Learning from our community partner - Blue Boat Farm Gate!
This week (week 9) in Kreative Koalas we were lucky to be able to develop a partnership with an amazing, knowledgable local grower from Blue Boat Farm Gate. Melissa Fogarty visited our Kreative Koalas group to teach us more about sustainability and growing our own vegetable garden in a sustainable way. The information that we gained from Melissa is so valuable and will allow us to grow a great garden and implement sustainable measures as we go. We have also learnt enough from Mel to be able to begin teaching our Kindergarten buddies some valuable lessons about sustainability and how to grow and care for their garden.
Jane Lloyd-Jones from Hunter Local Land Services also donated two slow compost bins to us. These bins are great and will be put to good use in our new Kindergarten garden. When they first arrived, we didn't even know how they worked or what to do with them. Melissa was able to teach us how to use them and what to look for to make sure we are composting properly.
We also added our organic matter to our garden this week - cow manure and garden soil! With the bit of rain that is expected over the weekend, our garden will be ready to plant next week!
We had some questions for Melissa. Take a look at the questions that the students had for Melissa and her answers for us below. We are so much more equipped now to grow our vegetable garden in a sustainable way.
Questions for Melissa:
1. How do we start a garden from scratch?
Melissa showed us her 'flower diagram' that outlines all of the things we have to think about when planning our garden from scratch.
2. How can we preserve water when we don’t have a water tank?
Mulch! – sugar cane mulch is a fabulous mulch as it has no weeds, it is organic and easy to pull apart. Make the mulch thick – at least 5cm for water saving. Water your garden really well first and then put it down.
Castle and Moat system – castle is the plant and then dig a moat around the plant – about 10cm away. Make the moat quite deep and fill it and wait multiple times to ensure plant is adequately watered. Then cover with mulch. This moat will also catch the water when it rains or when you water the plants in the future.
Buckets – Use buckets, not a hose.
Down pipes – our school has LOTS of down pipes that aren't connected to a tank - all of that water goes down the drain! If we can we redirect our water from even 1 down pipe and catch it somehow, we will have lots of water to use!
The possibility of grants from Hunter Water – tanks for schools
3. What is the best compost for the garden?
Worm Wee Tea is the best, organic and nutrient rich fertiliser to spray on leaves instead of using toxic chemicals that can harm the environment and the people using it.
Having a compost bin will provide nutrients to the soil and to the plants. Put food scraps into the compost bin and add brown material – anything that is carbon based such as sugar cane mulch or grass clippings. The ratio of 2:8 (2 handfuls of scraps to 8 of brown matter) is essential as this will ensure your compost works properly. Vinegar flies around the compost are a bad sign – this means you need to add more brown matter. If you see vinegar flies, it means the compost is rotting, not composting. It also shouldn't stink - if it does, it is another sign of rotting. We have a slow compost system – designed to slowly decompose the food over time. Fill one bin to begin with and then begin on the other. By the time we are finishing our second bin, our first one will be composted and working its way into our soil and plants!
4. What are the top 5 things to plant right now?
Anything that we eat a lot of in summer…
edible weeds such as dandelion leaves (stems and flowers)
watermelon and pumpkin vines on fence
Herbs - basil, oregano, mint
Due to time restraints – get seedlings and get the biggest seedlings we can
5. Can you tell us more about companion planting?
It is about one plant providing something for another plant
Flowers are great companions as they encourage pollination - plant marigolds
Many companion plants deter insects and bugs
Plant guilds - Plant guilds consist of many different species that coexist happily together. Famous companions are pumpkin, corn and beans - these are known as the 3 sisters.
6. Do we have to rip out the plants after we’ve harvested our food and then start all over again?
Annuals – need to be planted every year
Within this family of plants though, not all have to be replanted each year. Some, like Bok Choy, you can cut off and it will grow again. Others, like turnip, you pull out and then that’s it.
Interesting fact - Mon Santo – owns the rights to all the seeds. Smaller companies are trying to get seeds and sell them. These are called Heirloom seeds – these are sometimes not true to type due to cross pollination.
7. What does sustainable gardening mean for you on your farm?
Sustainable gardening is actually about being part of a community
There are three types of people in a sustainable community - the growers, the transformers and the helpers
Living sustainably is about being part of a community - supporting our local community – growing and buying and swapping from each other. Not buying things that aren’t grown or made locally.
We also got to taste test some of the wonderful fresh food that Melissa had picked from her farm that very morning. Students had a taste of some fresh Bok Choy and Turnips - some people loved them and some not so much! Thank you so much for your time Melissa!