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I’ve Learned – by Kane, Koanga Urban Garden Apprentice

The following was presented by Kane at the conclusion of his 7 month Urban Garden Apprenticeship.

I’ve learnt many things in 7 intense months of big learning curves… and being out of comfort zones… and old habits.

3 major learning curves are:

  • Bio intensive gardening method
  • Co ordinating Hand Over A Hundy
  • Living in a busy ‘business community’.


simple things yet…I didn’t know to do them before,like;

  • Setting out the beds that fit the situation.
  • Planning the bed into meters and the 4 rotation crop types.
  • To make food for the garden through compost.
  • Killing the grass ahead of time.
  • Double digging (methodical digging…so its sustainable).

I’ve learnt how to grow seedlings form seed,
that PO (pricking out) is 3 stages:

Sowing many packets of seed to one tray to keep an organised and clutter free space. And that when two leaves appear I ‘prick’ them out into 25mm spacings into another tray, and when they are about as big as my thumb and smaller etc, i can plant them out in diagonal spacings in the bed to maximise plant numbers per metre available. Simple things, were the important success’s.

I’ve learnt that SS (scatter sowing) is 2 stages:

Sowing into one tray many packets and simply transplanting into the garden when the second leaves appear, especially root crops cos after a point, the roots need to get established in the bed and not in the tray.
All these things i could have read about, but I just wouldn’t have got it the same, and I learn best manually, methodically, systematically, slowly.

I’ve learnt to be more comfortable in larger groups of people, and have become more comfortable in speaking publicly (without my guitar).
I’ve learnt to be comfortable with cooking for many people and have gained confidence there.
I’ve learnt about broths and real milk, and tried a high fat diet for 7 months.
I’ve learnt to think in terms of looking for High nutrient value greens to grow, that lift calcium levels for the body, and urban garden shapes tat might provide more fat soluble vitamins and sources of vitamin A, like animal meat and bones and all parts and eggs.

I’ve become more resourceful and confident when faced with a bare bit of dirt…
a packet of seeds…and a spade.
I can create a food garden now, now that I have a system in my mind to call upon.
I didn’t have this knowledge before.

I’ve learnt leadership skills.
I’ve learnt to be more organised.
And I know I need to hone that more.
I’ve learnt the skill of; ‘just making a decision and running with it’, and jumping in and learning on the fly. Thats been a great gift,

Through having to ‘implement the theory’.. laid out in the Hand Over A Hundy coordinators guideline I’ve learnt to trust that ideas can turn into reality.
I’ve learnt that I couldn’t have broken the ice on achieving that, without Kay and Jade’s support.

  • I’ve learnt to communicate better and more honestly, though sometimes not enough and I get stuck.
  • I’ve learnt that I need others talents and abilities to grow and succeed.
  • I’ve learnt about my fuzzy mind when my energy drops, or I haven’t got enough psychological space around me between tasks and expectations.
  • I’ve learnt that its my own expectations often, that put the most pressure on me.
  • I’ve learnt I need to manage my own fears and perception better.
  • I learnt that I have trouble managing my time ‘sometimes’ so I can look after my own needs. And that that can lead to a heavy cloud when I’ve done too much and still feel the required tasks barking at me.
  • I’ve learnt that i can get a type of sulking going when I feel stuck about an undesirable situation, when I don’t know how to talk about or negotiate what would work for me…because i can’t see what the alternatives are.
  • I’ve learnt that I need to be clear about what I want. Or I’ll just get my own vagaries.
  • I learnt to value other peoples ability to bring things up, when I’m afraid too.
  • I’ve learnt that I don’t like keeping rabbits in a cages, as I traced the effect upon myself daily, being in charge of their quality of life and watching them scratch the cage, and be dependant on me for their food variety, getting it right, and watching them not being able to hide from the cage cleaner etc.
  • I’ve learnt that I don’t like the extra vigilance required for caring for 3 sets of animals.
  • I’ve learnt that chickens are enough for me, and what shape I would experiment with.
  • I’ve learnt a new use of the word ‘shape’. And to trust that there could be a satisfactory shape for both party’s.
  • I’ve learnt the value of doing something I don’t like to get to the things I do like.
  • I’ve learnt that I enjoy the ‘soil’… that the chickens create with their manure, kitchen scraps, weeds, oats and pampas grass etc.
  • I’ve learnt how good that compost feels warm in my hand as i mix it with the forest garden plants I plant.
  • I’ve learnt about guilds and perennial beds.  I’ve learnt to build garden structures and a solar cloche.
  • I’ve learnt to make many comfry plants from root cuttings, and gooseberry cuttings and pull up raspberry suckers roots n all.
  • I’ve learnt the joy of giving away excess plants and seedlings.
    I’ve learnt the joy of giving through time and sharing information.
  • I’ve learnt that I get muddled sometimes on a learning curve…without a systematic approach and specifics to remind, clarify and keep me on track.
  • I’ve learnt that I need to be this for other beginner gardeners.
  • I’ve learnt about a spread sheet…and making more lists and storing data.
  • I learnt to prune a peach tree into a vase shape ideally, and to let the plum tree fly right out, and to cut a lot back if need be, and leave a few fruiting spurs. And that apple trees are pruned into tares, and that you can prune trees to make them good for claiming into.
  • I’ve learnt there’s a lot of personal discretion in judgement calls when pruning trees, and always a few exceptions to the rule.
  • I’ve learnt to walk around the garden pinching out shoots to change the symmetry of young fruit trees, and flower buds to stop them fruiting so the energy goes into growth. And to tie branches down to enable other branches to get the growth sap.
  • I’ve learnt about nixtamalization of grain and corn to increase its volume and nutrient availability for the chickens.
  • I’ve learnt about how to make a bio char burner out of three 9 kg gas bottles, or two 44 gallon drums and a bit of flu pipe.
  • I’ve learnt how to put bio char in the compost to load it before applying it to any growing beds.
  • I’ve learnt about the journey of composting and it’s different outcomes given different ratios of greens n Browns and minerals etc.
  • I’ve learnt about the lemon and mandarin tree guild / forest gardening  and watched berry bushes grow and espalier fruit trees, and de-budded them or pinched off unwanted water shoots, or taken cuttings to make more berry bushes.
  • I’ve learnt how to graft an Aguta male to a female, and to train a grape vine into single leaders so it looks trim and tidy, and pinch off the growing tip if theirs two bunches of baby grapes, so they get the sap.
  • I’ve learnt about the effectiveness of solar ovens and rocket stoves and showers by using them weekly.
  • I’ve learnt to not take on too many things, because I want to do a few things really well.
  • I’ve learnt that I needed to take on many things, and try lots of things, to work that out.
  • I’ve learnt that I’m really grateful for this time, and how its feed my soul the way I needed, so I could be the person I need to be.

Resilient, resourceful, patient, consistent.

I’ve learnt that  I’ve found my thing, and can now be more present  and focused in life, by being active in things I value and sharing skills and empower people because I have been empowered.

I’ve learnt that I’m a Green Collar worker: I establish and maintain edible landscapes, back yard food garden culture, community resilience, food security, home grown health, and toil that gives meaning to my own life.

Thank you 🙂