sydney-based chefs) but also for a few local restaurants, grocers and co-ops in the mountains

Q: Can you describe your farming methods?

A: We grow chemical free, organic vegetables and we aim to farm regeneratively. This means taking into account the vegetable production as part of the whole farm ecosystem. The pasture, the animals and the vegetables all need to be accountable to one another, and biodiversity and ecosystem processes need to be moving forward. That is our primary aim.

Q: How has the drought affected the farm and what are the personal costs?

A: Lack of winter (and summer) rain has significantly reduced ground water flows (for bores) and also most dam water has been lost through evaporation over the period. Recent rains have been good for the pasture but have done little to top up dams or really recharge the groundwater system. Without enough stored water to operate the veggie farm we are needing to adapt in as many ways possible, but ultimately we will suffer significant losses due to restrictions in production if we do not get significant rainfall for an extended period of time.

Q: What are your plans and hopes for the future of Bula Mirri and agriculture in general in Australia?

A: We want Bula Mirri to be a productive living example of regenerative, multi-enterprise farming. We also want it to be a place for community to experience and learn and enjoy. Celebrating farming as part of culture rather than separating the two is essential to being more accountable to the land and ecosystems we farm on as well as having an enjoyable time doing it.

Erika and Hayden are throwing open the farm gates for a Farm Resilience Fundraiser on November 4. To read more about the event and purchase tickets click here.

 

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