Category Archives: education

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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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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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!

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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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Getting your kids working in the garden and eating in the kitchen

I spend half of my working week helping children to grow food in school gardens and the most of my non (paid) working life trying to think of healthy meals my children will eat. Most of my work with school children is via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. This is a fantastic program with flexible models to suit all schools. Teachers are given training and curriculum support and kids are exposed to the joys of gardening and cooking while trying new foods they’ve had a hand in growing. I joined the program for environmental reasons not convinced it would really change eating habits. After a few years of being involved I have become convinced that getting your kids involved in the growing and cooking of food is a great way to ensure they remain interested and engaged with their nutritional health not to mention that ever increasing importance of knowing where your food comes from.

But what about at home? And what if you have fussy eaters in the house who aren’t old enough for school or not at a school with a kitchen garden program? I, like lots of others, have one (or two) of those children who aren’t particularly interested in eating vegetables or trying new things. I did the growing thing. We grew peas. He planted the peas, watched them grow, then watched me eat them. Legumes aren’t his thing I discovered.

But we persisted and found other things to grow that he will eat (he still grows legumes just doesn’t eat them). But the growing alone wasn’t enough to change his eating habits. What really made a difference was group eating. And by that I don’t mean eating with the family. I mean sitting down with a big group of children and watching everyone else enjoying food. This, I find, to be the best place to introduce new foods to my children. Around a camp fire with a few other families or at friend’s houses seem to be the places my difficult eater finds trying new things easier.

So for your fussy eater at home, what can you do?

  • Grow – start small, a few herbs and a strawberry plant
  • Cook – get your kids involved in planning, shopping and preparing
  • Share – make eating a social event

On a side note, taking the pictures for this blog post and checking on our seedlings at the same time my 4 year old saw me taste a new radish leaf and asked for a try. He then asked for another while proclaiming how much he liked it! (He’s not my fussy eater but still, it was a radish leaf?!)

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Building community in the garden

Today, a couple of my children and I spent a very pleasant 3 hours in their school garden with two other families and their children.  The kids gathered caterpillars and seeds and ate tomatoes before moving on to running through sprinklers and climbing trees.  The adults dug and picked, sorted and trellised and everyone had a lovely time.

2014, for me, is the year of building community.  When Thea and I started grow.eat.enjoy. we wanted to put edible gardens into homes (we still do).  But as the years go on we move more and more into education and community gardening and I’m finding this a good place to be.  When I’m at Razor&JOY, tending to their office garden, and staff come to sit amongst the plants while they eat their lunch; when I put a call out to the OzHarvest volunteers and people come from all walks of life to work in the garden with me; and when I make a connection with a parent from a non English speaking background who in turn brings others to our school garden and everyone feels happy and connected, I know, like Thea and I always thought, that gardening brings so much more than just good food.

So here’s to 2014, my year of growing good food and building community.  If you’re in Sydney and need a little help doing either, let me know.

Posted in Community Gardens, Edible Gardens, education, Enjoy, Grow, Oz Harvest, Razor & JOY, School Gardens | Comments Off on Building community in the garden

Feeding the 5000 – the milk crate garden


So when Louise Tran from Oz Harvest rang me and asked for a pop up garden to go along with their Feeding the 5000 event it seemed only right that the garden should be built from what would otherwise have been thrown away just as the lunch is.

We decided on milk crates which are not exactly throw away items (though they do seem to be thrown onto a lot of street corners) but they are easy to transport and will return to their intended use once we’ve finished with them.  I then contacted a number of seed companies to see if they had any seed that was no longer saleable.  Yates and Green Patch came through with a lot of seeds, still viable but not saleable.

The kids at Randwick Public and Stanmore Public spent a lot of time sifting compost and planting seeds that were placed into their green houses and watered with harvested rainwater.  Once the seedlings were of a reasonable size they were transferred to larger containers and then to their current home in the milk crates.  The milk crates are lined with newspaper and old green bags and filled with compost from Randwick Public School who have a fantastic compost system mainly to compost the huge amount of leaves they sweep up daily from the playground.

If you’re in Martin Place on Monday come along and have a look at the garden.  What you’ll see is a garden grown from harvested plants, scraps and sourced seeds.  This garden’s life is short lived in Martin Place but will continue after the event.  The crates will return to be cared for in the two public schools and will hopefully find a permanent home in an Oz Harvest garden some time soon.

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The Humble Herb Spiral


This week we built a herb spiral at CECAL (Canterbury Earlwood Caring Community Centre) as the start of turning their front area into a community garden.  The herb spiral is a small example of a lot of good permaculture ideas in one place.  It uses space and water efficiently and creates micro climates for your different herbs.  Traditionally the herb spiral is placed close to your kitchen door so that you can nip out and grab your favourite herbs.  In Earlwood we placed it as close as we practically could to the kitchen but when you’re working in limited and confined spaces these decisions also become limited.

This is how we did it:

The area is first measured out with a couple of sticks joined by a bit of string.  One stick stays firm in the ground, the other moves around the circle.  We played with a few different sizes thinking about access (both to the herb spiral and past it) and the number of bricks we had.  We then leveled the soil a little and laid a thick layer of newspaper to inhibit any weeds.

On top of the newspaper we threw on wood chip.  A lot of websites suggest gravel for drainage but I wasn’t keen to add stones to the soil, a hard thing to reverse, so we used woodchip.  The bricks are then laid around in a spiral pattern with the soil added in to help with stability.  We used a mixture of soils and manure. 

It probably would have been wise to water in each layer as we went but this was a step we missed.  On top of the soil we put in mulch and there you have it.  A herb spiral ready for planting.

In terms of planting the idea is to plant sun loving plants on the northern side and shade tolerant plants on the southern.  Water loving plants go toward the bottom and plants that can take drier conditions are planted towards the top.

All your herbs in one spot.  The magic of permaculture design.

 

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My Quail Story

I suppose my quail story started when my father started keeping them in an aviary he built in our backyard.  They lived happily underneath the zebra finches and their babies were so small they used to escape through the wire.  I don’t remember how long they were there or what happened to them.  The next time I met a quail was at a friend’s wedding where their eggs were on a plate, I ate a lot of them and haven’t eaten them since.

The story ends, or perhaps it really starts, when I stood with the principal of one of the schools I work in and suggested quails as an alternative to chickens (it’s a small garden).  I don’t know if it was the wedding food or the childhood memory but whatever it was, I mentioned quails, the principal thought it was a great idea and now here I am sifting through the compost for worms, slaters and maggots to feed the ever hungry quails.

I missed a bit of the story, it goes like this:

We bought the eggs over the phone and they were sent via Australia Post who were not careful, but some were incubatable so we incubated them, turned them lovingly three times a day, sent them off with friends when we were away and waited.  On the designated day I checked the incubator to find one hatched and another hatching.  We spent the rest of the day watching them hatch and have been watching them ever since.

Quails are great insect eaters.  My father harbours a not so secret idea to release them in great numbers to cure any grasshopper issues farmers might have.  Ours get particularly excited about cockroaches.  They also don’t require much space, eat leafy greens (like the outer leaves of iceberg lettuce), are independent from birth and produce beautiful speckled eggs from 6-8 weeks of age.  Ours are about 8 weeks old now and ready to move into their school environment.  The plan is to let them rotate on the raised beds where they can dig up the soil, eat any insects, add in some fertiliser AND provide a few little eggs to be included in the kids kitchen cooking experience.

All in all, a fun and useful addition to small gardens.

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We are Growing…


Welcome to our new look website. A lot has happened in the life of grow.eat.enjoy. since we began three years ago and we thought it was time our website reflected those changes.

When we started,  our passion was in the physical work. We loved getting a garden that we could rip apart and put back together. We loved the creation of order from chaos. And we loved introducing our clients to the joys of growing plants to eat. We still do!

But in meeting and helping people who want to grow their own food as well as beautiful gardens there has been a shift towards eduction and a whole new world has opened up.

A world of sharing space and of getting to know little people (and big little people) and helping them to get to know the pleasures of edible garding. It’s a fun and satisfying world. I think our new site reflects these changes and we hope you will continue to grow with us.

Sarah and Thea

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