Four Simple Steps to Cleaning your Seed Trays

Four Simple Steps to Cleaning your Seed Trays

August and September are the perfect months to start planting veggie seeds in Hong Kong! In order to prep before planting, the first thing to do is to clean your seedling trays. No need to buy new ones every year – it’s better to buy sturdy trays and reuse them!

First, let’s talk about why we need to clean our trays?

If we reuse dirty trays from the last seed planting, there may be some pathogens left behind from the last growing season, leaving new seedlings more susceptible to disease and dying off of seedlings. Making sure that your tools and equipment are clean is a simple way to prevent mold, fungus and other diseases from damaging your newly sown seeds.

Sanitizing is a relatively easy process and well worth it to help ensure that your seeds will thrive.

How do we do it?

There are many ways to sanitize your trays such as using boiling water or spraying them with a vinegar and water solution. Keep in mind that these methods may not completely sterilize your trays and tools.

One method that is safe and provides anti-bacterial and anti-fungal protection, plus kills mold and mildew, is to use hydrogen peroxide (H202) at 3% strength. It’s best to use food grade hydrogen peroxide since you’re growing food that you’ll be eating! You can find food grade H202 in bulk at Live Zero in Sai Ying Pun! :

So, here’s how to do it:

  1. First step is to brush off any old organic matter from your trays with a cloth, brush or scrubber. Make sure to brush off all sides of the tray.
  2. Grab a bucket, fill with with soapy water and wash your trays. If you don’t have a bucket, a large sink, tub or your shower will work just fine.
  3. Next either soak your trays in the hydrogen peroxide solution or fill a spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide, spray your trays and let sit for 20 minutes.
  4. Rinse trays and dry in the sun

Now that your trays are all cleaned and sterilized, it’s time to plant your seedlings! Stay tuned for the next post on how to make a simple seed starting mix!

NEW Compost Bin at Naivasha Primary Highway School!

NEW Compost Bin at Naivasha Primary Highway School!

A quick update on happenings at Naivasha Highway Primary School in Kenya. Covid has set us back a tiny bit but Elizabeth Wanjiru (Liz) and team have been back to work! The school now has a brand new, beautiful compost bin! The school staff is incredibly excited! Each phase of the project is helping to get the school closer to self-sustainability. The plan is for it to be a model for other schools.

Here’s a word from Liz: “Actually the idea (for the compost bin) came at a perfect time where people (the school) are very conscious of how to dispose and make use of what they produce! And make use of the end product by puting it into their school garden. By the way another good and beautiful news is the teachers took advantage of the vast school area and they are doing farming in there. They’re growing peas, potatoes, nightshades,and many more!”

Regarding the permaculture system, Liz says, “the school is also happy with the permaculture system since a lot now is coming to making sense – the principal of interconnection is clearly seen – though we don’t stop here, hopefully. We look forward to improving the system as we go on.”

“Just excited that despite covid, as a team we managed to make some progress with the school on the first water tank where its really helping the school since a lot of water is being used to adhere to covid measures and now we also have the educational compost bin! Still hopeful for more upgrades for this systems bearing in mind this is our permaculture model site for other schools and communities!”

Next up, we’ll continue raising funds for a second water tank. You can check out the fundraiser here

Bring Rainwater Collection to Naivasha Highway Primary School

Bring Rainwater Collection to Naivasha Highway Primary School

I’m honored to be working with Liz Shish and Kagwe James developing a school garden for Naivasha Highway Primary School in Naivasha, Kenya. We’re currently raising funds to provide water to the school. πŸ’§πŸ’¦
If you are looking for a project to contribute to, please consider this one. All funds will go directly to our project.

Thank you for your consideration. πŸ™β€ Here are the details: πŸ¦‹πŸπŸžπŸŒ³πŸŒ±

Water for Naivasha Highway Primary School!

From Nairobi to Naivasha and Back – April 2019

From Nairobi to Naivasha and Back – April 2019

We’ve (Paige, Mark and Julie) just returned from an amazing week in Kenya. The purpose of this visit was to reconnect with the children and the rest of our team at Kids’ Dream Orphanage in Nairobi. It was a fantastic week spent surrounded by many people I hold in very high regard because of the good they do for others and the Earth.

The team focuses on promoting the creation of regenerative economy though self-reliance and education. As much as possible, we try to get the kids involved in learning activities and interaction with inspirational role models. One of the highlights was a trip to Naivasha with all the children to see our friends James Kagwe and Elizabeth Wanjiru (Liz Shish) of Waste to Best Environmental. Liz and James are continuing to build upon the good work at their recycling center by adding new grey-water garden at an estate and a school garden project, as well as working in their community garden.

The school garden project is located at Naivasha Highway Primary and was a highlight for me because this project includes an after school permaculture club run by one of the teachers and Liz. It has been very popular with everyone involved and the latest news is that students are coming during their breaks to check on the garden! Project highlights include long, large double dug beds, a mandala garden and a garden watered by a greywater irrigation system. The double dug beds are prepared by digging deep trenches and filling them with compost and soil enriching material such as leaves, branches, manure, etc and then covered over again with the dug up soil. This helps keep moisture in the soil and provides nutrients to the plants. It is a very beneficial technique to combat drought. So far, the team has planted a wide assortment of herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees and despite the serious drought, the garden is thriving. Irrigation for one garden is provided through a greywater system tied into the handwashing station at the school. Overall, this is a great demonstration of drought tolerant planting strategies coupled with responsible resource management.

Our second stop was a greywater project in a nearby estate. The estate was due to be closed down due because there was a problem with poor drainage on the land causing unsanitary conditions. Liz and James designed and implemented a solution that directs this wastewater into a trench that feeds into a garden. At the moment, the food grown is fed to chickens until they add in plants (vetiver and moringa) that can filter the water before it heads to the vegetable garden.

The third stop was a visit to the community garden. The space is an amazing site with such a diversity of plants but also serves as a gathering place where women such as Rose lead projects like Jewelry Making. Rose’s goal is help to create an income for widows who have a difficult time finding employment.

Last but not least, we visited their recycling and food waste center, Waste to Best Environmental, to show the children how waste can become an asset. They also have animals – chickens and ducks (helping to turn the food waste into compost), sheep, a donkey (for hauling food scraps and recycling from local estates to their center) and puppies which of course was the favorite part of the day for the kids.

Before Mark, Julie and I headed home, we planned a short workshop at the orphanage,Β  Gardening and Composting in Small Spaces. First we had to prepare the space so Jared, Gilbert and others set off to find material to use for mulching the top of the garden bed. They came back with corn husks. The team also came up with a new garden design which incorporated a new water rainwater harvest trench that will help capture the water into the garden instead of it rushing out into the street. This will help soak the space when rainwater is available but also can be used as a pathway instead of stepping on the soil. During the workshop we showed the neighbors examples of what they can grow in a small space and familiarized them with some local medicinal plants. We also taught them how to make compost with their food scraps and discussed alternative options for planting containers, such as recycled plastic water bottles. Finally, we demonstrated how to use the corn husks to mulch the garden beds after planting.

During this visit we were able to raise funds for ALL of the school fees for the YEAR! A great big THANK YOU to all of our donors! We brought donated books from Palatine, Illinois that were collected by the Marion Jordan Elementary School with the initiative being led by Daisy Troop #45304! The children absolutely loved the books and in fact, read every chance they got while we were there.

Our visit included starting an exciting chicken project at Kids’ Dream that will ensure that they have meat and eggs and also are able to raise chickens to sell.

Time flew by and we were sad to go. We are already looking forward to going back.

Until then, asante sana kwa kusoma!



Waste to Best Visit, Naivasha, Kenya August 2018

Waste to Best Visit, Naivasha, Kenya August 2018

Once in a while an opportunity comes along to meet people who are truly an inspiration to their community and the world. This post is about James Kagwe and Elizabeth Wanjiru (Liz Shish).

I first met James and Liz earlier this year at a permaculture course held in Kenya. At that time we discussed their vision for sustainability and how permaculture has helped change their community. I was fortunate to join my friends Julie and Mark in Kenya last month and see what James and Liz were working on in their village of Naivasha. What they have accomplished is MIND BLOWING!

A few years ago, James and Liz recognized there was a huge need for waste management in Naivasha. Some areas in Kenya do not have waste collection systems in place. The locals’ habit is to throw garbage on the ground because there are no trash bins. Trash is then piled all together with no system of sorting. Garbage is literally lying all over, with valuable materials, such as vegetable scraps, adding to the problem (rather than being exploited for other uses). Animals can be seen grazing on the garbage, including plastics and other materials not suitable as a food source, while at the same time, kids are using scraps of waste as toys. Naivasha was suffering, but is not unique.

Liz and James made the bold decision to do something about these unsanitary conditions. We met up with them for a tour to show us the INCREDIBLE work they have accomplished at the 4 sites they manage. These include:
β€’ Community Garden
β€’ Waste to Best Recycling and Compost Center
β€’ Waste Separation Program in the Estates
β€’ Fully working Farm

In just 5 years, they have educated the neighbors on waste separation, begun a waste management program and built a sorting site where the waste is separated for recycling or composting. Perhaps, the most interesting aspect is that the waste is transported by burro!

The community garden was built in a space that was completely barren, with nothing but dead soil. It is now thriving, and full of life because of their amazing composting efforts (as well as their green thumbs). The garden has not only brought the community together, but also offer a place to hold garden classes to the wider community. Liz and James teach all the classes and also provide spaces for students to grow food.

Finally, we visited their farm. It is a space they use as a demonstration site to showcase different techniques where local farmers can get tips on how to grow food naturally, without chemicals and pesticides. The farmers are currently watering the vegetables and fruit trees with rainwater collected in a series of pits, each one flowing into the next, filtered naturally through the soil.

This visit was a really special treat for me as I am always encouraging people to compost and get inspired by people who are working every single day to be change makers in their communities. James and Liz have most definitely made a difference in Naivasha for both the environment as well as for its people.

Their work is an excellent example of how a small group of people can massively change a whole community. Grateful to them for doing what they do.


#changemakers #permaculture #communitygarden #recyclingcenter #compost #wastemanagement #reducereuserecycle


Kenya Trip Week Two: Water Harvesting for Food Security Course – January 2018

Kenya Trip Week Two: Water Harvesting for Food Security Course – January 2018

After our workshop in Soweto, I headed to a course in Natuum, a Massai village in Northern Kenya. The course, Water Harvesting for Food Security was coordinated by the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya (PRI Kenya) and led by Warren Brush and Joseph Lentunyoi.

Natuum is a very dry, desertified area, with sloped land that has wide gulleys. The land is desertified for several reasons and I will highlight a couple of those reasons here.

Overgrazing. The Massai are traditionally shepards. This way of life is no longer working well for them because they have been moved to smaller lands, which do not have enough grazing space for the amount of animals that they have grazing. As a result, the grass is grazed to the point where it has no ability to recover and dies. Overgrazing is leaving the soil bare, exposing it to elements. Bare soil has no way to hold in the moisture so any precipitation does not sink into the ground.

Lack of ground cover. As there is no grass to capture the water, in heavy rains, water rolls down the slopes, taking any available soil and nutrients with it. This leads to the creation of wide gulleys and loss of sediment.

The great news is that there are solutions to help reverse these conditions. The purpose of the course was to help capture and plant rainwater by creating water catchment areas and also plant grass seeds that will grow and cover the soil. These catchment areas will hold the water and nutrients in the landscape, preventing further erosion and allow plants and trees to grow and provide food for the Massai and the animals.


We began our work at the highest part of the landscape, studying and following the path of the water in the land to see how the water flowed. Next, we found the contours in the land using A-frames. Finding the contours allowed us to mark the outline for the swales we planned to dig. We then marked out the contour with stones. Next we dug out the swales by hand. Swales are either natural or man-made trenches or basins, made along a land’s contour. They are created to convey and promote water infiltration and also capture nutrients and sediment that would otherwise be carried down the slope.

We have recently gotten updates showing how the space has “greened up” and nutrients and water are being captured!

One final note: Swales are not the solution for every project but suited the needs for this land. Make sure to do your research before digging in to make sure swales are appropriate for your site.