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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Author Carolyn Nuttall endorses Seed Harvest Spoon

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thank-you Carolyn Nuttall for your endorsement of our work. We very much appreciate your kind words……...

"I much admire the work of the women of Seed Harvest Spoon. This small group of educators have banded together to design and implement very valuable programs in outdoor learning for young children.

Schools can take advantage of this deal: quality teaching, programs connected to the curriculum, sustainability education at a budget price. Their programs will inspire the child's interest in the natural world, skill them in areas of waste recycling, teach them about soil and growing food and more….

For the children, they will feel part of the solution, a concept introduced by Bill Mollison and aptly applied to the young. "Permaculture encourages the individual to be resourceful and self-reliant, to become a conscious part of the solution to the many problems that face us, both locally and globally."

I recommend the work of Michelle, Bree and the team of Seed Harvest Spoon to all primary schools and early childhood centres."


Carolyn Nuttall
Author of "A Children's Food Forest " and co-author with Janet Millington of "Outdoor Classrooms: A handbook for school gardens" February 2014

Client Testimonials

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thank-you to those of you who have provided us with such positive feedback this year.  We thought we would share some of your kind words about us with others who haven't yet experienced our incursions. 

"Throughout the year, Year 1 have been inspired by a wonderful company called Seed. Harvest. Spoon. who have shared their knowledge and sustainable gardening skills with the children over 4 insightful incursions. Year 1 enjoyed many hands-on experiences planting seeds and seedlings, developing our worm farm and compost systems, and learning about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling." Jessica Heath, Teacher, Highfields Preparatory and Kindergarten School, Lindfield, Sydney

"Michelle Carrick came to our school in July 2013 to teach us about worm farming, composting, soil layers, bugs in our garden and microscopic organisms in the garden and the compost. We also enjoyed learning about collecting, planting and nurturing our seeds to grow strong and healthy vegetables. As a result we have a wonderful garden of thriving vegies that we harvest on Tuesday each week for cooking in our lunch. We love this aspect of our lessons, realising where our food comes from. Our class really appreciated the units of work Michelle had prepared to follow up on the practical lessons. We enjoyed the fun during the lessons and the information they presented. We looked forward to each lesson every week. We would definitely recommend Michelle and her team from Seed Harvest Spoon to any future school or group." Written by Codi & Abbey, Year 5, Southside Montessori School, Riverwood, NSW

"Our service was lucky enough to source the wonderful program offered by the team at Seed, Harvest, Spoon in 2013. We have had 4 workshops throughout 2013 with our 4 and 5 year old children and a Parent information session. All of the workshops were very interactive and informative and the children were very engaged in all of the hands on experiences. The Seed, Harvest, Spoon educators used lots visual and tactile resources and facilitated experiences that the children used to absorb information about sustainable practices and their environment. We have found that the children are knowledgeable and confident in sustainability and have included their families in all they have learnt. Seed, Harvest, Spoon has also been a great support for our educators in the implementation of our sustainability program. We cannot recommend them highly enough." Jenny Bickley, Director, St Andrew’s Kindergarten, Abbotsford, Sydney

"The range of workshops that are on offer link perfectly with a number of science and HSIE units we are currently studying. They are delivered by passionate and enthusiastic ladies who provide hands on activities that are highly engaging for students. A range of resources are used in demonstrations and each workshop has a literacy component which makes these learning experiences accessible to all students." Courtney Avramides, Teacher, Abbotsford Public School, Sydney

"Thank you to Seed Harvest Spoon for your all your support to the Sustainable Schools Network throughout the year. Your workshops have really enthused the teachers and local students." Bernadette Murray, Sustainability Projects Officer, City of Canada Bay Council, Sydney

"Thank you for the great presentation on worms. I'm really glad I came. Prior to the presentations I was a bit skirmish about worms and so wasn't sure how I'd go setting up and maintaining a worm farm but the way you presented them has given me a whole new respect for these incredible little creatures and has made me aware of the very important role they play in the ecosystem. I really admire the dedication and passion that you have towards your cause. Your enthusiasm towards sustainability and contributing to creating a better earth than what we found is very infectious. Thank you so much." Parent, Winston Mall Children's Centre


Click here for further information in relation to our workshops and programs

Children's Activity - February 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marvellous Mulch


What kinds of bugs live in the soil?

If you go outside, and dig a little under the leaf litter and into the soil, you might find millipedes, centipedes, slaters and ants. Dig a little deeper and you might find a worm! There are also a lot of tiny bacteria that live in the soil, and we would need a microscope to see them. They are so small, but are very, very important. All of these bugs are important in our garden ecosystem and we can help give them a great habitat to live in by adding mulch to our garden beds. 

Sugar Cane Mulch, or Lucerne Mulch not only add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes or breaks down over time, it also helps to keep the soil moist and provides a home for these creatures to thrive. Bales of organic mulch are available at hardware stores and garden centres.  Or you can collect leaves from your garden or the park – fallen leaves make excellent mulch, and contain the nutrients absorbed from the tree that they fell from. As they break down all this goodness is released into the soil. Leaves are the mulch of a forest floor. 

Mulching the garden beds is a fun job, if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty!

Kids love mulching. It is one of their favourite jobs in the garden.

   

You will need:

  • Bale of Organic Sugar Cane Mulch or Lucerne, or
  • Fallen leaves
  • Full watering can

Instructions:

  • Always water down the mulch before using it. We don’t want to breathe in the dust or tiny microorganisms that will be in the mulch. 
  • Keep a watering can handy to keep wetting the top layer down, as you work deeper into the bale.
  • Give the garden a shower with the hose before adding the mulch. The mulch will help to keep the moisture in the soil, and keep the soil microbes alive!
  • Dig into the bale with your hands, and grab a big handful. Place that gently on the garden beds. We aim to cover all the soil in the garden bed to a depth of 5cm. 
  • Leave some space around the roots of plants, about 10cm promoting airflow – to prevent root rot and fungal disease. 
  • Once the whole garden bed is covered, water over the mulch with the hose or watering can. 

What’s so good about mulch?

  1. Adds nutrients to soil.
  2. Water saving.
  3. Habitat for soil life.
  4. Weed reduction.
  5. Soil protection - decreases soil compaction and erosion.
  6. Increased organic matter.
  7. Soil temperature moderation – keeping soil cool in summer and warm in winter.


Permaculture Principle: Use Small and Slow Solutions

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Portable garden? Small and slow - start with what garden space you can manage

In our fast-paced busy lives, it is good to know that the small and slow is valued. Permaculture principle 9 “Use Small and Slow Solutions”, is all about recognising the natural pace of things.

Our garden could be more abundant and vibrant if we used quick–fix fertilisers and growth-boosting products, but at what cost? A plant that grows organically, and at its own pace will be more resistant to diseases and pests. The soil life will certainly be healthier in a balanced permaculture garden; any sudden influx of synthetic nutrients and minerals will disturb the delicate balance of soil biota. We won't be able to see it. We will be able to see vibrant flowering of plants above, but how long will the disturbance to the soil take to re-balance, and what are the long-term repercussions? 

A slow and small solution is to use worm juice, vermicast and home made compost that improves the soil and promotes healthy and hardy plants.

In large-scale farming, the addition of synthetic fertilisers creates a catch-22. The soil becomes dependent on this addition of nutrients and minerals to sustain yields, and is unable to rehabilitate itself into balance. Less life in the soil leaves plants more susceptible to disease, which then necessitates chemicals and pesticides to control these problems.

“Permaculture is…working with nature rather than against nature…of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.” (Bill Mollison Introduction to Permaculture)


Marigolds planted between snow peas - inviting beneficial bugs to feed on pests, rather than using quick-fix sprays that upset nature's balance

Supporting local Farmers' Markets is part of the Small and Slow approach. Food is sold not far from where it is grown. It is seasonal, it supports small-scale farmers and producers, and consumers are connected to their food source in a very real way. It may be slower than a visit to the local supermarket, but well worth the effort; and remember, like the snail, slow and steady wins the race. And if the prize is a healthy integrated ecosystem, it is worth waiting for.

Natalie Er, Seed Harvest Spoon Facilitator

School Holiday Garden Maintenance

Friday, December 13, 2013

Worms

Keep your worms cool this summer! Before heading off for the holidays make sure your worms are well cared for – check if someone would like to take them home for the holidays. 
Keep your worm farm in a cool shaded area away from direct sun – optimum temperature for worms is around 13 to 25 degrees. 
Top them up with food to munch through – small pieces please, so that when you arrive back you have nutrient rich vermicast ready to give your garden a boost. 
Keep your worm farm moist and clean - flush through around 5 litres of water, keep a bucket handy to collect the juice, dilute to the colour of weak tea to add to your garden plants.
Keep the worm farm tap open over the holidays with a bucket under to collect juice – this will prevent water build up and possible drowning of worms. 

Compost

Stir your compost to aerate, add some moisture and a small handful of dolomite to balance the pH. Cover your compost with a hessian sack and let the busy little compost critters do the work for you while you are away! If you have compost ready to be used add this to your garden in the top 10cm of soil adding nutrient rich humus to keep your garden plants and life healthy while you are away.

Garden Beds

Harvest as much produce as possible to prevent it from rotting or wasting over the holidays. On the last day of school hold a garden harvest stall and give produce to families – you could ask for a small donation to raise funds that will help to purchase plants or seeds for the new year. 

Mulch your garden beds with a generous layer of sugar cane mulch or straw around 5cm thick to add nutrient to the soil, help to retain moisture and protect the soil from summers heat. 

Water is essential in keeping your garden plants and soil life healthy. If you have an irrigation system set the timer to regularly add water to garden beds in the late afternoon or evening. Otherwise organise for watering volunteers through the holidays to maintain the gardens – community members that live close to the school are often keen to help.


Nourish add worm juice and seasol to help boost your plants immunity and promote microbial balance in the soil.

Protect your plants from pests – add some netting around susceptible plants to keep the pests at bay from having a feast on your garden plants.

Have a lovely holiday!

Children's Activity - December 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

The gift that keeps on giving – a simple yet effective way to share growing with others this Christmas season is through the gift of seeds. Made even more perfect if you have saved seed from your own garden. If not www.greenharvest.com.au has a great variety of organic seeds. Seeds promote new life, hope and beauty as they grow into a plant that can later be enjoyed as a healthy nutritious food – it may just ignite an inspiration for further gardening. Involve children to creatively decorate and personalise a terracotta pot - hand paint and lacquer your unique design for the person receiving the gift to plant their seeds.

Visit Planet Ark for their 12 Do’s of Christmas - tips to reduce the environmental and even financial impact of the festive season. www.12dos.planetark.org

If you’re looking for planet friendly Christmas ideas, take a peek at Milkwood Permaculture’s gift list.
www.milkwood.net/2013/12/03/20-gift-ideas-for-a-planet-friendly-christmas 

Permaculture Principle: Integrate rather than Segregate

Friday, December 13, 2013

Integration is the essence of resilient ecological and social communities. An environment whose wellbeing thrives consists of relationships that are mutually supportive and recognise all living organisms as valued participants with a role to play.

No one can do it alone we all need others to motivate, support, guide, teach, encourage, care and provide for us at different times.

In Permaculture we view how organisms contribute to the holistic composition of community or ecosystem through the many interactions they perform and synergies that exist.

A garden that is rich in diversity will support a network of creatures and plants to coexist and reach their potential by creating a balanced ecosystem based on cooperation and mutually beneficial interactions. This will eliminate much of the work for us as the plants and creatures provide for each other’s needs. E.g Plants feed earthworms by shedding their leaves, flowers, and twigs. Worms decompose this garden litter to create new rich organic matter to feed the plants and soil life. Worms tunnel within our soil to create passages for nutrient, water and aeration to flow while enhancing soil structure. This supports the root structure and health of plants as it makes available water and nutrients for the roots to absorb without too much effort. We can support the work of decomposers such as worms by adding mulch to our gardens providing habitat and food for worms.

The possible interactions and relationships that exist in our backyard range in complexity as those in social communities. Just like human friendships – plants and creatures function to their capacity when they are part of a culture that accepts and desires the best for them.

In permaculture, relationships that provide mutual benefits while meeting the needs of and using another’s products are called guilds.

An example of a simple guild is demonstrated by the ‘Three Sisters’ a Native American planting tradition of Corn, Beans and Squash.


The beans draw nitrogen from the air and convert this to be used by the corn and squash. The corn stalks form a trellis to support the beans growth and the squash is a living mulch that covers the ground reducing weeds, protecting the soil and maintaining moisture.

At Riverwood PS we have planted corn, beans and zucchini (squash is commonly used in preference to zucchini, but we have used zucchini as it was available). This is the first time we have planted the combination, it is a learning experience for the students at Riverwood PS – we make observations each time we are in the garden checking the progress of the plants growth. 

Youth Eco Summit 2013 - Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park October 23 & 24

Sunday, November 10, 2013

We had a wonderful experience at the Youth Eco Summit. During the two days we met many students and teachers that are proactively implementing environmental education in their school and community. We facilitated our Healthy Soil, Healthy Life, Healthy Us workshop to students from Year 4 to Year 10. 

Feedback and interest shown by the students and teachers was very positive particularly when we gave them the opportunity to immerse their hands in soil.  

The Youth Eco Summit is a great opportunity for schools to highlight their own ideas and initiatives, sharing and learning together with others. 

In a recent email we received following the Eco Summit, the YES Organising Committee stated highlights and some statistics of the event:

Some highlights were:

  • Attendance and fantastic engagement of Minister Robyn Parker who has since prepared a very complimentary speech on YES for Parliament
  • Live video conference connections with schools and universities in Malaysia, Vanuatu, Alaska and (prior to the event) Germany
  • Student media crews Live Streaming YES to Youtube and hence around the world

Amazing stats are as follows:

  • Approximately 6,600 school students participated in YES 2013.
  • 2519 students onsite over two days (with an additional 300 registered but not attending due to fire affected areas)
  • 76 schools onsite over two days
  • 153 schools participating in total, inclusive of video conferences
  • 55 program providers including 18 showcasing schools.
  • 4070 participants in Video Conferences up to and at the event. Video conference schools, 77 in total, including from Alaska (2), Germany (6) prior to Yes, Vanuatu (1), Malaysia (11), NT (6), ACT (1).
  • 1093 live hits on the launch life feed on YouTube in order of views: America, Vietnam, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, UK, Philippines, Thailand, India, Russia and Spain.

Author: Michelle Carrick, Program Director, Seed Harvest Spoon

Children's Activity - November

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Make a Solitary Bee Hive

Did you know that there are over 1500 species of native bee in Australia, and almost all of them are solitary bees? This means that all the females are fertile, and each female will make a home in a nest constructed by herself. There are no worker bees for these species.

These bees often like to build their homes in hollowed or dead branches in trees, and tidy gardens often unwittingly take these potential homes away. All bees are important pollinators in any ecosystem and we need to promote their survival.


We can provide a home for these busy workers quite easily:
  1. Using soft wooded branches from plants such as tibouchina, hydrangea, lantana or grapevine, we can cut them into 20 cm lengths.
  2. Bundle about 12 of the lengths of branches together.
  3. Secure with soft wire at either end. Some people use duct tape to secure the bunch of branches.
  4. Tie the hive to a sheltered branch of a tree, and wait for the bees to come!  They will hollow out the soft pithy centre of the wood. 

You may entice the Reed bee, Carpenter bee or Leafcutter bee.


Author: Natalie Er, Faciliator - Seed Harvest Spoon.

Permaculture Principle: Design from Patterns to Details

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Look closely at a spider’s web: we know what they look like, but each one is different. The spider has taken into account its location, what anchor points are available; what is movable, flexible and what stays put. An effective web is also close to possible food sources; right by big bushy areas that attract bug life, or near a light bulb that attracts moths. Even though the design of the web is universal, it has adapted to its location.

It is easy to get caught up in details and immediate ideas when setting up a garden. If we begin from the standpoint of, “I would love to have fresh herbs and lettuce growing right by the door, so I can use it while I’m cooking”; it makes sense. It is using the zone principles of permaculture, with ease of access to the things we use the most. 

We take small steps from here, Where will I put my compost so I don’t have to walk as far? Worm farm? Vegie patch? And we need to consider the big picture. Looking at your garden as a whole and considering nature’s patterns (the seasons, wind patterns, shelter, sunlight, slope of the garden, thermal masses, trees that attract birds, where the water flows after rain) we gain a better understanding of working with nature. These cues will better guide us as to where the right spot for that vegie patch is - yes, near the kitchen, but right by the brick wall of the garden shed to harness the warmth and protection it offers.

So like a clever spider, see the patterns first, then add the lovely silvery details.

Author: Natalie Er; Seed Harvest Spoon Facilitator.