BOGI Meeting 3 November   2011            Penny Ossowski


Have I reported before that there was hardly a spare chair in the hall, well we were searching everywhere for another chair  as members kept arriving for the November meeting.  In the end there were a few who stood around the walls so they wouldn’t miss out on the superb presentation by Leonie Shanahan.

Graeme started the meeting by announcing we had just received an application from BOGI’s 800th member.  We are sure it would be a first for BOGI.  Next Graeme allocated BOGI buddies for our new members and then it was over to Leonie.

It is always inspiring to listen to a speaker who is so passionate about their subject.  Leonie told us how she started Edible School Gardens and wrote her book and why.  She started with the question “Who wants fresh food and to be vibrant and happy” followed by “Why do we eat/feed all this processed food (fruit sticks etc)”  Leonie picked out a parent and child from the audience and presented them with a few litres of brown liquid in bottles and asked would you feed  your child this amount of chemicals?, this is what we are doing with all the processed food we give them.   (The brown liquid was only molasses and was given to the parent and child from the audience to take home)>

Leonie told us how it was originally a constant battle to get into schools but it paid off.  Her vision is “To develop edible gardens within school communities that will encourage healthy eating habits”.  

She teaches children about permaculture and design and then the children do the original designs for their gardens,  they draw them out then go outside and mark them out in the allotted area and make decisions as to what is in and  what is out.  Children learn about sustainability and recycling resources e.g. if they bring one brick each from home it saves a lot of money and goes a long way in the garden.  On setup day parents, children and other community volunteers all come together to get the work done.  Following are some brief points from Leonie’s presentation.

Leonie always builds no-dig gardens, it is unknown what soil will be like and if there is any contamination;  a  herb spiral, worm towers and even a banana circle.

One school had a lot of bamboo so it was utilised throughout the gardens.

Mulch plants such as comfrey and lemongrass are useful for holding a bank together.

Use a lot of seedlings in garden beds.

Mix plants up

  • It is important to have a variety of plants even some bitter ones for the kids to try.
  • Kids record what they do etc.  in ‘My Garden Journal’
  • Have a lolly garden e.g. fennel, chocolate mint, nasturtiums, cherry tomatoes.
  • Use aleo vera for bites
  • With kids if one likes it or even tries they wall want to do it, peer pressure works well.
  • Harvest Day Festival celebrates what they have grown and shares the produce
  • Children can be very creative with ingredients, soups and quiches are good
  • Learn about animal care
  • Build scarecrows, worm farms
  • Learn how to make compost
  • Over the summer holidays take out as much as possible and put in a green manure crop.  The cheapest of these is bird seed.
  • We need to cut out a lot of what is served in tuckshops
  • A freshly picked lunch grown and nurtured by students


Some hints

  • Get kids gardening gloves and help them to put them on
  • Get real tools
  • Grow gourds;  they have a lot of uses
  • Moisture meters are good as kids love watering
  • Hang a cake of soap in a stocking at the tap (if hands aren’t washed straight away they won’t be washed later)
  • Buy good quality watering cans – not too large for kids
  • Have lots of sensory things in the garden – rocks, mulches, things for smelling, tasting, feeling
  • Get soils right
  • Landscaper’s soil is dead
  • Add minerals we need into soils
  • There is more than one way to garden


Leonie was asked if she had any feedback from parents, her response – some parents complained to having to grow vegetables at home, some said their children complained if there were no veggies on their plates

Thank you Leonie for sharing your experiences with us.

BOGI Meeting