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SHS Garden Journal Blog

Book Review - "Permaculture Gardens - Sow, Grow, Care, Share"

Monday, December 31, 2012

Kellie Bollard's latest book opens:

"Good design and lots of compost,
a little time and love,
sunshine, fresh air and water,
a shovel and some gloves.

A healthy eco system,
a garden full of creatures,
nature that is balanced
is what permaculture teaches."

The most experienced permaculturist will admit that there is a challenge in providing adults with a simple definition of what permaculture is about.  This would be the reason why children's books on this design system are few and far between.  Once again using rhyme and fun pictures, Kellie successfully engages and introduces children to the term permaculture and exposes them to some of its principles and ethics in creating a food garden e.g. valuing diversity, caring for the earth, sharing with others.  A concise glossary assists in further understanding words that may be new to some children.

"Permaculture Gardens - Sow, Grow, Care, Share" is Kellie's third children's book.  All three books are filled with beautiful photographs and rhyming language that will educate and inspire children as well as their parents, carers and educators with ways to care for our environment.  "Worms, the Mechanics of Organics"  was shortlisted in the 2012 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature; and along with Kellie's first book "In the Bin" is now on the NSW Premiers Reading Challenge booklist.  

We highly recommend that you purchase a set of all three books as a fantastic educational resource around sustainability for your family, service, school or library. Visit our Contact Page to register your interest in ordering. 

On sale through our online ecostore very soon! 

Holiday Activity for the Children - Recycled Garden Art

Monday, December 31, 2012

Garden art is the ideal way to add character, creativity and a personal touch to your garden.

The cheapest and most creative way to create garden art is to reuse and recycle items found at home. You may also like to ask friends, family, neighbours or visit Reverse Garbage for extra bits and pieces to add to your design. Here are a few great ideas to ignite the inspiration:

1. Stepping stones

Materials required: Ready-mix cement, sand, stirrer, ice cream tub, cooking oil, glass marbles or other decorative items you have found.

Instructions: Follow instructions on ready mix cement to make an even consistency, grease ice-cream tub or mould with cooking oil, spoon cement into tub or mould to at least 5 cm thick, wait for 45 minutes for the cement to begin to set. You can now start to decorate using your reuse items. You may even like to add handprints. Leave your stepping stone in the tub or mould for up to 3 days to ensure that it has set and dried well before removing. 

2. Garden signage

Materials required: Pavers, acrylic paint, sealant. Old pavers are a great way to create signage for your garden.

Instructions: Make sure you give the pavers a good clean before you start your artwork. Paint your label and design on to the paver. Wait for the paint to dry before using a sealant to protect the art from weather.

3. Wind chimes

Materials required: Old cutlery, timber off cuts, buttons, cd’s, shells, bottle tops, steel cans, fabric off-cuts for colour, or anything else that you are able to collect. You will need some nylon fishing line and something to hang the chimes from e.g. a coat hanger, a strong stick, etc.  Tie your chimes to the fishing line and attach to your coat hanger or stick.

4. God’s-eye or ojo de dios (cultural symbol made by the Huichol Indians of Mexico)

Materials required: Two strong sticks and a variety of wool colours. (When changing wool colour, tie the new colour onto the existing colour and continue weaving.) 

For instructions on how to make a God's Eye and for instructions on other interesting craft ideas, visit the website: Crafts by Amanda

5. Garden ornaments

Here are some examples of what the students at All Hallows Parish School have created using reuse and recycle items. 


What ideas do you have? You may have some great ideas of your own please share these with us it would be great to feature your works of art on our garden blog. 

Please note that the above activities may require adult help or supervision. When using products such as the ready mix cement and sealant, ensure that you follow the manufacturers safety instructions at all times.

New Year's Resolutions?

Monday, December 31, 2012

Choose just one simple action for 2013; or if you are really keen you can pledge to take on all ten!

1. Grow More of Your Own Produce.

If you aren't growing anything at home yet, start small with a few herbs.  Just wait and see how having fresh herbs at your fingertips will enhance your cooking!  The addition of a few fresh basil leaves to a simple salami & tomato sandwich or salad, makes for a far more interesting lunch! Not to mention only having to cut what you need, and not having to watch the rest of the bunch wilt in the fridge - such a waste of food and money!  You don't need a lot of space - you will be amazed at how much food you can grow on your balcony. We love Indira Naidoo's book "The Edible Balcony" and her Saucy Onion blog - full of ideas, inspiration and beautiful recipes.

2. Share excess produce with a neighbour. 

Find out if your neighbours have food gardens too.  You can rest assured that some of yours and their crops will produce more than what you need for your individual households.  Rather than letting your harvests go to waste, exchange your excesses, i.e. if you have too many tomatoes and your neighbour has too many cucumbers, do a swap!  A great way to build good neighbour relations as well.

3. Think Local - reduce food kms

Be more aware of where your food is coming from.  You can't get any more local than using produce from your own backyard, but very few of us can be entirely self sufficient.  Shop at your local farmers markets, independent butcher, fruit shop, deli etc; and be inquisitive as to where your food has come from - question the vendor and read labels. Find your local farmers market on the Australian Farmers' Market directory

4. Compost your Kitchen Scraps

Start a composting system in your home garden.  For the average family household, we recommend having two compost bins - one that will be active, and one that is in waiting for the active one to become full.  Once the active bin is full let it rest, and the waiting bin then becomes the active one.  After approx 3 months, your resting compost will be completely composted and will be ready to use in your vegetable garden.  You will be reducing the amount of waste that ends up in your 'landfill' bin.

5. Start a Worm Farm

Worms are perfect pets! They will eat lots of your kitchen scraps, and their 'wee' and 'poo' are gold for your food garden.  Unlike most pets, worms can be left when you go on holidays without too much trouble. (See our Summer Holiday tips for your Garden). Our February newsletter will contain our guide to starting up various types of worm farms.

6. Rethink

Before you put something in the bin or head out to go shopping, rethink what you are doing. You may be able to able to find a reuse for the item that you are directing to landfill, and you may realise that you don't actually need to update your mobile phone, or spend more money on extra clothes or shoes.

7. Reduce

This word can be applied to lots of aspects of your life. Here are just a few simple reductions that you can make: 
  • Reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in your household by not doing one huge weekly supermarket shop.  You will find that shopping more regularly during the week will mean that you are less likely to overestimate the food your household requires.
  • Reduce the amount of electricity that you use (and consequently your electricity bill) by switching off the light when you leave the room, using your clothesline more than your dryer and turning your electrical appliances off at the power point rather than just hitting the power switch on the appliance itself.
  • Reduce the amount of household waste that ends up in your  landfill by making that you recycle plastics, paper and glass; and compost or feed your worms your kitchen scraps.  

8. Reuse

More often than not there are ways that we can reuse items that we have become accustomed to tossing to landfill without too much thought.  There is even potential to find a reuse for those items that we have been taught to toss in the recycling bin. My sister came up with the gorgeous idea of reusing empty glass jars as candle holders and vases for the table decorations at the Reception of her upcoming wedding in February.  Candlelight emitted from the variety of sizes of jars she has collected is going to provide a very beautiful, romantic, rustic ambience for the Wedding celebrations (I will post photos!)  What a beautiful idea for our homes too!  Don't forget to check out our January Children's Activity which encourages your children to consider reusing items rather than deciding that there is no use for them.

9. Recycle

Be more aware of the recycle symbol on various household waste items before tossing them!  You will find that there are many more waste items that can go in your recycling bin than you realise. If you are decluttering or moving house, you will find the following PlanetArk website very useful:

10. Relax 

There is to be no guilt associated with breaking any of these New Year's Resolutions.  The idea of these pledges is to encourage simple actions so that you can living a less complicated life, as well as a more sustainable one!  You will find that by just reading and considering carefully each of these  pledges, you will be drawn to action some of them.

Activity of the Month - December

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Garden Creature Detective

With the arrival of the warmer weather, comes an abundance of diverse life in our gardens. Insects and other garden creatures have a very important role to play in keeping our garden soil and plants healthy. There are many beneficial insects and creatures (also know as garden predators) that keep pests away. 

Some of the beneficial insects and creatures that you should encourage to your garden include: Wasps, Hoverflies, Bees, Lacewings, Ladybirds, Worms, Frogs, Lizards (maybe even a blue tongue!), Hawk Moths, Beetles, Earwigs, Spiders, Butterflies, Praying Mantises, Slaters, Dragonflies, Damselflies, Dung Beetles, Native Birds etc.

If your children are looking for something to do, why not suggest to them to become Garden Creature Detectives! 

Provide your children with a magnifying glass each and encourage them to explore the garden. Ask them to search for as many different garden creatures as they can find living in your garden. This is where technology is a wonderful thing!  Using Google Images, your children will be able to identify most creatures that they find - younger children will of course need a little help from someone old enough to read. 


Something else that you might like to do is to encourage creatures to your garden by creating a habitat for them:

Blue Tongue Lizard

A dry rockery is a place a Blue Tongue Lizard will call home. Find a sunny spot and use various sized rocks. stacked close together and plant a few low growing native shrubs.

Native Birds

Plant nectar-producing native shrubs and plants (eg Bottle Brush & Grevillea) and introduce a bird bath to your garden.

Beneficial Insects 

You might also like to grow some insect-attracting plants around and within your vegetable garden e.g. Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Cosmos, Zinnias, Dill, Daisy, Chamomile, Feverfew, Parsley, Mint, Lavender, etc. 

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.

Michelle speaks about Outdoor Classrooms

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Excerpt taken from City of Canada Bay Council's Sustainable Schools Network Term 4 2012 newsletter. A short report on the talk Michelle gave on our experiences of the benefits of Outdoor Classrooms at our children's school - All Hallows Parish School in Five Dock, where we both volunteer each Friday lunchtime as the School Garden Club Coordinators.

Planet Ark's Schools Recycle Right Challenge - Register your school NOW!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Planet Ark's Schools Recycle Right Challenge is currently underway. Don't forget to register your school in the lead-up to National Recycling Week 12-18 November.

Congratulations Toxteth Kindergarten Annandale!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Congratulations to one of our clients!

WINNER - KIDSAFE 2012 National Playspace Design Awards
for "Innovative Design Elements"
Toxteth Kindergarten: Natural Enchanted Forest, 

Annandale NSW
They have a beautiful outdoor learning space for their children.

View their entry by clicking on the link below.

Feedback from one of our clients......

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thanks Angie from Toxteth Kindergarten in Annandale for your wonderful feedback! We are thrilled that the children are sharing what they have learnt with their families.

Bree & Michelle.

"Hi Michelle, Bree, Natalie and all the staff at Seed Harvest Spoon. The children and families at Toxteth Kindergarten, Annandale are really enjoying your program! Some parent comments have included:
"the whole water cycle has been explained to me at home!"
"very impressive to hear our discussions about evaporation at home!"
The children have also been talking about the worms a lot and what they like to eat. We look forward to our final session about garden building and we are really enjoying putting all of our food scraps in our compost bin each day. Thanks Seed Harvest Spoon :)" Angie Amadei, Director - Toxteth Kindergarten, Annandale

Biodiversity Month – Plant a Butterfly Garden

Wednesday, September 05, 2012
A beautiful activity for you and your kids to encourage biodiversity in your home environment, is to plant a butterfly garden!  

The burst of colour in your garden will make you smile every time you glance at it.  It will not only attract butterflies but many different varieties of beneficial insects to your garden that will prey on the detrimental bugs that like to feast on your vegie garden – no need to spray!

Our suggested plants for a butterfly garden:
  • Weeping Butterfly Bush (Buddleja Atternfolia)
  • Caper Bush (Capparis Spinosa)
  • Cut Leaf Daisy (Brachyscome Multifida)
  • Austral Geranium (Pelagonium Austrate)
  • Blue Margeurite
  • Native Bluebell (Wahlenbergia Caespitosa)
  • Gaura Pink
  • Lavender Silver Feather