Download our free Illawarra Edible Garden Guide!

 

 

How can you change a typical suburban house in Wollongong into a sustainable, healthy home and organic food garden?


Join us on an adventure to explore the possibilities... 

 


Sunday
Oct232011

Launching our Illawarra Edible Garden Guide!

We’re super excited that the launch of the ‘Grow Local Illawarra Edible Garden Guide’ that we’ve been working on is happening on 23 November! The guide is all about growing food in backyards, schools, community gardens and other small urban spaces. It has a special focus on growing in the Illawarra, and is full of ideas and tips on what grows best in our climate, designing a veggie patch, starting a food forest, soil building and more. The climate of the Illawarra is really similar to coastal climates up to the mid north coast of NSW, so if you live in those areas you might also find it really useful. Regardless of where you live, we hope it will be an inspiring taste of growing food in the suburbs!

Below is a special sneak peak from the section focusing on food plants that grow well in the Illawarra:

A special thanks to those of you who helped out by commenting on our posts about ‘top ten’ lists for fruit, veg and herbs earlier this year!

We’ve been creating the guide as part of the Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change project, a join sustainability project involving Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils working together with funding from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust. It’s really fantastic of the Councils and the Trust to fund this guide, as it means free printed copies will be available to Illawarra residents, and a PDF version will be available for free download by all on the Council websites, and our website.

This Grow Local Edible Garden Guide will also have a ‘sister’ guide, the Grow Local Native Garden Guide, which we’re also super excited about also seeing launched on the 23 Nov. It’s full of ideas about using local native plants in the garden, rather than ‘natives’ that may be from the other side of our huge country!

Everyone is welcome to the launch of these guides, which is happening as part of the food and biodiversity celebrations from 2:30pm – 6pm on Wednesday 23 November at the old courthouse on Cliff Road in Wollongong. You can pick up your free copy of the guides, check out great stalls about food growing and local biodiversity, join in some interactive workshops, learn about the Living Classroom School Kitchen gardens and more. By coming along you can also go in the draw to win an instant ‘backyard food garden’ or ‘native garden.’

Check out the poster for more details. Hope to see you there!

Friday
Oct142011

Catching bees in 8 easy steps!

 

Step 1 - Read books, watch Youtube clips.

Step 2 - Find swarm. Entice someone who’s caught bees before to give you a hand.

Step 3 - Suit up and place box under swarm. Say a prayer.

Step 4 - Cut branch or brush bee swarm into box.

Step 5 - Seal for transportation. 

Step 6 - Open new hive, unseal the box, and tip the bees into hive - branch, queen and all.

Step 7 – Gently shake bees off branch 

Step 8 – Cross your fingers that the queen is in the hive, and that the bees take to their new home!

We’ve been waiting for a call about a swarm of bees needing a new home, and this week it finally came (thanks for the call Mark)! So off we bravely trotted to Cringila, the suburb at the heart of backyard food production in the Illawarra, first time swarm catchers with a ‘how to’ list in our hot little hands. Luckily another experienced local bee keeper joined in the fun and we helped each other catch two swarms, one for each of us, just before the sun was setting - thanks Suri!

Inspired by the art of natural topbar bee keeping advocated by the Barefoot Bee Keeper we built a top bar hive a while back and hope the bees like their new home! They seem to be settling in well, and haven’t flown away, which would have happened if we didn’t catch the queen. 

We’re really looking forward to looking after these beautiful, productive creatures, and hope you will enjoy our occasional topbar bee keeping posts! Have you had any experience keeping bees?

Sunday
Oct092011

Inspiration for 2012 – The Permaculture Diary

In a world that can seem full of gloom and doom, we all need good doses of inspiration and uplifting stories from the heart. The wonderful Permaculture Diaries, created by the passionate Michele Margolis have provided us with much inspiration over the years, and the 2012 edition is as jammed packed as ever with stories of positive permaculture projects happening across Australia and beyond.

Stories about Permaculture farms, natural bee keeping, community gardening, school gardens, WWOOFing and food foraging in the cities are shared from people passionate about growing food and creating community. We especially love the local features of the Port Kembla Laneway community garden, Cringila primary school and Warrawong high school...and even our wedding in the veggie patch!

There’s a great sample page of the diary, and on-line site for ordering. We’re not making any money from sharing news about this diary with you, we just love it and thought you might too!

Monday
Oct032011

Berry nice kitchen delights

Ahh spring ... how we love your berry goodness! This week the mulberries started ripening, strawberries started glistening like red jewels, and those native Atherton raspberries are STILL fruiting (do they ever stop?!?).

Our favourite way to enjoy these garden delights is blended up with other fruity goodness in smoothies...that is if they make it to the kitchen! But isn’t half the fun of berry picking one for the mouth and one for the basket?

If there’s still some left over they may find their way into some baked goodies... 

How do you best enjoy these garden treats?

Wednesday
Sep212011

Giving and reusing on Freecycle

This week we discovered the brilliancy of Freecyle, an on-line network where you can give away things you no longer need or ask if anyone has something to give away that you’d like.

Through Freecycle Illawarra this week, we found new homes for our sturdy handmade bathtub worm farm and our spare bee hive. We weren’t really using them, and we're inspired to give them away to someone who would put them to good use. And we met some lovely people who came to pick up the goodies!

Freecycle’s slogan is ‘changing the world one gift at a time.’ There’s 1000’s of groups all around the world. Have you had any experience with Freecycle networks

Sunday
Sep042011

A summer babe and signs of spring

Delicate apricot flowers bursting into life,

Bunches of bananas unfolding,

Eggs a plenty,

And excited whispers blow in the wind of a summer babe on the way...

What signs of spring does your garden bring?

Sunday
Aug212011

Making a yummy carrot dip

Inspired by some gorgeous carrots we dug out of the garden this morning, today we enjoyed making (and eating!) a yummy carrot dip.

Ingredients

  • 750g carrots, peeled and sliced into thin circles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus extra for cooking carrots)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (or use chilli powder if you like it spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Spread carrots on tray and drizzle with olive oil, mixing it through so all carrots are covered. Roast in the over (at 160 degrees fan forced) until they soften, mixing them up half way through (we find it works quicker in our oven to put them under the grill – they’re done in 20 minutes)
  2. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then pop them in a food processor
  3. Add the garlic, olive oil, cumin, curry or chilli powder and lemon juice. Process until completely blended (this dip is texturous, it won’t go completely smooth like hummus)
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Enjoy with crackers or raw vegie dip sticks (like bits of broccoli or celery)

Do you have a favourite dip recipe? We’d love to hear how you make it.

Monday
Aug152011

A secret nest of eggs

Our two gorgeous silkie chooks tend to go off the lay in the winter, and an egg is an unexpected surprise. Our new rescued chook Rosie lays eggs which are slightly rounder and lighter in colour than the silkie eggs, and she too has pretty much gone off laying for the winter – or so we thought!

You could imagine our surprise when we found this secret stash of eggs Rosie has been laying in a sweet, secret little nest she made tucked into the vegetation outside the chicken house! A dozen eggs all up were stashed away in Rosies secret nesting place!

So what does one do with all these lovely eggs? Well we tested them in water to see if they were still ok (fresh eggs should sink and old ones rise due to gas created within them) and they all seemed to pass the test.

So we cracked them one by one, inspected them and gave them the sniff test, and decided they were good enough to make a yummy egg and potato bake. Many thanks to Rosie for providing us with all these beautiful eggs in the winter!

Have you ever found a secret stash of eggs your chooks have kept tucked away?

Sunday
Aug072011

Your top ten bushtucker plants for urban spaces?

Ok, we promise this will be the last of the ‘top ten’ posts! But recently we’ve been thinking about native edible plants, and which are most suitable for urban gardens here in the Illawarra. So far we’re thinking our ‘top ten’ recommendations would be:

  1. Macadamia - Macadamia spp.
  2. Atherton Raspberry - Rubus fraxinifolius
  3. Davidson's Plum - Davidsonia pruriens
  4. Warrigal Greens - Tetragonia tetragonoides
  5. Lemon Myrtle - Syzygium anisatum
  6. Finger Lime - Microcitrus australasica
  7. Aniseed Myrtle - Backhousia citriodora
  8. Midyim Berry- Austromyrtus dulcis
  9. Small-leaf Tamarind - Diploglotis campbelli
  10. Black apple - Pouteria australis

How about you? Have you experimented much with growing native edible plants? We’d love to include Bunya Pines in our top ten, as Bunya nuts are such a delicious bushtucker, but the trees grow SO big and produce massive spikey seed pods that can be quite lethal, so they’re probably not well suited for small urban gardens! 

Sunday
Jul172011

Monster cauliflowers

On this rainy Sunday afternoon went searching for cauliflowers in the veggie bed and found three monsters calling out to be harvested!

Weighing over a kilo each, it’s been a busy afternoon cooking up cauliflower soup and cauliflower, haloumi and potato curry...and the fridge is still full of cauliflower!  Whats your favourite way to use cauliflower? Have you discovered any monster veg in your garden of late?

Tuesday
Jul122011

Your top ten vegetable and herbs for urban spaces?

Well you thought it was tough narrowing it down to your top ten fruit trees – how about your top ten vegetables and herbs? Not ten herbs and ten veg, just ten in total! Impossible we cry! But we’re giving it a shot – will you join us in sharing your top ten recommendations? Our criteria is that they’re easy to grow in the Illawarra climate and good for beginner gardeners, are tasty and well liked by most people and give generous harvests. So, at first we’re thinking:

  1. Zucchini 
  2. Potato
  3. Cherry Tomato
  4. Parsley
  5. Garlic
  6. Silverbeet 
  7. Asparagus
  8. Lettuce
  9. Cabbage
  10. Rosemary

How about you?

P.S – If you live in the Illawarra, Shellharbour Council has just started advertising a free backyard chook keeping workshop with the wonderful chook expert Jill Cockram – places book out fast so get in quick!

Sunday
Jul032011

Your top ten fruit trees for urban spaces?

We’re really excited to have recently been asked to write a guide to growing food in urban areas (backyards, schools, community gardens and apartment gardens) in the Illawarra. The guide will be published as part of the Illawarra Biodiversity and Local Food Strategy for Climate Change project, a joint sustainability project involving Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils working together with funding from the NSW Government’s Environmental Trust.

It will have sections on designing and maintaining veggie gardens and food forests, as well as lots of gardening hints and tips, and lovely stories and photos of people growing food locally in all sorts of different places.  

As part of the guide we’re creating a ‘top ten’ list of fruit trees, herbs and veggies to grow in urban environments. And we’d love you’re help! If you had to recommend ten fruit trees for growing on the coast in a subtropical/temperate climate, what would they be? So far our top ten, based on being relatively easy to grow and producing abundant harvests would probably be:

  1. Citrus (all types!)
  2. Banana (Williams Cavendish)
  3. Pawpaw
  4. Peach
  5. Hawaiian Guava
  6. Cherimoya
  7. Jaboticaba
  8. Persimmon
  9. Mulberry
  10. Olive

Looking forward to hearing what your top ten would be!

UPDATE - Sooo....in trying to take into account everyone's super helpful comments, and realising that it's probably a bit cheeky to include the whole citrus family as one fruit tree (though that certainly helped us fit more in our top ten!), our revised top ten list is, in no particular order:

  1. Orange
  2. Mandarin
  3. Banana (Williams Cavendish)
  4. Pawpaw
  5. Macadamia
  6. Hawaiian Guava
  7. Cherimoya
  8. Passionfruit
  9. Persimmon
  10. Mulberry

 

Thanks so much for your help everyone!

Sunday
Jun262011

Introducing Rosie – the new chook on the block

There’s a new girl on the block at our place – a gorgeous, placid fawn coloured chook!

She gets along wonderfully with our two silkie chooks, and loves to join them in parading around the garden, scratching and looking for critters in the mulch...

She’s quite a small chook but we’re not quite sure what breed she is (bantam’s aren’t a breed, just a reference to a breed of chook being small – which Rosie definitely is!). Anyone like to guess what type of chook she is?

Rosie is a survivor – our neighbours had four chooks but then got a large dog, a move which unfortunately did not end kindly for 3 of their 4 chooks.  Rosie jumped the fence into our yard, looking for safety and companions, and that she has found! 

Monday
Jun132011

Growing Gorgeous Guavas


Can you believe it’s the start of winter and we’re still being reminded of the tropics with the delicious guavas we’re picking from our guava trees? Guavas have been a well loved substitute for bananas in our daily fruit smoothies of late, their creamy, sweet texture works a treat!

Guavas are a great tree to grow in suburban backyards. They don’t grow taller than 4 meters, and will give you an abundance of fruit within just two years of being put in the ground.

There’s lots of different varieties of guavas, but our favourites are Mexican Cream and Hawaiian.

Being a lovely soft, sweet fruit, you do need to keep an eye on fruit fly attacks. We usually bag the fruits just after they’ve formed with fruit fly exclusion bags.  The chooks quickly devour any fruit which has been spoiled!

Guavas are hardy, evergreen trees, and a delight in the garden. For more info check out our fruit tree profile on growing guavas.

Sunday
Jun052011

Celebrating world environment day

Meandering through paths lined with an abundance of veggies and fruit trees at the Kiama Community Garden...

Being inspired by fabulous community gardeners, local ‘foodies’ and the wonderful Costa from Costa’s gardening Odyssey...

Seeing new local sustainable businesses and funky eco products such as these reusable cloth nappies from nappiness...

What a fantastic local event the World Environment Day celebrations were in Kiama today, and a big thanks and congratulations to Kiama Council and Kiama FutureCare for organising such a wonderful celebration!

World Environment Day is an annual international day of celebrating positive change for the environment. For us it’s a great time to look back and reflect on achievements we’ve made over the last year on our adventure in urban sustainability, and think about what we’d like to achieve over the next year.

Looking forward we’re keen to redesign our back room which is very inefficient (too hot in summer and cold in winter) and make it a more comfortable, sustainable living space. And we’re keen to start backyard bee keeping in the spring!

Did you celebrate world Environment Day? Are you setting yourself a sustainable goal for the next year?

Sunday
May292011

May in our suburban food forest garden

Scattered with days of beautiful sunshine in the mist of winter’s cool cloak drawing closer, May in our suburban food forest has been a month of abundant citrus harvests...

Planting snow peas, broad beans, onions and garlic...

Being delighted by scrub wrens splashing about in our bird bath...

And warmed by the bright colours of abounding autumn leaves...

What joys and changes did May bring to your garden?

Wednesday
May182011

Saving squash seeds

There’s just something special about saving seeds from the best performing veggies in the garden and re-planting them next season. There’s a magical sense of connection not only to the whole life cycle of the plant, but the generations of home gardeners and farmers before us who have selected and saved the seeds that create the very plants we know and love today.

Many of us have lost touch with the art of seed saving - and we’re certainly no experts here either! But it’s definitely worth giving a go some time, and it’s a fantastic way to build up a collection of veggies perfectly adapted to your local climate.

Recently we saved some of the seeds from our star performing yellow squash plant. This plant just kept on giving with heaps of lovely little yellow button squash. When you harvest the squash they’re quite small and you don’t even notice the seeds inside. To save seeds from the squash plant, you just let one squash keep growing until it’s as big as can be and the vine dies right back.  At this size it looks rather more like pumpkin! And when you cut it open, it has big seeds just like a pumpkin does.

After cutting our fully grown squash open, we gave the seeds a bit of a wash to remove all the fleshy bits...

Spread them out and dried them in the sun for a couple of days...

And then tucked then away in a zip lock bag with a little note about the variety and time of harvest, and popped them in the fridge (a cool place would also be fine), all ready for planting in the spring...

Have you ever saved any seeds from veggies in your garden? The Seed Savers Network Australia has some fantastic resources and inspiration – check out www.seedsavers.net for more details!

Saturday
May072011

A love of wearing tea towels 

Well not just tea towels! And not just any tea towels! But there are some fabulous old vintage tea towels with prints of native plants and animals, and new organic tea towels out there with designs that are way too gorgeous to be used for drying dishes! Up-cycling them into funky clothes is surely a much better use for them, and a wonderful way to promote creative, sustainable fashion?

The wonderful Annie from Pearl and Espelth (yes a blatant plug for a friends sustainable, ethical business here!) is the queen of creating gorgeous custom clothes that feature a variety of found, reclaimed and vintage materials. I just love her one-off handmade creations - especially this one created just for me and featuring a penguin reclaimed from, you guessed it, a vintage tea towel!

As a novice sewer I recently had my first attempt at up-cycling an organic tea towel onto a hemp skirt. Yes there was certainly lots more unpicking than sewing involved, and admittedly at one stage I actually sewed the bottom of the skirt together (so you wouldn’t be able to put your legs through it!) but phew, I got there in the end. What do you think?

Have you ever gotten the creative vibe and had a go at making some clothes for yourself or your family?

 

Sunday
May012011

April in our suburban food forest garden

April in our suburban food forest garden was a month of being thankful for lots of rain and full water tanks...

Watching our recent plantings of lettuce, cabbages, potatoes and beetroot thrive...

Enjoying an abundance of guavas from our Mexican Cream and Hawaiian Guava trees...

And listening to choruses of fairy wrens flittering around the garden...

For more of the sites and sounds of our food forest garden in April check out our ‘aerial view of our suburban food forest & vegetable garden 2011’ video clip:

 What delights did April bring to your garden?

Sunday
Apr242011

Yummy Easter Treats


Sweet treats that delicious, easy to make and not full of sugar can be a challenge to find – but we love a challenge! Our favourite sweet treats recipe by far is for ‘bliss balls’ – a chocolate tasting mix of dried fruits and nuts that disappear almost as soon as they’re made!

Ingredients:

  • 200g pitted dried dates and 200g of dried sultanas (or 400g of either one if you don’t have both) 
  • 200g almonds and 200g macadamias
  • 5 heaped tablespoons of fair trade cocoa powder
  • Desiccated coconut for rolling (or you could crush up some more almonds and maccas for rolling)

Steps:

  • Place dates and sultanas in a bowl and cover with hot water (almost boiling). Leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Grind the nuts in a food processor to a fine consistency (though not too fine – they’re nice with a bit of crunch!). Take them out and place in a bowl.
  • Take the dates and sultanas out of the water and put them into the food processor. Save the soak water in case you need to add some if the mixture is too dry. It’s also good idea to squeeze the dates as you put them in to check there are no date pips in hiding in them.
  • Add the cocoa and then slowly add the ground nuts and process until the mixture becomes firm enough to roll into balls that hold their shape. If they're still too gooey you could add some desiccated coconut to the mix, if they're too dry add some of the date soak water.
  • Coat the balls in coconut or crushed nuts and indulge then and there, or store in the fridge for up to a week. They also keep well in the freezer (not sure for how long, as ours never hang around long enough to find out!)

When oranges are in season, it’s lovely to add a splash of juice and some grated rind to the mix, for an extra nice burst of tanginess.

We’ve love to hear about any healthy/sugar free recipes you have for yummy treats! And we’re off to make other batch of bliss balls! Happy Easter everyone :)