Planting Day

Living in a tropical environment has its benefits such as lots of rain, plenty of warm weather and great lightning shows, the best of all is the great weather during the ‘Dry Season’ or winter as it is more commonly known in all other parts of Australia.

Being a long weekend the garden has had a lot more attention than usual with weeding, pruning, composting and most exciting of all planting. While at the nursery on Friday the wife picked up a punnet of Snapdragons and a punnet of Seaside Daisy.

Seaside Daisy is pretty drought hardy once established and is a fantastic ground cover which only requires 3 to 4 plants per square meter to get great coverage. It produces the prettiest little daisy heads which are around 10mm in diameter.

I’ve never grown Snapdragons before, but my wife assures me that they are quite pretty and will grow quickly and to around 80cm in height.

The seed bin got rummaged through again and following were direct seeded into growing location Cornflowers, Cosmos, Gypsophila, Nasturtium, Spring Onion and Kohl Rabi.

On the pruning front the blue salvias got a big hair cut, all of the old wood was removed to allow the young growth coming from around the ground to get some sunlight.Seeds

All the prunings and weeds will be thrown into the compost tumbler for a bit of spinning action. Speaking of compost, all of the seeds and seedlings were planted with a good dose of the compost from the compost tumbler.

Compost Tumbler Update

It’s been 14 days since I filled my Tumbleweed Compost Tumbler with grass clippings and horse manure. With a tumble or two each day the contents became very hot (too hot to touch one day) and has turned to a nice earthy brown colour with a sweet smell. The heat generated in the bin will be enough to sterilise any weed seeds that get put in, so there is no limit to what you compost!

Compost

Turning the bin can be a bit of a challenge when it’s completely full, but as the days go by the volume reduces due to the decomposing material. After the 14 days there appears to be a ~50% reduction in volume, leaving me with 110 liters of great compost.

My next challenge will be finding enough material in the yard to fill the bin every two weeks. There is already a stockpile of brown material such as leaves and old lawn clippings to add to the bin along with kitchen scraps and horse manure, but the continued supply may be an issue.

Over the next couple of months I will experiment with different materials in the bin and see how they compost.

How to Compost – Videos

Sitting in the airport yesterday while being delayed, there happened to be a free wifi connection available (thanks Qantas Club!). 7 hours of delay gave me plenty of time to browse through some great YouTube videos on my iPod Touch.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVZeVGi_jqs]

This one armed bandit doesn’t let his injury stop him making compost. Using two lawn mowers to break down the leaves and garden waste into compost sized pieces.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgM1mJJbOz0]

Knowing when your compost is finished is very important. Some great tips.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsUmmBaZUvI]

Some great tips for creating a compost pile.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJYzoqOgq4A]

Composting in a plastic bin, down to basics explanation on how to do it, not how it works.

Hopefully these tips will give you and your compost bin a boost in the coming days.

10 free garden boosting activites

While sitting on an aeroplane a couple of days ago, I came up with a list of things that I could do when I got home that will not cost much to do, and will boost my garden.

Collect horse manure – My friend owns two horses, I regularly go and ‘clean up’ her paddock for her, taking home at least one ute load of horse manure to dig into my garden beds.

Rake leaves and compost them – Most compost heaps don’t have enough ‘brown’ matter in them, rake up all of your leaves and run over them with your lawn mower to break them up, then throw them into your compost heap.

Dry leafy prunings, shake leaves off as mulch – Recently I’ve began to leave the branches I prune in the garden beds. Coming back a week later I shake the leaves from the branches back beneath theĀ  plant they came from. Easy mulch!

Burn old wood & spread cold ashes – Having old timber lying around your yard can attract termites, it can promote wood rot and is a haven for snakes to live in. Burn those old logs in a fireplace and spread the cold ashes over your garden. It will raise the pH, provide Potassium for your garden.

Collect sticks from bush and make a climbing frame or tomato frame – No need to spend money on tomato stakes, you can collect as many as you need from the forest or bush around your house.

Start a compost heap – Just in case you haven’t got one, you can build a compost heap to break down all the leaves, lawn clippings and kitchen scraps in your yard.

Make scrooge bottles – These are great for saving water in the garden. I have one beside my lemon tree, one beside my watermelon vine and one beside my passionfruit vine. I fill them up with water every three or four days, they provide water directly to the roots.

Collect rocks from the bush to edge the new garden – My new garden bed requires some edging, there is a small spot way out bush that has some great rocks for edging. Half a ute load should be enough to keep the flowers in.

Use garden fork to aerate lawn – Over time the soil that the lawn grows in gets compacted, by using a garden fork to puncture holes and break up the soil the soil can breathe and the water can penetrate deep into the root zone. Doing this will give you better lawns that require less water.

Collect cuttings from the park to propagate – While walking in my local park I occasionally snap off a small piece of plant to take home and propagate. This is a really cheap way to multiply your plant population.

Make weed tea – Lots of weed seeds can live through the composting process, instead of sending them off to landfill, take a 20 litre bucket and fill it up with weeds and then with water. Leave it sit for two weeks until it turns black and the weeds die. Dilute this brew down and pour on the soil around your plants to give them a boost.

Hot Compost

After taking a holiday to an eco tourism resort on and island national park, I came to realise that even though we try to live pretty green at our house, I have been lazy with my wastage.

(The time at the resort was very relaxing thank you very much.)

My worm farm has slowed down a little since the warmer weather has arrived, so there are excess food scraps going out to rubbish (I filled a 10L bucket on Sunday alone!).

I had an old 60 litre plastic garbage bin in the shed, after cutting the bottom out of it and tipping it upside down in the vegie patch I have since filled it almost to the top with food scraps, vegie garden scraps, some shredded paper, a little straw and some fresh horse manure.

24 hours later the scraps in the bin are almost untouchable, they are that hot. I would estimate that they’re at 60 degrees C.

Not much effort involved in this method really, as 60 litres is a fairly managable size to aerate, its when you get a large 1m by 1m bin that mixing the compost can get tough.

Speaking of aeration, this is the key to creating a great hot compost mix. The microbes and bacteria responsible for hot composting require plenty of oxygen to do their job of breaking down the goods. This is done with a garden fork, or can be done with a commercial corkscrew aerator. Also when adding material to your bin, add a layer of dry material such as straw between every layer of green material. This will allow the air to move between layers.

The beauty of using a hot composting method is that any weed or vegetable seeds are sterilised by the heat. Cold composting can leave seeds such as pumpkin, tomato and various grasses still viable and they will pop up all over the garden where you don’t want them.

If you’ve got any composting tips, please share them with us!

Best Compost Recipe

Lately I’ve been slack and have not been composting at home. Not because of the lack of material to compost, but due to the lack of a composting vessel.

After cleaning out my shed I found a 65 litre black polly garbage bin (trash can), which had a crack in the bottom. Instead of throwing it out I cut the bottom out (and the crack) and tipped it upside down in the vegetable garden, which is looking very sad but that’s another story.

To kick start my bin, I took a 2o litre bucket, half filled it with water and mixed in:

  • A handful of blood and bone
  • A handful of dolomite
  • A sachet of bakers yeast

I then filled the bucket up with old horse manure, that was bagged in the shed, and some old lawn clippings at a ratio of 50:50. I left this soak for a couple of hours to let the material get nice and wet.

While you wait, clear the area where the bin is to go from any weed matter, then place the bin upside down over the clear area. Pour in some lawn clippings and some left over horse manure and any kitchen scraps except for Onion peel and any citrus. Fill the bin about 1/4 full. Mix these together to get a lot of air through it all.

Onion and citrus will compost, but it takes a long time.

When the mix in the bucket has soaked, pour a little over the ingredients in the bin, and mix by hand or with a garden fork. add some more lawn clippings and repeat until the bin is 3/4 full.

Make sure all the material is moist, add the lid with a brick on top to stop it falling off, and wait a few days.

Come back and check the mix. It should have a nice mouldy smell (if a mouldy smell can be nice!). Mix the material with the garden fork (or your hands if your keen). The compost should be nice and warm, this is because the bacteria and fungi that are eating the organic matter are breathing the oxygen that you put in when you mixed it.

You should stir the compost every couple of days, otherwise the compost may take up a rancid rotten smell. A rotten smell is caused by a lack of oxygen, which breeds a different type of fungi and bacteria that thrive without oxygen. It will still compost, but will take a number of months longer and smell awful.

Give the compost at least four weeks of mixing, after that time the heat should have subsided, and the compost should be a nice dark brown colour and smell like sweet soil. Now it’s time to use on your favorite plants!