Category Archives: Workshops

How to Graft Fruit Trees


Following a long, dry spell in the Southern Highlands, the skies opened and sent down a torrent of rain on the 17th August, the day we had scheduled our grafting workshop. Surprisingly, it didn’t deter this hardy bunch. All twenty participants turned up in their wet weather gear ready for action.
Explaining the grafting process

We crowded under our new, covered pergola for a bit of theory on why we might want to graft fruit tree varieties (to maintain heritage varieties, or graft onto rootstocks that dwarf the tree size for ease of management, or to top graft an old tree with new varieties, or even to multi-graft several varieties onto one rootstock to create a longer picking season for yards with limited growing space).
Time to start grafting

After demonstrations of various grafting techniques we practised using budding and grafting knives on some hazelnut tree prunings. I was holding my breath at this point of proceedings in case, despite demonstrations on how to avoid accidental severing of digits, there was a need to phone for an ambulance. All went well – emergencies averted! We were also fortunate to have some grafting pliers on hand – the omega cut as well as a commercial top grafting tool kindly loaned to us by experienced local orchardist, Ray Thiessen. Some people were determined to conquer the grafting knife, whilst others were pleased to have the ‘safer’ option of the grafting tools.
The job is easier with the right tools

By this time it was PIZZA time – a hot lunch was certainly the order of the day! Members of the community garden had been busy in the background making dough (Jo) and preparing pizza toppings (Cath). John and Kathi tended the fire and cooked the pizzas whilst Dini and Charlotte helped as gophers. Wood-fired pizzas have a beautiful flavour and were well-received. It was still raining!
Moving onto the next grafting job

Then we moved onto the ‘real’ thing. Participants selected from a wide range of locally-sourced scion whichever variety of fruit tree they wished to graft onto their complimentary rootstock. We had the option of four dwarfing rootstocks for apples, a dwarfing rootstock for pears and quinces and semi-dwarfing rootstocks for stone fruits and cherries. It was great watching people work in pairs to help bind the graft union with the grafting tape – probably the most difficult (and critical to the success of the operation) part of the grafting process.
Delicious woodfired pizza for lunch

By 2.30pm, (it was still raining) people were ready to head home to thaw out in front of the fire. It had been a successful day and we are hoping that by spring there will be lots of young, grafted fruit trees sprouting leaves at the participant’s homes. If the scion takes successfully to the roots, these trees will continue to grow on through summer, after which the grafting tape can be removed to allow continuing development of the young fruit tree.
Delicious woodfired pizza for lunch

If not, we are planning a summer budding workshop (it should have stopped raining by then!) at Moss Vale Community Garden for those participants whose rootstocks had survived but the graft union with the scion hadn’t. Budding gives us a second opportunity to re-use the original rootstocks and insert a bud of the variety we were hoping to graft.
A grafted apple tree ready to be planted.


Seedy Sunday – June 2014

Sunday 8th June was a brisk winter’s day, but this didn’t stop 25 hardy seed savers from venturing down to Moss Vale Community Garden to clean and share seeds of our food crops from the recent growing season.

Dr David Murray gave us an informative and interesting talk about peas and beans, the challenges and suggested solutions for growing healthy crops for eating and saving seed. This being David’s speciality, he was able to respond to questions relating to rotation cropping and diseases in peas & beans as well as techniques for keeping the dried seeds viable for the maximum period before replanting.A great turn out at Seedy Sunday

David points out that the safest place for our seedbank crops is NOT in a seedbank, but rather, being planted out in as many local backyards as possible. Seeds, like us, only have a limited lifespan – parsnip only one year, large seeds like peas and beans about three years and tomatoes up to ten years in ideal (cool, dark, dry) storage conditions. Freezing extends the lifespan of a viable seeds so long as the seeds have been dried in ambient temperatures until the maximum amount of moisture has been removed before sealing and freezing.

As usual, our pot luck lunch provided by all of the members was varied and delicious and we managed to clean a large amount and variety of seeds for registering by Chris Ann into our current seedbank database. At our Spring meeting, we will be asking our members to foster some seed varieties – plant seeds and grow out for more fresh seed to save for next season as well as some for the local seed network seedbank.

A big thankyou to our backyard growers and seedbank members who continue to save seed and make it available to other local growers via our Permaculture Southern Highlands Local Seedbank. Local seed bank members help to stem the tide of food crop biodiversity loss which threatens our future food security. They are also good sources of seeds of crops you won’t find in standard seed company racks – seeds saved by families over generations which are then given to seedbanks to grow out and disseminate to more backyard growers.

Anyone interested in becoming involved with our local seed network can contact me via the Moss Vale Community Garden website:

It is a most satisfying hobby and growers get to complete the cycle of life in our backyards:
plant the seed, grow the plant, save the seed, plant the seed etc ….

Jill Cockram
June 2014

Winter Celebration and Hugel Kultur Demonstration

Well, some of you were planning to come to our Winter Solstice Party and Pruning Demonstration in June until the skies opened and 300mm of rain later we felt we had to either celebrate in wetsuits or postpone to another date.

So…. let’s try again, this time on Sunday, 4th August from 10.30am!

Instant Garden Bed from Prunings 

and …     


Entry is by gold coin donation – the cheapest cup of warming tea/coffee in town.

We will still be celebrating around 1.00pm with a roast lunch using local produce cooked in our wood-fired pizza oven (members – no charge, non-members $7.00)

But while that’s cooking, around 11.00am we plan to build a hugel kultur garden bed.  Read on …

Joanne Dodd of Lightfoot Education will demonstrate how to use all your winter prunings in the creation of a new raised vegetable bed.  Joanne has been running workshops on a variety of sustainable living topics like beekeeping, backyard food growing, chooks in the backyard, etc.  In fact, it is worth a visit to her terrific website:  

Here is a photo of the hugel kultur bed in Joanne’s backyard:

Jo's Hugel Kultur Bed
Jo Dodd’s hugel kultur bed made with recycled cardboard, and woven fruit tree prunings in winter.

What a terrific way to re-use your backyard prunings.  A waste product becomes a resource!  And hopefully more organically produced food.

Bookings essential (for catering purposes).  Please RSVP by return email before 31st July:  email hidden; JavaScript is required

For further info you can contact Jill on (0414)545735

We’ll see you there!

Zero Waste With Worms at Work!

Rosina demonstrating worm farming to guests at the World Environment Day launch

Rosina demonstrating worm farming to guests at the World Environment Day launch

Continuing the theme of Think Eat Save, one of our members, Rosina, gave a demonstration of how to set up a worm farm in your own backyard.

Mrs Chop Chop feeding the worms.
Mrs Chop Chop feeding the worms.

Using her “Mrs Chop Chop” technique she cut vege scraps into smaller portions to make them easier for the worms to digest.  Using cocopeat (or coir) as the bedding material, Rosina added lots of moist shredded paper, crushed egg shells and various other materials like kitchen scraps and old cow manure to the middle worm tray.  The new batch of worms can then be introduced to settle in for a couple of weeks before being fed again.  Worms can eat their body weight in scraps each day.  Therefore, if a thousand worms weigh around 250gms you can add around 250gms of kitchen scraps per day for them to consume.  Don’t over feed them and don’t forget to replace the lid and put your worm farm in a shady spot.

Worm bedding made up of cocopeat/coir and wet shredded paper

Worm bedding made up of cocopeat/coir and wet shredded paper

Worms were harvested out of one of the existing worm farms by up-ending the full worm box onto an old table.  As sunlight is harmful to worms, they will scuttle to the bottom of the pile and you can scrape of the top layer of worm castings for use in your garden beds.  After several scrapings, you are left with a mass of writhing worms that can be relocated into the new worm box or even into a worm tower.

Perhaps you would like a Worm Tower in your garden!

If you want to set up mini worm farms in-situ, you can remove the base of an old lidded bucket and drill holes around the bottom third.

Burying the bottomless bucket to one third of it's depth so that the worm holes are in the topsoil.
Burying the bottomless bucket to one third of it’s depth so that the worm holes are in the topsoil.

You then ‘plant’ the bottom third of the bucket in the middle of a garden bed by digging a round hole in the soil around 20cms deep and putting the bucket in place.  Place some old manure, garden lime and wet shredded paper in the base before putting the worms in.  Follow that up with some kitchen scraps, water well then replace the fitted lid to keep out vermin (rats love eating worms).  We decorated ours as a pine mushroom, which grows in our local area.

Note the finished spotted pine mushroom worm tower - and an interested audience of gardeners.
Note the finished spotted pine mushroom worm tower – and an interested audience of gardeners.

You can have great fun with kids setting up these worm towers around your garden.  The kids can have the responsibility of “feeding the worms” each day.

Seniors Week Grant

Skill sharing across the generations
Skill sharing across the generations

We have just been informed that we have been successful in our application for grant money to run some gardening activities for our older shire residents.  This is to encourage seniors to continue gardening and sharing their skills despite any physical challenges – creaks and aches!

There are lots of new ways to garden at waist level and we will be demonstrating some of these on the day.  For example, raised beds and wall gardening.