Everything is thriving in sunny Cairns

Cairns Aquaponic and wicking bed under construction

Cairns Aquaponic garden and wicking bed under construction

Last year the Aquaponic Gardener moved from Newcastle NSW to Cairns far north QLD to be closer to my sustainable agriculture projects that are ongoing in Papua New Guinea. It was a hard decision to leave Newcastle however here in Cairns the weather is great and I have re established in an old weatherboard Queenslander home on a big block of residential land. We are in the throws of converting it using sustainable new and old techniques and technology. Here in Cairns we have re-established a greenhouse with aquaponics and a wicking bed that grows all sorts of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, rhubarb, egg plants, mint, basil, peas and fruit trees seedlings.

So far we have about 30 varieties of fruit trees growing from seed including local bush foods. Everything is flourishing. The plan is to plant the entire boundary and be able to eat well an

Yesterday 6kw of solar panels went on the roof for sustainable energy .

Also have x7 native bee hives living in the walls of our home. I’ve built bee hive boxes and I’m coaxing bees out to re establish the native bee colonies into my man made boxes so I can get the honey. If that doesn’t work ill drill into my walls and stick a tap in them to get the honey. The grand plan is to stick hives on native bees in the green house to pollinate my aquaponically grown food and wicking beds.

Cairns QLD Aquaponic Garden vegetables

Cairns Aquaponic garden and wicking bed just 4 months later flourishing with food


A recent edition this week was a 2m long black solider fly larvae monster breeding box that should become in a few months an automatic fish feeder by diverting food scraps and compost that the chickens and worms wont eat into a food resource in fly larvae (grubs /maggots) that ill feed to the 100 Barramundi and 50 Jade perch that I have growing.

Its a slow process moving to a new location and working in several developing countries and starting with a blank canvas of grass in the backyard. Its all coming together though and

already producing food. In time our Cairns house will become a landmark sustainable permaculture Cairns home and a showcase of what an average person can simply do at home using scraps of timber and free materials found anywhere to create something that can sustain large family. 



Very soon ill be running Sustainable courses again in Aquaponics, Wicking Beds, Native Bees,  Sustainable Pest Control etc.

Stay tuned. Ill start up my  sustainable courses in Cairns, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney in time ill be putting out the event schedule. 



Organic Worm Tea reduces insect attack in Aquaponics

235899 I always comment that the number one secret to Aquaponics is compost worms in the grow beds to reduce maintenance and to help plant function. But have you ever sprayed your plants leaves with worm tea to create healthier plants? Worm tea is easy to make at home and has the following benefits:

• Worm casting are pure organic worm castings and not vermin-compost.

• By spraying the worm tea on your plants (under the leaves as well as on top) and over your seed trays (seed nursery), you’re adding nutrients directly to your growing plants and making them healthier and minimizing any potential problems.

• Since you’re spraying the leaves and fruit/vegetables, pathogens are less likely to attack your plants because you’re adding beneficial microbes (very important to healthy plant growth) to the surface of the plants.

• Worm casting tea used as a foliar spray is beneficial and controls many fugal problems like black spot, black mildew and tomato blight, to mention a few.

• Testing proves that there are microorganism properties in the worm casting tea that act as an insect repellent for many insects such as aphids, white fly, spider mites, and other small bugs that eat plant juices. This is due to enzyme released in the worm tea called chitinase which will dissolve chitin which is the exoskeleton of an insect.

You can make your Organic Worm-Castings Tea in as little as 4 hours and 98% of that time is allowing the tea to brew or sit and brew prior to application in your aquaponics system. Easy to make. Easy to spray. Great for your aquaponics system.


Ingredients and equipment required:

Cup Worm Castings which is 100% organic and supplies a natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and iron for your plants.

Water from your fish tank. Use tap water only when it has been left to sit for a week to remove the chlorine.

Let a kitchen blender to do the work to mix and aerate the worm casting tea.

Use a wire mesh strainer (mesh strainer works better than a spaghetti colander) or a cloth (cheese cloth or old hosiery) to line the strainer (the tea has to pass through your sprayers nozzle so make sure the filter is smaller then the particles in the brewed tea, so strain well). If the worm casting tea is not well strained, it will clog up your sprayer.


1.Pour water into a kitchen blender  if you have one or use a bucket and an fish tank airstone. See pics.

2.Turn on the blender or air stone and let it run for about a minute at a relatively high speed to entrain air into the water oxygenating it.

3.Remove the lid and then carefully add the one cup of Worm Castings tea.

4.Put back the lid back on the blender and run it at full speed for one to two minutes, turn off and then let the mixture sit for 2-4 hours .

5.Set up the strainer with the cloth liner to drain into the large bucket with the rest of the water.

6.Very slowly and carefully pour the mixture through the strainer/cloth into the bucket with the remaining water. The drainage gets slower and slower so you may want to stop and change filters to speed up the process.

7.Stop pouring when the heavier remains start to flow out of the blender.

8.Stir the worm casting tea thoroughly.

9.Pour the resulting liquid into sprayer. Note, the color of the Worm Casting Tea can be VERY black.

10.Now you can spray your plants on the top and underside of leaves.

11.Use all of the mixture within a few days as it may start to ferment if you leave it in the sprayer longer than one day.

12.BIG BENEFIT: Worm Casting Tea can be made in a matter of HOURS not days!

Note: Use the remaining casting residue left in the strainer cloth and blender on your indoor or outdoor plants, or your yard, at the base of a plant or tree. DO NOT PUT LEFT-OVER WORM CASTING RESIDUE INTO IN YOUR AQUAPONICS GROW TRAY as it will alter the pH over time.

Hunter Organic Growers Society- Aquaponics Open Day

HOGS 13 April cLast weekend I learnt that i can comfortably  fit 50 people into my small backyard. I opened my backyard by request to Hunter Organic Growers Society and saw a flood of interest in my fish, yabbies, veges and Aquaponics ways.

Most people had not seen Aquaponics in action and the day was filled with questions and answers- a great day of education. Many people assumed that Aquaponics was complicated and costly but i was able to showcase what i have achieved in my backyard with mostly recycled materials, limited financial resources, time and effort. It was a great day to highlight the need for home grown food production regardless of land area that you have available.

HOGS 13 April dWe discussed how fish waste essentially provides all the nutrients required to grow my vegetables which sit above the ground at waist height, how maintenance free the design is, weed free and a simple inexpensive  design. The growing space is utilized in a much more efficient and effective manner to most peoples traditional vegetable gardens that require greater land area.  I took some time discussing the water’s pH and carefully timed siphon system as well as the addition of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients that are important to successful growing results.

At the end of the day- When it works, it works! You don’t necessarily have to understand how- just try it. The fish and bacteria do all the work for you.

Aquaponics not only saves you time in the garden but it’s a sustainable solution to save you so much money as well. Almost anyone can garden with Aquaponics!

hogs 13 April


International Permaculture Day is on again- May 5th 2013

int permaculture day may 2013Thought you may like to appreciate that International Permaculture day is almost on us again for another year. May 5th 2013. Although Aquaponics can stand alone as a super vegetable growing system, a successful balanced Aquaponics system uses many of the same permaculture design elements. This annual event is a great day filled with education and passionate likeminded people.  Last year i opened up my home Aquaponics grow beds, gardens and fish ponds up to the public on this day. This year i’ll be visiting some other backyards to check them to see what inventive things people are doing and i encourage you to do the same!

MEDIA RELEASE: “You can fix all the world’s problems in a garden… You can solve all your pollution problems, and all your supply line needs in a garden. And most people today actually don’t

know that, and that makes most people very insecure.”- Geoff Lawton, Permaculture Research Institute

Geoff Lawton should know. He turned a strip of desert in Jordan into an abundant food forest that will provide food for people for generations to come. And that’s just one of many permaculture solutions being pioneered around the world. We can’t ignore that the world is in crisis. The fresh food, clean air and secure income that so many of us take for granted is no longer a given. No community is immune when we depend on fossil fuels and debt, cheap labour

and food flown thousands of miles. If we don’t create more sustainable supply lines, then we face the prospect of collapse. The good news is that we can survive this and even thrive, if we act now.

This year’s International Permaculture theme is Grow Local! to highlight the value of permaculture design for building local resilience. By using the tools of permaculture and a

little community spirit, we can start to meet our basic energy, clean water and fresh food needs, right in our own gardens.

This year’s theme is Grow Local! to highlight the value of permaculture design for building local resilience. By using the tools of permaculture and a little community spirit, we can start to meet our basic energy, clean water and fresh food needs, right in our own gardens.

How do we reform global industrial agriculture?

Food for thought- Whats water doing? How can we assist our planets water resources?

The introduction of fossil fuels into agriculture reduced much human suffering around the world — but it also created a massive spike in global population, creating an ever-growing need for more food. While our population continues to grow exponentially in every country, our resources for growing food — from oil (for fuel) and natural gas (for fertilizer) to freshwater and topsoil — are rapidly depleting around the world. The price of food is also a real concern as resources increase in value.

Eating organic and eating local helps minimise fuel transport issues yet are only part of the solution. How do we reform global industrial agriculture so that we can feed nearly seven billion people (and rising) without wasting precious resources needed for at least the rest of the century? How do we build the food resilience of communities which have grown dependent on food supply chains built for a world of cheap oil?

The video below helps explain these issues clearly. Its long at (45mins) however raises some good points for further consideration, thought and action.

Lake Macquarie City Council Environmental Activities, grants etc April- May 2013

Make your own backyard  habitat – free  workshop

Saturday 20 April,  1-3pm

Learn about the importance  of backyard habitat for local native animals, and discover how to create a frog  pond and possum nest box in your own  backyard.

Location:  Landcare Resource Centre, Corner of Toronto  Roadand  Five Islands Road,  Teralba

Bookings essential to Lake  Macquarie City Council on 4921  0333


Fungi  Foray

Saturday 27 April,  Approximately 9.15am – 1.30pm

A free event for Landcarers  and Community Ecosystem Monitoring Volunteers. Learn about fungi and how to identify  different  types.

Meet at the Landcare  Resource Office, 80 Toronto  Rd,  Teralba

Limited places so please  call the Landcare Resource Office on 4921 0392 by 24 April to book your  place.


Free Showerhead  Exchange

Hunter Water and Lake  Macquarie City Council invite Hunter Water Customers to exchange their existing  water guzzling showerhead for a water efficient one. Free and low cost premium  options available.


Westfield Kotara       Shopping Centre, outside Woolworths       Supermarket Thursday 2       May10am –       8pm Friday 3       May10am –       4pm Saturday 4       May10am –       2pm
Hunter Water, 36 Honeysuckle Drive,       Newcastle       Westor

Hunter       Water’s Customer Service desk at Lake Macquarie City Council, 126-138 Main       Road, Speers       Point

Monday 6 –       Friday 31       May9am –       5pm


Littoral Rainforest Plant  Identification  Workshop

Saturday 4 May, 10am – 2pm

Help  protect and improve the ecological value of Littoral Rainforest.  The workshop will include an overview of  native plant species found in Littoral Rainforest Communities, ecology and  identification principles, and an introduction to Plantnet and other useful  resources.

Location: Landcare Resource  Centre,  Teralba

For further information or  to book your place contact the Landcare Resource Centre on 4921  0392.


Powerful Owl  Workshop

Sunday  5 May, 10am – 12:30pm

Find  out about these amazing birds and how you can become involved in the Powerful  Owl Project,

Location:  Landcare Resource Centre,  Teralba

For  further information and to book your place, contact David Bain at BirdLife Australia on 0421 337  545 or email



Wangi Area Sustainable  Neighbourhood Group Launch and  Celebration

Saturday 11 May 2013,  11.00am – 2.00pm

The official launch of the  Wangi Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group and their Action Plan will be held on  Saturday 11 May 2013.

Join in the fun – there  will be family-friendly activities, free food and lots of information about the  great projects members are  undertaking.

New member sign ups on the  day are very  welcome.

Location:  Wangi Wangi Foreshore, Watkins Road (in  front of  RSL)

For more information,  contact the Wangi Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group on


Salts Bay Community Event and  BBQ

Saturday 11 May,  10.00am – 1.00pm

Come along to a walk and  talk, with free BBQ, to learn about the rainforest of SaltsBay and Swansea  Heads.

Location:  Meet at Reids Reserve at the end of  Lambton Pde, Swansea Heads

Bookings essential to the  Landcare Resource Centre on 4921 0392

Create your own Naturewatch  Diary – Workshop

Saturday 25 May,  10.30am – 12.30pm

There are many ways to  record the seasonal changes in your garden or local bushland.  Build your awareness with tips from an  expert and document your observations for future generations.  All participants will receive a copy of  unique template developed by the presenter, in addition to a Naturewatch  Diary.

Landcare Resource Centre,  Corner of Toronto  Roadand  Five Islands Road,  Teralba

Bookings essential to Lake  Macquarie City Council on 4921 0333


Other  Opportunities


Our Super  Street Sale

Our Super StreetSale is a new Council service to help you  hold a street-wide garage  sale.

All you need to do  is get two or more houses in your street to hold a garage sale on the same day  and Council  will:

  • advertise your garage sales  in the Newcastle Herald on the day of your  sale
  • promote your garage sales on  Council’s website, Facebook page and  Twitter
  • send you a free garage sale  kit, including tips and hints, to have the best garage sale  ever


Win $500  towards your electricity bill!

Council has  launched the 2013 Bust Your Bills  competition, a fun initiative to help you reduce your energy usage and  save money on your electricity  bills.

You could win $500  towards your power bill, as well as fantastic monthly  prizes.



Community Environment Grants (Caring for our  Country)

Applications for Community  Environment Grants program which offer small grants of between $5000 and $50 000  to help groups undertake on-the-ground activities and increase their skills and  capacity to protect the natural environmenthasnow  opened.

A wide range of activities  are eligible including activities that increase biodiversity in and around World  Heritage Areas; developing land and sea country management plans, holding field  days and conferences to show-case innovative sustainable environment practices.

Activities also extend to  training local communities to participate in environmental protection, working  with local governments, regional bodies and industries to reduce pollution  entering urban and coastal waterways and marine environments and recording and  using Indigenous ecological knowledge to deliver conservation outcomes.

Applications are open to  groups Australia-wide until midnight (12am AEST) Wednesday 8  May.

Grant guidelines,  application forms and further information is available from the Caring for our  Country website:


EcoSchools  Grants

This program provides  grants to schools to give them the opportunity to involve their  students and community in developing and implementing environmental management  projects.

The overall objective of the  Eco Schools program is to support schools to develop best practice in  environmental education and innovative solutions to environmental  issues.

Applications close 17 May  2013.

For full details go to


Stephanie  Alexander Kitchen Garden Program Is Now  Open

The focus of the  Program is for primary school students to learn how to grow, harvest, prepare  and share fresh food in the belief that this approach will provide a better  chance of positively influencing children’s food  choices.

The Program  provides one-off funding of up to $60,000 (GST exclusive) to eligible schools to  cover infrastructure costs associated with building a kitchen and  garden.

For more  information


Volunteer Grants – Australian  Government

Volunteer Grants  2013 recognises the valuable work of Australia’s volunteers.  This  initiative forms part of the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to  organisations whose volunteers assist disadvantaged communities and encourage  inclusion of vulnerable people in community  life.

Funding of $16  million is available to support and encourage volunteering.  Eligible  not-for-profit community organisations can apply for grants between $1,000 and  $5,000.

For more  information and application guidelines go to:

Applications are  due 24 April  2013.

A garden in the ghetto generate food Gardens, build communities

This film below tells the story of a South Los Angeles edible garden planted in a surprising spot. Ron Finley, its planter, constructed the garden the way he wishes his neighborhood could be. And his vision of repurposing unused open space, like that of many others working together on urban agriculture in our city, should inspire us all, and remind us of how, with a little creativity of vision, and willingness to get our hands dirty, we can remake spaces defined by asphalt and dead grass into productive places of beauty.


TO LEARN MORE about the food movement in Los Angeles and how to get involved visit the Los Angeles Food Policy Council:

Aquaponics on 60 minutes

Please see below for a 60 minutes article and video link to last nights story.


For many Australian families, putting enough food on the table is a daily struggle. And things will get worse before they get better.

You see the world’s got too many mouths to feed and we’re fast running out of good farming land.

It’s being overgrazed, gobbled up by sprawling cities, or sold up to foreign interests.

The solution to this global crisis might just be the return of the humble vegie patch but on a massive, modern scale.

Entire skyscrapers, housing farms, not office workers. No soil, no sunlight, no seasons.

It’s a food revolution and it’s starting right here, in our own backyard.

To read about the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop farm visit the website.

To have a look at Rosemary’s restaurant in New York City go to the website.

To read more about Dickson Despommier’s vision visit Vertical Farm.

Aquaponics is great for the elderly

There are many benefits of an Aquaponic system that can benefit elderly gardeners. The most noteworthy benefits are the following

  • No digging in the ground is required to create plant beds
  • Very little watering is required for the system to function (save as much as 90% water)
  • No chemicals are used in the process
  • The system is sustainable
  • Production of 100% organic vegetables and fish

Aquaponics systems are self-contained and require no digging in the ground to prep the bed, heavy lifting of soils and mulches and even watering is at a minimum with the Aquaponic system.  Although there is a set-up that needs to take place with any Aquaponics system, once the system is in place there are many benefits that make it an ideal gardening system for the elderly.

Once the system(s) are in place they can generally be maintained comfortably from a seated position, making maintenance and harvesting of the containers easier for the elderly

  • Containers can be made so that those in wheelchairs can easily access them
  • Aquaponics use 90% less water, therefore watering of the system does not need to be done daily, or even weekly and can be accomplished when help is available
  • No heavy lifting is required once the system is in place. This includes things such as: hoses, watering cans, soils and mulches
  • Aquaponics systems do not require the system to be “tended to” on a daily basis. In fact they prefer not to be disturbed. This is ideal for those who cannot get out into their garden daily but still want to reap the benefits
  • Gardening in itself is therapeutic, many people report the same therapeutic effects from the Aquaponic systems as they had previously gained from their previous gardens
  • Aquaponics systems do not require much room and can be grown in a small backyard, on a patio or balcony or even indoors
  • Aquaponics systems can be grown at senior centers are part of their activity programs with little ongoing care/maintenance required, plus the residents get the benefit of the fresh vegetables
  • Fresh vegetables without having to go to the supermarket!!!

Aquaponic systems can be used to grow many varieties of vegetables and can even be used to grow flower beds. The satisfaction that comes from growing one’s own food is immeasurable. The system is being used in homes, senior citizen centers, community gardens and farms around the globe including third world projects in Haiti, Kenya, India, PNG and Mexico.

Think Eat Save Food Campaign Launched

Simple actions by consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future, according to a new global campaign to cut food waste launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners.

eat think saveWorldwide, about one-third of all food produced, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems, according to data released by FAO. Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages – harvesting, processing and distribution – while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.

TheThink.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint’ campaign is in support of the SAVE FOOD Initiative to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption – run by the FAO and trade fair organiser Messe Düsseldorf – and the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Initiatives. The new campaign specifically targets food wasted by consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry.

The campaign harnesses the expertise of organisations such as WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), Feeding the 5,000 and other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices.

Think.Eat.Save. aims to accelerate action and provide a global vision and information-sharing portal ( for the many and diverse initiatives currently underway around the world.

Part of the trigger for the campaign was the outcome of the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, in which heads of state and governments gave the go-ahead for a 10-Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Patterns. Developing an SCP programme for the food sector must be a vital element of this framework, given the need to sustain the world’s food production base, reduce associated environmental impacts and feed a growing human population.

“To bring about the vision of a truly sustainable world, we need a transformation in the way we produce and consume our natural resources,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

According to FAO, roughly 95% of food loss and waste in developing countries is through unintentional losses at early stages of the food supply chain due to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques; storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions; infrastructure; packaging and marketing systems.

However, in the developed world the end of the chain is far more significant. At the food manufacturing and retail level in the developed world, large quantities of food are wasted due to inefficient practices, quality standards that over-emphasise appearance, confusion over date labels and consumers being quick to throw away edible food due to over-buying, inappropriate storage and preparing meals that are too large.

Per-capita waste by consumers is between 95 and 115 kg a year in Europe and North America/Oceania, while consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia each throw away only 6 to 11 kg a year.

“Together, we can reverse this unacceptable trend and improve lives. In industrialised regions, almost half of the total food squandered, around 300 million tonnes annually, occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General. “This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world.

“If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world,” Graziano da Silva added.