Coffee-powered morning in the garden

Sydney summer is in full swing! It's hot, and it's humid, too. Recent rains have filled the rain gauge to the brim. The warm wet weather means the garden is prolific: the zucchini plants are putting on one zucchini after the next, the tamarillo tree is laden with fruit, and the cucumbers are flowering whilst producing plump cucumbers. 

 A beautiful, crunchy cucumber from the communal bed (upper garden wall bed). Yum! 

A beautiful, crunchy cucumber from the communal bed (upper garden wall bed). Yum! 

Weeding is a good job to do now (isn't it always ;-) ?) to help vegies grow. And a feed is important, too. With so much to do yet so few cool(ish) hours of the day we have moved the Sunday working bees forward to the morning, commencing at 9AM.  

J.,  a PermaPatch member has been pulling out weeds since the start this morning. Sweat drops glisten on her forehead and there is  is a big smile on her face "I love this garden!" "Look at these beautiful little flowers" she says pointing to the sage showing off red and white hues "they add so much colour". And they are edible, too, adding a bit of colour when sprinkled over salads. 

This morning we are joined by our very own barista, T. from PermaCulture Sydney North. He is manning the coffee machine and makes sure nobody goes without a coffee to fuel our work efforts. And there is homemade cake, too - what great way to start the day! 

 Come one, come all - morning tea (coffee) at the Community Garden! 

Come one, come all - morning tea (coffee) at the Community Garden! 

We also had bee-keepers inspect our hives. Unfortunately, unwanted beetles have taken over, driving out the bees. The infested boxes needed to be removed. 

This might be a bit of a relief for those of you who need to be careful around bees because of allergic reactions to beestings. Our bee-keeper has some good advice: "Avoid wearing any colourful clothing, or perfume". Basically anything that a bee might mistake as a flower. Also, bees can be attracted by the glistening of eyes, so wearing sunglasses is another good tip to keep bees away. 

Eventually we'd like to get another beehive established because they are so important. And in previous years we were able to treat our members to beautifully cold-filtered honey  straight from the garden. So hopefully we'll soon be able to welcome a new beehive!

 The pawpaw tree (located at the southern border of the lower garden) in full bloom.

The pawpaw tree (located at the southern border of the lower garden) in full bloom.

All in all a beautiful morning in the garden - thanks to all who contributed with coffee and cake, hard work and community spirit. 

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Transformation task force PermaBee

It is not often that a Sunday working bee truly transforms the face of the garden. However, last Sunday's (19th April) working bee achieved exactly that.

The upper garden had always been reminiscent of its past life as a car park; and despite luscious private plots it never quite managed to acquire the same cozy feel of the lower garden. So a few months ago, the plan was hatched to cover the bitumen surface with woodchips.

Woodchips would not just be a cosmetic enhancement. They would also help to keep the upper garden cool(er) in summer and encourage beneficial ground and fungal networks to grow. And, all of the energy that is used sweeping the upper garden's surface clean of leaf litter and bark strips could go into proper gardening activities.

How many woodchips does it take for such an endeavor? MOUNTAINS of woodchips! 

  Colin at the summit of Woodchip Mountain

 Colin at the summit of Woodchip Mountain

And of course, it takes people to move the mountains.  Given the scale of the project, we asked Permaculture Sydney North (PSN) to lend us a helping hand and called a special Permabee working bee. This meant instead of our usual afternoon shift of a couple of hours, we started early to make the most of the day.

And things progressed really well! By the time we gathered for late morning tea the mountains had already been eroded to mere speed bumps.

                     Time for morning team - catching up with old friends and making new ones.

                    Time for morning team - catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Not that there we were short of tasks...There is always something to do in the garden. A whole range of activities had been planned and prioritised for the day:

  Our impressive project schedule for the day. After number 9 we ran out of white space on the board...

Our impressive project schedule for the day. After number 9 we ran out of white space on the board...

Excitingly, about 400 new seedlings had arrived just in time for the working bee. We received a mix of little lettuces, cabbages, carrots, coriander and several others. So not only would we be able to refill the lettuce pots of the acquaponics, the common beds had been weeded and topped up with compost the Sunday prior - perfectly prepared to provide for the little seedlings. 

Tasks like these cannot be tackled on morning tea alone. Since the early morning we had fired up the pizza oven and served pizzas for lunch. 

We're certainly getting the hang of how to get the pizza oven going, and even used the residual heat for roasting corn cobs and a slow-cooked pork roast. 

Activities continued well into the afternoon, until the wind picked up and temperatures dropped announcing a change in weather. Time to clean up and pack the tools away!  

It had been a wonderful day, - very productive in terms of all the tasks we accomplished. But most importantly, it was really fulfilling to work alongside like-minded people and have a great time turning our garden into an even homelier place. Thank you to everyone involved! 

Mandy's Open Garden

Hi – As you may already know, my garden is in the Open Gardens Australia scheme on 29th and 30th of this month. The flyer they have made for me is attached.

Would love you to come and have a look at the 150 species of edibles growing here, flowers, natives, edible sharing verge and of course – the chooks! We have talks, home-made lemon butter, jams etc, tea, coffee and cake, home-made elderflower cordial, home-grown (no sprays) plants and some shady or sunny spots to sit and chat or relax. There is also going to be a sculpture trail with some small sculptures for sale. Doug Purdie, The Urban Beekeeper, is coming to talk about his new book – how to keep bees in the city – even on top of tall city buildings!

I would be very glad if you could pass this flyer on to anyone you think might be interested. We are raising funds for our community garden, that we started about 6 years ago and is now going really It is completely community run and unfunded, other than a Council grant when we are lucky. Like my garden, it is run on Permaculture lines and a local hub for learning about sustainable living – growing your own food is one great way to reduce your carbon footprint – and eat great food while you’re doing it!  

When my garden was open two years ago, we had a lot of visitors and a lot of fun. This will be the last time, as Open Gardens Australia is sadly folding up next year.

Thanks so much. Mandy Stubbs

International Permaculture Open Day

We were awash in tea and cake for the afternoon. Leaflets fluttering; sunflower 'windmills' nearly taking off in the wind gusts; members sweeping against the odds, and visitors visiting. Plenty of chat, eating, membership enquiries, Permaculture and community spirit. Raised about $130 in teas, honey, marmalade, chilli jam and herb sales for the community garden. Well done everyone who joined in and made delicious items to sell. There are still some left, so ask if you would like anything.

Upcoming Events - Workshops and Open Days

Come along and share some afternoon tea in the gardens on Sunday 4th May between 2 and 4 p.m. International Permaculture Day celebrates sustainable living and gives people a chance to have a look at how others are growing amazing gardens of edibles, without poisons. Other Sydney gardens will be open. Have a look at the International Permaculture website for more information.

Learn more about how to get started with Permaculture at our workshop at the gardens on Sunday 18th May at 2 p.m. Also afternoon tea. See Events page for more information.

A Letter From The President

Dear members,

I’m writing to introduce myself as the recently-elected President of PermaPatch Community Garden at Lane Cove.

This year we have a big, dynamic executive committee, with previous and new members as follows:

Vice President - Gary Heslin  

Secretary - Jacqui Booth

Treasurer - Nick Duffy

Garden Manager - Colin Maltman

Membership Secretary - Pauline McLoughlin

Kim Greenway

Roman Ciurpita

Lizette Lee

Christian Ehnis

Jono Ladmore


We are very pleased and proud of the garden’s development and members’ involvement so far and hoping for even better things in 2014. There are plans to re-introduce workshops at the garden, to assist members with becoming better acquainted with soil and sustainable concepts in general. Growing and cooking will be in the spotlight and also what to do about those pesky pests and diseases. Please let myself or a committee member know what you would like to learn about and we’ll try to get a workshop going on the topic. We have already begun with our “How Can I Get Started” introduction to the garden which was a lot of fun and included a great afternoon tea – always our focus!

Our new website is up and running, wi.  If you have any feedback please let us know either by email or via the website

Kim is also preparing a regular newsletter/bulletin for members.

It’s so great to see new members joining all the time and making this garden the community hub we want it to be. As David Suzuki always says “if you want to change the world, start local”. And Peter Rutherford with his ‘Ecology’ definition, “Eco” – care of the environment and “Logos” - the place where you are = care for the place where YOU are.

Projects going ahead this year include the new aquaponics system; a poly tunnel for growing seedlings; mapping of the garden; bottling the honey; solar lighting; pizza oven; more plantings and; improving signage around the garden.

We’d love to hear from you regarding the following:

  • Which fruit trees etc would like to see in the new, very sunny border?
  • If anyone has a source of shredded paper for composting, that would be most helpful.
  • Skills or services – for example:
  • Would you like to be a member of a sub-committee around publicity; education etc?
  • Would you like to help run a workshop or present part of a workshop (with assistance)?

Enjoy a lovely autumn in the garden and I hope to see you all up there soon when I return from overseas, towards the end of March.

Thanks everyone for helping to make our garden such a success.

Cheers, Mandy

Mandy Stubbs


PermaPatch Community Garden, Lane Cove

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