The Wrap Up…The inaugural East Hills District Schools Harvest Festival

I can’t believe its been a week since the festival.  Months of planning, sleepless nights and stress.  Why? Because it’s time.  Its time to bring together all the school gardens and veggie patches and create a collaborative event that brings the passionate gardeners, artists and creators together. School gardens are more than a veggie patch, they are hours spent by parents, kids and volunteers to create an outdoor space to be enjoyed by all.  Lifelong friendships are made in school gardens.

As I mentioned at the launch, “it starts with a teacher”. A teacher I had in primary school Mrs Georgene Edmunds commissioned a native garden at Picnic Point Primary that parents spent many months building and kids spent many months at school on weekends riding bikes and exploring their space out of regular hours and without restriction.  Those days are my earliest school memories…and when Mrs Edmunds had us dress up as pink elephants to perform at the East Hills Music Festival.  My Dad designed the garden and it was a source of pride for me and pride in our school.  The kids were given a plant each with their name to water and nurture…this was in the 80’s and my parents friendship group was formed from that project.  Such a happy time the 80s. 🙂

The art exhibited at the festival was amazing and the kids and teachers were thrilled with the prizes donated by the generous sponsors. The upcycled garden art was a hotly contested event and next year will be bigger and better.  The radish eating was hilarious with a teenage entrant stepping up to have a go! Who knew teenagers would be involved with a 50 cash prize on offer????   The pumpkin rolling was a hoot!  Jams, pickles, veggie creatures, bread, sourdough, kombucha brought local food back to the forefront of our kitchens for those few weeks.  A tremendous thanks to those that believe in local food and share the vision.

Time for thank you’s.  Thanks to Sheena & Sue of Suburban and Broula farms for the catering, emceeing, crafting and captaining of the games.  Thanks to the sponsors Condell Park Produce, Banksia Law, Maria Furnari-Travel Managers, Cultivate NSW, Fruity Sacks Picnic Point Bowling Club, Panania Diggers, Fitness Local Panania, Curves Panania, Burattinis and Bunnings Bankstown.  Thanks to friends and neighbours that are supporting the Panania Free Rangers in their work to “outgrow the status quo” in the hood!

Thanks to Sandra Palmer, Principal of Panania Public for allowing us to host the event. Pat Sherring and Taylor Farrell (teachers at Panania) who jumped straight on board. Linda Clutterbuck from East Hills Girls, Rebecca Mills from Revesby South and Omar Chahrouk of Belmore Boys.  #itstartswithateacher

We intend to run the festival annually to give kids a space to sell, promote and learn about sustainability outside the classroom in a market environment.

Check out the photos and the fun at

In the meantime, check out the Panania Free Rangers facebook page to find what we are up to next….maybe some local farm tours, maybe some workshops, maybe some markets selling produce and seedlings.

See ya soon,


Radish eating…he cried but what a great sport!





Why we need to fall in love with Autumn…and let go of Spring!

I was watching Gardening Australia the other night and the presenter Jerry Coleby-Williams spoke of how it was now time for tomatoes in the subtropics. 23 degrees and 70% humidity is what a tomato likes.  He lives in Bris Vegas and we are temperate zone here in Sydney but I grabbed hold of what he said because it fit with my observations over the past two years. Cherry Tomatoes for Christmas is a more realistic goal for those of us not using pesticides. We did have a tremendous crop at Glenfield but that was netted and irrigated.

If you are a gardener  in Sydney you will know that Autumn not only brings the cooler nights and ends that silly thing called Daylight Savings but that the soil is still incredibly warm and our temps here in Sydney are around 23-25 degrees…perfect for tomatoes I discovered last year.  The ones that were random pop ups and the ones that had made it through the summer had a prolonged life as soon as the temp dropped a bit.  The yield lessens for sure, but the plant suffers far less. They grow new shoots, and they continue to flower right up until the frost.  Even then, they keep going but taste bitter…still edible though! I find in Autumn now I no longer reach for my slippers and gown in early April and nor do the tomatoes turn up their toes. If this is climate change, then we need to rethink our crops and our planting schedules here in Sydney…no longer is the advice on the seed packet, gospel!

Still picking large tomatoes (green, coz I always do) and corn planted in January….whaaarrrrttttt. Variety that is sweet and not as dreadful as the popping corn that doesn’t pop!

It has been a challenge for me to get to love a Sydney Autumn as to me it is the start of a a veerrrry long football season with the football lovers in my family…in particular, one extremely passionate roosters supporter and it also means the brain drain of trying new tactics to defeat the white cabbage moth! As I get better at what I’m doing, I figure the more time, money and effort required to keep the pests away, the more time I could grow something else successfully.  I think this is something we need to consider if we want to call ourselves “ethical growers”. What if there is another vegetable that has the crunch of broccoli but is easier to grow and more pest resistant.  Shouldn’t we grow that instead? I haven’t found that edible yet but I’m sure there is one.

January footpath corn with Cairns garden…bromeliads in flower!!  My favourite!!!!
One lonely pumpkin…this is supposed to be “white cushaw”.  One lonely pumpkin!  I think it may be one golden nugget.  We had heaps last year 😦


Butternuts still going strong!  We’ll have enough to get through another year and have been selling them as well!  #sustainablepunkers
January Footpath Corn

Maybe in order for me to get over my “end of Summer sadness” I need to think of and Autumn as “late Summer”. 1 September is never the start of Spring despite the nursery hype around this time so listen to the earth, watch your plants and your growing space and plant accordingly.

Free Ranger Jaqx

The Glenfield Girls

The permanent members of the Glenfield Girls are Leonie, Gabby, Jenna, Khali, Rhonda, Rhonda’s chooks and extended family and neighbours.

This is the only “before” photo I have…of Glenfield front yard…sorry about the head chop, Leonie 😦
First vegie beds at Glenfield were cardboard, grass clippings and some terrible soil from a landscape supply company…but terrible bought soil is a whole other blog!


January 2016

Here is a photo of last summer.  There was the palm (the bain of our edible garden existence) and an olive tree that was blown down in a storm just over a year ago.  The Glenfield Girls’ properties back onto crown land that is so peaceful and bushy it’s hard to believe you’re in Sydney. I love it.

February 2017

Fast forward a year and the seeds from the compost have taken over here.  I always question how there is hunger when pumpkin seeds turn into pumpkins that can feed a family for a whole year (well ours did).  We did have a successful grosse lisse crop here this year but only due to netting.  Here you can see a butternut pumpkin that has decided it wants to be a rose and a geranium and climbed into bed with them.  We have a sweet potato that has taken over the “lettuce greens” and we are hoping for an abundant supply of sweet potato as it’s growing in Panania, Glenfield and Bankstown. I think this is what they call nature.

And still the lorikeets get under the net!  Two separate nets – tricky photo!

The palm stumps of the long forgotten bain, provide a little seat/shelf and we are still working to bring the soil back where the palm stood all those years. The cut up palm trunk is also used as garden edging out the back. Waste not, want not!

The start of the “tromboncini” bed…cardboard, grass clippings and much-loved toys for weights!

At the end of last year, Rhonda’s husband Sam cut up Gabby’s swing set.  We were going to trellis tromboncini up the swing set with reo or wire. The tromboncini and exotic pumpkin varieties didn’t take but we did get a few large zucchinis.


No tromboncini’s.. but another feral pumpkin…we do love ferals!

We finally had one plant take off and of course it was nothing we planted. Another compost pumpkin! Rather than go to the effort of pushing it up over the swing set, we just let it go. The earth wants it to be there if it has survived the compost and competing plants and no irrigation. We started this vegie bed to solve a problem. The grass that was there prior to the pumpkin has a seasonal tap root vegetable (that someone else grew) all through the grass in Spring and Summer.  It just looked like an invasive broadleaf weed to me.  We tried our cardboard trick, with a handful of compost and grass clippings from every mow. I can’t wait to see what’s underneath the pumpkin when we pull it up. Perhaps after the pumpkin is gone we stop fighting nature and learn to live with and eat this vegie that grows through the grass like a weed!


I believe bees are on the agenda for these two fruitful neighbours. I think we need to pull out all stops to get watermelons here for all the Glenfield Girls next year.  We’ll keep you posted!

Vegie Tourists

There is something going on in Panania. Right under everyone’s noses, the most magnificent things are growing. Here are some pictures taken on the walk mapped out below. It was only a short walk through a small part of the area. There must be plenty more to find. Why not go exploring and see what you can spot?AdventureMap2016.01.03


Down the side of a lawn, in an unassuming garden bed, what can you see growing? Is that a little citrus tree at the back? Are those pumpkins sprawling along the ground? Then at the front there’s fennel and sweet potatoes.

220 Tower St.


The leaves, roots and flowers of those dandelions in the grass are all edible. Did you know that the succulent with the pink flowers (baby sunrose) is also edible too?

Spot the edibles, Cnr Tower and Sherlock.


Sticking up over a fence, what can you see? Lucky kookaburras don’t like fruit.

Fruit and Kookaburra, 20 Sherlock Ave.


An olive tree, out on the verge.

Olive, 27 Peffer St.


A tyre filled with soil. Is this the start of a verge garden?

Is this the start of a Peffer St verge garden



Passionfruit, 19 Peffer St.


Better not try taking any figs while that owl is watching.

Own guarding figs, land between Peffer  and Tower Sts


Bananas and chokos.

Bananas and choko, lane between Peffer and Tower Sts


Grapes that didn’t want to stay hidden behind the fence.

Grapes between Peffer and Tower Sts


Copying the plants.

Bananas and solar, Tower St.


A spider does a good job of taking care of this garden.

Thriving without interference, Corner of Tower and Hinemoa St.


What will these lovely things ripen into?

Grapefruit and unknown herbs, 2 Hinemoa St


Front yard cucumbers.

Cucumbers, 2 Hinemoa St.


Chillies liking the shade of a banana tree.

Chillies, 2 Hinemoa St.


This garden has so much going on. Is there a better front yard edible garden in Panania?

2 Hinemoa cropped


Lilly pilly hedge.

LillyPilly, 2 Hinemoa St.


Backyard oranges.

Oranges, corner of Peffer St and Western St


Yes, a little forest of weeds. But they are prettier than concrete AND they make oxygen.

Anderson Ave 'weeds'


Not even a weed forest can make as much oxygen as these beauties, and they smell better.

Giants, Anderson Ave.


Bananas out the front.

Bananas, 21 Anderson Ave


A cute little pond.

Pond, 21 Anderson Ave.


More shade and oxygen.

3 Anderson Ave shade and oxygen


Waist-high lawn – just asking to be replaced by vegies?

No mowing here, 10 Anderson Ave


Yep, prickly pear is a weed, but you can eat it – the fruits and the pads.

Prickly Pear, 131 Horsley Road


By the sound of it, these trees, all on one narrow block, are home to most of the birds in Panania.

Chirping trees, Wilson St.


A tiny yard still had room for grapes.

Grapevine, 1B Wilson St.


More lilly pillys

LillyPilly  16 Wilson St


An impressive lotus.

Lotus, 4 Wilson St.


This verge is ruled by ironbarks.

Marco Ave Ironbarks


Tiny gardens between hexagon pavers.

Moss between hexagons 212 Marco Ave


Not an edible tree, but still interesting.

Jacaranda eye, Marco Ave.JPG


Lots of things hiding in this front yard.

Tomatoes, 216 Marco Ave


Figs in a warm front yard.

Figs 216 Marco Ave



Berries, 216 Marco Ave


Nicely supported dragon fruit.

DragonFruit 216 Marco Ave


Citrus on the verge.

Verge Citrus, 224 Marco Ave2


Pretty pomegranates in this front yard.

Pomegranite, 224 Marco Ave



Amaranth 224 Marco Ave


More verge olives.

Verge olives 15 Sandra Ave


Dragon fruit peeping over the fence.

DragonFruit peeping over fence in Sandra Ave.


A tiny vertical garden.

Lichen on power pole, Sandra Ave

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