Schools join Edible Garden Trail

Edible Garden Trail celebrates a bumper crop of gardens in its third year.

Come hell or high water - and we've had both this summer - the trail is not only surviving, but thriving, as an antidote to bushfire stress.

The third annual not-for-profit trail takes place over March 7-8 with a record number of open gardens from Blaxland to Hartley.

Concept originator, Susanne Rix, is thrilled the event has grown here as well as in Sydney suburbs, the NSW central and south coast, and in Victoria.

"I like to think we are saving the planet, one edible garden at a time."

In 2019 Ms Rix handed over the reins of administration to the Blue Mountains Food Co-op who have expanded it to include more school kitchen gardens.

"We've had a wonderful response from teachers, parents and principals who all agree there are numerous benefits from teaching kids in kitchen garden settings," said Blue Mountains Food Co-op spokeswoman Jacqueline Forster.

Carolyn Armstrong, assistant principal at Lawson Public, jumped aboard after visiting other schools with successful garden programs.

"Kids are dealing with a lot of stress from bushfires and climate change ... getting them out into the garden planting, composting and harvesting is not only a great learning experience, it is also so good for their mental health."

Environmental educator, Beth Healy aka Dirtmum, has been engaged to coordinate schools. Ms Healy and a team of parent volunteers revitalised and extended the school garden at Blaxland East after attending Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation training.

The school has integrated the kitchen garden into all aspects of the curriculum so students can enjoy lessons ranging from art, science, English and maths in their outdoor classroom.

"The kids love cooking with produce they have harvested themselves, especially the food they grow from seed," she said. "It is a wonderful closed loop system. We aren't just growing to harvest, we are growing healthy soil and growing community," Ms Healy said.

Money raised from tickets goes back to the community and school gardens via grants. Last year participating community and school gardens received $500 each to purchase kitchen garden equipment.

Mt Victoria Public School put their grant money towards a portable kitchen and Kindlehill purchased two bee suits to safely tend their hives.

There are four community gardens at Blackheath, Katoomba, Lawson and Springwood open on the weekend and three social enterprise Farm It Forward plots, as well as 35 private gardens. Ranging in size and design, from permaculture patches - complete with goats, bees, chooks, worms and even guinea pigs - to verdant verges and market gardens, growers are tackling local food security and inspiring a new generation of gardeners.

A weekend pass to all gardens is $25/$20 concession. Go to ediblegardentrail.com/shop or visit the Big Little Shop at Blue Mountains Food Co-op, Ha'penny Lane, Katoomba. Individual gardens cost $5/$2 concession and can be purchased at the garden gate.

Schools include Mt Victoria, Megalong Valley, Leura, Wentworth Falls, Kindlehill, Lawson, Faulconbridge, Springwood and Blaxland East.