Micro-bat box

If you are keen eyed you might notice a little box up on the gum tree by the fence separating the garden from the church grave yard. Is it a possum box? - definitely not!

It is in fact a box which micro-bats are meant to find very enticing and so hopefully it will attract some of the little flying mozzie catchers.  On a good day one little bat is meant to be able to catch around 500 mozzies, so here's hoping!


Will the bats come and discover their lovely new home?

Research has been carried out around Lane Cove and reveals that there are populations of micro-bats in Lane Cove National Park and also in Ferndale Creek reserve (pretty close) and also Stringybark Creek - also close. So we just have to hope that some micro scouts detect the box and tell their mates to come and set up home.

For more on how beneficial micro-bats are to gardens check this link-

https://www.greenharvest.com.au/PestControlOrganic/Information/Bat.html




Garden Manager Report January 2016

1.       Garden Manager report/action

o    I’ve built and placed up on tree a micro-bat box. Micro-bats are very beneficial to any garden as they can kill hundreds of unwanted nasties such as mozzies and cabbage moths. Time will tell if the bats take up residence!

 

o    Rain water was not being collected too well – investigated and guters were blocked, I got up ladder and unblocked gutters and cleaned debris off roof. Now much better

 

o    Aquaponics system minor malfunction with fish tank all but empty – I fixed and re-filled c.3,000 litres

 

o    Shade cloth erected to stop veggies along wall near caravan bed from frying in hot sun. Ditto for caravan bed. Without the shed cloth these beds are not viable, as too hot.

 

o    Rats are getting into chook feeder every night and so we’re paying for rat feed! Carrying out rat-trapping with Jo (Jo now away for 1 month so offers of help appreciated!).

 

o    Lower garden tin shed has unfortunately been used as a toilet – so am planning to fit a lock with combination.

 

o    Continuing to maintain composting system (Aerobins) – proving difficult, even with signs, to get folk to maintain the system. Will endeavor, once again, to improve signage with one larger central info sign.

 

o    Worm farms – don’t seem to be being tended so have had to maintain these, volunteers needed to look after these worm farms.

 

o    Organised a work-bee on Sat 16th Jan to try to get through some of needed tasks – e.g cleaning up chook shed, extracting juice and compost from aerobins, adding compost to communal beds, removing old plants, collecting leaves, topping up woodchips and more!

Think that's all

Happy Gardening

Colin Maltman

Fantastic Fundraising at Lane Cove Fair

The Permapatch stall in Sustainability Lane at Lane Cove Fair this year was as fabulous as ever with many people stopping by to talk about the state of the planet, how to grow perfect strawberries and everything else in between. No honey yet this year, but we sold jars of gorgeous lemon butter and marmalade made by lovely members Gary and Pauline. Also lots of large plants (thanks Jo) and many seedlings (thanks Gary and Lian Choo) grown at Permapatch, with no pesticides or sprays of course. Also the seedlings from Austral Organic Seedlings that always leap out of the ground and provide us with tomato and basil sauce for the rest of the year, and other delicious delights. We were very excited to make $600 for the garden, which is a record stall profit to date. Hopefully, this will not be our last stall, with the garden's future very uncertain at the moment. Watch this space. Come to the AGM on Sunday and find out the very latest news on this, plus sharing a pizza from our own woodfired oven and catching up with friends. Volunteer for a position on the committee next year and get more involved in this great project.

 

Chickweed makes chickens happy

Chickweed is one of those weeds that lightly but persistently invades garden beds. Even the carefully placed layer of straw that we laid down around the newly planted seedlings was unable to stop it. Chickweed managed to spring up in each of the communal beds! Fortunately, it tends to be easy to remove and can be torn off without using tools. However, even just a little bit of root left in the ground seems to be sufficient for the plant to regrow; so continuous weeding is necessary to slowly but surely get rid of it.

Chickweed is easy to identify:

  • It has small, rather fresh-looking light green leaves. They are reminiscent of Oregano leaves, but not as dark green and they lack the silvery shine. Look out for fine hairs around the small white flowers and along the stem.
  Image credits: Dawn Endico via Flickr.   Original photo on https://www.flickr.com/photos/candiedwomanire/93226243

Image credits: Dawn Endico via Flickr. Original photo on https://www.flickr.com/photos/candiedwomanire/93226243

  • If there is space/free soil, it tends to send out shoots radially, as a ground creeper. But you will find the stalks lifting off the ground if there are other plants in the vicinity. 
  • There tends to be a lot of it ;-)

As the name suggests, chickens love chickweed! See for yourself how excited our girls were to receive a bucket full of freshly weeded chickweed... 

So next time you're in the garden, why not see for yourself what a chicken fanclub you will gather from simply picking some chickweed and throwing it to the girls? 

You might even want to keep some for yourself: Chickweed is high in vitamin C and can be eaten raw, e.g. added to salads. Just don't use too much of it - both for the sake of happy chicken and because the plant contains so-called 'saponins' that are toxic when consumed in large quantities. 

Never a bad time for pizza

As a member of the PermaPatch community garden the Pizza Oven is available to you to hire for your own function. 

If you're unsure about how it all works, pop by the garden during our Sunday working bees and we'll take you through it. Working bees take place every Sunday from 2pm onwards. 

Also, for some upfront reading and "how to" instructions, please refer to this manual. It also contains all you need to know on how to book the oven for your next pizza party in the garden. 

Not quite convinced yet? Have a look at the tantalizingly yummy pictures below from our previous pizza days.  


A peek into the fish tank - aquaponics explained

It has been well over 6 months now since the hydroponics system was first set up in the Permapatch Community Garden. And what a success it has been! Rows and rows of fresh crunchy lettuces in all shapes and colours.

And - despite us knowing that growing strawberries in Sydney (and a garden full of magpies) would always be a challenge - we even harvested a small crop of strawberries. 

Shannon and Anthony are our aquaponics specialists and together with Trevor from HydroMasta, Colin, Roman, and many other helpers in the garden they have put hours of sweat, love, and quite possibly a few tears into the beautiful system.  What started out as hydroponic (when we added nutrients manually) turned aquaponic earlier this year. In March, fish were introduced into the system and their waste now provides the nutrients. 

Asked what kind of fish we have, Shannon explains that we have silver perch in the system. Silver perch were selected because they can handle some temperature variation and high nutrient conditions. We have been running the system with only 100 fish to start, to make sure that everything works. It will take approximately 12 month for the fish to reach plate size and be ready for eating. As they are predatory fish, we can't add any more to the system as they will eat the younger fish. We will monitor the nutrient loads in the system while the fish are growing and determine how many fish we think the system can ultimately handle. 

Shannon adds that silver perch are highly adaptable fish that don't require sunlight, so they will feel comfortable in the tank. The fish are fed to provide them with the main nutrients they need. They also eat algae, which will grow within the tank. We've also included a couple of oxygen stones in the tank, to keep dissolved oxygen levels high. 

So how exactly does it all work? There are two main components - a fish tank and a plant bed. Nutrient-rich water from the fish tank is pumped through a bed where plants take up the nutrients to grow.

When we feed the fish they excrete waste, either in form of solids or solubles. The solubles can eventually be taken up by plants, however we don't want the solids to accumulate. Therefore a clarifier has been designed to create a centrifugal swirl. It drives the solid waste to the bottom of the blue tank. Take a look at the diagram below - in the middle you have the green fishtank and the blue clarifier. The solids settle down in it and can be removed by opening the tap at the bottom. The clear water above the solids is returned from the clarifier to the fish tank.

Let's follow the nutrient-rich water as it is pumped to the plant bed. On its journey, ammonia is dissolved in the water. However, in that form the nitrogen is not available to plants.  Bacteria help convert it first to nitrite, then to nitrate, which can be absorbed by the roots. With nitrate removed, clean and healthy water is circled back to the fish to live in.   

The principle is fairly straightforward, however getting it all up running and ensuring it remains in balance for happy fish and happy plants is no easy feat: every morning and evening our tireless helpers on the chicken roster also feed the fish - a big thank you to everybody involved! 

We all can also help ensure everything is running as it should be. The easiest thing to check is that the pump is running - it needs to be on always. If you notice for example that the water is no longer flowing, that there is a leak or anything else a bit "fishy", please notify the aquaponics crew immediately: Colin on 0411 578178.

Of course, the happiness of fish and plants is regularly checked. In addition to everything else, Colin is monitoring nutrient levels. It's all  a question of balance. For example, in winter when plants grow more slowly and also fish activity decreases, we can halve the amount of food given to the fish. Growth and therefore feeding will pick up again, come spring.  

A big thank you to Shannon and Anthony for providing this information. We look forward to many more lettuce harvests. 

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! 

Big win for community garden at election day fundraiser

It was still dark when the first group of volunteers arrived to set up the barbecue and cake stall for the election day fundraiser at the Chatswood Uniting Church polling station. 

With the smell of sizzling beacon and onions filling their crisp morning air, it didn't take long for the first voters to order a sausage, bacon and egg sandwich, or get a sweet breakfast treat.

Many members and friends of the garden had baked the night before: Our cake stall boasted banana bread and pecan nut loaves in different sizes, date and walnut rolls, gingerbread, macadamia chocolate cookies, jam drops, heart-shaped coconut cakes, traditional fruit and zesty lemon cakes, scones with jam and cream, and many many beautifully decorated cupcakes. Not to forget the chilli jam and tomato relishes - our stall spelled "pure temptation".

                                                           Kim's colourful democracy cupcakes

                                                          Kim's colourful democracy cupcakes

Compared to previous years, fewer voters were registered at the polling station, and we could certainly tell the difference. Yet many more stopped at our stalls, giving us the opportunity to talk to them about the garden.

So all the hard work and many hours manning the stalls and sizzling sausages paid off: We managed to raise $960 for the community garden on the day!  This is massive! It's also a nice increase compared to last year.

A big thank you to everybody involved, whether it was baking, barbecuing, buying, or organising  - your help is much appreciated and will make a real difference to the garden. The biggest thank you goes to the master organiser, mobiliser, and motivator of the day, the lovely Kim. She made sure it all came together - without her work the fundraiser would not have happened - and it would not have been as much fun! Thank you, Kim!

It's raining again!

Oh, and what a washed-out Easter weekend it was! It seemed the garden's new rain gauge had just gone up in time to measure and confirm the weatherman's forecast of "Sydney will be wettest on Saturday with some suburbs recording above 50mm..." - it read 52mm of rain on Saturday evening. 

The garden's new rain gauge - nice and dry (not for long)

The rain gauge is mounted on one of the tall poles bordering the strawberry plot in the upper garden. You can't miss it when walking along the wall bed towards the caravan.  

There is of course a science behind correctly measuring the amount of rainfall. The Bureau of Meteorology explains the details and how the professionals do it. In the garden, we're interested in getting a better idea of the amount of rain the beds receive. Sydney showers can be quite local, and sometimes a "massive downpour" in one suburb might not mean a lot of rain for the neighbouring one.  It'll hopefully also help our kind watering volunteers to assess whether they need to give the communal beds an extra drop. 

So how do we keep track of the rainfall? Ideally, we'd start each early day with an empty gauge and meticulously check the amount of rain in the gauge at a given time later the same day. Practically speaking though we won't have a rain gauge roster ;-)  As with most things in the community garden, the rain gauge is there for everybody to take measurements. Next time you take a read, why not share it on the white board? Or leave a comment here on the blog? 

We hope you enjoy keeping an eye on the amount of rain the garden gets!

Election Day Fundraiser - The Legend Of The Sausage

It's that time again, you can't open a newspaper or switch on a TV or even answer your phone without somebody talking in a deep, eery voice about the doom each opposing party is promising... Most of us have become quite cynical about our civic duty and the democracy we live in... There is however one shining light in the darkness of our current political landscape... And that is the ubiquitous election day sausage sizzle and cake sale...!! YAY!!!!

 Happiness is a warm sausage... 

Happiness is a warm sausage... 

 Vote 1 for the cupcake party!

Vote 1 for the cupcake party!

One of our members, Kerry Awia Markey, took these great photos at the 2013 Federal Election fundraiser that we did... Doesn't everything look so delicious? Election day sausage sizzles and cake stall are one of PermaPatch's biggest fundraising opportunities and is a fun day for everyone! There's lots of ways to get involved... bake a cake, a loaf, some cookies or cupcakes, help prep on the Friday from 3:30pm - 6:30pm or help on election day, manning the cake stall or bbq. Come for just an hour or stay all day... every bit of help counts!!

Email us at permapatch@permapatch.org.au to let us know how you can help!