“This is a really volcanic ensemble you’re wearing, it’s really marvellous!” ~ Duckie, from Pretty in Pink
Archives for February 2012
“Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.” ~ William Cowper
When my sister and I were kids, our entire play life was mostly about searching for, finding and creating the perfect cubby house.
The most memorable was an old chicken pen behind a house where we lived in Bridgetown. Our cubby was generously furnished with the unwanted household off-casts from the nice old couple next door. We decked ourselves out in an outrageous smothering of old costume jewellery and felt like queens in a castle.
Now, almost 30 years on, I am back to creating the perfect cubby house. Though from now on, I will refer to it by its most appropriate adult pseudonym, “Greenhouse”.
My $70 greenhouse from The Reject Shop failed to see out it’s first year and started to fall apart almost instantly after purchase but was finally finished off by our last good gusty storm.
But now, by ways that will remain known only to me, I have managed to convince my husband to build me a proper
cubby greenhouse. And I have just the place for it.
You will probably have a space similar to it at your house. It is tucked down the back corner of the block and has an awkward aspect. But it is perfect for me. It already has a fence and gate to section it off from prying little hands. It is partly paved, with plenty of space for the potting bench, a potting sink, some shelving and plenty of storage. It even has an outdoor electricity plug.
I have already cleared the weeds since this photo was taken. The next step will be to clear the mulch from the beds, put down weed mat and lots of pebbles on top for good drainage while cutting down weeds. It will be getting a roof structure too for added protection. The transformation is going to take a few weeks, so watch this space. I can’t wait to move in!
The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure. ~ David Herbert Lawrence.
Living near the beach is lovely. You don’t have far to go for a refreshing dip. The sea breeze is always at your house first on a hot day.
After Veggie Patch Armageddon, some plants were too sick to survive so I have pulled them out. The roots of these plants were as small and spindly as their stunted foliage. While contemplating my abysmal veggie growth and yield, the answer was obvious. My soil is just too poor. Thanks to its very high sand content, my soil is very alkaline. It repels water so well that I stand in puddles as the water runs off to the pavement rather than sinking into the soil.
The answer to both problems is a shitload of poo.
Sheep manure, to be precise.
As my soil is already alkaline and coarsely sandy, adding chemical fertilisers isn’t going to solve the underlying problem. Sheep manure will help provide some texture to trap water, will temper the alkalinity of the soil and add some much desired nutritional value to my starving soil. I will also be adding compost to the soil to build up humus. Mushroom compost and chicken poo are likely to make the alkalinity problem worse. Apparently pig poo is good too once you get past your gag reflex. (it smells terrible) So once again, I will experiment for results.
It is too hot to plant now anyway. So the next task in the garden is to pull back all the mulch and dig in some good measures of poo and let it mature into the soil in time for autumn’s planting.
Luckily, the kids are now back at school for the year and I can just start to get stuck into it without too many wails of protest about the smell.
Heat, flies and poo. I can’t wait to get started!
Worms are the intestines of the earth. ~ Aristotle.
The singular best investment I ever made for my veggie patch was a worm farm.
Worms are a gardener’s best friend. They eat rubbish, produce wonderfully rich worm castings for the soil and the worm wee (leachate) has replaced purchased liquid fertiliser in my veggie patch.
As a family of five, we produce a lot of worm-friendly waste. Lots of watermelon rinds, partly eaten fruit, eggshells, egg cartons, vegetable peelings and the like.
Instead of putting all that into our council collected rubbish bin and eventual landfill, all of it finds its way into the worm farm, or the composters.
Setting up a worm farm isn’t difficult at all, but there are some good practices to follow from the beginning to ensure your farm has the best chance of success. I’ll be writing more on this topic over the coming weeks.
The biggest challenge I have had with my worm farms these last few weeks of summer is keeping them cool.
A Worm Bake
A few years ago I poached my entire worm farm by neglecting it for a week in summer. They just baked in their own juices. As someone who has had to clean up a trifecta of poo, wee and vomit over the last 6 years of having small kids at home, you can believe me when I tell you that dead worm funk is one of the nastiest things you will ever have to whiff.
So following that disaster, I experimented with solutions like filling hollowed out watermelons with water and freezing them. Placing the whole lot in the top tray of the worm farm to defrost and trickle through seemed like a great idea. The result ended up being a bit of a mess. I had to try to mash the watermelon rind up in the bin. Even through the freezing process had broken down the cellular structure, it started to rot before the worms had a chance to eat it all. Plus, on a practical level, half a frozen watermelon in your fridge takes up a lot of real estate.
A Recipe for Worm Success
So now I whizz up all the waste (melon rinds, pineapple and mango skins plus eggshells and any other veggie waste) all up in a blender. Then I just pour it all into stackable 1.75 litre capacity plastic trays with a lid and freeze the lot. I tend to do my food preparation for the week ahead on a Saturday, so this freezing method also ensures that I am not tempted to overfeed the bin. On warm days, I just pop out the huge worm “icy-pole” and put it on the top tray of the farm, under a layer of wet cardboard or matting. The worms LOVE it.
There is also little danger of “freezing” the worms, they can always retreat to the lower beds or around the sides of the bin where it is warmer if they choose. The whizzing breaks down all the food into smaller pieces, reducing the risk of rot and the freezing breaks the plant cellular structure. Once the block has defrosted, I just spread the remaining waste across the surface of the worm tray. The worms just seem to inhale it.
In the days I just want to keep them cool without feeding them, I fill a recycled 3 litre milk bottle with water and freeze it. Then just take the lid off the bottle and place it down on the center of the worm farm, so all the water can trickle out of the bottle as it defrosts.
I know this may seem like a lot of fuss for the little worms, but a worm farm can be quite expensive to set up. I also depend on their output to benefit my plants and soil so it’s worth making sure my partners in the garden are happy.
Do you have worms? How do you keep them cool in extreme heat?