About Bellingen Seedsavers

We are a group of like-minded growers of edible and useful heritage plant varieties in the Bellingen area of northeast New South Wales, Australia.

Our climate varies from frost-free coastal areas to inland river valleys and highlands with frosts. Bellingen has an average annual rainfall of 1507ml.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Food Shortages? Try Chaya Tree Spinach

With projected food shortages now is the time to plant Chaya Tree Spinach and other edible perennials.

Chaya Spinach Tree
3m high Chaya Spinach Tree

Chaya Tree Spinach (Cnidiscolus chayamansa) is a fantastic and abundant food. Chaya leaves do need some cooking preparation as do Cassava leaves and Warrigal Greens. Wikipedia states up to 5 raw leaves a day can be eaten but other sources are more cautious. Although blending and drying also seems to remove the toxic hydrocyanic acid substances, boiling for 20 minutes is recommended. The leaves survive the boiling still looking green and attractive. The broth that is left can also be consumed as the toxic substances have been destroyed by the heat.

Cooking in aluminum cookware can result in a toxic broth, causing diarrhea.[13]

You are left with tasty green leaves to use as a spinach or chard substitute or to be used in a salad and smoothies.

"Chaya is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium, and iron; and is also a rich source of antioxidants.[10]" Wikipedia

The plant does burn off a little from cold but seems to survive well in a microclimate in our warm temperate-subtropical climate. There are reports that Chaya will regrow from the root after Florida's frosts. In colder climates try growing in a greenhouse.

Leafless stem cuttings are best left to dry and callus before potting up. Keep the cutting reasonably dry to avoid rotting. 

Chaya Spinach Tree leaves for cooking
Chaya Spinach Tree Leaves

The Chaya Spinach Tree (a large bush) fits well into a vegetable patch. It takes up a small ground footprint and provides some shade to other vegetables). We can reach the leaves from our deck or cut a branch that will later become a cutting.

A useful green vegetable for the subtropics
Cooked Chaya leaves,along with Carrot and Starfruit in a quick pickle before refridgeration

Credit: https://www.bioversityinternational.org

Chaya can be used as a chard substitute in many recipes but here is a link to some Chaya recipes: Cooking subtropical vegetables 

Related: Other Food Forest recipes

Friday, 3 April 2020

What to do during self isolation

Some people are looking for ideas for things that they and their families, housemates etc can do during the current self isolation period. We are only to leave the house for necessities, which leaves some people spending a lot more time at home than they normally would. Here is a list of ideas that may give you or someone you live with something to think about:
  1. Get into your garden, that is the obvious place to start.
  2. Go to our blog and browse through the mountain of compiled material  
  3. Submit material for us to include on our blog to news@bellingenseedsavers.com
  4. Ask or answer some questions, or just read what others are saying on the Bellingen Seed Saver Chatter Facebook page (you'll need a Facebook login).
  5. Visit a museum online, for example do a virtual tour of the Australian Museum.
  6. Start some online study. See for example the good universities guide or open learning universities.
  7. Listen to some podcasts.
  8. Do something crafty - knitting, pottery, sewing, build a trellis, build a greenhouse.
  9. Keep fit - do some stretching, stay mobile.
  10. Cook something that you haven't made for ages or something from our blog.
  11. Phone a friend or relative. Some people are really lonely.
  12. Write a letter.
  13. Do some jigsaws.
  14. Start writing that book you have had stuck inside you for years.
  15. Camp out in your backyard.
  16. Unleash your inner artist. Draw, paint or do some colouring.
  17. Learn some music. If you don't have an instrument at home, you can always learn to play the spoons. You don't even need a tuning fork for them.
  18. Start a nature journal.
  19. Document your gardening.
  20. Do some star gazing.
  21. Do some cloud watching.
  22. When the next storm comes, watch it roll in!
  23. Get on with your todo list.
  24. Practise mindfulness and meditation.
  25. Learn to juggle.
  26. Practise some origami.
  27. Do some puzzles - Sudoku, crosswords etc.
  28. Organise your photo collection
  29. Clean out your email inbox.
  30. Go through your list of things that you have put in the too hard basket until you have more time.
  31. Go through your belongings and see if you can make a box of things you no longer need to give to a charity (when they reopen).
  32. Play some board or card games. If you are alone, you can play for free online here or here.
  33. Start tracing your family tree.
  34. Do some photography in your home and garden.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are heaps of things we can do at home. You don't need hectares of space. One man has spent hours of his life studying one square meter.

Autumn plant fair 2020


We had had nine days with rain leading up to the plant fair and the day before the plant fair things fined up. We were lucky that the weather was very kind to us on the day of the fair. The clouds gathering on the horizon held off until Sunday and Monday when we again received a good drop off rain. Darker clouds were also brewing, with the Covid 19 virus threatening to shutdown ... Well just about everything.
Leela's report:

The autumn Plant Fair was a bit blur for me - a joyful, busy one. Familiar faces and new enthusiastic ones, this is such a positive community to be a part of. People are really valuing the importance of connecting with the earth and being a little more sharing & self reliant. We got super lucky with both the timing & the weather - I'm already looking forward to the next one!
Jeff's report:

This was our busiest Plant Fair in 11 years. Good weather and crowds of keen gardeners made the day a success. 

Almost our entire stock of Autumn – Winter seeds were sold-out. The most popular seeds were: lettuces, snow peas, pak choi, chillies, carrots, rocket, coriander, spinach & chards, bok choi, tomatoes, marigolds, basils, spring onions, nasturtiums, broccoli, wasabi lettuce, fennel, mizuna, radish and all types of beans. We distributed our entire range of plant material, nearly 70% of our stock of seed packets and a bundle of Seed Savers Handbooks.
Our range of herbs, fruits and perennial vegetables were very popular, including: Okinawa & Longevity spinach, Hawaiian sweet potato, cassava, turmeric, sweet pineapple, aloe vera, strawberries, mint, lemon grass and curry leaf.

Special thanks to all the seed and plant material suppliers, seed cleaners, seed packers and the plant fair volunteers: Tara, Jeff H, Jeff A, Gillian, Leela, Tim, Don, Phillipa, Nick, Merren, Chris, Rosemary and David.
As always, an event such as this can-not go ahead without a huge amount of work by volunteers. I'm sure I'll miss some people, but Jeff has done a good job of listing everyone except two of the most important people.

On behalf of the BSS I would like to thank Jeff for all the work he put in behind the scenes managing our seed collection, printing labels and just keeping stuff organised. Second I would like to extend our thanks to Gillian as our plant fair coordinator and generous host for our seed packing day.

If anyone is interested in taking the role of plant fair coordinator for the next plant fair, please send Gillian an email using the address plantfair@bellingenseedsavers.com

piece of history

Evelyn & Marc, the new owners/custodians of David & Irene’s property at Spicketts Creek, presented this gift of colourful zinnias. The zinnia’s, self-sown around the garden, are a lovely memory of the founders of Bellingen Seed Savers.


The future is a little less clear amid the current pandemic, but here are a couple of quotes that I think are pertinent to current times:

“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi 

"With our long TODO lists around the home, we should see this as an opportunity!"

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Fruit Waste Could Give Cheap Organic Fertilisers in 90 Days. Punjab Farmers Share How!: The Better India

"A year ago Vipesh Garg, the Budhlada Horticulture department Officer, proposed an idea to curb the massive wastage of Kinnow fruit in Mansa district of Punjab. Little did he know that his solution was going to usher in a big change. 

Popularly known as the King of Fruits in Punjab, Kinnow is a hybrid of two citrus cultivars (Citrus nobilis and Willow Leaf). The state accounts for nearly 24 per cent of India’s kinnow production. 
Kinnow’s high demand is traced to its healthy properties – rich in minerals, Vitamin C  and packed with carbohydrates. Yet, Kinnow does not bear fruits for the farmer who nurtures it. 

“On average, a kinnow grower loses up to 40 per cent of the yield just before the harvesting season due to natural fruit fall and as they fall before the harvest period, they cannot be consumed,” informs Garg

Using the concept of best-out-of-waste, he relayed his solution to his department. Where the farmers were mostly burying the fruit for fear of pests, they are now using the fallen fruit to make bio enzymes, a natural fertiliser that acts as an excellent pest repellent. 

So far, five farmers across the district are benefiting from this project

The organically made bio-enzymes concoction prepared from Kinnow fruit waste and jaggery is also reducing the dependency of farmers on expensive and toxic chemicals fertilisers. 

Also, Bio enzymes have the ability to restore soil’s nutrient cycle, promote root elongation and plant growth and increase the biomass. Overall a win-win situation for all.

Assessing the Problem

“When the waste kinnow decomposes, it pollutes the environment, further inviting diseases and pathogens,” Garg tells The Better India (TBI).
Thus, timely disposal of Kinnow becomes crucial as it can infect healthy fruits through pests. Most farmers end up burying it. 

Furthermore, Kinnow is highly susceptible to Huanglongbing (previously known as citrus greening disease), caused by a vector-transmitted pathogen. 

To fight the disease, farmers often use chemical fertilisers which further degrades soil fertility. The repercussions don’t stop there. We, as consumers, eventually eat the same chemical-infused fruits.
To counter the twin problems of pesticides and wastage, Garg’s solution of using the fallen fruit to make natural fertilisers and cleaners is perfect. 

Preparation of Bio-Enzymes 

All a farmer has to do is put the fallen fruits in a drum and add water and jaggery. 
“Maintain the ratio of 1:3:10. For example in 30 kilos of kinnow, 10 kilos of jaggery and 100 litres of water. Cover the mixture with a lid,” says Garg. 

To make things easier for the farmers, Garg came up with two types of preparation methods. 

The first process takes around 45 days to prepare the bio enzyme wherein the farmer has to open the lid every day for 15 days and then once a week. The farmer has to stir the mixture each time he opens the lid. 

In the 90-days method, farmers will have to dedicate three months for the fermentation, “The lid has to be opened every day in the first month, then twice in a week and in the final round only once in a week,” adds Garg. 

Understanding the Impact 

Kuldeep Singh of Mal Singh Wala village close to Faridkot joined the bio enzyme project a few months ago. 

On his 11-acre ancestral land, there are over 2,000 Kinnow along with Jamun and other fruit trees that the family has been growing for decades. 

Singh first prepared 10 litres of bio-enzyme from the fallen Jamun fruits and sprayed it on his 2-acre chilli fields as an experiment. 
The results were beyond expectations, Singh tells TBI, “The chillies looked fresher and their colour became brighter. But most importantly, the growth of chillies increased exponentially. This solution to the fruit waste problem opened my eyes to the fact it is possible to grow food without the use of chemicals.” 

Highly impressed by the outcome, Singh is currently preparing 400 litres of bio enzymes. He will not only use it in his fields but also sell it, thus generating extra revenue. 

“I spend around Rs 5,000 to buy two litres of pesticides that kill harmful insects. Forty days ago, I deposited all my kinnow waste in a drum. Next month, I will spray the bio-enzyme made with them on my entire farm,” he smiles. 

Another example is of Retired Colonel Rashneel Chahal who belongs to the Narinderpura village. After serving the Indian army for 23 years, he got back to his family roots and ventured into farming on his 15-acre orchard. 

The huge field has 1,800 Kinnow trees and every season some part of his fruits are wasted.

Fed up with burying them in the soil, Chahal instantly grabbed the opportunity when the horticulture department approached him. 
Speaking to TBI, he says, “I am currently preparing 200 litres of bio enzymes. I am positive that the results will be amazing.” 

Banking on the success of farmers like Chahal and Singh, the horticulture department now plans to rope in more farmers and cut down on on-farm food losses and usage of chemicals to grow food. 
Confirming the same, Shailender Kaur, Director Horticulture, Punjab tells TBI, “We are going to aggressively promote this to bust the myth that foreign disinfectants are necessary to food growth. It is high time we go back to our roots and this is a very viable solution.” 

It is no secret that farmers in Punjab are trapped in the cycle of using harmful pesticides. Against that backdrop, this eco-friendly solution can inculcate good agriculture habits not only in Punjab but across India. 

To know more about it, contact Vipesh Garg here

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)"

From: The Better India

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Seed packing at Gillian's for the Autumn plant fair - Coming Event


Grow your own food. We share locally adapted, open-pollinated, non-hybrid seeds, plants & knowledge for edible gardening

Diary Dates


Seed packing at Gillian's for the Autumn plant fair

Saturday February 29th, 10:00am-12:00pm

Bellingen Seed Savers will distribute seeds and plants at the Bellingen Autumn Plant Fair. In preparation, we will gather to pack seeds, and share  morning tea and plant knowledge. Gillian's garden is in Fernmount.
Coming? RSVP to obtain the address and so we know who’s attending, even if you already know how to get there.
Organiser: Leela O'Callaghan gardenvisits@bellingenseedsavers.com or phone 0417 536 490

Seed & Plant Swaps

Are you looking for particular seeds or plants? Do you have an abundance of something to give away?
Email in to news@bellingenseedsavers.com for your search or offer to be put in the newsletter in this section.

Can you help? Please contact the person directly.

Lost and found

Have you lost a chair?
Did you attend Nick's garden tour in November?

We may be able to help as someone left a chair at Nick's. Please send an email to news@bellingenseedsavers.com to arrange reclaiming your chair.
When donating or sharing seeds, please email in the seed information so we know what we have (click the link, the email has the questions ready to fill out)
Email: seeds@bellingenseedsavers.com

Or fill in this PDF form. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to fill this out digitally. Remember to save each seed info as a separately named file!
Or print it out and fill it in by hand.  

Monday, 10 February 2020

Shunyam's garden in Bundagen

Twenty two of us made the journey to Bundagen. It was a clear day and the sun had some bight as we toured Shunyam's beautiful garden.

Shunyam grows a huge variety and quantity of food. The food comes from three main sources: a large vegetable garden largely under shade cloth, an aquaponics area and many fruiting shrubs and trees.
Shunyam uses exclusion methods to keep pests from beating her to the harvest. Examples included a hoop house for veggies, a bird netting enclosure for her blueberries, insect netting for soft fruits and an upcycled bath tub plus wire netting for growing sweet potatoes rat free! Despite her ingenuity, Shunyam is still finding a determined brush turkey to be a real challenge.
The aquaculture system was very interesting, with two different systems used for plant growing. There were two beds with clay balls that were flood irrigated then allowed to drain. Between these was a bed that had plants on a floating platform with their roots permanently in water.
I think Shunyam's favourite fruits must be mangoes, of which she has several varieties. One which is all eaten by Christmas and another that may not be ripe until almost winter. She also had many avocados with the aim of having ripe avos year round, so perhaps these are her favourites. To overcome poor drainage, more recent avocado plantings are on top of a pile of crusher dust.

Shunyam also had many stone fruit varieties and a few olive trees, plus grapes, mulberries, jaboticabas, passionfruit, pawpaws, persimmons, figs, pomegranates, pineapples, two coconuts and many other things. 
After the fabulous tour we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch, there were so many good things to eat.

Thanks to Shunyam for sharing her garden with us.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

What's flowering and fruiting in late December in the Bellinger Rv Valley?



Crepe Myrtle (Tuscan Red)

Bismarck Palm with Furcrea in foreground

Edible (tastes like Lemon Sorrel) Cranberry Hibiscus

Flowers on Star Fruit


Wax Jambu

Golden Grumichama

Black Grumichama



Brazil Cherry
 or Pitanga or Surinam Cherry


Black self-seeded Passionfruit

Immature Kwai Muk fruit

White Penta


Strongly Perfumed Brunsfeldia

 The local peach below has been grown in this valley for some decades and is well adapted to our climate. It fruited in midsummer.

Local Dwarf White Peach
Local Dwarf White Peach is picked when it looks green but starts to soften.


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