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Free Tomato Seeds This Week If You’d Like to Join Our Tomato Trial: Kay Closes the Loop – Part Twelve

Wow, I’m loving the Spring, I feel as though I’ve been saying “look at everything bursting” for a while now, but it literally is all bursting here. There’s a Maakia amurensis here right outside the house truck window, the buds get huge before they burst and suddenly they have 6 inches of beautiful silvery leaf growth, and the mulberries burst then send out their fruit before you know it. Elanor and I have been walking around checking out all the mulberries, they all have some differences in their crops we can see and we have found one that has very long pendulous fruit so we’re excited to taste that.

There is a green mantle over the grass layer now, somehow the energy that goes down into the earth over winter lifts again slowly but very powerfully in Spring… and the layer including the top soil right up to the tops of the tallest trees holds the layer of life that we live in and do our best to interact with. What a joy that is.

This week it’s tomato growing ideas.

I’ve given you mine in Blog 7 and since I designed that process I have been talking with Grant (my mentor at Environmental Fertilsers) many times, and he has given me a recipe based on his experience and that of the guys at International Ag Labs in the USA who are also doing this kind of stuff!

This recipe looks pretty far out…. Only for the brave and strong! I’m going to plant a few tomatoes like this as well and keep careful results.

Over in the USA they are trying to define a nutrient dense tomato. They say that if they are grown like this they grow much larger plants and crop much more heavily and the fruit tastes unbelievable and has a very high BRIX. If any of you out there are keen to join our trial then please register with us we’ll send you a free packet of Watermouth Tomato seed but you will need your own refractometer. We’ll all use the same seed this year for a start. You could follow any of the three methods we are using to join us on this trial.

That means here at Koanga we will have our tomatoes growing under 3 different recipes, these will be:

  1. At my place using no commercial products
  2. Using Grant’s recipe
  3. Koanga’s version of Grant’s recipe that feels possible for us to do in a garden where the water table is high and we could not go down 1m

All of these methods will be compared along with your results at home and we will publish that next winter. In the mean time we will hold a special Tomato/Potato Guided Tour in February and Grant and Kay will be here to talk about growing nutrient dense tomatoes and potatoes.

Once you have a good look at Grants’ tomato recipe, you’ll see that it requires digging a small hole or trench if you have more than 1 plant like this. Quite a job. There is a lot of evidence to show that trees grown on holes like this grow to the size of a usual 8 year old tree in 2 years and outperform all others in terms of health and crop. For me the main issue about growing tomatoes like this is that they will also grow very very large and we’ll have to plant them much further apart as well as have a strong structure to grow them on . I know for many people that is to hard, so I’m trying to find some ways that could be made easier. The best idea we have come up with so far is top have a tube of netting for them to grow up the middle of and then, let several of the first laterals can be left on and tied vertically up the outside of the cylinder, so you have a lot more vine to hold tomatoes. The cylinder would have to be firmly anchored to the ground as it will act as a sail once covered in tomato leaves.

This recipe brings up as many questions as it does answers but I think we will learn heaps and if we can use these tomato holes and structures year after year it may not be be so much more work after all!

I’m going to have to make sure I collect a lot of leaves next autumn to have enough leaf mould to do this and use for many other things, next season like mulching perennial beds and putting in potato trenches. I decided not to buy in any more fertiliser this year after I’d lost my chance to collect the leaves too late. I think everybody at Kotare Village will be heading for the leaves under the Tilia (Linden tree) as we now know they have ideal leaves for ideal fertiliser, both calcium and phosphate bio accumulator.


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Tips for a Resilient Future

  • Plant European veges in summer as a back stop to the classic summer South American cultivars in a cold Summer you won’t starve! Plant carrots, beetrootlettuce. Starvation years in the past were years when the summers were not long or hot enough to grow the storage crops like pumpkins and corn. Four years ago we had a summer like that here in the Hawkes Bay, be prepared!

  • Chose dark green and red-leafed vegetables. Birds don’t touch these as much and they are more nutritious: Borecole, Ruby Chard, Black Navajo Sweet Corn, Blue Hopi and Bloody Butcher Flour corn
  • Build a sparrow trap – Recycle the sparrows to feed your chickens
  • Have bird protection systems in place, our systems include only ever feeding poultry in Grandpa’s Feeders so the birds do not breed up on chicken food then go to the garden, having rebar hoops and knitted bird netting on hand to use and re-use over many many years and also making bird traps to catch the sparows and recycle via the chickens. We’re building a list of tips that have the potential, if lots of people did them, to change our future, check out this interesting link on Earth Temperature Timeline

  • Maximize diversity you are not likely to lose them all. When you plant lettuce plant several cultivars, when you plant tomato always plant more than 1 cultivar, when you plant beans choose several they all have different qualities and succeed or fail based on differing environmental factors.
  • Always use heritage seeds! Climate change is built into them if they are also grown in biologically active soils
  • Plant perennials that produce a lot of food.. e.g Seakale, Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes, Potatoes, Kumara, Garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, shallots, tree onions
  • Choose the easiest plants to grow that produce the most food – Leeks, Garlic, Cylindrical Beetroot, Jerusalem Artichokes, Globe artichokes, Bloody Butcher, Blue Hopi, Hokianga Red/Yellow, Pumpkins, Courgettes, Kale, Collards and Turnips
  • Learn to grow healthy soil and nutrient dense food – high brix, heritage seeds respond to climate! Our book, Growing Nutrient Dense Food will help with this journey.


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Growing High Quality Seedlings without Commercial inputs – Kay Closes The Loops: Part Eleven – October 7th

It is full on seedling production time now and growing one’s own seedlings is an art if you want a high quality seedling capable of producing high quality food. High BRIX food begins with the seeds……

1. Chose your seeds very carefully.

Choose seeds that do not contain glyphosate i.e they haven’t been grown in soil that has been treated with round up ever, glyphosate is patented and registered as an antibiotic and the gene kills life around it everywhere, including the microbes in the soil and our gut. Glyphosate also chelates many key minerals out of seedlings and plants so can never grow to be nutrient dense or even nourishing. Do not choose hybrid seeds because they contain enzyme blockers which also prevent the plants from picking up key minerals required for them to be nutrient dense and also required for human health e.g manganese, the mineral element at the heart of every seed including human seed! Also many seeds sold as hybrid seed are actually genetically engineered, classified as hybrid by working a loophole in the law in the US. Many, many vegetable seed lines are now being grown by a process called CMS, in reality genetic engineering, and sold as hybrid seed and accepted by organic standards but not Biodynamic standards.

Seeds saved from open pollinated heritage seed, grown in your own highly mineralized and microbially active soil and selected from the top 5% of the biggest and heaviest seed is the ideal option.

2. Make your own seed raising mix.

Living mineralized soil is critical for growing high quality seedlings. I use a mix of my own compost made as described here, or in our Art Of Composting Booklet mixed 50/50 with my own garden soil. Because our garden soil is pumice sand based this works well. If my garden soil was clay based I would add 10-20% sand in there. When I have good vermicast I also add up to 10% of that. If the compost and or vermicast is high quality that is all you will need for the seeds to germinate, and grow to the pricking out stage.

3. Watch to see if they need extra feeding

This is also all you will need to take them through to the transplanting stage, however, you must watch them carefully and if they show signs of slowing growth or not growing continuously and fast then they will need to be fed extra minerals. I used to water my seedlings with a weak solution of liquid fish. That certainly made them grow and look good but I now know that pumping seedlings and plants with nitrate nitrogen pushes growth but not high quality growth and nitrate nitrogen does not catalyse the photosynthesis process as phosphate does, and so, does not drop attatched minerals into the plant sap, to raise the plants nutritional value. I have discovered I get far better results from using CalPhos to feed my seedlings. I’m making CalPhos like this, and the very best seedling growth occurs when I put the seedling trays in a shallow wicking bed, or a tray containing 1cm of water and I add the CalPhos to that water, so that the seedlings themselves can draw up as much water and CalPhos as they chose via their roots. I also alternate the nutrient (CalPhos) in the water with my own Liquid Gold (I call it that because it is a golden colour and smells good) which contains the calcium and phosphate and also all the minor minerals as well as the major minerals required to grow a healthy seedling.

4. Pricking out

OK, so we have germinated our seeds, part of the process to grow a high quality seedling is to know when to prick them out and when to transplant into the garden. If you watch a seed germinating carefully you will see that once the first two leaves are fully open they will pause in their growth. At this point they will have done their initial root growth, a main tap root but with no fine root hairs. This is the critical time to prick out, they have germinated from the energy in the seed and are now in the process of switching to being powered by the sun via photosynthesis. Having super mineralized and microbially active seed raising mix is critical at this point because without that our seedlings will not begin to make high quality sugars in their leaves in the photosynthesis process then send up to 70% of them out through their roots at night to feed the microbes.

These are 4 week old lettuce seedlings with so much root exudates that the soil attached is a large amount


5. Transplanting

If you have great seed raising mix and your seedlings make a lot of sugar which they will feed out through their roots to the microbes then after the next stage of growth which takes usually from 1-3 weeks, you will have a mass of fine root hairs that are covered in sticky sugars that now hold the soil onto them. At this stage your pricked out seedlings (usually 4 weeks after seed planting)… will have leaves touching above ground if pricked out to the correct spacings, and be perfect to transplant…before they begin a huge top growth spurt they will look like this.

Now your job to ensure you go from high quality seedling to high quality food is to ensure they are transplanted into highly mineralised microbially active soil.

Further Seed Planting Instructions

All other seed planting details can be found in the Koanga Garden Guide

Pick Up After Rain

After 2 plus weeks of no sun and rain every day I am going to give my entire garden a soil drench with cow manure and molasses: 2 handfuls of cow manure, ½ cup molasses and fill the 9ltr watering can with water. Nitrogen is the electrolyte in the soil without which nothing else can happen. So much rain will have diluted the nitrogen to the point there needs to be a boost. I’m making my own fish emulsion but it is not ready yet so I’m using cow manure with molasses, a carbon source to hold the nitrogen in the root zone.

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Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Ten

We’re in the middle of two solid weeks with no sun!! Just when we’re all geared up to get stuck right in we have to stop, at least in the garden beds.

My fish fert is brewing away, my CalPhos is also bubbling away, the dried ground eggshells, cow manure, molasses and seaweed is smelling good.

I’m going to add to my list of possible soil amendments by making a few netting rounds to pile up with leaves, and leaving them to turn to leaf mould .. next season I’ll collect the leaves in Autumn rather than Spring but we still have leaves under our oaks so better late than never. Making leaf mould from the leaves of trees that accumulate the key minerals we are needing to create the balance our soil needs in order to grow nutrient dense food, will be a way that is possible even for those of you in the city. There are so many parks where trees drop leaves and many contractors sucking them up to take away, it might be possible to ask them if they could dump them in your leaf mould factory. Leaf mould is great for mulching berry beds, perennial beds, putting in the bottom of your potato trenches, mulching crops that will soon cover the bed e.g pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Also great for mulching in the forest garden. My goal is to have enough linden leaves (tilia spp also known as Lime trees, and amazing bee forage) to make enough leaf mould each year to use under potatoes, tomatoes and to mulch all berry beds and perennial beds because it accumulates both Calcium and phosphate. That means we end up with humus containing high levels of both calcium and phosphate, just what we are looking for. Linden leaves will also be great in the chicken scratch area to be turned to compost by the chickens along with our oak and maple leaves (refer to chart of mineral accumulators for more details).  

We’re setting up our worm farms and soldier fly farm, this week in the new greenhouse, using just the same design and process that we used for the Koanga Urban Garden Project. As in the Urban Garden they will produce vermicast and soldier fly liquid to use in the garden as well as charged bonechar from under the solider fly larvae….

Review of Strategies

So to review our complete list of strategies for maintaining and building soil fertility in local and simple ways.. this is it for this Summer growing season:

  1. Compost, made following instructions in the Koanga Art of Composting Booklet, with key feature being 60:1 carbon :nitrogen ratio which means 1 part immature material, ½ part soil 3 parts mature material, plus the addition of key ingredients designed to raise minerals level sin a balanced way, and encourage the creation of humus e.g seaweed, biochar, clay (we have pumice soils) pottery shards (increase magnetism levels), lots of calcium sources.. oak leaves, burnt shells and bones, lime, lots of phosphate containing ingredients.. eg oats, lupins, linden leaves, cassurina leaves, crushed eggshells and bone char. Our goal here is to produce maximum amounts of humus charged with nutrients. We are achieving 30% in our best heaps and to increase the cation exchange capacity ability of the soil to hold moisture, minerals and microbes. Our goal here is also to recycle our humanure, blocking a major leak out of the system
  1. CalPhos – used to strengthen plant cell structure and to prepare the plants to set and grow fruit
  1. Fish Fertiliser – to feed the microbes and boost with nitrogen
  1. Kay’s Fertiliser – a basic homemade balanced microbe and plant food
  1. Leaf Mould addition of fungi, and humus charged with minerals
  1. Urine charged biochar…. Increasing cation exchange capacity, creating more stable moisture levels and holding minerals
  1. High in humates, great for nutrient boost or making seed raising mix
  1. Occassional uses of cow manure and molasses

My over arching goal is to be able to grow brix 25 veges using compost only…

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Koanga Institute Visitor Information

Getting Here

Driving Directions:

Coming into Wairoa from Napier (on State Highway 2), follow the road straight ahead, through town and over the bridge, following the signs to Frasertown and Lake Waikaremoana.

At approximately 7kms from Wairoa you will come to Scamperdown bridge. Take the first right after the bridge onto Tiniroto Road.

Follow this road for approximately 14km. Kotare Road is on the right hand side, after the second one-way bridge.

About 1km up Kotare Road, you will see the Koanga homestead on the right hand side, that’s us! Number 96, there is a Koanga sign at the gate. Drive in and park just outside the homestead with the other cars.

If you are driving down from Gisborne there are two options to get to Koanga, depending on your driving preference.

To take the direct route, come down Tiniroto Road. When you get to the roundabout at Makaraka go straight ahead and follow this road for approximately 60kms, you will come to the Opoiti bridge. Kotare Road is the first road on the left immediately after the bridge.

If you would prefer to take a scenic route from Gisborne, turn left at the Makaraka roundabout and follow the road to Wairoa.

Once you get into Wairoa refer to the directions above to get to Koanga.

Arriving by Plane or Bus:

Our nearest airports are Napier and Gisborne.

Intercity provides a connecting bus service that departs Napier to Wairoa daily at 1:15pm.

There is also an Intercity bus service from Gisborne to Wairoa, however, the bus leaves at 9am so it is more than likely you would need to stay in Gisborne overnight to meet that bus, unless of course you fly into Gisborne early that morning.

If required, we can organize for someone to collect you from the Wairoa bus terminal.

Arriving Here

Our aim is to be supportive of you on your journey to discovering your place within regenerative living.

All meals are provided during the course. We also provide access to campsites for your tent, caravan, or campervan.

We encourage all students to stay at the Koanga Institute as there are often evening teaching sessions and other activities that are important to your overall experience and in general you will get the full Koanga experience by staying onsite with everyone. That said, there are also other options for accommodation in Wairoa that you could arrange for yourself i.e. a motel or the campground:

Things to bring:

✓ Appropriate clothing for out in the garden (gumboots/raincoat/gardening gloves) for wet days.

✓ Insect repellent and torch

✓ Any medications that you require

✓ Your laptop, we have a space with cables to connect to the internet (there is no WIFI)

✓ A pre-paid calling card if you need to use the landline for phone calls. (Cellphone coverage is only for Vodafone and 2degrees networks)

✓ Accommodation: Tent/Caravan/Campervan. Your tent will need to be able to withstand any weather. We advise that the tent must have a fly, otherwise it will not be waterproof and you will not appreciate wet bedding. We often have strong winds too.

✓ Your own bedding – please ensure you have enough to be very warm and comfortable.

✓ We request that you use our laundry liquid and shampoo, as the greywater waters our food supply. We use Dr Bronners castile soap.

✓ A note book and pens, maybe some colour pencils or felts if you have them, we also provide these for the Workshops.

You will be met upon arrival and shown all of the facilities and systems. We wish you an inspiring learning journey.

Whether you are here for a day, a week or a few months, we ask that you take the time to read our House Rules and Health & Safety Information below.

House Rules

We ask that you commit to the following while here:

  • Smoking only in designated area – under the old oak tree.
  • Keep our facility entirely free of recreational drugs, including marijuana
  • Keep your earphones/iPod/mp3 for after hours please
  • Alcohol. We do not have alcohol on Institute property. Exceptions can be made for special occasions. We reserve the right to ask you to leave if we feel your drinking is having a negative effect upon others.
  • Please do not pick the fruit! All fruit (apart from old citrus trees), every single piece, is part of Institute research and propagation trials and must NOT be picked. Citrus will be picked by a rostered person and shared out. Staff will pick fruit for photographing keeping stones etc. If you notice fruit that is ripe please let us know, we may not have seen it.
  • Ask before you pick any flowers, fruit, berries or vegetables (often we are saving these for seeds and they should not be picked)


We go to great lengths to prepare meals following the principles of the Weston Price Foundation, upon which all indigenous peoples visited by Weston Price based their diets. We also go to great lengths to eat what we have available from our own farm and gardens rather than running off to the shop. This is all part of learning to live simply and lightly.

The kaupapa of this place is about finding our way to health and supporting each other in that process.

We regard our kitchen and dining areas as the heart of that process and a safe place for those in the process of giving up destructive eating habits and learning to eat nutrient dense food. If you are joining the Koanga house team you will be expected to support this kaupapa, which may be very different from how you are used to eating. If you want to find out more about it have a look at or read Sally Fallon’s book ‘Wise Traditions’.
Please discuss any concerns you may have about this before coming so that we can keep things clear.

Kitchen Kaupapa:

Our kitchen and dining area is specifically set aside as a safe place for people to learn to eat in a way that heals and nourishes.

We ask that you do not bring any of the following foods into the kitchen:

  • Processed Foods
  • Trans-Fats and Sugars
  • Refined/Industrial Grains
  • Coffee and Black Tea

If you choose to have a private stash then please keep these in your personal space.

If in doubt please ask.

If you are bringing guests it is your responsibility to let them know and ensure that they adhere to our kaupapa.


Our toilets are composting toilets which require more work than a flush toilet (in the short term!) We have three composting toilets.

Toilet no. 3 is specifically there for those of you who are taking medication or drugs that are not naturally found in our environment. Please use it or ask Tes or Shaked if you’d like advice or more info. We deal with this humanure and urine in a different way to the rest.


Our showers are run by a ‘rocket stove’ and require firewood to heat the hot water.


We are all part of the cleaning team and ask that everyone take their chores seriously.

Please follow the assigned chores list. Chores are best done before breakfast, where possible and immediately after meals.

We ask that you tidy up after yourself and keep the house free of your own personal clutter at all times.


Please leave your cellphone switched off while in the teaching room – special circumstances can be negotiated


  • All books are for reference only and must not be removed from the house. Please do not take books into the eating or concrete areas at the front please, we have lost many books this way.
  • We provide a communication room with internet ready computers and also connections to plug-in your own device/s. Please do not download any files during work hours. We also ask that you do not download any movies or large files during your time here at Koanga.
  • Please be respectful of the fact that we must all share this space and have a chance to get access to computers and the internet


  • It is your responsibility to remove your personal rubbish. Please do not place rubbish in our recycling cupboard.


There is a handwashing machine available to wash your clothes

  • Please only use our laundry liquid to avoid soil contamination
  • Use only cold water so that we have hot water for the kitchen and dishes.

Swing Bridge:

  • The swing bridge down the road is private property and quite dangerous, please stay off it.


You are welcome to swim in the river. We will show you the swimming holes.

  • Please always wear togs or clothes in the Mangapoike
  • If you wish to swim without gear please always do that in the Mangaone stream only


  • Firewood is a super precious commodity and we ask that you do not remove wood from the wood shed for personal use
  • Never light an outside fire without permission from Tes or Shaked

Shutting Gates:

  • Within Koanga, always shut gates properly by their latches every time you go through them, they are to keep children, gardens and animals safe.
  • Please leave gates how you find them on the rest of the farm.

 Kotare Village:

  • Kotare village is a working farm as well as a place of private residence
  • Always talk to Bob before taking a walk in the hill block or paddocks on the farm
  • Respect the privacy of Kotare villagers residing within the camp and house sites, unless invited
  • Check the map on the library noticeboard to see where you are, which areas you are welcome to explore and where our boundaries and ‘no go’ areas are

Health & Safety

  • Footwear must be worn at all times around the farm and in the garden, especially when using tools. You will need a hat, personal water bottle and have light, full-length clothing to protect you from the sun
  • No person shall use any tools or machinery from the garden shed or workshop unless they have been deemed competent and have been over the safety procedures, equipment maintenance and proper technique for using the tool
  • No person shall enter the Kotare Village workshop without prior permission from Bob Corker.
  • Always ask for help if you are unsure of how to use a tool or perform a certain task
  • Do not use excessive force while working – this protects yourself and our tools
  • Always set down your tools in a safe place

First Aid:

  • There is a first aid kit located in the bathroom. The First Aid Officer is Shaked From, Please notify him if any first aid supplies are low.
  • Emergency Assembly Point: In the event of an emergency everyone is to evacuate to the front gate of the Koanga Institute. There is a clearly marked sign there. When you hear a continuous loud and frantic bell ringing please go to the assemble point.
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2016 Koanga Seed Internship – Building Food Security Through Seed Saving and Nutritional Resilience

This past Summer saw the first Koanga Seed Internship in New Zealand.. and that felt like a turning point for me.

I’ve taught the two week Seed Internships in both Australia and Jordon, but this year it felt like time to teach it here.

We had 6 women with us, who came from very varied backgrounds, but all on a mission. One woman, Merili, was from Estonia…. and she had been looking for such a workshop all around the world. She came to learn and experience as much as she could about seed saving so she could go home and begin a serious seed bank in Estonia! She enjoyed it so much she stayed on an extra 3 weeks afterwards to continue helping in the seed processing room which in late March is still very very busy (beans, peppers, watermelon, pumpkin and much more still coming in… all the corn to go yet) It was great for me to see that the systems we have set up for planning were able to be effectively used for the Northern hemisphere.

Processing seeds from all of our seed gardens is a super wonderful and addictive job to have and the experience of actually ‘doing it’ for real is hard to pass up… everybody loves working in the seed processing shed, and we will offer the possibility each year to those who do the Seed Internship to stay on as apprentices to help finish processing the new seasons seed, a great opportunity for serious hands on experience!

Cushla and Moana were on the Seed Internship as paid training by their employer, The Tuaropaki Trust, as part of their training in the process of Tuaropaki setting up a sister seed bank at Mokai. Cushla had been here for over a year I think, she has done the Urban Garden apprenticeship, the Growing Soil Food and Health Internship our PDC and lastly the Seed Internship. She is well equipped to go out and earn a good living doing this stuff as is Moana who was also here over a long period soaking it all up. We’ll miss them both and wish them well…. And we’ll be keeping in touch.

More and more we are seeing employers coming and asking us for people who have done previous training with us that they could employ. The work we are doing is seriously becoming recognized as a way to future employment… meaningful, satisfying, healthy, regenerative employment!

It’s not just the learning in the classroom but also the inspiration of seeing it really happening and also the experience of working in these designed systems and getting the confidence to go out and actually do it, from designing food gardens that could make a good living for you, whilst saving your own seed, or really and truly feeding your family by saving the seed then growing it, and not only that but fully nourish your family, or designing a seed garden capable of maintaining food security for your bioregion or an entire country, or learning the gift of preparing food that comes entirely from the garden, tastes incredible and is super healthy, or the art of growing soil….all of which are becoming valued skills once again.

We had another woman on the Seed Internship, Suzanne, who came to find the space to immerse herself in seeds and garden planning so she could come up with a detailed plan for how to feed and manage and nourish (based on being able to provide Weston Price levels of minerals vitamins and traditional fats) her extended family … which included saving seeds for all of the food crops. It is no mean feat to be able to realistically design a garden to feed an extended family, knowing it is done super efficiently so it can work in the time available, and so that there will be enough nutrition to maintain family health for the long run, which means also having the knowledge to build soil over time, and also in a way that saves the seed for all of the crops grown for food. That takes some skill and some careful thought and planning and Suzanne did just that and went home with spreadsheets and data bases and all the information she needed, as well as the confidence and the experience to make it real and possible. I see her seed growing becoming the core of a bioregional seed bank in her Bioregion and we will be watching her learning. For Suzanne the Seed Internship was a very important part of her learning here, she had previously done our PDC and several other workshops, and is coming back next Spring with her children to do the Bio Intensive workshop to ensure she is building skills and inspiration within her family to increase the chances of building family strength, health and happiness through food security.

Apart from the buzz of seeing serious students gaining serious skills to take back out into their lives I got a real buzz from two of our sessions in particular … they were were the conversations about hybrid seeds, the difference between F1 hybrids and open pollinates and coming to fully understand the profound differences between the two options and the session where we began to draw a series of pictures describing the life of a seed… to a seed … and learning more about what actually happens and how… and why … so we can support that process, to grow higher quality seeds… and food!

This is an Internship for people wanting to design serious gardens, food gardens, or self- reliance and resilience in an uncertain future, which must include seed saving… it could be a family garden, a bioregional seed bank or a national seed bank, a business or anything in between or a combination of all. It is an internship for those seriously wishing to take the plunge to reconnect with the age old circle/cycle of co-evolution… re-joining ourselves and our families to the earth and the sky of our place, via our food!

Half of the time on this Internship is in the garden and the seed processing room and we offer the possibility for 2 Interns to stay on after the Internship and work with the seeds in the garden and seed room to follow the processes until mid-April and gain more and more confidence to take back out there .

If you any questions about this Seed Internship do not hesitate to contact us, Kay will talk with you.

 Click Here to book your spot on the 2017 Bio-Regional Seed Bank Internship

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Nutrient Dense Food and Carbon Sequestration using Local Sourced Fertiliser. Kay Closes The Loops: Part Nine

Wow.. the peach and plum blossom is full on right now, the bees are super active and it’s time to plant. I’ve planted my pumpkin seed (did you see our great pumpkin chart?) and my second lot of lettuces and mustard greens, turnips, daikon and rocket. I’ve also planted my peppers, eggplants and my early tomatoes. The full moon has passed and now I’m getting my roots in the ground. Today we planted our early potatoes, yellow fir and carrots. To plant the potatoes we forked the edge of the bed, put 10 litres of urine charged biochar, and 10 litres of compost per sqm then U barred them in. Next we made two trenches 20 cm deep and then placed urine charged biochar along the bottom of the trench… using 40 litres in the 20m long row (2 x 10 m rows). I then dipped my potato chits into liquid fresh dairy cow manure (organic and on holistically managed pasture!).

I did this because I usually roll them in Koanga Seedling Innoculant, and I was looking for an alternative seeing as I’m not buying fertiliser this year. Fresh organic cow manure is full of healthy microbes and also a balanced form of ammonium and nitrate nitrogen, as well as great microbe food and humus building qualities…. Hard to beat cow manure.

I then planted the chits at 30cm spacings in the two 10m rows, and poured a mixture of ½ water, ½ cow manure, along the rows on top of the chits (10 litres per row). I then covered the potatoes over to make the beds level again. I then did a soil drench with my special Kay’s Liquid Fertiliser When the tops come up I’ll hill them up regularly so the frost doesn’t get them, and will hill them for the last time as they begin to flower. Once they are well up I will use a refractometer to decide whether to do a weekly Kay’s Special Fertiliser foliar and soil drench or a Foliar and Soil drench of Cal Phos, or occasionally a fish soil drench.

I made my fish fertilizer today as well, and decided there was no way I was putting my fish frames in a bowl and mixing with the stick blender, so we put them in a flat bottomed steel container and bashed them with a fencing pounder (you could use a bit of ti tree etc) until they were liquid. I then measured the volume of the mashed fish frames (1 part), added that volume x 3 of water (3 parts) (1 part), that volume x 1/3 of molasses and a cup of whey , made from hanging our kefir up and collecting the whey as it dripped down.

We also mulched the freshly weeded perennial bed with oak leaves for the Summer.

The forest garden is abuzz with blossom and bees, we have muscovies on nests, Indian Runner Ducks and geese all pumping out eggs along with the chickens. It is definitely the time to ensure your poultry are getting high quality food so they do not become exhausted and stop laying again as fast as they began. Poultry Minerals make a huge difference if your current poultry food is not high quality (high brix).

The alfalfa in the comfrey patch, and forest garden is well up now and being greedily devoured by the poultry…. I’m sure it is the combination of comfrey and alfalfa as poultry feed from September to May that grows such beautiful chickens here.

I harvested all of my evergreen comfrey this week to ensure the flowering stems did not lie down and root, and to wilt and use as mulch on the berry beds. Evergreen comfrey is an outstanding option as a mulch and edge crop for perennial berries like currants gooseberries and non suckering raspberries, blackberries logan berries and boysenberries etc

Arohanui Kay


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Fish Fertiliser Recipe

** For an illustrated example of this recipe, check out the The Unconventional Farmer’s Blog here. The blog has all kinds of good stuff, sign up to get the updates via email!

Fish fertilizer is an awesome product for promoting plant growth. It’s high in Nitrogen for growing plants, can be naturally produced, and is an awesome food for microbes! Fungi love this stuff. Fish fertilizer can be expensive in the store, but it is easily produced at home. This is a great recipe for making your own fish hydrolysate fertilizer. First lets look at the two main types of fish fertilizer:

Fish Emulsion

Fish emulsion fertilizer is made several different ways depending on who is making it. The important thing to know is that fish emulsion goes through two stages of processing. The first stage breaks down the fish parts using enzymes, proteases, or chemicals. Then, and this is the important part, heat is used to break it down further and allow oils and other things like amino acids to be more easily removed. It’s this second stage of processing that makes fish emulsion less advantageous than fish hydrolysate. Fish emulsion fertilizer lacks many oils and proteins that fish hydrolysate fertilizer has in abundance. So let’s look at that!

Fish Hydrolysate

Fish hydrolysate fertilizer generally starts out the same way as fish emulsion. It gets broken down using enzymes, proteases, or chemicals. However, fish hydryolysate doesn’t undergo the heating and skimming process that you get with the fish emulsion. The higher quality fish hydrolysates only undergo “cold-processing” which just means they are never heated enough to break down significant amino acid chains. Good fish hydrolysate also retains the fats and oils that microbes love!

Our Fish Fertilizer Recipe

This method of making fish fertilizer is awesome because it is a cold process, chemical-free, completely organic way to make fish fertilizer right at home. While fish emulsion lacks beneficial ingredients vital to the final product, this fish hydrolysate recipe preserves all those active ingredients. You don’t want to miss out on those oils that microbes love. Try this recipe in the yard or in a raised bed garden (If you are a novice gardener you can view videos online to learn how to plant a raised bed garden)

How to make your own fish fertilizer:

  1. Buy a fish.

TIP: Any kind of fish will work.  In fact, you might as well use trash fish, or fish discards like fish heads, guts, etc.  I like to use whole fishes though as I think that makes for a better product.

  1. Now, ideally you would throw the fish into a blender to mash it up into little pieces.  I cut my fish into 8ths or so and then chuck it into my kitchen blender but I’m a bit of a caveman.  If you’re squeamish, buy a separate blender for this, just make sure it is powerful enough, mine is 500W and works fine for small-medium size fishes.  Remember, the finer the fish bits, the more effective the fermentation.
  2. Add water.  You can use a simple guide of 3:1 – 3 parts water to 1 part ferment material.  1 roughly 8in tilapia comes to about 500mL when ground up, so I add about 1500mL water.

TIP: ALWAYS USE NON-CHLORINATED WATER.  Chlorine kills microbes.  Simply let your chlorinated tap water sit for several hours, allowing the chlorine to dissipate.  I let it sit overnight generally.

  1. If you are using a blender, blend up the mixture.  The water helps keep it loose so it blends much betterafter you add the water.
  2. Add lacto bacilli to blended fish mixture.  I use 2tbsp per L.  You can use more or less if you want.  2tbsp/L is plenty though. See our lactobacillus recipe for proper preparation and dilution of your lacto serum.
  3. Add 1/3 parts sugar.  This should be 1/3 the amount of fish you’ve added.  Sugar will be either molasses or normal cane sugar.

TIP:  Try not to use cane sugar since it is chemically bleached.  Raw(unrefined) sugar like muscovado is best.  In the Philippines we use molasses because it is cheap, but any glucose source works – syrup, honey, etc.  Just use whatever is cheap.  Glucose gives microbes energy.  Whatever you have access to cheaply, go for it.

  1. If using sugar, the equivalency is about 1KG sugar = 1L solution.  So if you have 500mL like my tilapia, you want 1/3 of that in sugar.  You’d use about 167g sugar, or roughly ¾ cup.
  2. I blend the whole mixture up a bit.  It’s good to have it as fine as possible.
  3. Up to you how much you blend it, I blend until I don’t hear so many bones crunching in the blades of the blender.
  4. Now you have liquefied fish, sugar, and lacto.  Pour this mixture into a container.  Loosely cover the container.  No need to seal, because the container will explode as CO2 is released by fermentation.  You just want to make sure other things don’t get into it.  I use a container with a lid and loosely screw the cap on top (just make sure you don’t seal it because it WILL explode).
  5. The process takes anywhere from 3 weeks to over a month.  How do you know its finished?  By the smell.
  6. You know when it’s done when there is no smell anymore.  During fermentation there is a nasty smell, but once completed, there will be almost no odor.  You can open it, and put your nose right up to it.  Take a whiff.  Nothing but a faint vinegar smell.  Now you know its done.  Congratulations!  You’ve made your own Fish Hydrolysate!
  7. Now, usually I transfer it to a smaller container, usually just a smaller water bottle, just for convenience.  At this time, I use a strainer and a funnel to strain the bones and scales out of the hydrolysate.  But don’t expect a lot.  From a whole 8-10in tilapia, you will only get a little tiny pile of bones/scales.  They will feel kind of rubbery, not brittle.  Throw these in the compost pile or garden, they are excellent fertilizer and microbe food, already inoculated with microbes!
  8. Leave the cap on the strained concoction loose until you see no more little bubbles forming.  Then cap it and store it for use as your own natural fertilizer.

How to use this fish fertilizer:

Mix 2tbsp/gal for applications.


  • Use as a soil drench as opposed to foliar spray.
  • Inoculate compost to boost fungal population.  This is huge – major growth booster of fungus.
  • Use in compost teas to boost fungal growth, add Nitrogen.  Use at ¼ strength for this application(1/2 tbsp per gal).
  • Mix in water when watering plants, as a natural fish fertilizer and to enhance populations of micro-organisms in the soil