Skills workshops – archive

This post is to simply document and consolidate in archival form the information and notes about skills workshops that have been held over the last few years.


Seedsaving Skills Day 2011

  • Seedsaving Skills Day
  • April 2 2011
  • Mid Mountains Community Garden
  • Kihilla, Queens Rd, Lawson
  • More information will be posted soon

Seedsaving Skills Day March 8 2009

This was a truly uplifting and inspiring day. 45 people attended to share and learn.

We started in the best possible way by watching the new film by Jude and Michel Fanton “Seeds Blong Umi”. I have watched this film several times now, and while the practical message remains strong and clear, each time the effect on me becomes more emotional and less cerebral. This film bears witness to the principles of sharing and custodianship – community responsibilities in a time when selfishness and greed seem to be held in higher esteem by our national community. Strongly Recommended if you havn’t seen it yet. In the best possible way, the film set the scene for the timeless significance of our small gathering, and gave us the uplifting thought that around the country and around the world, small groups were gathering to do exactly the same thing – with different seeds, different languages, different cultures – but each with the same intention of sustaining and celebrating strong, resilient, diverse and sustainable communities.

A Clip of the film can be seen below and the DVD can be ordered from The Seedsavers Network
Youtube Video

After tea and bit of a yarn, we got on with the main business of the day. We split into groups of 6 or 7 and rotated around seven tables where small presentations were being given by experienced seed saving members of our group. At each table the different aspects of seed saving were presented in some detail. Catherine talked about peas and beans; John spoke about the difficulties of maintaining true varieties in the brassica family; Erica shared her experience of growing and saving seed from the cucurbit family; Louise stepped through the process for tomatoes; Loret showed how simple some plants like lettuce could be, while John demonstrated the system of viability testing and record keeping. Our thanks to these people who prepared such interesting displays – and, we are proud to say, they are just a small part of the large reservoir of experience and wisdom that we have at our regular meetings.

seedsavers_skills_day_feb-09_(1) seedsavers_skills_day_feb-09_(3) seedsavers_skills_day_feb-09_(5)

After lunch we were treated to a quite unexpected delight in the talk from Melissa Ryan of Australian Crop Protectants about natural pest control. Australian Crop Protectants are an Australian company which has been providing natural pest control options to the horticultural industry for 30 years. With a new range of consumer products available (Eco Organic Garden) , this home grown skill and experience is now available to home gardeners like us – who are often hard pressed to produce anything in quantity from our gardens, never mind having surplus seed to share! Melissa spoke with great authority and conviction about the need to observe the natural processes in our gardens – it is only when we understand the life cycles and feeding habits of the pests in our gardens are we able to work with nature to defend against them. OCP have a range which includes anti-fungals, systemic pesticides as well as live predators – which you can order in larval form and release into the garden. Most of these were certified as permissable inputs to organic farming, as well as, in the case of the Green Lacewing, Australian native insects predators. It was a most interesting and enjoyable presentation and our thanks to Melissa for coming out to talk to us.

greenlacewing1 greenlacewing3 lacewing2

After more tea and home made cakes, we had a bit of a show-and-tell with produce from our gardens, sharing a bit of knowledge and pride at the same time..

Tomato_taste_test__april_06-1.jpg_(12) seedsavers_skills_day_feb-09_(9) seedsavers_skills_day_feb-09

Our thanks to everyone for attending and making this such a wonderful day.

Grafting Workshop 2008

What a Fantastic Day we had!!

It was a really good feeling gaining a useful and practical skill that we can practice in our own gardens, pass on to others, and which opens up so many opportunities for creativity and productivity.

Jill Cockram was a really knowledgeable and experienced practitioner of the technique of grafting and a great teacher too. She was able to guide us through some of the reasons for grafting, different rootstocks and compatibilities, the tools, techniques and some basic science of plant physiology which underpins the art. We then went on to do some practicing – ‘The Whip Graft’, ‘The Whip and Tongue’, the omega tool, the bench grafting tool, and only suffered some minor (!) accidents with the very sharp blades!


Then it was straight on to the real thing. Jill had brought a variety of rootstocks
• three different varieties of apple rootstock – M26 (which produces a tree which grows to 2.5m), M27 (producing a tree which grows to 1.5m), and Bud9 (which produces the very low or ‘stepover’ shape of tree). The ‘M’ is named after the Malling agricultural research station which developed a range of rootstocks with different purposes
• ‘St Julienne’ – which can take all of the stone fruit – peaches, plums, nectarines, almonds
• ‘Stallion’ for the cherries
• ‘Calleryana’ for the pears

More photos from grafting workshop
Photos from Villandry (and others) showing examples of apple tree training and the ‘stepover’ apple.

BM Gazette article

BM Gazette article

Hard Graft Bears FruitMid Blue Mountains Seedsavers recently held their fruit tree grafting day at the Bullaburra Progress Association Hall. The day was so successful and enjoyable that all agreed it would become a regular fixture on the groups’ calendar.

The workshop was led by Jill Cockram form Southern Highlands Permaculture who had great knowledge and experience of grafting to pass on.

Grafting is the art and science of adding the wood of one or more fruit types onto a ‘rootstock’. The rootstock is selected because of its hardiness, vigour, or because of the tree size that it will produce. The fruiting wood is selected because of the quality of the fruit produced, the time of year it ripens, disease resistance, or because it is suited to a particular use eg eating, cooking, cider etc. With the range of climates experienced across the Blue Mountains, being able to select rootstock and fruit type is a great advantage.

Another benefit of grafting is that it gives the Blue Mountains gardener access to the many thousands of apple varieties that have been developed in many different parts of the world over hundreds of years. Some have romantic names like ‘Egremont Russet’, while others have particular qualities like ‘Vista Bella’ which gives you fresh apples to eat before Christmas, just when the cold-store apples run out in the shops. Others, like the ‘Bramley Seedling’ whose cooking qualities are renouned eleswhere, are relatively unknown in Australia. One thing is sure – they give you a huge choice when compared with the usual four or five varieties available from supermarkets!

By developing the skill of grafting, home gardeners also gain the advantage of being able to squeeze more varieties into their gardens, which can be selected to produce delicious fresh and nutritious fruit over 6 months of the year. So called ‘dwarfing’ rootstocks produce trees which a very small and suitable for trellising and can be more easily netted and protected from our famously hungry Mountains birdlife!

Mid Mountains Seedsavers are one of over 70 local seed networks around Australia which are affiliated with The Seedsavers Network. Their aim is to develop the skills and awareness required to preserve varieties of fruit and vegetables that are suitable for home food production. For more information about Mid Mountains Seedsavers go to, or phone Loret on 4759 2118

With food and petrol prices rising and the effects of climate change all around us, techniques like grafting and seedsaving are becoming ever more relevant for residents of the Blue Mountains. However, as any of the attendees of our Grafting Day would agree – you don’t need any other reasons to get involved – Its just so much fun!



There was a real ‘heads down’ atmosphere as 25 of us then went about the busines of selecting from the HUGE quantity of scion material that we had all brought (see the table below). We had to start developing the skills of first selecting matching thickness of rootstock and scion material, making a clean angle cut in on each with our knives, then holding the two together while wrapping the grafting tape around to hold them in place. The graft was finished off with a coating of mastic to exclude air and water while the graft healed. Not forgetting the labels where we recorded both the rootstock and the scion variety. These were made of cut up aluminium drink can that automatically ‘engraved’ as we wrote, thus making the information impervious to fading.

There was a strong feeling that this was such a useful and enjoyable day that we should do it regularly to refine our skills and pass them on to others. Watch this Space!!!

Fruit Variety comments

Apple ‘Vista bella’ A favourite. Very Early – usually eating before Christmas, thus spreading the harvest and avoiding the worst of the fruit fly problem.
‘Pink Lady’
‘John Grieve’ Heirloom from Scotland 1820?
coxs orange pippin Collecting from friend(Shelley) in Katoomba
Golden Delicious
Egremont Russet
Sturmer Pippin
Stayman Winesap
Granny Smith
Ribston pippin
Autumn Pearman
Kidds Orange Pippin
Bramley Seedling
Londan Pippin

Cherry Lapin Self pollenating sweet cherry dark flesh
Stella Self pollinating good producer if you can beat kids and birds
Early River (xBurgsdorf)

Stone Fruit
Almond ‘Fritz’ or ‘NonPareill’ Its a double grafted tree and I don’t know which one is which
Nectarine ‘New Boy’
Goldmine Pruning my new tree reported to have white flesh and freestone
May Grant

Pear ‘Winter Cole’
Williams European pear
Nashi Japanese pear, hopefully we can graft as prolific producer in Woodford
Plum ‘sugar plum’ don’t know real name but this is small and eliptical shape with green flecks on red skin when ripe. very sweet and firm flesh. often sold in shops as ‘sugar plum’
mirabelle small round yellow plum used widely in france. Glowinski (The Complete Book of Growing Fruit in Australia) has some interesting facts about the relationships between the plum varieties.
Mariposa blood plum
Golden Drop
? Large round red skinned and flesh plum, prolific growth and great eater.
D’Agien Prune
Robe Sargeant (prune)
Satsuma (blood Plum)
October Purple
Santa Rosa

Apricot unknown Hopefully we can graft this apricot it has produced med sized fruit in abundance every year (weve lived here 9 years) before xmas, good eater and jam maker
Story/Early Moore park
Moore Park

Peach Red Haven

Skills Workshop March 8 2009

Skills Day

Our normal seed saving meetings are a frenzy of inspired activity, and often we don’t have time to go into some of the discussions or techniques of seedsaving in any depth. This day is going to change that, and dig deeper into the practices and skills that are necessary to build a long term viable seed bank for our organic food gardens. It will be based around the SeedSavers Network ‘Local Seed Network Manual’, and be presented by experienced members of the Mid Blue Mountains Seedsavers group. The following are the approximate session times

9.30am – New Film Screening! “Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi”

“This film was shot over two years and celebrates traditional food varieties and the people that grow them. We nearly died shooting this one hour documentary on seeds – were lost in a canoe at night on a rough sea in the Solomons. We shot it all, a hundred and sixty hours, in eleven countries. There is a rich sound track, mostly indigenous music recorded in the making of the film. See three minute trailer on the website. It was made for you so please now show it to your network of friends.” Michel and Jude

“Our Seeds: Seeds Blong Yumi” addresses the problems of globalised food based on hybrids that require pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. The film shows how individuals and small groups have solved these problems. A celebration of the seed keepers that stand at the source of humanity’s diverse food heritage.

11.00am – Seedsaving Skills

This session is based on the Seedsavers Network publication “Local Seed Network Manual” (copies of which are available for loan) and will cover the following

  • * Sourcing Seeds and Other Plant Material
  • * Drying and Cleaning Seeds
  • * Storing Seeds
  • * Keeping Records
  • * Testing Seeds
  • * Sharing Skills
  • * Promoting Seedsaving

1pm Lunch – please bring your own lunch and morning tea to share. Tea and coffee facilities will be provided.

1.30pm Special Presentation – Natural Pest Management (tbc)

As organic gardeners, we are faced with a number of seeming intractable obstacles when trying to grow our own produce. We don’t want to turn to the many poisons that are available to tackle these situations, so what do we do?

This presentation will discuss the latest information on natural pest and disease management techniques in our organic gardens, including the use of natural predators. OCP will also present some of their innovative new certified organic pest and disease management products.

Organic Crop Protectants P/L (OCP) have been operating in Australia since 1990. They are a leading manufacturer and distributor of Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) Certified Organic Crop Protection and Nutrition products.

2.30pm 4th Annual Tomato Taste Test

Bring along your tomatoes and join the tasting panel for a fun assessment of the quality of our produce, and the differences between the many varieties available

  • Unfortunately numbers are limited so please book early to reserve your place
  • Location – Bullaburra Progress Association Hall cnr GWH & Noble St, Bullabarra
  • Date –Sunday March 8 2009
  • Time Please arrive at 9.30, scheduled finish is 3.30pm
  • Cost $10
  • Bookings –, 4759 2118
  • Organised by Mid Blue Mountains Seedsavers
  • Printable Flier for Skills Workshop


Mid Blue Mountains Seedsavers skills day (PDF file)

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