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‘Nurture fresh thinking for a healthy world’

SHS Garden Journal Blog

Permaculture Principle – Produce No Waste

Thursday, September 05, 2013
This is a favourite permaculture principle of ours, as it encourages resourcefulness and creativity whilst minimising waste that goes to landfill. The purpose is to engage a shift of thinking from active consumer to thoughtful producer. It involves us actively taking responsibility for the amount of waste that we generate, by making changes to how we view unnecessary purchasing and packaging habits. 

Can we engage children in developing agency in waste reduction? 

Children grasp the concept and are active participants in promoting waste minimisation. They can achieve this through composting, worm farming, rethinking, reducing, reusing and recycling. Role models that support children’s learning and participation, will foster these skills to evolve as a way of life. 

Starting early is the key

Sorting waste is an easy skill for children to manage! Early mathematical skills of sorting and classifying are fostered when children are involved. Combining signage to represent these concepts will enhance pre-reading and writing development. 

What makes this even more interesting for children is the addition of animals, such as worms and chickens. Both these animals contribute to waste minimisation as they munch their way through our food scraps and garden waste. Their work provides us with nutrient rich organic matter called humus, for our garden soil to promote healthy plant growth. When these plants are eaten the nutrients are absorbed to promote the health of all living things – including us. Food scraps that go to landfill produce harmful methane gas and leachate that are pollutants to our environment, creating negative energy and intolerable smells. 

Starting small and embedding achievable practices, such as recycling waste by composting or worm farming will make a difference, leading to further awareness and implementation of other waste reduction strategies. If we take the lead we will inspire others to do the same.  

Positive energy is infectious particularly when children are involved! 

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.

Riverwood Public School Breakfast Club - Media Release

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This is the Media Release relating to the Breakfast Club Pilot event that we are supporting tomorrow at Riverwood PS......

Media Release - Tuesday 13 August 2013

Riverwood Public School Pilots Student Breakfast Club Program

Local school, Riverwood Public, will be piloting its very own Breakfast Club for its students on Wednesday 14 August, to encourage healthy eating habits.

Teachers at Riverwood recognise that if children start their day hungry, their learning and concentration in class is affected.  Providing breakfast for all students, will provide essential nutrition and ensure that each child will start their day with a full tank of petrol, whilst promoting socialisation and better health & learning outcomes.

Enabling a Breakfast Club rides on the support of organisations such as Red Cross who have donated Weet-bix; Sydney fruit & vegetable providore John Velluti who will be donating fruit; and Seed Harvest Spoon - educators of healthy life skills, sustainability and growing food gardens, who will coordinate Breakfast Club activities.

Property developers Payce, responsible for the Riverwood North Renewal Project and renowned for developing dynamic and cohesive communities in and around their developments, have generously funded the running of Seed Harvest Spoon’s School Food Garden Programs ( at Riverwood Public School during 2013.  This program has provided the platform for the Breakfast Club to be built upon.

It is hoped and anticipated that all of the Riverwood Public School Community – students, parents and carers, will support this wonderful initiative by attending this pilot Breakfast event. Not only will the attendance of responsible adults demonstrate to the children that breakfast is considered an important part of the day, but it will also determine the viability of a weekly breakfast club for the school.

Daniela Frasca, Principal of Riverwood Public School says, "We hope to engage our students and our community members in this wonderful initiative and aim to encourage better eating habits that will impact on our students learning in the classroom, and in the future."

For more information contact:

Daniela Frasca, Principal - Riverwood Public School

Tel: 9153 8757


Permaculture Principle: Use and value renewable resources and services

Friday, June 28, 2013

Renewable energy sources

Energy sources found in nature that exist freely and are readily available to be converted to energy. e.g. Solar, Wind, Tidal waves, Biomass, Hydropower, Geothermal.

Non-renewable resources

Energy sources found in nature that have taken millions of years to form, are used in the production of energy and will eventually run out. e.g. Fossil Fuels (coal, oil, gas), uranium.

Being the middle of winter, this is a timely principle to think about as we may be more dependent on energy sources to: heat our homes or workplaces, dry our clothing, spend more time in our cars, eat warmer foods, use lighting for longer hours, etc. 

How can we be effective in our energy consumption?

Think twice before using non-renewable energy sources and look for alternatives. Extra blankets, layers of clothing, a beanie and scarf and Ugg boots may do the trick to keep the electric heater from being turned on.

This Permaculture Principle reminds us of the sources of renewable energy (green or clean energy) available to us readily in nature, that can be used as a resource or service; and the need to reduce our consumption and reliance of non-renewable resources for energy production that are running out and impacting our environment. 

On a daily level in our home, school or organisation we can look at ways that we can minimise our reliance on non-renewable energy, while maximising the potential of alternative forms of energy.

A classic example that David Holmgren refers to in demonstrating this principle is the Solar Clothes Dryer:
“A clothesline makes use of sunshine and wind to dry clothes. This is a non-consuming use because neither the sunlight nor the wind are significantly less available for other uses. Clotheslines require minimal materials, in this case nylon cords and salvaged timber. This simple system replaces a tumble dryer in which hot air (heated using 2000 Watts of typically fossil fuelled electricity) is blasted through clothes, bashing around in a metal drum, rotating on nylon bearings, which typically wear out in a few years. The solar clothes dryer provides another renewable service, sterilization from UV radiation, reducing the consumption of more non-renewable resources, noxious laundry chemicals used to sterilise nappies.” 

Source: Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles Teaching Kit, Second Edition, David Holmgren, Co-originator of the permaculture concept.

Riding a bike or walking is another great step to reducing our impact and consumption on resources, and both provide us with a service in return - a free source of exercise to improve our health and fitness. I have noticed in the last few years an increase in the amount of cyclists that travel past my home to and from work each day – the addition of improved bike lanes and tracks has encouraged this. 

Including chickens in our garden system has supported the transfer of waste to a natural source of energy within our garden. Our food scraps, garden waste, and unwanted pests are fed to the chickens this provides them with a diverse diet and in turn the chickens convert this matter to nutrient high manure to fertilise our garden plants and trees providing them with energy. That’s not the only service the chickens provide – we also receive healthy fresh eggs. This simple step has meant that we are do not need to purchase garden fertiliser.  We are contributing to a closed loop system where energy is remaining within our system to enhance our environment.

Special Note:

Our permaculture articles are based on the 12 design permaculture principles developed by David Holmgren, visit for more information and resources. 

If you would like to learn more about Permaculture please visit the following sites for courses (including some upcoming courses with David Holmgren):

Children's Activity July - Garden Journal Writing

Friday, June 28, 2013

Every garden has a story to tell........

A journal is an essential element to record your garden adventures. It tells your unique story and can be documented by hand in a scrapbook or digitally by creating a blog page, vlog, recording footage or a photographic montage.

Documentation instills a sense of achievement as the sequence of events shows how far you have travelled on your quest to create your garden - beginning with a bare patch of lawn to achieving a productive edible food garden and everything in between. Include the steps taken, new skills and knowledge developed, lessons learnt and recognition for all the people that have been involved in the project.

A journal using a combination of words, images, drawings, notes, mind maps, procedures, recounts, samples, comments, feedback, ideas and goals provides the tools to stimulate memory enabling a retelling of your garden story.

Documentation supports students to recount events and reinforce knowledge and skills learnt while engaged in the garden.  A well documented journal can become a class resource as a reference for future learning. It is also an excellent way to integrate IT into the garden.

Young children particularly love referring back to events in their lives and retelling stories to their friends and family. They rejoice in remembering important times in their lives when they have been actively involved in a project with their friends – with the addition of photographs they will recognise themselves and their friends telling the story from their perspective. The journal will become a storybook of your family or community's continuous garden story.

Book Profile: Outdoor Classrooms - a handbook for school gardens by Carolyn Nuttall and Janet Millington

Friday, June 28, 2013

At the recent Learning in the Garden National Seminar QLD we had the pleasure to meet Carolyn Nuttall one of the authors of 'Outdoor Classrooms – a handbook for school gardens'. We felt very honoured – our discovery of Outdoor Classrooms several years ago set the scene for our own endeavour.

Outdoor Classrooms was the reference that ignited our enthusiasm and confidence as we embarked on our initial school garden project at our children's school. It is a trustworthy companion filled with ideas, inspiration and practical knowledge based on the experience of both authors Carolyn and Janet.  They have thought of every element needed to create an engaging learning environment for students.

The below quote from the book resonates with our journey and philosophy, as we are now several years down the track and have gained much knowledge and developed new skills while on a continual learning journey alongside the children that we work with. It is a new adventure every day.

“Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. If you wait until you know everything you won’t ever start. Learning about the garden, the creatures and natural systems is a learning journey; an adventure. You just have to get going and learn as you go.”

Outdoor Classrooms is an excellent resource for teachers, students and anyone that is involved in starting a school garden or would like to learn more.  It supported our vision of creating a learning resource for the students and teachers that was not in addition to, or separate from curriculum learning outcomes. Instead the garden is a tool that integrates opportunities for practical hands on experiences to enhance holistic learning.

Permaculture ethics and principles are referenced through the text – this was another highlight for us that provided a further connection to the book, as Seed Harvest Spoon's philosophy is based on permaculture ethics, stewardship of the earth and community participation.

Email: to ORDER a copy of Outdoor Classrooms, $43.95 (GST inclusive).

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:

Permaculture Priciple: 'Self-regulate and Accept Feedback'

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Focus for May: Self-Regulate and Accept Feedback

We have resources at our easy disposal and quick fixes to solve our problems. This convenience can lead to complacency and overuse. It is very easy when things are in abundance to keep on taking without thought about nurturing or giving back to the earth to protect and sustain our valuable resources.

Through self-regulation and by taking responsibility for our actions, we can limit our use of resources such as water, energy, food, etc. Be mindful by learning and understanding where the resources we purchase come from, and what is involved in bringing them to us. We can be proactive and take positive steps to give back to our environment. Keep the circle of giving and receiving flowing.

Accepting feedback from the environment and those around us will help us understand that non-renewable resources are not an endless supply, but something that we need to nourish and support for future generations, so that they may benefit from them as well.

School Garden Profile: Riverwood Public School, Sydney

Friday, April 12, 2013

During Term 1, we have had a wonderful time sharing our “Lets Get our Garden Started” school program with students and teachers at Riverwood Public School. 


Organic gardening makes sense when we are harvesting and eating our beautiful produce.

In the past few weeks we have enjoyed lessons in the garden talking about precious water, worm farming, pests and predators and of course planting! In learning about these fundamental principles of the environment, students gain a deeper understanding of activities needed to keep our garden thriving.

Students and teachers are all feeling a new connection to the garden. The worm farms are flourishing, and whole school composting will begin in Term 2. 

Identifying the links between plants, bugs and animals in the garden and their interdependence on each other. The sun has a very important part to play!

The students, from pre-school to year 6, are active in their learning; practicing critical thinking skills, questioning, and problem solving. We are having a fantastic time being ecologists, soil scientists, bug detectives and organic gardeners.

Senior students looking for Predators and Pests in the garden. 

We have all enjoyed learning in our outdoor classroom, finishing a lesson with a handful of sweet cherry tomatoes wrapped in basil - our idea of paradise!

Some words from the School Principal:

"Michelle, Natalie and Bree from Seed Harvest Spoon have been working with the students at Riverwood PS on a program that has been designed to engage students and to educate them on sustainable practices.

In the short time the program has been running at the school the students have learnt about:

  • The importance of composting and how to compost effectively
  • Recycling
  • Worm farms and worm farming
  • How to plant seedlings
  • Wonderful water
  • Good and bad bugs in the garden

Students have thoroughly enjoyed the hands on experiences and the interactive learning. These experiences have had a positive impact on student learning outcomes. This has been especially evident in students’ writing. Teachers have been able to embed this learning across the curriculum, which has resulted in improved engagement and behaviour."

Daniela Frasca

And here's what the students have to say about the Program:

"This year we are learning about gardening with teachers Natalie and Michelle.  So far we have had lessons on water, composting and worms. We saw that the worms make worm juice in a bottle. We have our own worm farm now.

In the compost bin and in the worm farm we are putting the food scraps from our lunch and recess so the worms can make garden soil for the plants. 

In the garden we have been searching for insects. Some are pests and some are predators. We have also been growing lots of vegetables and we made pumpkin muffins and wrote a procedure. 

Natalie and Michelle are teaching us how to take care of our garden so it is healthy and fresh."

Brijesh and Mohamad


Permaculture Principle: 'Obtain a Yield'

Friday, April 12, 2013

The essence of this principle is that with whatever energy you are going to contribute to something, there must be a worthwhile result.

We can consider this in many aspects of our lives - work, financial investments etc; but most definitely this applies to what we are cultivating in our food gardens.

Put simply, choose to plant crops that you will acquire a good volume of produce as a result of the level of work you put into your garden, and consider how demanding the plant itself is in terms of nutrients and care.  You should also only consider planting foods that you and your family like eating.  Why bother planting and harvesting foods that you loathe! As the saying goes, "You can't work on an empty stomach!"

I recently had a pumpkin seedling appear in one of my garden beds.  This had just sprouted from compost I had added from my Compost Bin.  As I once had success with a butternut pumpkin vine grown in a no-dig garden bed that I had constructed on my concrete driveway, I thought I might try my luck with this vine.  Pumpkin vines spread very quickly wide and far! Flowers appeared and the baby pumpkins started to grow.  Unfortunately though, whether it be due to the high rainfall lately, the baby fruit started to rot before growing to a decent size. Pumpkins are heavy feeders, so the vine was starting to take away too much from the other plants in my garden bed.  I realised that the pumpkin vine 'yield' was not going to be big enough, so the vine was pulled!

Think about the yields that you are obtaining from your energies during April - it might be time to make some changes.

For further information on this Permaculture Principle as well as the other eleven, visit They have just relaunched their website and it looks fantastic!