Sunshine Coast Grammar School

It was a difficult site for the students to design, they had to take into consideration 1) a rainforest growing behind the garden space  2) a natural spring in the garden which was like quick sand  3)  extra water coming onto the garden from all downpipes when it rains.  Too much water was our biggest concern.  We decided that high raised tank gardens would be the best option, which goes against our usual principal of using as much recycled  product as possible and minimal resource, but with so much water, we would have encountered too many problems with all garden beds directly onto the ground.  We also designed diversion drains into the system to direct the natural spring towards the drains away from the garden and planted up that area with moisture loving plants, This system is working very well and will eventually become a frog habitat.  In permaculture we call this turning a problem into a solution.

Set up day was massive.  I arrived at 7am to mark out the design on the ground and wait for any final landscape deliveries.  By 8am I had a dozen eager parents ready to start work on their child€™s edible school garden, there were also 90 students wanting to be involved.  By 9am I had parents and students everywhere.  It was all systems go and I was having trouble keeping up with the team.  Thankfully Permaculture Noosa members were there to help direct people for me on the different systems and tasks.   By the end of the day we had set up 4 tank gardens, 2 keyhole and swirl no dig gardens, a herb spiral. diversion drain and even managed to plant some herbs.  Worm tower painted and installed into the herb spiral and most of the paths covered with newspaper and gravel.  A huge day, enormously satisfying and productive (that€™s an understatement).  This is one of the principles of edible school gardens, to create community and set up days certainly do that.

The 3 year 5 teachers have been enormously supportive of the project and have embraced the whole concept.  Students have their own permaculture diaries and each week write about what we have done in the garden, including drawings of the plants and processes.  Everyone is very excited about the project and many teachers bring their students up for a tour and a tasting of the produce.   Mrs East (teacher) arrived at school with 3 beautiful chooks, which  a parent promptly  made a home for them, these chooks roam freely around the garden, always having students with an eye of them.  It is beautiful to watch the bonding that the children have with the chooks, they just adore them and it does bring a calmness to them.

The students planted 100's of seedlings at the end of term 3 and continued to plant into term 4.  The plants grew so fast the students were accusing them of being on steroids!  Our plants are 100% organic and absolutely no chemicals used on them.  The students are so excited by the growth, the cucumbers, zucchini and squash being their favourite 'steroid' plants.  We make big salads each week and all love eating them.  Children will eat the food if they grow it, especially  if all those around them are also eating it.

The last week of term we had Katrina Ryan of Spirit House and Slow Food Noosa Club, come and cook with some of the students.  As we had 90 students and probably a similar number of parents coming for harvest day, we had to supplement the food and each class was given a theme 1) local fruits and vegetables  2) healthy breads and dips  3)  desserts and sweets, each with a focus on local and healthy.  My favourite being the eggplant and custard cake.  This was also our chance to show off our garden, although we had harvested nearly everything in it before they arrived and planted it with a green manure crop, which just looked like lightly mulched gardens, but the parents could see the transformation from set up day when it was just grass to productive permaculture school garden.  we all enjoyed the food and the parents were overwhelming positive about the whole project and the impact the garden has had on their child€™s eating habits and for many, starting their own vegetable gardens at home.  A true mark of a successful project.

Comments from Mrs East:

This year at Sunshine Coast Grammar School we have established a Permaculture Garden with the assistance of Leonie Shanahan. The area that we used for the garden was boggy and unsightly and was unusable for most of the year.

Leonie discussed garden design with the children and together, they decided which features would be best for our garden. Tank gardens were used in the damper areas and taro was to be planted in the bog. The parents were invited for set up day and they helped to build the garden. The results at the end of the day were amazing and the area had been transformed into a show piece.

Over the ensuing weeks, the garden was planted with herbs and vegetables. The children watered and cared for the plants, delighting in watching them grow.  A chook pen was built and three chickens roamed freely around the garden. We culminated with a Harvest Day, where the vegetables were picked and made into salads and meals that we shared with the parents.

People€™s lives are very busy these days and they often don€™t have time for gardening.  Therefore creating the garden was a fabulous experience for the children and many of them began a vegie garden at home. One child was having trouble growing vegetables because the soil was unsuitable but used the mixture that we used at school and had fabulous results. Others grew herbs in pots and planted different varieties of herbs that they hadn€™t tried before.

We now have a wonderful asset at our school that children from all grades enjoy. They wander around smelling the different herbs, delighting in how much the vegetables have grown or cuddling the ever patient chickens. It is a credit to Mrs Shanahan and her Permaculture helpers that they have helped us to create such a showpiece for our school.