Category Archives: animal intergration

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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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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Run ins with Sydney’s Urban Wildlife

As the Randwick Public School chicks spend their first night outside I’ll spend another night worrying about foxes. I’ve only seen the shadow of one once as it returned to terrorise our quails after reducing the flock size from 8 to four but I know they are there in numbers enough to warrant fox proofing. Our quails are now fully fox proofed which unfortunately means they have less roaming space. The Randwick Public School chicken house is not proofed to my liking as I prefer a full wire base on the run rather than just sides hence the coming sleepless night. Hopefully they will be fine.

At Gardeners Road Public school as we continue to install their new edible garden we hear stories of the rabbits that inhabit the grounds. We’ve yet to see any damage to the garden but it’s going to be a tough problem to solve if the rabbits decide to get involved.

At Tranby House in Glebe the garden we installed was promptly eaten by a possum. Possums aren’t so bad as all they do is eat, they don’t dig and remove the plants. To combat the possum issue I put up a loose netting around the garden, this is something the possum doesn’t like to climb and the plants are recovering well. I didn’t think I needed to net the citrus trees as well but it turns out the possum has a taste for these leaves too. More loose netting required. Another thing possums don’t like is walking on a thin wire so if you have a fence without over hanging trees and a possum problem you can consider running a taut wire on top of the fence to stop the possum invading your patch.

At the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation training last week I had a discussion with a couple of teachers who were battling cockatoos and crows. These birds were happily ripping out whole tomato plants as soon as they were planted. We discussed a couple of options they thought could work including simple netting using bamboo and polypipe as well as providing an alternate food and water source away from the vegetable gardens.

I love watching flying foxes out in search of food at dusk but I don’t have any trees they enjoy. Different story for people with a laden fruit tree that gets stripped by flying foxes. It can be dangerous to net trees as they can easily get tangled in the nets, so if you are thinking about doing this then please choose your nets carefully (smaller holes = safer nets).

At Stanmore Public School we have a rat problem. We’ve tried four different baits and traps without any success at this stage. Though they don’t disturb the vegetable growing it would be nice not to have them.

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Honey – buy it from a beekeeper

Honey has been hitting the headlines lately. Cheap imports are being questioned as to their authenticity. It seems a pretty simple step for us to change our buying habits on this one product. I mean, how often do you buy honey? We all have it in the cupboard but it’s not a product we buy weekly (do we?) Well I don’t. And everyone’s keeping bees these days. You can buy honey from Centennial Park or from Cornersmith’s own hives. It isn’t too hard to find a beekeeper at a market and get the real thing straight from the source.

And buying honey from beekeepers is about more than just knowing you’re getting a high value product. It’s about supporting an Australian industry that supports so much more. We’ve all heard of colony collapse. We know how important it is to protect bees. Buying honey from a beekeeper is one of the best ways we can do this.

So take a step away from the big two and seek out your local beekeeper. Maybe consider buying a couple of jars to give as gifts and share the joy. If you want to help bees in other ways here’s a few more ideas:

  • make sure to have flowering plants in your gardens all year round – you can do this by leaving herbs and vegetables to flower and set seed or by specifically planting plants that flower at different times of the year;
  • don’t use any pesticides that are harmful to bees or any other beneficial insects;
  • spread the word.
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The Perfect Pet

So the other night I was reading a book titled ‘the perfect pet’ to my four year old where the little boy wants a dog but ends up with a duck and finds that the duck is the perfect pet after all.

We talk a lot about pets at the moment.  My children are keen for dogs, cats, horses, parrots… you name it, they want it.  They carry the quails around like kittens and the quails cope and try to look dignified in the process (not an easy job).  I grew up with cats, and I love them still, but owning a cat just doesn’t seem like the right move anymore.  So what is the perfect pet?

If you have the space then I think the answer is a chicken.  Natural born composters and protein producers, chickens can be friendly and highly amusing.  We don’t have the space for chickens who need about a metre square of space per chicken plus a bit of room to run.  We don’t even have space for bantams.  We do have space for quails who only require 30cm2 per bird but they aren’t the composters chickens are.  They are excellent pest eaters and like nothing more than a cockroach but they are also fragile and need protection from cats, dogs and larger birds.

The quails aren’t enough though for my pet loving children so we are moving on to guinea pigs.  My hope is that these creatures may look a little more comfortable when being cuddled than the quails do.  The guinea pigs will not be ours.  They will be borrowed from time to time from our friends who live nearby to help keep the grass under control in their specially built seat come guinea pig tractor.

My hope is that this will hold off the cries for a puppy for a few months at least but if nothing else it will at least keep the grass neat.

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