About Kat Szuminska

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

Spring In the gardens:making free fertiliser




Weeding does not quite become a delight today, but it is much less of a chore when i know the weeds are going into a weed tea. This super simple technique makes free fertiliser from many of the plants you dont want.

grab a bucket with a lid, very important, we’re going to starve the weeds we pull of oxygen. Today I pull up heaps of forgetmenots, as well as some greater celendine. They’re pretty but form a solid monoculture quite quickly if left unchecked we could have forgetmenots and nothing else. Some seedheads have formed on these already so I’m careful to pick these off my tshirt before I’m done.

Comfrey is having a huge growth spurt, and its soft downy leaves break down very quickly. I grab outer layers of leaves from a few of our bocking 14 comfrey plants leaving the flowers and younger leaves to carry on growing.

We have a little yarrow, I pull a few fronds of this too, it grows back very quickly and is also part of a well loved group of plants known as compost activators, along with comfrey and nettle. We don’t have an established nettle patch yet, so no nettle in todays brew. Another group has been pulling out dandelion, a plant we love for salads but its so prolific that its easy to have too much in the garden. My eyes light up when I see this on in the barrow. Dandelion is a dynamic accumulator which means it has been building up with nutrients, typically high in phosphorus and calcium, the former helps flowers form and fruit set, while the latter is essential for growing brassicas like cabbages and kale. So in it goes.

I push down weeds deep into the bucket. They come about 2/3 way up a 20L food bucket. Next water, from one of our rainwater tanks. this water has no chlorine, so we wont be interfering with the microbes whose job it is to break down our plant materials. The bucket’s quite heavy by now, so before i fill it any further i move it to where it will sit for a few weeks. I give it a good stir to loosen any air pockets. This process relies on keeping the plants underwater. An oxygen supply might help roots stay alive or even grow.
Because I’m not planning to leave this weed tea for very long, I don’t add the greater celandine. Its roots are quite resilient and thick, and I don’t want to take the chance it might resprout. Once in the shed, I close the lid tight, and on it I write the date and ingredients.

i’ll check back in a couple of weeks to see how it’s going.


And here are the gorgeous blossoms of one of our Medlar trees in full bloom just now.

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: Update 28th November


Please note that This workshop will now run on November 28th

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.