School Gardens – Let us help you!

Since 2009 has been helping schools, preschools and after school care centres to install and maintain sustainable and edible garden systems. We have installed and maintained award winning school gardens in Sydney, working within and outside of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

We offer:


A compost in school grounds can process all of your schools organic waste including leaf litter, fruit and vegetable scraps and garden cuttings. A well designed compost can be effective and easy to use.

Composts provide a great opportunity for learning from science to literacy and everything in between!

We can install a compost system to suit your schools needs. We can also offer workshops and regular maintenance sessions to help you get started and keep you composting.

Garden beds

Vegetable growing beds have become increasingly popular in school environments. Even if your school doesn’t have a kitchen, a vegetable garden can still be a valuable addition to any school. can install a variety of different styles of garden bed and will help you find one suited to your schools needs, including water efficient models. We are also available to offer support in teaching programs and maintenance, particularly at change of seasons.

Chicken Coops

While often a final step in a schools edible garden, chickens are a great way to start a garden program. Chickens can process organic waste, provide fresh eggs and are an amazing draw card to get parents and children involved in the school grounds. We can help you choose a suitable site and coop for your school, we can even help you hatch your own chicks from fertile eggs. Once you have chickens we can be there to support you as you learn to care for them and help with any problems you may encounter.

At we are always happy to come and chat with you about your schools needs and help you find the right start (or addition) to your sustainable school garden!

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All Schools Need Compost Systems

I’m in the process of applying for a grant so that my son’s high school will have the funds to build a compost system at their school. While it was always my plan to get one into the school it was actually my son who initiated the discussion. It was a proud parent moment to see him frown and think about throwing away the garden waste we are currently removing and announce we need a compost. But it’s not just this school that needs a compost. ALL schools (pre, primary and high) need a compost. A nice big compost. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Reduce green house gas emissions – throwing organic waste into the general rubbish stream results in higher green house gas emissions. This is because when organic matter decomposes in landfill it decomposes anaerobically (without air) which releases methane gas. Methane is a potent green house gas and landfill is a significant contributor to its release into the environment. Composting allows this waste to decompose with air (aerobically) which reduces the amount of methane entering our atmosphere.
  • Turn Waste into Resource – the compost produced can be used in school grounds or passed on to people within the school community. Traditionally made compost is one of the best ways to get nutrients into soil and making it yourself reduces the need to buy it wrapped in plastic. Also soil that is rich in organic matter holds more water and traps carbon.
  • Community Composting is Cool – Not everyone likes composting at home so community composting is a good way to capture those that want to compost but don’t want to do it in their own back yard.
  • Compost is a Teaching Tool – The compost area is a great place to talk about a whole range of subjects from the science of global warming to the maths of temperature and cubic measurement to literacy of making ‘how to’ signs. I like to use the compost as a vehicle for anti littering discussions (no plastic does not break down in a compost – how did it get in there? what should we do with rubbish when we see it on the ground, even if it isn’t ours?), not to mention the inspection of insects and other creepy crawlies we find in there.
  • Compost is a way to connect with Local Business – school composts are a great way to get to know your local businesses, particularly the ones that produce organic waste. There’s nothing like a bucket or two of coffee grounds to heat up a compost and most cafes are more than happy to separate out their waste grounds for collection.

If your school doesn’t have a compost and you think it might like one, start the conversation. Or ask me how to get one going. There are also plenty of grants around to help you get started, like this one!

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In praise of the black soldier fly larvae

It’s compost turning time again but as the weather cools down I’m missing the black soldier fly (BSF) larvae. As the weather starts to warm again turning the compost becomes a hunt for the first BSF of the season.  If you’ve never seen one (and I apologise for the lack of pictures but I’ve never photographed one) they are quite large, long, thin flies, very different to your average blow fly. Google it. It’s good to know your friends in the garden and the soldier fly is one of them.

There’s lots of good reasons to get excited about seeing BSFs or their larvae.  First it’s a sign that the temperatures are warming up as BSF like days when it’s well over 20 degrees.  Second, chickens, quails and fish love to eat BSF larvae so I love gathering them for a feed (to chickens in particular who seem to like to discuss the flavour of what they are eating with their fellow feathered friends) knowing you are providing a protein packed sustainable treat.  Third, they are excellent composters and if you set up your breeding/composting container right they will self harvest.  This is because BSF larvae will crawl upwards when they are ready to change into a fly.  If you give them the right kind of ramp they will drop conveniently self harvest into a well placed bucket for you.  Convinced yet?

Maybe not.  I can understand that breeding larvae may not be to everyone’s taste even if they are quite well behaved and odourless.  But if you keep fish or feathered friends have a think about these creatures as a way to feed your pets.  There are some that advocate eating the larvae, I’m not sure I’d go that far, but encouraging them to help compost our food waste and getting a protein packed animal feed product out of it seems like a win win to me.

If you’d like to read more, here’s a blog dedicated to the BSF.

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The Autumn Garden

Sydney is starting to cool down. Have you felt it yet? I know in the middle of the day it can still feel a little warm and dry (too dry?) but those mornings are getting chilly and the days of planting beans, basil and tomatoes are now behind us.

But that’s ok, because there’s plenty to enjoy about the Autumn edible garden.

Broad beans are a favourite of mine in the Autumn garden. Plant them in a block, be ready to stake them for support (usually in a group not individually) and watch for sap sucking insects towards the end of the season.

I also love to grow Jerusalem Artichoke. This member of the sunflower family is the plant that keeps giving. Some people say only plant it if you want it forever because it will keep coming up for but me that’s the perfect plant. As long as you like to eat it.

It’s also a great time for peas and if you are a garlic grower or thinking about becoming a garlic grower – now’s your chance. I’ve never had much luck getting bulbs of garlic to grow in my own home garden but I still think it’s worth growing for the greens and in bigger gardens it’s definitely worth trying for the bulbs.

As ever, we are always on hand to help you get your home, school or office garden growing. Just give us a call or send in an email. There are always plenty of options no matter how big, small, sunny or shady your space may be!

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What to plant in Sydney in March

Well it doesn’t feel like the weather is cooling just yet but it’s time to start thinking about those cool weather crops. Think broad beans, broccoli and cauliflower. That’s what I think. But I won’t be putting these into the soil just yet. Right now I think it’s time to pull out those summer crops that are finished, beef up the soil with a new layer of compost. Cover that with a nice layer of mulch and get those seeds into the greenhouse (or seed raising area) so they are ready to go in after Easter. Surely it will cool down by then?
If you are keen to get planting then probably best to stick to the all year-ers like carrots, greens and herbs until we start to regularly drop below 30.

What’s your favourite cool weather crop and when do you think you’ll start planting?

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Is bad compost still better than no compost?

Here’s the question – is it better to compost badly than not to compost at all?

This question has been on my mind lately. I haven’t had the time to get out to my own compost as much as I’d like and I’ve lost a valued helper at one of the schools so that compost isn’t getting the attention it used to get. So am I thinking I’m doing a good thing with my piles of organic waste when actually I’m not? If I’m not getting out there and getting air into the compost am I doing more harm than good?

The problem is this – when you are composting aerobically (with air) everything is fine. The problem with decomposing organic waste occurs when it decomposes anaerobically (without air) as is assumed to be the case when organics go to landfill. Anaerobic compost produces methane. Great if you’ve got some kind of method to capture the methane and use it as an energy source, bad if it’s heading on out into the atmosphere. Methane is a significant contributor to green house gas emissions. That’s why people object to methane producing cows and why some people object to composting.

So how can we make sure we are doing more good than bad? If you aren’t a regular compost turner then keep your compost simple and the balance right. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Don’t put in dinner leftovers, any meat, fats or bread.
  • Get a compost bin that has an open base to encourage worms in there to do the aerating for you.
  • Don’t let your bin dry out. Keep it moist, this will keep all the good bacteria alive and working.
  • Cover all of your kitchen scraps with dry leaves or shredded newspaper. This will keep your compost balanced.
  • Turn it when you can.

My conclusion is that it’s still better to compost badly than not to compost at all. When organics go to landfill we have nothing except more green house gas emissions. Even if we are a little lax with our composting we still end up with a nutrient rich compost at some point. And we encourage other kinds of soil life. What do you think?

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Seeds and other such things

I’m reading a very cheerful book at the moment about the industrialisation of our worldwide food industry, particularly intensive meat farming. It’s telling me things I kind of already know and suspect you do to about the damage this intensive farming is doing on all levels. From the people who work in these intensive systems, to the environments affected by the waste these systems produce, to the animals themselves and finally to us as the consumers. Very few people win in such systems.

I also kind of know about seeds and the fight to keep them free. This book mentions it in passing and it reminds me of the importance of saving seeds. Of sharing seeds. Of buying heirloom seeds and keeping these plants alive. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, have a quick look here:–join-us-for-the-movement-for-seed-freedom

But this book also mentions the ownership of semen. Not something I’d ever thought about. Something I’m kind of hesitant to write on my blog for fear of what spam it will bring me. But something my mind returns to. Who owns the genetic material of our farm animals? I couldn’t find a good link, but I think we can all be fairly certain that this material is becoming as restricted as other mainstream food items are.

So what can we do? Urban dwellers are not farmers. We can’t put a rare breed cow in our backyards, as much as we may like to.

So it comes down to our purchasing power. Think about what you are buying and where it is coming from. If you aren’t sure ask questions. And be prepared to pay a little more for food that is ethically produced.

It comes down to communication. I’m telling you. If you read this and think it’s worth thinking about, maybe you’ll tell someone else. Maybe you’ll spend a little time googling and find more information you’d like to share.

It comes down to doing what you can. So you can’t have a cow. Maybe you can’t even fit in a chicken. But everyone can grow something somewhere. And when you do, choose a plant that will produce seed. Let the plant produce seed. Learn how to save it. Share it. Grow it again. The bees will enjoy the flowers, and you probably will too.

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Bees, why we need them, how to get them, what to do if you don’t want them but still want to be nice

Bees.  They get a lot of media attention due to their importance and current plight but we don’t all need to be bee keepers to help the bees. All we need to do is a few simple things.

But first:  why do we need them?

Bees pollinate a large number of our crops.  Other insects can help too but people tend to agree that bees do most of the work so if we want to keep eating like we’re currently eating, we need the bees.

How to get them

There are a number of local companies and councils who’ll come and help you out with hives.  If you are a school have a look at native bees. They are stingless and still fascinating (see pics at the top of this post).  If you are a business or home owner in Sydney consider getting in touch with the Urban Beehive and have a look at hosting options. If all this is sounding too hard how about making habitats for the many solitary bees we have?  Hollow sticks, holes in mud bricks, these all make excellent homes for some of our excellent bees, as well as excellent activities for big and little hands.

What to do if you don’t want them but still want to be nice?

The first thing you need to do is throw away the poisons.  Don’t put or spray anything in your garden that hasn’t come out of your kitchen or compost. The second thing you need to do is plant flowers.  Or let your herbs go to flower.  Bees love it when you do that.  The third thing you can do is write to your local council.  Ask them if they are using poisons.  Then ask them to stop.


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Sydney’s Winter Garden

Well it’s getting cold but at least the sun’s out and the ground is starting to dry up after all that rain.  Winter in Sydney does not mean time to stop gardening.    So what to plant?

If you’ve got the room and you haven’t yet you should get your garlic and broad beans in as soon as you can.

It’s also time to start planting your brassica’s.  That means cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower.  Keep going with leafy greens (salads and Asian greens) or replant if that recent hail destroyed what you had.  Carrots and most herbs can be grown can be grown all year round in Sydney.

If you’ve got a bit of space and are looking for a low maintenance edible, have a try at growing Jerusalem Artichoke.  In the right sunny spot these will put on a great show of sunflower like flowers (same family) and you can treat them like perennials by simply leaving a few tubers in the ground at harvest time.  If you’re keen, now’s the time to plant them.

As ever, if you need some help, give us a call or leave a comment/question below.


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10 Benefits of a Raised Vegetable Garden

Growing your edibles straight in the ground or around your existing ornamental plants is quick and easy but not without its problems.  Growing your edibles in a raised bed may cost you a little more to set up but there are benefits.  Here’s my list:

1.  Raised beds give you a contained space to grow in.  You know where you need to head to water, weed and feed (your plants and yourself).

2.  Raised beds make it easy to create barriers against pests.  They are simple to net if you have creatures who want to come and share your produce.

3.  If you have any concerns about contaminants in your soil, if your soil is horribly sandy or otherwise unsuited to growing food, raised beds allow you to bring in nutrient dense soil.

4.  Raised beds can go on concrete or other hard surfaces.

5.  Raised beds can be made with a wicking element which basically turns them into big self watering pots and means you only have to water them once a week.

6.  Raised beds can be made at a height to suit their owner and a shape to suit any space.

7.  Raised beds are excellent if you have large trees that suck all the water and nutrient out of your soil.

8.  If you have little ones that aren’t great at sticking to the path, raised beds are the answer.  No soil compaction (unless your little one is a climber too!)

9.  Because you can control the soil quality of a raised bed they are often better at producing edibles.

10.  Raised beds can be made to allow wheelchair access.

At Grow.Eat.Enjoy. we make raised beds out of recycled hard wood or eco pine.  These beds can be made to order for any width, length or height with a watering system that suits your needs.  We can also arrange good quality metal beds.  If you think you might be interested in installing a raised bed and live in the Sydney area we are always happy to chat.  If you want to know more but are outside of Sydney, leave a question in the comments.

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