Ostii lives in a sharehouse in Brunswick in Melbourne, Victoria. I have been privileged to stay in a spare room for 3 days in exchange for helping in the garden. Ostii is a sharewaste host i.e. he has compost systems and accepts others’ food waste. He has around 25 people who come and drop off their waste. He decided to hold a working bee to both get a heap of work done in the garden and to teach sharewasters how to grow food. They got to see a finished compost pile made with sharewaste food scraps:
Once sieved on an old metal ironing board with a metal mesh, the result was a beautiful soil amendment we added liberally to the weeded, forked, and wetted garden beds. We mulched and then planted vegetable seedlings purchased from Ceres:In one bed we added dripper pipe on top of the mulch to help ensure adequate moisture through the hot summer:
We had a lovely shared meal afterwards to cement new friendships. It’s great to see this sharewaste concept forging new community. Ostii has been into the Permaculture way of living for about 10 years and applies this to his own business. His passion is “Web and digital strategy mentoring for health, earth, and heart focussed entrepreneurs and enterprise.” He has been working with David Holmgren for the past 3 years or so. Check out his website for more info; https://www.flowji.com/ Ostii works mostly from home where he regularly dashes out into the garden for screen breaks.
THE LITTLE RED FRUIT on the ground were the giveaway. Reddish and around a centimetre in diameter, they suggested something was happening above. Looking up, there it was. The tree was coming into fruit, the magenta of the fruit contrasting vividly with the dark green foliage of drip-tip leaves.
Come autumn and winter, the small red fruit on the ground are a sure sign of lillipilly above.
Autumn and winter are lillipilly time. That’s when the fruit of these Australian trees of the Syzygium genus, Myrtaceae family, come to ripeness.
Lillypilly is a common tree in the suburbs of Australia’s east coast towns and cities. In its natural occurrence the species prefers the moister environment of the gully or the edge of the rainforest. Lillipilly is also a favourite of landscapers, especially the small-leaf lillipilly, Syzygium leuhmannai, a narrower tree of moderate height attractive to landscapers because of its bronze-coloured new growth and small, pinkish fruits. Syzygium paniculatum is an evergreen to around seven metres in height and a similar spread. In municipal planting it is suited to parks and public places. It is also suited to the landscaping of commercial and industrial land.
Planted in public places such as on footpaths the tree offers summer shade that goes towards reducing the urban heat island effect whereby cities are hotter than their surrounding territory, encouraging energy consumption for air conditioning.
Uses in permaculture sites and community gardens
The species is suited only to the larger community gardens and permaculture properties. In smaller gardens might take space better planted to commonly-eaten fruits.
Perhaps the most useful location in the community garden or on a permaculture site would be as part of a mixed planting on the windward side. There, with other species, it would serve as a windbreak to shelter vegetable and fruit crops from strong hot or cold winds. It may also offer refuge to birds, adding to the wildlife conservation and biodiversity role already performed by these gardens.
Magenta lillipilly, Syzygium paniculatumn
As with all tree plantings on smaller permaculture properties and in community gardens, consider the mature height and width of the tree before planting and avoid planting other long-lived trees where the lillipilly will eventually shade them out. Instead, plant short-lived small trees, the fast fruits, in the area that will eventually be shaded by the lillipilly. Depending on climate these might include pawpaw, banana, tamarillo and babaco. They will go through several generations before the lillipilly shades the soil where they are growing.
For community gardens and permaculture properties that cultivate an area of native plants, the magenta lillipilly would be a fine specimen that knowledgable gardener-cooks can harvest for its fruit, turning them into tasty sauces and other foods. They are also edible raw. The shade cast by the growing tree would be a suitable place to make a small pond to attract insects and amphibians.
Magenta and other lillipilly planted as street or public place trees offer urban foragers the opportunity to glean free food. First, though, check whether the tree is maintained by a community group who plan to harvest the fruit themselves, so that you don’t deprive them of their hard work. The same goes for taking lillipilly from community gardens unless you are a member.
Magenta lillipilly — an edible presence in east coast towns and cities performing many roles including human forage, wildlife refuge, boosting biodiversity and urban cooling. Gardener-chefs: Do you have any lillipilly recipes to share? Just add them in the comments below…
A young Syzygium paniculatum, the magenta lillipilly, planted as a street tree. Consider the mature height and spread of any tree in deciding where to plant it: will it eventually shade-out other plants or take growing space better planted to commonly-used crops?
Magenta lillipilly with the flower characteristic of the Myrtaceae genus.
This article was written some years ago for PIE — Permaculture Information Exchange — the journal of Permaculture Melbourne. WHEN ‘Woz the PIE baker’ asked me to write something about experiential capital a few years ago, I was stumped. So I looked it up online and then, over coffee and a leftover honey cake I had an idea. Why not write it by telling a story of something that happened?
That story starts with my partner, Fiona Campbell’s Forest Gardening courses. Fiona is Randwick City Council’s sustainability educator and she uses the Forest Gardening and Organic Gardening courses to build the forest garden area of the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, a combined city park/edible landscape/education garden. Out of this courses, participants go away with take-home skills sufficient to get them started in their home or community garden.
Kim was one of the students of the latest Forest Gardening course and, like many, when she started she knew little. She had, however, completed Fiona’s Organic Gardening course and this gave her some basic knowledge. Forest Gardening is intended to be a follow-on from that course.
Participants including artist Linda Cairnes (left) and Permafund’s Virginia Littlejohn (centre) add compost to a young citrus tree in the forest gardening course at Randwick Sustainability Hub.
Kim persisted through the six Saturday afternoons of the course, participating in discussions and small group activities inside the community centre to comprehend the intellectual part of forest garden design and maintenance, then joining the group in the garden. Here, she joined the other students in improving the sandy soil with the addition of compost and biochar. Seeds and seedlings were planted, watered and mulch added.
Then… nothing. A couple classes went by. When Kim and the other students visited the garden you could see the disappointment they felt at the lack of plant growth. It seemed their hopes for a flourishing garden were to be dashed… there were glum faces… all their soil preparation, watering and planting had been for nought. Their expressions betrayed their frustration.
The following week Kim burst into the classroom and she was excited. “Oh… the garden… the seedlings… they’re up!”. Last week’s disappointment had turned to elation. The seedlings had undergone a sudden growth spurt.
I saw Kim again about a month later. “That was a great course”, she told me. “I learned so much… learning about observation in the garden, how to consider sunshine and shade in thinking about where to plant seedlings, how to design for easy maintenance… then understanding what we were doing and going outside to do it”.
“And those sunflower seeds we planted in the swale… they’ve come up and they’ve grown so fast, but will the parrots get the seeds when the flowers form, I wonder?”.
Look > Think > Act
Kim has now set out on her own permaculture adventure around the country and what has inspired her to do this was the blending of intellectual learning, the ‘what’ — with practice in the garden, the ‘how’. It’s the blending of these things that makes up experiential capital and makes people more competent and confident in their own abilities. We can see experiential learning as making use of the Action Learning sequence of Look > Think > Act.
But… there’s one more thing that empowered Kim in her new abilities and that is an essential part of learning in gaining experiential capital, and it as this: all of her intellectual and practical learning was done in the good company of fellow students who shared their knowledge with each other, what some call ‘social learning’. And, it had that other essential quality of all experiential capital-building — fun.
Oh, yes, the sunflowers Kim and the others planted did flower and the parrots didn’t eat them.
It was nice to be asked to do a talk at the first Community Expo which happened Sat 2nd Sept 2017 at the public park in Stanthorpe next to the swimming pool. Its focus was health and wellbeing, so I decided to talk about the health benefits of growing your own food, as well as some more general healthy eating info. Here is a summary of my talk:
Why grow your own food in order to be more healthy?
Number 1: Know what is in your food.
After checking that your soil is free of contaminants with a soil test, you control how your food is grown and therefore what is in it. You therefore know there are no poisons – herbicides, pesticides, fungicides in it and that there are no GMOs because you do not buy those seeds. Genetic engineering technology used in food is untested and the foreign proteins are likely to be irritating to the digestive tract.
Number 2: Ensure the best nutrition in the food.
You can ensure your soil is alive with biology and therefore that the plants can access minerals and trace elements they need. Food can be eaten soon after being harvested and when things are properly ripe and not green. You can also grow health giving foods that are not available in markets and supermarkets (yacon is one of our favourites). This includes many common weeds – sheep’s sorrel, chickweed, dandelion, dock, lambs quarters, nettle, and so on, as well as thousands of heirloom varieties that have superior taste and therefore nutrients. In the US 20 plants produce 90% of the diet, 9 of these equal 75% of the total diet and rice, corn, and wheat equals 50% of the total. Where is the biodiversity?? (there are 30-80,000+ edibles available)
Number 3: Exercise outdoors.
Bending over, turning compost, and forking the soil all give the body muscles some work to do. Get some sunshine so that your body gets important Vitamin D. No sunscreen. Cover up before burning.
Number 4: Reduce fossil fuel use (or eco-footprint)
Reduce fossil fuel use of the food you eat so that pollution decreases. If you grow some of your own food, less artificial fertilizers are used, less transport needed (typically hundreds or thousands of kms), less storage, less packaging – this benefits the environment we all share – cleaner air and water for everyone!
Number 5: Make new friends
Make friends who also grow their own food. Share seeds, plants, knowledge, successes and failures. Exchange produce with them. Learn from each other and learn together. This is satisfying and beneficial to your soul.
What if you cannot grow some of your own food because you have nowhere to grow?
Basil in a pot loves a window sill as do many other plants. Grow micro-greens (the green sprouts of seeds) inside with a grow light.
Go to a Community Garden and grow food there.
Ask a neighbour or friend if you can grow in their back yard or on their farm.
Happy Pig Farm has offered land to use for reasonable exchange.
Plant in pots or moveable containers if you rent.
Start with something…
What if you cannot grow (and exchange) all your food, but want quality purchased food to make up the difference?
Get to know a local farmer or two. Find out how they grow food – do they grow ecologically or with artificial chemicals and poisons? Buy from them if eco-friendly. Another option is to buy from a food aggregator (eg Symara Farm) who sources from organic farmers
Buy local honey from a beekeeper who uses no poisons
Buy foods certified Organic – Woolworths, Aldi, even IGA has some organic dairy, GoVita has some organic
Join a bulk buying group who buys Organic and supports Australian farmers – this makes Organic much more affordable.
Buy from cafes and restaurants who use organic and local ingredients. Encourage them to use more and more of both.
Buy local at market or shops or farm gate if no other option.
Buy from supermarket, but avoid imported foods/ingredients.
Organic whole grains – must be soaked overnight, sprouted, or fermented to reduce phytic acid that blocks Ca, Mg, Cu, Zn being absorbed in the gut. Grains need fresh milling.
high quality dairy
animal foods raised naturally without unnecessary poisons or medicines
lard for cooking with (pork, beef, poultry)
cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
coconut oil – ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
organic superfoods in small amounts:
cod liver oil
high vitamin butter oil
borage or blackcurrant oil
acerola powder (berry)
wheat germ oil – vit E
azomite mineral powder
nutritional yeast processed at low temp
amalaki powder (indian fruit)
canned whole coconut milk (not lite)
flax seed oil
low fat anything
pasteurised milk, unless you add lacto bacteria to ferment it
aspartame – artificial sweetener
packaged breakfast cereals – high pressure and heat extruded grains with high sugar content
MSG – neurotoxic
HFC – high fructose corn syrup – highly processed
alcohol – esp spirits, unpasteurised natural beer ok, organic wine without preservatives ok
soft drinks – esp diet
flour in all processed foods
deep fried anything in veggie oil
If you don’t think margarine or some other processed food is bad, put an amount on a saucer and leave outside. How long until eaten by insects, animals, mold, fungi? Compare with a natural food eg butter
These ideas mostly come from 3 books I have read lately: “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, “Nourishing Traditions”, and “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” as well as watching the recent docu-series on “The Truth about Cancer” and the start of “GMOs Revealed”.
Stanthorpe Permaculture Group had a great turn out on the morning of 3rd July with around 22 people coming together to exchange seeds. The variety of seeds available was incredible. We put all the contributions on the table and then people helped themselves to what they wanted to grow.
Explaining how the seed exchange works
Some chokos to keep somewhere dry and dark until the Spring:
At Randwick Sustainability Hub, the educational component of Randwick Community Centre, Jane Mowbray’s seed saving workshop taught participants how to produce their own seed rather than rely on distant seed companies
Workshop leader, Jane Mowbray, of Inner West Seedsavers.
THREE HOURS is really too short a time to learn about seed saving, but what a packed three hours it was.
There was Jane Mowbray, horticultural educator, Inner West Seedsavers‘ originator, president of the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network and retired teacher who still likes mathematics. There she was leading around 23 people through the intricacies of this unusual practice of saving the seeds of the plants we eat… our veges and herbs.
First, we checked out how plants are structured. That’s a rather clever piece of DNA-encoded bioengineering that grows specialised parts that work together to allow the plant to recreate itself plant after plant, generation after generation.
[pull_quote align=”center”]…bees are the mobile part of the garden that spread plants through fertilising them…[/pull_quote]
We all know about leaves — the solar arrays deployed by plants… the biochemical converters powered by photons streaming from the sun that convert carbon dioxide and water into biological energy and the oxidising gas known as oxygen. But what about the anthers, petals, styles and stigmas? Who knows what they do in this great dance of botanical life? Well, Jane does, and now all at the workshop does too.
Jane demonstrates winnowing — a process that separates the heavier seed from lighter chaff by gently blowing across the seed.
Turns out some of these flowers are edible… and you don’t have to cook them. Nasturtium, borage and others were quickly named by the botanically savvy. Then there’s pollination which is a function of these flowers.
Permaculture co-inventor, Bill Mollison, used to say that birds were the mobile part of the forest. They spread seeds, expanding the forest and replanting it after disturbance. I can’t disagree with that, thought I would say that bees are the mobile part of the garden that spread plants through fertilising them and, at the same time, producing a runny, semi-liquid carbohydrate known as honey much beloved by that other forest-and city-wandering species, people like you and I.
Jane passed around some scented pelagonium flowers and some flowering herbs which were dutifully sniffed and explored by the workshop participants with the magnifying lenses issued.
[pull_quote align=”center”]…it’s amazing what you can grow from your spice cupboard…[/pull_quote]
“Fantastic to grow”, exclaimed Jane, holding up as twig of coriander, ” …though it can bolt to seed… I understand there is a non-bolting variety available now”.
Someone asked about sources of seeds. After mentioning seed companies selling non-hybrid seeds that will reproduce true to type she said that ” …it’s amazing what you can grow from your spice cupboard… don’t underestimate this source… anything that is a bit old and out of date you chuck it into your garden and maybe a quarter, maybe half will germinate”.
This is the book — the manual — when it comes to seed saving, says Jane. The Seed Savers Manual can be ordered from the Seed savers’ Network at seedsavers.net
Extracting seed the wet way
It turns out that seeds can be extracted wet or dry. It’s less an option for any old seeds than a process for particular seeds.
Tomatoes, for instance. Jane demonstrated how you can scoop the pulp containing the seeds from a tomato, put it into a jar and add a little water then let it stand for a few days. The frothy stuff that appears on top is nothing to be alarmed at, said Jane, that’s produced by fermentation and that’s a good thing. When the seeds separate from the gunk they are filtered out and laid until dry on a piece of tissue paper placed on a plate. They keep for maybe three years so there’s no need to rush out and plant them immediately.
Dry seed extraction is a lot easier, as people found when curcubit pods were passed around. You simply break the pods and out tumble the seeds.
Our seeds — how viable?
Jane recommends seed viability testing for schools and teaching children because it demonstrates that mathematics is an everyday part of our lives ” …rather than something we torture children with”.
The maths comes in when you test your stored seed to see how viable it is — what proportion of the seeds are likely to germinate and grow. This is important for seed you have stored for some years. It isn’t hard to do this and even the maths is manageable because most of us walk around with a mobile phone with a calculator app in it..
Take a plate… you know… from the kitchen.
Layer several folds of tissue paper over the plate.
Write the type of seed it is you want to test viability of, where the seeds came from and the date on a corner of the tissue paper; use a biro.
Moisten the tissue paper — don’t flood it though.
Count out a number of seeds, say 40 to 50 for small vegetable and herb seeds and spread them over the moistened tissue paper on the plate.
Fold the tissue paper with the seeds over itself and place in a plastic bag.
After a few days carefully remove the tissue paper and plate from the plastic bag and make a count of the seeds that are germinating; you might do this every day or so for a week or more depending on the type of seed.
Now, find your calculator app, key in the number germinated and the original number, find the percentage button and press it; now you have the percentage of the seeds that are likely to germinate were you to plant the seeds; practical maths.
If it’s only a few you might be better emptying your seed container into your compost bin or tossing the seeds into the garden for the birds.
Seeds in germination testing.
The biodiverse garden
[pull_quote align=”center”]…someone mentioned how cities were very biologically diverse places, with their extensive range of exotic flowers as well as natives and food species…[/pull_quote]
Lettuce, coriander, radish, borage — these are all flowering plants that attract bees and beneficial insects, said Jane, who recommended planting them in all gardens. They add to your garden’s biodiversity. On hearing this someone mentioned how cities were very biologically diverse places, with their extensive range of exotic flowers as well as natives and food species. That’s good news to bees and other insects, it turns out, as they aren’t all that fussed about where it is that the plants they visit come from.
In raising biodiversity Jane linked the microcosm of the home garden to the macrocosm of the biome, the suites of plants, animals and the geology that characterises a region, what we sometimes call the biogeology. It is made up of all those ecosystems we and our insect, animal and plant colleagues inhabit — the bush, the farms, the coasts, the cities. Making links like this contexts small initiatives and improvements, such as the plants we establish from our saved seeds, in their bigger contexts. Doing that is important because it shows that we can all do something that is positive and good.
Jane has led the seed saving workshop before and, as always, it is popular. I’m sure she’s destined to lead many more.