Grow your own

Category Archives: Workshops

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:

 

 

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

 

 

Waterwise spring gardening tips
12th September, 2018

Steve Fleischmann shares his tips for waterwise spring gardening, plus book into a seedling workshop at Katoomba Community Gardens.

The cooler weather seems to be behind us as the days get warmer and I’m writing this without the heater on! However, it is easy to be fooled and plant out frost sensitive edibles, then lose the lot when we get a late frost or it snows in October.

If you haven’t done it yet, order your seeds for summer – beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, cucumber – and start planting small amounts regularly. Your gardening life is about to get really, really busy. The Co-op has a fantastic selection of organic seeds, (and we’ve just received an order of over 700 new packets!) so check them out!

Herbs & salad veg

Something to consider is planting out a lot of herbs – I’m talking flat leaved parsley, oregano, all the basils and other soft leaved herbs – and use them regularly in your cooking. If you think about it, you would probably use oregano and parsley a lot more than you use corn, so plant in a manner that allows you to eat these herbs plentifully. The flavours of handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, parsley or basil in a salad are the things that make me go back into the garden over and over again.

Likewise, pea shoots are a delicious addition to a salad. Plant three seeds to a hole and, once the plants get to over 30 cm tall, start nipping off the growing tips and using them in salads. Their flowers are also edible and delicious.

Drought-proofing your garden

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot is climate change – the long dry spells we are experiencing are playing havoc with soils, flowering times and plants’ ability to flower among a host of other subtle and not so subtle effects. For example, my Echinacea barely flowered last season and I suspect it was a mix of low precipitation and changes in soil structure due to heat and lack of moisture.

So, what to do? It’s a really, really big prime-ministerial question. And one with no easy or simple answers, but there are a few things we can do in the garden to mitigate problems. Firstly, massively increase the volume of organic matter in and on your soil. Organic matter can be compost, grass clippings, well-rotted animal manure, or weed-free mulch. Organic matter stores water where it is needed for plant growth and provides both food and habitat for the micro- and macro-organisms that are part of soil biodiversity. The sandy solids we have in the mountains seem to use up organic matter in a season without a lot of effort, so it pays to think actively about where you will get the volumes you will need (without spending a lot of money).

Additionally, it is worthwhile adding some agricultural clay or volcanic dust to your compost or soils. These have the benefit of helping to improve soil structure, preserve water and adding micro-nutrients.

Install drip irrigation and a timer. Pretty much a no-brainer. It delivers water where it is needed and at rates that are a lot more efficient than overhead spraying. Look for irrigation systems that are simple and do not have a lot of bits and pieces – the more complex the system the easier it is to break. I tend to use what is called “in-line” drippers, as they are simply pipes with holes that regulate the outflow. Installing is a bit of a job, but well worth it.

Finally, research the varieties you are planting – look for those that are proven heat lovers and have low water requirements, and save the more sensitive plantings for spring and autumn.

Want to learn how to plant seedlings for a bumper yield? Come along to our first spring gardening workshop with Steve Fleischmann at Katoomba Community Garden.

Friday September 28th 9am – 12pm. To book click here.

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

 

Wellness Wednesdays
7th June, 2018

Wellness Wednesdays provide an opportunity for members and customers to meet our in store practitioners and learn about health and nutrition. One of our practitioners will be available to answer your questions from 11am – 1pm each Wednesday in the ‘big’ shop. See What’s On information for dates and topics covered.

Meet our practitioners

Sonya Byron

Sonya holds the staff board position. In her past life Sonya was a farmer in the US so supporting local growers and encouraging sustainability is a matter close to her heart. She is currently a fourth year student in naturopathy.

Sallyanne Pisk

Sallyanne gained her BSc and post graduate qualifications in nutrition and dietetics from Deakin University. She enjoyed several years working in community and public health nutrition in Central West NSW before undertaking a joint clinical, management and research role in diabetes. She completed her research masters at University of Wollongong in type 2 diabetes and her thesis provided the basis for the national dietitian practice guidelines.

Sallyanne then moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where she worked in child and women’s health. On her return to Australia in 2003 she worked in integrative medicine. Sallyanne’s work, plus extensive travel in India and Nepal, sparked her interest in the common links between Eastern and Western nutrition, and the role of mindfulness in guiding personalised eating and lifestyle choices. She launched her first book, Eating for You: Your personal guide to mindful eating and living in Sydney in 2016. Sallyanne now provides online and face to face consults and programs.

Sallyanne and her husband, along with horse Chit Chat have been residents of Little Hartley since 2013. Her mindful eating practices incorporate growing and preparing seasonal food. She embraces the original definition of diet, diata, which means enjoying good health through food, exercise, sleep, relationships, work and an understanding of your life purpose. Sallyanne has been a Wellness Wednesday practitioner since 2016.

Danielle O’Donoghue

Danielle, aka the Yummy Yogi, is a holistic health coach specialising in cooking with wholefoods, herbal medicine and yoga. She currently runs our Nourishing Families workshops at the North Katoomba Community Hub.

Chris Ireland

Chris studied as a pharmacist and completed a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry before embarking on a research career in molecular biology. She returned to community pharmacy in 1997 and has worked both in Sydney and the Mountains. She trained as a herbalist with Dorothy Hall in the late 1990s and has studied with the legendary Rosemary Gladstar. She has a large garden specialising in growing medicinal plants. She loves sharing her passion for herbs and specialises in using herbal medicines in conjunction with prescription drugs. Chris has worked at the Co-op since 2014.

 

A frosty reception
6th June, 2018

Seasonal Gardening Tips by Steve Fleischmann

Living and growing in the Blue Mountains means dealing with frost. Frost forms when the ground temperature drops below zero degrees and moisture in the air freezes and settles. Frost mostly occurs in open gardens with exposed surfaces because frost tends to “fall” and can be blocked by tree canopies and verandas.

This is important to understand because one measure for frost protection is to employ a variety of covers that can be draped over plants to protect them. There are a number of products available online or in garden centres under names such as “frost cloth” or “horticultural fleece”. Draped over garden beds, and held in place by rocks or pegs, they act as a barrier to frost yet allow water to pass through.

Corn salad, or Mache, is a great winter leafy green

Another way of dealing with frost concerns a mixture of timing, variety selection, and healthy soils. Many plants cope quite well with frost as long as they are reasonably mature and healthy. Planting Brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages (White, Red and Chinese) and kales early – I start my first sowings around Christmas, and my last around March/April – means that by the time the frosts come the plant is mature and has the ability to cope with being frozen. In fact, many of the Brassicas taste better after several frosts because it increases their sugar content.

I mention this because it seems to be a common understanding to plant this family in autumn and winter. Personally, I find this much too late, plantings I make at this time tend to bolt to seed in spring – not much good if you want to eat fresh veg during winter.

Many lettuces actually prefer the cooler weather and, surprisingly, come back to life after they thaw out. I have found ‘Wonder of Four Seasons’ and ‘Speckled Trout’ lettuces grow well in winter, but there are dozens of others just as good. By picking off outer leaves you can also reduce incidence of slug attack by removing habitat.

Many varieties of lettuce cope really well with Blue Mountains winters

Additionally, most radishes are winter hardy and cope very well with the hardest of frosts. Every year I plant lots of daikon throughout autumn for harvest in winter and they are used in pickles and soups, the leaves of radishes are edible too.

Chinese cabbage, daikon and coriander planted throughout autumn

My favourite winter green would have to be Mache or corn salad. A European leafy green that looks like a miniature lettuce but has a lovely nutty taste and loves the cold weather, In fact it only really grows once the overall temperature drops and will bolt to seed once spring and warmer weather arrive. Plant a lot of them because you harvest them whole and you will need several florets for a decent mid-winter salad.

Using compost generously when planting winter crops not only benefits the plants ability to grow healthily, it has the added benefit of providing some warmth through bacterial decomposition.

Resources

The New Organic Grower & Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

Did you know?

Frost can actually help organic gardeners by killing overwintering pests and diseases.

WHAT’S ON AT THE CO-OP – APRIL 2018
3rd April, 2018

GROW YOUR OWN – APRIL 2018
3rd April, 2018

Flyer for Grow Your Own Workshop on Friday 6 April 9am-12pm Katoomba Community Gardens Cost $20 per person pay on the day

WHAT’S ON AT THE CO-OP – MARCH 2018
5th March, 2018

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