Grow your own

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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.

The 12 Herbs of Christmas workshop

Learn how to make your own herbal remedies in this hands-on workshop conducted by Herbalist and Educator, Nick Read, and the Co-op’s student Naturopath, Sonya Byron.

Teas, tinctures, tissanes, tonics and topical preparations are covered in this insightful and entertaining workshop featuring the 12 herbs of Christmas: Calendula, Chamomile, Echinacea, Elderberry, Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Licorice, Marshmallow, Peppermint, Thyme plus a bonus number 13: Yarrow!

Our last herbal workshop sold out quickly so don’t delay, book today.

When: Sunday 9th December, 2-4pm

Where: Blue Mountains Food Co-op

How much: $30

Workshop fee includes refreshments, all ingredients and take home samples.

To book click here.

Workshop facilitators

Nick Read – Herbalist and Educator

My personal belief systems have forged my herbal practice into a fusion and synergy of ‘old meets new’. I have a strong interest in combining the traditional and spiritual use of herbs with the more recent evidence based research methods. I thoroughly enjoy educating and empowering people in the practical and functional use of herbs. Medicines and preparations that can be easily sourced and utilised for themselves and their families health and wellbeing. After having my own practice I gravitated towards education, having worked at Flordis as a product educator and then teaching Herbal Medicine Manufacturing and Botany based subjects at a tertiary level. My qualifications include: Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine, Bachelor of Health Science.

Sonya Byron – Naturopathy student

Sonya is a final year naturopathy student at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies in Sydney. As the owner/operator of an organic farm for several years, she developed a passion for growing and using herbs in her daily life. She strongly believes that herbal medicine is the people’s medicine, and loves to empower people with the knowledge and skills to make their own simple herbal preparations for the benefit of their own and their family’s health and wellbeing.

Wild weeds wrap

A group of 25 enthusiastic foragers joined The Weedy One himself, Mr Diego Bonetto, for a walk on the wild side at the Katoomba Community Gardens on Saturday November 10.

Accompanied by Blue Mountains Food Co-op Manager, Halin Nieuwenhuyse, the eager weed hunters identified a plethora of edible and medicinal plants including the following:

Chickweed> food + medicine Stellaria media

Cleavers> food + medicine Galium_aparine

Dandelion> food + medicine  Taraxacum officinale 

Dock> food Rumex_crispus

Farmer’s friend> food + medicine Bidens_pilosa

Flatweed>  food Hypochaeris spp 

Fleabane> insect repellant Conyza canadensis 

Native geranium> bush medicine https://www.anbg.gov.au/apu/plants/gerasola.html

Plantain> medicine Plantago lanceolata

Purple top> flower Verbena_bonariensisPrickly lettuce> food + medicine Lactuca_serriola

Scotch thistle/perennial thistle> food cirsium-vulgare

Sowthistle> food Sowthistle -Sonchus spp

White clover> food Trifolium_repens

Wild brasssica> food Brassica Spp.

This image shows the edible and medicinal weeds the group found and identified.

For information on Diego’s workshops click here and stay tuned for an autumn 2019 foraging expedition hosted by the Co-op.

Diego’s Resources

A good link for edible plants is Plant for a future

The link to the mapping system we are creating is wildfood.in

The link to the local stories by Aunty Fran is here>https://dharawalstories.com/

Two good books:

 

 

Co-op night market
21st November, 2018

Join in the fun as Ha’penny Lane comes to life on Saturday evening December 8.

Members and the general public are invited to a celebration. In conjunction with Toolo and Junction 142 and The Little Lost Bookshop, the Blue Mountains Food Co-op is hosting a night market in Ha’penny Lane, Saturday December 8th between 4 – 9pm. Although the main store will be closed there’ll be lots of other stallholders, music and food, and the Big Little Shop will be open for all your sustainable Xmas shopping.

Stallholders include: Cocoa Ruby’s delicious, gluten and dairy-free artisan-made vegan cakes. Wilderness Coffee Project will be mixing up some espresso mocktails and chai, plus check out their range of cold brew and espresso coffee accoutrements. Robin’s Seedlings will be selling a range of organic herbs and vegies for your garden. Not Without Spice will have meal kits and spice rubs. Plus, more stalls to be announced.

If anyone would like to busk at the market please contact us at hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au.

 

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.

 

Make do and mend
17th October, 2018

Repair Café Katoomba

Get set to make do and mend at the second monthly Repair Café at Junction 142, Katoomba.

The inaugural Katoomba Repair Café, held on Saturday 15th September, was a huge success according to organiser Justin Morrissey of Toolo.

“People brought 27 items along to the Repair Café and more than 80% of the items were repaired successfully,” Justin says. “That’s over 200 kg of items not destined for landfill!”

“Ten enthusiastic, skilled volunteers assisted on the day, and the fundraising sausage sizzle, tea and coffee were a real hit.”

If you’d like to volunteer your skills for this Saturday 20th October contact Toolo at Toolo.blue@gmail.com

As an incentive, volunteer repairers will receive a free year’s membership with the Co-op (valued at $35) for their first Repair Café and volunteer points for time spent at the Repair Café on subsequent dates. If volunteers are already members of the Co-op they will receive volunteer points.

 

 

Wild Weed Workshop
12th September, 2018

You will never look at weeds in the same way again after taking part in this workshop.

Diego Bonetto is a weed forager, artist, storyteller and an expert on identifying the nutritious plants that grow under our feet that most people call ‘weeds’.

Take a walk on the wild side and discover the edible and medicinal plants that grow around us. Learn about the role weeds play in repairing and building soil. Find out how they have been used for food, craft and natural remedies. Discover ways to safely harvest from the wild and enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals.

Each participant will receive a booklet detailing 16 of the most common wild edibles of the greater Sydney region.

The Weedy One

We asked Diego Bonetto aka The Weedy One what got him into weeds.

Q: What got you interested in wild food and foraging?

Diego: Where I grew up, on a dairy farm in northern Italy, harvesting seasonal bounties is just another chore. I grew up with collecting bitter greens from the fields in springtime, summer berries and autumn mushrooms. When I moved to Australia 25 years ago I continued with the same practice of collecting gifts from nature.

Q: What are weeds useful for?

Diego: All sorts of things. “Weeds” are pioneer species, opportunistic plants with a specific ecological task: to cover soil and start the process of remediation after a disruption. It also happens that many of them are edible and/or have medicinal qualities. We can talk about co-evolution if you want, and that would explain why we have so much to answer about the proliferation of pioneer species. Weeds are good, and food.

Q: You do a lot of foraging in urban areas – how do you mitigate contamination by pesticides, animal faeces or other pollutants?

Diego: You only ever forage where you know it is clean. Even then, it is now proven that wild urban plants do not take up as much contaminant as we might expect them to. A simple vinegar wash would cleanse the plants of any dust and oils. But anyhow. I always say that the best place to forage is your own garden, so that you forage where you know how many dogs there are, who sprays what and also a bit of history of the soil.

Q: Do you have a favourite weed you like to cook with or use medicinally?

Diego: Depending on the season. At the moment I am waiting for the mulberries. In Sydney we have a lot of wild mulberries, and they are delicious.

Q: Are there any “weeds” you know of that are endemic to the Blue Mountains?

Diego: I do not think you can have an endemic weed. I guess native species that are a bit too aggressive could be golden wattle and sweet pittosporum.

There are still a few spots left so to book your ticket for the Wonderful Wild Weeds workshop click here.

Location: Upper Blue Mountains – to be confirmed

 

Eco-friendly spring cleaning

Ditch harsh chemical cleaning products in your home for these local, eco-friendly substitutes.

After the birth of her son, Archie (Archimedes), Natalie Beak was drawn to a simpler way of life. The freelance art director and television production designer had just made a tree change to the mountains and begun listening to The Slow Home podcast by local mountain’s mum Brooke McAlary. “Brooke spoke about simplifying cleaning products and habits, and I soon realised that we really didn’t need 15 different bottles of chemicals in the home,” Natalie explains.

“I started reading everything I could about natural living and slowing down, notably Rhonda Hetzel’s Down the Earth, Rebecca Sullivan’s The Art of the Natural Home and The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb.” This reading coupled with lots of internet research and even more making and testing, formed the background to a new business idea that was bubbling away in Natalie’s mind.

“Making eco-friendly cleaning products for my own family was one thing, but I wanted to share the idea that natural and simple is best,” she says. “Unless we work in high-risk environments where disease control is paramount, we don’t need to be using harsh chemicals in the home. The basics of vinegar, water and essential oils are really all you need to keep a clean and family-friendly home!” And so, Archimedes and Me was born.

Since then Natalie’s home-made chemical-free cleaning and personal care product range has increased to include kitchen and bathroom and general cleaners, salt scrubs, a magnesium bath soak and even a birthing blend.

Here she shares one of her basic recipes.

All-Purpose Kitchen Spray

In a 500ml spray bottle combine:

3/4 cup of vinegar

35 drops of essential oils (citrus oils like wild orange or lemon are great for dissolving grease, eucalyptus and lemon myrtle have amazing antibacterial properties, and clove is a fabulous mould buster)

Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled or purified water and shake.

NB: This spray is not recommended for natural stone due to the acidic nature of the vinegar and oils but is fantastic for timber or laminate surfaces, floors and cupboards.

For more fantastic eco-friendly cleaning and personal care products come along to the Co-op Thursday 20th September at 11am to Meet the Maker – Natalie Beak of Archimedes and Me.

What’s on in September
4th September, 2018

Can we fix it?
15th August, 2018

Can we fix it? Yes we can, with your help! Toolo, the not-for-profit Katoomba Tool Library, is calling for volunteer repairers for the new Katoomba Repair Café.

Are you a Mr or Ms Fixit? Do you have mending skills you’d like to share with the community? Then we need you at Katoomba’s Repair Café.

Toolo  and the Blue Mountains Food Co-op are launching a Repair Café at Junction 142 in Katoomba on 15th September. Repair Cafés are non-monetary shopfronts for an international sustainability movement that is all about repairing damaged or broken household items that would otherwise end up in landfill. Repair Cafés offer communities the chance to learn how to mend clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, toys, computer equipment and more by providing tools, materials and volunteers with repair skills in all kinds of fields.

Just rewards

As incentive, volunteer repairers will receive a free years membership with the Co-op (valued at $35) for their first Repair Café and volunteer points for time spent at the Repair Café on subsequent dates. If volunteers are already members of the Co-op they will receive volunteer points.

To register your interest contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com

POSITION VACANT – Coordinator role

The Repair Café Mender Coordinator is a volunteer position whose main responsibility is to liaise directly with the volunteer menders from the community, provide them with rostered shifts, provide an orientation and safety induction, and collect and file volunteer paperwork. The Repair Café Mender Coordinator should be familiar with basic computer skills, such as Google Drive, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheets. This volunteer position is for approximately 8 hours per month and entitles the successful candidate to free membership of the Blue Mountains Food Co-op, valued at $35 (or volunteer points if already a member) and full membership to the Blue Mountains Tool Library valued at $99. To apply contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Dog day afternoon
9th August, 2018

Gone to the dogs

We eat well, so why shouldn’t our dogs? Bring your four-legged friend to the Co-op on Thursday 30th August between 1 – 3.30pm for an afternoon of doggy diet discussion complete with canine canapés from Miso’s Treats and The Dog Baker.

Miso’s Treats

Based in Katoomba, Miso’s Treats are all natural, dehydrated dog treats that are low in fat with no added salt, sugar or preservatives. Only the best quality ingredients are used, with a preference for Australian, free-range and organic products whenever possible. Miso’s Treats contain at least 45% vegetables so they’re very healthy and many have no grains or dairy and so are suitable for dogs with allergy issues.

Miso’s Treats also offers dehydrated single ingredient treats like Grass Fed Beef Strips and Free Range Chicken Jerky, and dehydrated fruit and vegetables that dogs love such as Sweet Potato, Carrots, Apples and Pears.

“Miso” (above) and “Rosie” (top) photos by Paul Watkins.

facebook.com/Miso’sTreats

The Dog Baker

Sue Barclay, chief baker at The Dog Baker – a boutique Blue Mountains business – admits that prior to starting The Dog Baker she paid little attention to the ingredients in popular commercial dog treats. But when she finally did, it proved a scary read. “The ingredients included excessive amounts of salt, additive numbers (a very long list), sugar and generic references to unspecified meat products,” says Sue.  “No wonder my dogs were always gasping for a drink after feeding them treats. It seemed we had been inadvertently overdosing them on salt and other unknown additives.”

Sue realised the only way to ensure her dogs ate healthy treats was to make them herself. And so, after numerous experimental batches and lots of taste testing by her dogs, neighbourhood and friends’ dogs, and even a hungry teenage son, The Dog Baker was born. Using natural human-grade ingredients The Dog Baker treat range includes Apple Cheese Buckwheat biscuits, Banana Peanut Butter Carob bones and Sardine, Mint & Parsley paws.

dogbaker.com.au

The scoop on poop

If aliens chose to observe human behaviour through the lens of an off-leash dog park they would probably assume that dogs were the superior race. They’ve trained us well, our furry, four-legged friends, as we dutifully follow them around picking up after them. Aliens might also wonder why we are using environmentally damaging plastic bags to scoop the poop when there are much better eco-friendly alternatives.

The dog bags provided by Blue Mountains City Council in dispensers at off leash dog parks are degradable, meaning they break down into tiny little pieces of plastic over many, many years but remain in the eco-system as a pollutant and a danger to wildlife. The Co-op stocks Biobags, biodegradable dog poop bags made from a resin derived from plants, vegetable oils and compostable polymers that are completely compostable:  https://biobagworld.com.au/product/50-biodegradable-dog-poop-bags/

And because there is still much consumer confusion regarding the meaning of biodegradable, compostable, and bioplastic, here’s a nifty explanation from Choice magazine:

https://www.choice.com.au/shopping/packaging-labelling-and-advertising/packaging/articles/biodegradable-plastic

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