About Kat Szuminska

designer, educator, gardener, activist, creative problem solver katoombastreetpermaculture.com, mattandkat.com, openaustraliafoundation.org, bluemountainscommunitygardens.org

Workshop: Learn to identify native bees

You’re invited to the next Bee Aware workshop – this will be a hands-on session in which you’ll learn to capture, chill, photograph and identify native bees.

If you’d like to participate in the session please come along. If you have
any equipment such as a camera, wide mouthed jar with lid (clean and label
removed), an insect net and magnifying glass (yes some kids have them.
Especially big kids like me), cold brick (as in those used in eskies). The
more equipment we have the more likely you will be to see and learn stuff!

If you are interested in connecting up with others in this project head to the Bee Aware of Your Native Bees Facebook group.  It’s a closed group, so just request to join and Megan will add you to the group.

Backyard Farming in the Upper Mountains and surrounds

by Nicola

Something new and exciting is going on in the Upper Mountains:

Serious backyard farmers and wannabes meet on a regular basis to
learn, build, swap and chat.
Ever tried to winnow grain? Or wondered why your broccoli does not set heads?
Harvested seeds for the whole neighbourhood or are you searching for a fruit press?
Your chicken don’t lay properly or you want to build a tool you cannot do on your own?
You think bees are challenging and soil tests are obscure chemistry or you always wanted to forage.
Certainly there’s someone who knows a bit.

Come to our first meeting on Sunday, the 5th of October 2-4 pm Upper Mountains Community Garden,
Harold Hodgson Park, 10 Victoria Street, Katoomba and have a chat over a cup of tea. Contributions to an afternoon tea welcome. This first meeting is about how to organize the group, gathering ideas and a short talk about corn. All welcome!

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 3.33.49 pm Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 3.33.40 pm

You’re Invited To See The Native Bee Hotel Installed

Blue banded bee02.jpg
Blue banded bee02“. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons.

You’re Invited to BEE AWARE Native Bee “Hotel” Installation

  • Bee introduced to the new bee habitat for your local community garden.
  • Bee part of the activities & learn how native, solitary bees nest in the habitat.
  • Bee introduced to some necessary equipment.
  • Bee ready to bee Citizen Scientists.

Where: Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, Harold Hodgson Park, 10 Victoria Street, Katoomba

What day: Friday, 29th of August, 2014

What time: 10am


Bee Aware Native Bee SeminarWhat does a bee hotel look like? The bee hotel will be a lot like the one Megan is holding here, this one displayed at the exceptionally well attended native bee seminar in Leura.


Made from drilled hardwood and hollow plant stems, the bee hotel has spaces to suit Resin, Leafcutter, Reed and Masked bees. Megan will also place three rammed-earth blocks, particularly for Blue banded bees who prefer to drill their own homes.

Megan and Michael will be available to answer any questions you may have. Megan will bring everything we need to collect and study bees

No need to RSVP, just come along. And if you know anyone with an interest in native bees please invite them too.

If you’d like to keep abreast of new developments workshops or observation opportunities related to Bee Aware, please sign up here.

Winter In the Gardens

by Sarah Hodgkinson

community gardens: winter

Now in the third month of winter, the cold has finally arrived. Gardeners arrive rosy-cheeked and hidden under many skins of clothing. During the season of winter, the garden is quiet and growth is subdued. All but the leafy greens have taken a rest. Despite the garden being at it’s least productive, we use the opportunity to tend, weed and restore. The slow movement from autumn to winter has given us plenty of time to recover from the busyness of a summer garden.
And whilst there is no hint of change in the outside coolness, we are now beyond the solstice. The shortest day of the year has past and the days have begun to lengthen. Despite only minutes more of sun each day, we begin the movement towards the warmth and light of summer as the natural cycles of the year pull us relentlessly from season to season. Slowed and contracted by the cold, it can sometimes seem as if it is only the progressing seasons that have the strength to take us out of winter.

community gardens: winterWe dig potatoes from the earth and hold in our hands the secret joys that grow during hibernation; these are riches of past toiling that have lain waiting to be uncovered at an opportune moment. Washing the soil from their skins, we place them straight into the soup pot. What was previously put away is now dug up. What was left to wait, is now harvested. How easy it is to be fooled by what we see – outwardly dormant and inactive, though full of life and nourishment beneath. All of which is happening silently beneath our very feet.

Now beyond the solstice, we re-begin the return towards the light. The days grow longer and warm cups of tea and noodle soup herd volunteers from every corner of the garden. Steady work sees the restructuring of the creek and the creation of a pond that will become the home of wildlife and the gathering spot of people in the warmer months.

community gardens: winter

Some weeks we work at revitalizing the medicinal garden, though mostly volunteers do not stray too far from the tea shed. It becomes apparent that we are spending more time drinking tea and snuggling around the small chiminea than working. But is this such a bad thing? When we look at what winter is reflecting to us through the garden we see that now is the time to rest, consolidate and prepare for the coming months. Nothing can grow from soil untended and there is no-thing is in a state of continual growth or production, all have their ebbs and flows. As we do what is needed to maintain the garden we are reminded of the importance of rest, quiet and introspection as the necessary periods before the bursting of energy and creation that will be arriving with spring.

Fresh Friday Tree Friends and Friends


Such a short time after Winter solstice, first budding flowers on trees are already appearing

Bright sunshine brings busy gardeners. today its lively and warm. its also the school holidays, so mothers and kids are playing in the sandpit and enjoying the day in the shelter of a nestled garden space.

We identify together three plants which on first inspection have similar leaves. As you look more closely borage, comfrey and dock all have quite different colours and textures. Borage leaves are bumpier more rounded, a blueish green. Some are still displaying those distinctive jewel like petite blue star flowers now, so its a great one for bee forage. Comfrey leaves are dying back now, their greenery wilting quickly from view to turn into great food for the soil. Comfrey leaves are hairy too, and have much pointier ends than borage. Comfrey leaves are usually a deep dark green, not dissimilar coloring to nettle. Now they’re yellowing and quickly turning brown. Yellow dock, which we’re also awash with, has smooth leaves in contrast with the other two.

all three have medicinal properties, with different parts used for a number of remedies, so they’re truly multipurpose plants. Borage is also known as star flower, best known for being packed with gamma linoleic acid or GLA, bringing anti-inflammatory relief, used for treating skin complaints and along with evening primrose oil, for hormonal balancing. comfrey invites a whole book by itself, but the most requests we get for it because of medicinal use here are due to its bone and joint healing properties, coming recommended by word of mouth from on neighbour or relative to another,.
Dock’s leaves are edible but somewhat bitter, a taste which has to be acquired.Its the roots which i hear can be used as a detoxifying tea, in moderation.

There are lots of all three which can be harvested at the community gardens, some, remnants in a spot we are clearing of all non-local plants. So if you’d like to grow comfrey borage or dock at home please let a gardener know, and we can help you find some to take home. Both dock and borage self seed easily so be careful where you plant them.

One mission among many today is the propagation of trees. Sue girard, local horticulture and permaculture educator is running two courses over the next 6 months in propagation. Students will also be helping those recently affected by fire to restock their gardens.

Today, Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens donates a dozen bay and walnut tree propagules (that’s seedlings) today for students to get and understanding of tree growth, and provide new tree beginnings for lost gardens of Winmalee. Walnut and bay are both used for their fire retardant properties.

The flyer below is just for you if you’d like to learn to propagate fruit and nut trees as well as vegetables in 2014 …