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‘Nurture fresh thinking for a healthy world’

SHS Garden Journal Blog

School Holiday Garden Maintenance

Friday, December 13, 2013


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. 


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 - September

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Children’s Activity - The life of a Seed

Seeds can be found everywhere! Seeds come in different shapes and sizes, and are bursting to spring to life when the right conditions exist. Seeds can be found in pods, flower heads and fruits. Water and warmth are the perfect kick-start to the process of germination.

Observe seeds in the environment

When you next see a Dandelion Flower, watch it over a few days observing and documenting change over time. Notice the transformation from the bright yellow flower to a head full of seeds that disperse in the breeze to create new plants. When children blow the seeds to make a wish, let them know they are mimicking seed dispersal that occurs in nature with a breath of wind.

Strawberries are a favourite to observe, as they grow in our garden or in pots whilst you nurture the gift of patience. Children are so eager to pick a delicious strawberry as soon as they see a hint of red; their anticipation is harvested as they check on the fruit each day. Watch the fruit as it emerges from the flower – point out the tiny seeds. Protect the fruit from slugs and snails to avoid disappointment.

Take the time with your children to notice the different types of seeds found in our favourite fruits - Watermelon, Rockmelon, Apple, Pear, Banana, Tomato.  Identify the stages of life with children by matching the seed to its plant and fruit. 

Sprouts in the kitchen

While it is important for children to experience and observe delayed results as they occur in nature – it is also exciting for children to experience immediate results. This balance will create interest in exploring learning further. A great way to do this, whilst promoting healthy eating is by growing sprouts in a jar on your kitchen windowsill. Sprouts are a tasty and nutritious addition to your salad or sandwiches that and are easily grown.  They can be harvested about 6 days after planting. Tasty varieties include Radish, Fenugreek and Broccoli sprouts.

Sunflower Seeds

Children love the beauty of a sunflower. Its size, vivid yellow colour and abundance of seeds visible on the plant is a point of fascination for children.  The germination of a sunflower seed is the perfect way to demonstrate the complete life cycle of a plant from seed to new seed. Once the sunflower has matured and you are ready to collect its seeds – count how many seeds can be collected from one flower – you will be amazed! Save the seeds to start the growth process again.

Birds, Bees and other Garden Creatures

Growing plants from seed is extremely rewarding. Particularly when the seed has been saved from a mature plant in your garden. While we can give seeds a helping hand to grow by planting them in soil and nurturing them, teaching children the important role that birds, bees, other creatures and wind have in this process is invaluable. Pollination and seed dispersal are essential to the existence of living things for the production of food sources. The story of pollen collecting on the tiny feet of a bee as it feeds on nectar, dropping this on another flower that it stops at for another little feed; is a memorable way for young children to envisage this process.

A wonderful resource to further explore the potential of seeds is The Seed Savers’ Handbook by Michel & Jude Fanton.

Children's Activity for May: No-Dig Garden Patch

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The No-dig Garden Patch

Creating a No-dig garden patch is the perfect growing environment for edible plants, as they love the rich organic matter nourishing their growth. It is also a fun activity to involve children in. The no-dig garden is made up of layers of ingredients – in our experience being the most fertile of growing spaces filled with life particularly worms. 

'The No-dig Recipe' by Esther Deans

Esther Deans' “Gardening Book – Growing without Digging” first published in 1977, shows us the way to garden without digging and how you can even grow food in a home made garden bed sitting on concrete. I excitedly found a copy of this book in a second hand bookstore.
Below is a tried and tested variation of Esther’s Recipe: 
Newspaper or cardboard (non-glossy)
Autumn Leaves (no gum leaves)
Blood and Bone
Compost (home made)
Comfrey or fresh grass clippings (from your garden)
Manure (chicken, cow or horse)
Loose straw or Certified Organic Sugar Cane Mulch
  1. Soak newspaper in a wheelbarrow using water and 1 cup of molasses. Molasses is great for promoting soil microbes.
  2. Decide on the location of your garden (a sunny spot), measure and mark the length and width of the garden bed using flour. If grass is long within this space you could trim back a little with clippers. 
  3. Sprinkle the area with Blood and Bone and then layer with soaked newspaper or cardboard to suppress growth of grass. 
  4. Cover the entire area with sheets of newspaper or cardboard layers at least ½ cm thick.  Overlap the newspaper or cardboard by a third leaving no gaps for grass to grow through.
  5. Create an edge for you garden with bricks or pavers, etc placed on top of the outer edge of newspaper/cardboard.
  6. Sprinkle some Blood and Bone (1 handful per square metre), home made compost (from your compost bin), manure (chicken if you have it, otherwise cow/horse is fine) and comfrey and/or fresh grass clippings from your garden over the newspaper.
  7. Add a layer of Autumn Leaves.
  8. Lay the surface with a thick layer of lucerne padding. 
  9. Water well – you can add diluted worm juice if you have it.
  10. Sprinkle some Blood and Bone (1 handful per square metre), homemade compost (from your compost bin), worm castings, manure and comfrey and/or grass clippings. 
  11. Spread a thick layer of loose straw or certified organic sugar cane mulch over the top.
  12. Water well with diluted Seasol liquid seaweed solution.
  13. Repeat from steps 5 to 8.
Allow the bed to rest for two weeks. This will give the ingredients an opportunity to start to break down and combine, before you start planting. During this time continue to water the garden bed. 

When ready to plant make pockets in the garden bed and fill with some home made compost or mushroom compost – plant your seedlings into the pockets of compost. 
We recommend a mix of Asian Greens (bok choy, tatsoi, pak choy), silver beet, kale and beetroot to be planted in May. Please email us if you would like to order a seasonal tray of local organic seedlings.  $30 for 3 dozen.

For ideas of what to plant in May go to:

Seasonal Mixed Organic Seedlings - Free Delivery

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We now have a local Sydney seedling grower supplying us Organic seedlings for our Workshops & Programs.  We are very happy with the survival rate of these seedlings.

We are offering regular deliveries (Free to Sydney Metropolitan) of a seasonal mix of vegetable and herb seedlings, to keep your garden beds full.

$30 for 3 dozen. 

Please email: to order or for further information.

Planting Guide - December

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pizza Garden

This is a fabulous time of year to create a garden bed that will grow everything (aside from cheese and meats) that you need for Pizza toppings!  We love this sketch from The Parkallen Sprouts blog - they are junior community gardening club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. They planted their Pizza Garden with a Marigold 'crust' last Spring.

Visit your local farmers' markets on the weekend, where you will be able to purchase beautiful organically grown seedlings and seed. All of these plants can be planted in garden beds or pots.

Basil - (Annual)Harvest leaves when the plant is about 25cm high and full of leaves. Regular harvesting will prolong the life of the plant by preventing flowering.

Oregano - (Perennial) The fragrance of this herb will make your pizzas smell very authentic! Your garden will love oregano too, as it will entice butterflies. 

Cherry Tomatoes - Cherry tomatoes are a lot easier and more manageable to grow with children, in comparison to growing varieties of larger tomatoes.
Capsicum - Grow all three colours - red, green and yellow!
Chillies -(for the grown-ups!)

Here is a delicious tried and tested Pizza Base Recipe from an Italian family friend. I will chase her up for her tomato paste recipe and include this in our December newsletter!

Pizza Base Recipe

(Serves 4-6)

You will need a 25cm pizza pan
30g active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
pinch of sugar
1tbsp salt
4-5 tbsp oil
4-5 cups of plain flour
  1. Warm a small bowl by swirling some hot water in it, then drain. Place the yeast in the bowl and pour in the lukewarm water.  Add sugar and mix with a fork.  Allow to stand until yeast has dissolved and starts to foam (5-12 min).
  2. Sift flour into a large bowl, and add salt. Make a well in the centre, and add the oil and the yeast mixture. Mix to a firm dough by hand.
  3. When dough easily comes away from sides of bowl, remove the dough and turn on to a floured surface.  Knead for 10 min, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball.
  4. Lightly oil the small bowl used earlier and place your dough ball in it. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to stand in a warm place to rise for 40-50min.  To test if the dough has risen enough, poke two fingers into it - if the indentations remain, it is ready.
  5. Place the dough back on a floured surface. Punch the dough down with your fist to release the air.  Knead 1-2 min into a smooth ball, and then divide it into 4 or 5 balls (each ball will make 1 pizza).
  6. Flatten dough into a circle about 2.5cm thick.  Roll out from the centre to edge to fit a 25cm pizza pan.
  7. Spread your tomato sauce over the pizza base and add your favourite topping.
  8. Bake in hot oven 15-20min or until crust in golden brown.
ENJOY!! Thanks Miranda for your recipe.