Garden Open Day For Children’s Week

Just wanted to let everybody know that this Sunday will be a garden open day to celebrate children’s week.

The Garden will be open on Sunday between 11am and 5pm and we will be planting seeds of fruits and vegetables as well as for native trees of the Canberra region. There will be a range of activities available to participants and it will also be a nice opportunity to come and see how the garden space has evolved. The kiwis have sprouted, currents are forming and the nursery is packed to the rafters with seeds and seedlings.

Also, bring any garden questions you might have for the Garden Letterbox if you want them answered here by Dan the Garden Man.

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Ask Dan The Garden Man: Chicken Questions

School Chickens in the Coop

Hi guys, well I got back the the school garden conference a few weeks ago and have been so busy planting seeds and running the garden club that I haven’t had time to finish answering all your questions. Well, today I caught some spare time and thought I’d answer your questions about chickens.

Hi Dan, I really like the worms and the chickens. Your garden is looking great. Where did you get the chickens? Love Maddy

– There are 10 chickens at the school at the moment. 6 of the chickens were given to the garden by the 2/3 and 3/4 classes taught by Miss Runyard who raised the chickens from baby chicks for their science class. Then 4 older chickens were donated to the garden by a friend of mine who was moving to Sydney and couldn’t look after them anymore. When all the chickens get bigger then some of the older chickens might move to a bigger coop in my back yard so that they have enough space.

Hi Dan the Garden Man, Hope you like my letter. How many years can a chicken be alive for? It must be great! Love Charlotte

– I love your letter. A chicken can be alive for up to 12 years. However, on average they are alive for about 7 years because they are more likely to get sick as they get older. Also, you need to watch for foxes and other predators that would like to eat the chickens. This can decrease how long they will live for.

The Chooks Looking for Food

Dear Dan, you are very good for the garden. Why do chickens like veggie scraps? Love from Henry.

–       Chickens like veggie scraps because they are so tasty!! Chickens like any food and would happily eat your lunch if you let them. However, if we feed them the scraps they will eat them too and turn them into compost. They also like some food scraps because the food is rotting and has fruit flys in it which chickens love.


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Planting Seeds for Enviroweek

Last week for Enviroweek the 2/3 Natura class and the 3/4 Acqua class came into the garden to learn about planting seeds for the coming year. The 3/4 Class wrote the following piece about their experience.

On Thursday of enviroweek, the 3/4 Acqua class went to the school garden to plant tomato and lettuce seeds.

Making Lables for the Pots

We packed a small amount of soil into little plastic pots before adding a few drops of water to wet the soil. We then added more soil, a pinch of seeds and then more soil again.

Filling pots with soil

More Pot Filling

To finish off we gave the plants a good splash of water. We did this for one or two pots each. There were about 30 pots altogether.

Watering the pots

Watering the pots before planting

These seeds will grow into tomato (pomodoro) or lettuce (lettuga) plants for the garden. The seedlings will grow to be large enough to plant into the ground after the school holidays.

Loading the pots up for the nursury

While we were at the garden we were able to taste test some home grown rocket, spring onion and wild lettuce.

We enjoyed helping Dan to plant seeds. It was good to be doing activities during enviroweek to help the environment. It is important to do activities to help the environment throughout the year, not only during enviroweek.

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Ask Dan the Garden Man: Worm Questions

Well, I’ve had loads of mail from the yr1 kids asking me about the garden and the chooks and the worms. I’ll post the answers as I get time.


Worms are our friends in the garden

We have a big worm farm in the school garden. The worms live in an old fridge that keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Here are some questions that I’ve gotten about the worms in the garden.

Dear Dan, I like what you have done, great work on the garden. What type of worms are the worms? Love Sophie

– The worms in the worm farm and known as Red wrigglers or Tiger worms. Their species name is Eisenia fetida.

This species is from Europe and only eats organic matter like rotting fruits and veggies. This makes it the perfect worm to eat our scraps in the wormfarm. The worms that live in the soil in the garden are earthworms and eat soil, dead leaves and microbes.

To Dan, I think you have been a good guy. Take care of the Earthworms for me and the rest of the school. How come earthworms have to stay in the soil? From Hannah

– When they are out of the soil they dry out. Also, earthworms have developed to avoid the light because that is where they might get eaten by a bird. The soil is also where their food normally is. They also have to stay in the soil because by living and moving through the soil the worms make tunnels underground which areates the soil and makes it easier for plants to grow. These tunnels are coated with worm castings which are also great for plants to grow.

Dear Dan the Garden Man, Why do earthworms have bristles? From Jett.

– The earthworms bristles are used by the worm to move in the soil. The worm stretches out and then anchors itself with the bristles. Then when it contracts the worm is moved along to where it used its bristles to anchor in the soil.

Dan the Garden Man, have fun doing the garden and feeding the hens and chickns. How far can worms dig? From Lilly.

– There are many different kinds of worms and they all can dig to different depths in the soil. Below the soil is a hard clay or bedrock which worms can’t live in. The thickness of this topsoil depends on the place. Here in Australia it is usually about 30cm down but in other parts of the world it can be as deep as 2m.

Dear Dan the Garden Man, How did you make the worm House? From Dominic.

– I made the worm house from an old fridge from the Tip. I took out the part that makes the fridge cold because it was broken and sealed it up so it did not leak. Then I installed a tap at the bottom so we could drain the worm wiz to feed to the veggies and so the worms didn’t drown. At the bottom of the worm farm I put gravel and then bricks and then filled it with old newspaper and food scraps. The newspaper is made from trees so it is an ideal home for the worms and they turn it into worm poo which is great for veggies too.

Thanks for all your questions guys. Next I’ll be answering the questions that I got about the chickens. Take care of the garden while I’m on Holiday.

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Ask Dan The Garden Man

Plasticine Creepy Crawlies

Well, with spring in full swing, Ms Foster and the Yr 1 classes have been using the garden for a school yard safari. Working as groups of investigators / Scientists they have been finding bugs and insects in the garden and making observations. It has been interesting seeing how things can change once you have a closer look.

Clayde beetle

These activities have also included an avid investigation of our friends, the earth worms. Earthworms live in the soil and eat bacteria and small microbes that live in the soil. In the process they let air into the soil by forming long tunnels that they live in. Also, they deposit nutrient rich wizz and castings that enrich the soil and can be used to grow plants. Worms are an excellent indicator of soil health.

Happy Worms in the Fridge Farm

The kids learned heaps and also had heaps of questions. Ms Foster had the excellent idea of setting up a mailbox in the garden so that people could ask questions of Dan the Garden Man and find out the answers to their questions about the garden or the environment. In keeping with the gardens recycle theme Ms Foster brought her old mailbox for the kids to decorate.

Ms Foster and yr 1 children with the Mailbox

Button Box

The mailbox was spruced up with buttons to add color and all the kids helped to place them on the box. While this was going on, other students wrote letters with questions waiting to be mailed.

Dan and some students decorating the box

Letters to Dan

Before lunch the class came out to mount the mailbox at the garden entrance. We dug a hole for the mailbox and hammered it in.

Digging the hole for the mailbox.

The mailbox was full of letters about the garden and questions for Dan. Thanks so much for decorating the mailbox and giving it to the garden guys!!!

Dan Checking the Mail

Dan's first letter

We’ll be posting the questions up here and answering them in the coming weeks.

If you have questions or messages for Dan then drop them in the mailbox next time your out in the garden. Questions about Nature, what to grow where and when, how to start a compost. There are lots of possibilities. You can also send questions to the blog or the email if you can’t make it to the garden.
I look forward to answering you questions in the coming months.

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Food forest September

Well what an exciting time in the garden. After the chooks arriving at the end of August we had the garden open during the election day when many people from outside the school came to the garden after visiting the polling booth. It was really great to get such positive feedback from people about the garden and to have so many new people discover what it had to offer.

Plum tree in bloom (?)

Since then we have had some more great late winter rains and really begun to use the nursery space that we built at the last bee to start off spring seedlings.

Beginings of Nursury Space

Also I have been busy digging a trench in the garden from the shed up to the new water tanks which will be used to provide water to the nursery and the veggie beds as well as the sink in the propagation area.

Growing Swale

We have also had some classes come to the garden to plant seedlings and the spring is in the air as the birds chirp and the flowers blossom. Its been so wet and humid that I have sound a few mushrooms in the garden. Mushrooms are a fantastic indicator species, demonstrating a healthy soil ecosystem and a few have been popping up in the grass. The interesting thing about the garden area is that it sits on the the old river bank. Where the storm water drain is laid used to be a creek that would flow and flood like a chain of ponds when it was drying out and a full river and fen when it was wet. This means that we are blessed with rich black soil full of earthworms where the garden is because it has been deposited by the river there over time.

Garden Mushroom

Also, we have been having visits from the local birds that frequent the riparian (river) area around the park and the creek. Cockatoos, currawongs and mynas have been visiting their friends of a feather the chooks and also having a nibble on the beans and peas. While we loose a few beans this natural pruning releases Nitrogen in to the soil from the bean roots self pruning below the ground. Further, these birds bring nutrients to the garden when they make a deposit from the trees which will grow us more plants in the future.

Cockatoo in the Coop

Birds of a Feather

We will have classes in the garden this week to celebrate enviroweek. Two classes have planted seed and I will post the pictures soon. Another two classes have made a garden sculpture and others still are coming to build scarecrows.

Speak soon. Happy spring.

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Chickens move in

Well, after the resounding success of the working bee on the 15th we were almost ready for the chickens to move into the garden. The children at the school are studying living things and the 2/3 classes raised 6 Isa Brown from 3 weeks old to investigate of the chickens grew with different diets. We had finished Cobbing and Roofing the chicken coop at the working bee and I worked in the week after to put roosts into the coop and finish the gate off so we could lock them in. We still need to build a laying box that can be accessed from the outside for the chickens but we have about another 10-12 weeks before the chooks start to lay.

The Coop, ready for the girls to arrive

After getting some help to put straw in the pen and going out to buy a feeder and water dispenser, the coop was ready for the chickens to arrive. The classes brought them out at 2pm and the chickens enjoyed their new surrounds and space to run around.

Chickens in their coop

It was a great day and really positive feedback from the kids was evident. Pressed up against the mesh all clambering to see and pet the chickens.

kids checking out the chickens, chickens checking out the kids

This made the chickens a little confused and they didn’t seem to want to head into the coop. Ms Runyard went into the run to attempt to entice them into, but to no avail.

Ms Runyard tries to cox the girls into their coop

It was great to get the chickens for the garden. We are setting up food scrap collection bins for each class and the playground so that we can start turning the school food scraps into compost and plant food.

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