About Kat Szuminska

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

Free School this Sunday 26th October: Learn share and swap stuff

by Sarah Daniel

Sarah Daniel's photo.

This weekend join Sarah for the second community free school meetup in the blue mountains. The Free School is open to everyone and is based on the idea of knowledge and skill sharing, for community empowerment and social change! Please come along and offer any skills/knowledge you might have-the theme this month is ‘buy nothing new’- or just come along and learn!

It would be awesome to have a little foraging workshop/mapping session if anyone is keen?
We are hoping to have a swap meet also, so bring along anything you would like to exchange-seedlings, clothes, tools, art, poems, a song…Thanks:)

Community Free School: ‘buy nothing new’

Sunday 26th October at 10:00am

Katoomba Community Garden12 people are going

Create a Bee Sanctuary

bee2By Eileen Kaufman

We all know bees are needed to pollinate flowers so that our fruit trees, flowers and veggies can produce seed and so reproduce. Bees have been carrying out their pollination work in a mutually beneficial exchange with the flowers of which humans have tended to be oblivious. That is, until something happens causing bee numbers to decline, then the plight of bees becomes headline news, as the significance of bees to humans is that fully one third of our food relies on pollination by bees.

What has happened to bees?

Honey bees are a domesticated “animal,” bred for a placid nature and good honey production. With modern farming practices bees have come under a lot of stresses, from hive design, being transported about the country on trucks, to exposure to agricultural chemicals, loss of a diverse diet due to monoculture crops and destruction of bushland, weeds, and wildflowers- a previous source of bee food. The combined stresses cause the bees to succumb to disease and the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder which caused widespread hive deaths in the US.

Are bees in trouble in Australia?

The above mentioned stressors to bees occur in Australia too except the distance hives are transported is usually less. The other stress bees contend with in Australia is a difficult climate. Last honey season production was down 50% in places where hives were lost in various climate events from heat waves, bush fires, and hot dry weather reducing flowering of bush flowers. The pesticide class neonicotinoid has been found responsible for bee hive deaths and has been banned in Europe. Neonicotinoids are still sold in Australia, both to farmers and home gardeners.

What can I do?

In an urban environment we can have more control over environmental conditions by irrigating and planting a wide range of flowering plants which will supply bees with abundant food year round. We can stop using garden sprays toxic to bees and so create an urban bee sanctuary.


What about native bees?

Anything we do to protect honey bees will also benefit our native bees. Additionally we can create habitat and nesting sites specific to the species that occur in our area to encourage them to take up residence. We can be conscious when removing dead trees that they may be home to the social stingless bees, hives can be rescued and rehoused. (see the lovely new bee hotel at the community gardens – Kat)

What kind of plants do bees like?

Bees flower preferences are often different to those of humans. In planting a garden for bees we choose flowers that produce generous quantities of nectar and /or pollen. We give thought to when these are flowering as bees need food year round especially in early Spring when they need to provide food for raising brood.


10 favourite flowers of bees

  • Abelia grandiflora
  • Borage
  • Basil
  • Echium candicans
  • Grevillea
  • Lavender
  • Phacelia
  • Rosemary
  • Sunflower
  • Salvias and Sage

You can learn more about creating a sanctuary for bees in your home garden with Eileen in her upcoming workshop this weekend in Leura, contact bioorganicgardener@gmail.com


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!

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