Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Sustainable gardening with Garden Gems workshops

By Vaseline May27,2024

THE recent launch of Bass Coast Shire’s Garden Gems Workshops supports all eight community gardens in the county; an initiative managed by Rick Coleman; specializing in permaculture, and horticulturist Frances Saunders – focused on sustainability and community connection.

Rick and Frances have years of experience teaching permaculture and sustainable gardening practices. Together they offer community gardening and horticulture workshops that focus on ethical design in gardening and cover a range of topics such as organic gardening, drought management, natural pest management and food preservation techniques.

Through these workshops, Rick and Frances aim to educate and empower individuals to create sustainable and resilient food systems while promoting social interaction and community engagement.

Their expertise and passion for permaculture and horticulture make them a valuable resource for people who want to learn more about sustainable gardening practices.

During the Veggie Patch to Plate workshop, Rick emphasized the importance of finding different ways to process and harvest food to extend harvest times and get the most out of your garden produce. By exploring techniques such as food preservation, fermentation and value addition, individuals can not only reduce food waste but also create a wide range of products from their harvest.

This approach not only helps save costs, but also ensures a year-round supply of fresh and nutritious food. Through his workshops and classes, Rick encourages individuals to think creatively about how to process and harvest their produce to maximize its potential and sustainability.

“Today we taught the group what to do with their extra produce and how to value it,” said Rick. “A bountiful crop of chili peppers can be ground into chili powder, which is your natural pesticide for the garden.”

“We had a simple lesson about fermented foods, for example sauerkraut. So you have a cabbage that you harvest and now you have a week to eat it; or a little cabbage and salt and a little pinching and then you can make your own sauerkraut in half an hour, then you have another 12 months to enjoy it. So now you extend your harvest times. Most gardeners grow for only four months. And they have eight months where there is nothing – well, we have twelve months of food if you find different ways to process it and harvest it and save money – this way we don’t have to live in poverty.”

The program equips the community with best practices in their own gardens and invites anyone with little to no experience to participate in the social interaction workshops.

“The main reason we come together is loneliness – I read that a third of Australians were lonely all the time, and two thirds of Australians are lonely most of the time. Mental health in this country is low, so reviving these community gardens is crucial, and so far they have taken off – with enthusiasm and joy.

Frances Saunders is an award-winning teacher with extensive experience in horticulture and landscape design with an emphasis on sustainable practices, so alongside Rick, who has taught on every habitable continent on earth, the two can help inspire a healthier lifestyle through these workshops.

The free workshops are a partnership between Bass Coast Adult Learning, Bass Coast Shire Council and local community gardens.

The next session at the Wonthaggi Men’s Shed Garden is on Wednesday 19 June at 10am, where Frances Saunders will be teaching seed saving. There will be plenty of free seeds too!

To register for a local Garden Gems Workshop, visit

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