Category Archives: Edible Gardens

School Gardens – Let us help you!


Since 2009 grow.eat.enjoy. 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:

Composts

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.

grow.eat.enjoy. 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 grow.eat.enjoy. 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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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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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.

Enjoy!

Posted in Edible Gardens, Perennial, Vegetable, Winter | Comments Off on Sydney’s Winter Garden

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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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Here we are in 2015. It’s a year of change in our house. My littlest starts school, my biggest starts high school and I head back to university. I also finish my time at Stanmore Public School.

Stanmore was one of the first large spaces that I had the pleasure to design, build and maintain with the help of the Stephanie Alexander Foundation, the fantastic teachers, parents and students at Stanmore Public School and a few very lovely community volunteers. We turned a neglected area of the school that the children were not allowed to play in, into a thriving, productive garden. We dug a pond, hatched chickens, planted fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. We moved mulch and turned compost. It’s a little sad to be leaving just as the fruit trees are coming into their own but I know I’m leaving it in good hands.  Above are pictures of the garden just after it was built, plus the beautiful corn we grew this year and the garden as it looks now.

Grow.Eat.Enjoy. is still operating as normal with a little more time and flexibility to help you with your edible garden dreams big or small. If you have an edible project you’d like to discuss please get in touch. We are always happy to help!

Posted in Edible Gardens, education, School Gardens, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation | Comments Off on Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

October special – raised beds built from recycled hardwood


Feel like growing your own this spring?

Having just built another of these recycled hardwood raised beds I’m in the mood for building more.

So this month I’m offering anyone in the Sydney metro area one of these beds for $650. This price includes lining and filling the beds plus planting with a selection of leafy greens and herbs.

The beds are four palings high (about 40cms) and can be made to measure providing they are not longer than 3.6m. They are free draining and open to the ground but can be made into wicking beds (like big self watering pots) for an extra $100. They can also be made higher but this will fall outside of our current special and will require individual pricing.

Feel free to give me a call with any questions or if you’d like to book a bed in. Cheers, Sarah (0418 464 323)

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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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Vegesafe – what I learnt and what you need to know about lead in your soil

The good people of Vegesafe have recently released a report on their findings re regards to heavy metals in Sydney soils and how that may affect veg growing. They will also be at the Australian Garden Show in Centennial Park so if you’re planning to go, you can bring in a sample of your soil for free testing.

We had Mark Taylor from Vegesafe come to Stanmore Public School to conduct tests on the soil in a number of different parts of the garden. Our soil in this garden was all pretty good (still elevated but not dangerously so). It was a really interesting process and Mark and his colleagues were full of helpful information. Here’s what I learnt:

  • Lead in soil will usually be the result of a building having been there and old lead paint flaking off and getting into the soil; or
  • Left over from the days of leaded petrol if you’re on a busy street;
  • Plants don’t tend to take up lead from the soil so eating plants grown in lead contaminated soil isn’t the problem (though probably still not recommended);
  • The problem comes if you don’t wash your veg properly or if you are playing in the dirt or tracking it through the house or in some other way coming into contact with it and possibly ingesting it. This, particularly for young children, is the problem.
  • Mulching and generally making sure there are high levels of organic matter in the soil reduces the levels of lead contamination in your soil.

Mulching! Is there nothing it can’t do?! But seriously I think this illustrates again the importance of good soil. Vital to our health, our food’s health and our children’s health, it’s worth the time to get it right.

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Here comes spring

Are you ready to say goodbye to winter? As much as I like growing broccoli and peas I’m always pretty excited when it comes time to get out the spring seeds. Now is a great time to start thinking about what you’ll be growing this spring. If you have a protected spot (windowsills work great) you can start planting your seeds inside.

I like to use old strawberry or cherry tomato containers for seed raising. I sit these next to the sink which means I remember to water them. When the seeds break through the soil and produce their first leaves you’ll need to find them a sunny spot but until that point any spot will do.

So what can you plant? In no particular order consider:

Chilli, watermelon, eggplant, capsicum, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, rockmelon, asian greens, bitter melon, fennel and of course my current favourite, potato. Look for an online seed seller or swap with a keen gardener. And don’t forget, more than anything else, soil is the key. Make sure when your seeds are ready to plant out you’re putting them into soil that’s going to feed them.

If that seems a little daunting or doesn’t quite make sense but you’re really keen to get growing this spring, give us a call, we are always happy to help!

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