“Everyone needs to have access to both grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being” ~ Margaret Mead.
Archives for March 2012
Remember that children, marriages, and gardens reflect the kind of care they get. ~ H. Jackson Brown Jnr.
We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm. ~ Winston Churchill
You know how much I love a bargain. Yes, almost as much as I love worms.
So a few weeks ago, my two most favourite things collided into a completely fantastic event.
I should start by saying I already have three worm bins. They are the can-o-worms, worm cafe style designs. Stackable trays, creating layers of worm goodness.
They work a treat. I tend to underfed them, especially because it seems a worm farm can sour almost overnight in this heat. That means I actually stockpile food for them. My three bins couldn’t keep up with my output. I was looking for a better solution, scouring worm blogs for a higher volume worm solution, but nothing seemed to be available.
Then I found it in the classifieds.
At $110 dollars, the worm bin was about the price for what you would pay for a new Can-o-Worms kit from the hardware store. But this one is HUGE. Three meters long. A meter deep. A meter wide. Apparently full of worms. And, I had just the spot to put it.
So. Very. Exciting.
But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It could be full of sand. It could be sour. I would only find out when I got there.
I recruited the necessary help, which was of course Dad and my ever obliging Husband, plus trailer. They are my dream team, who have previously featured in my Upcycled Potting Bench post.
Once at Dan the Worm Man’s house, I was not disappointed. Dan had taken good care of his worms. The bin was indeed, full of worms. It smelt sweet and was full of fine castings.
We filled almost two dozen buckets full of worms.
To put my bargain into context, 1000 worms in castings cost $50 at my local hardware store. (Even then, its a bit of a gamble, as you don’t know what you have until you open the box.) I would estimate that my bin is currently holding a volume of 40,000-50,000 worms. That makes the value of the worms themselves $2400 dollars!
Getting the bin on the trailer, then home was a big job, but so worth it.
It is an ingeniously simple design. Constructed from corrugated iron in a timber frame, the base has a layer of blue metal covered with fine weed mat for the worm we to leach and filter through. The bin itself is then placed on a slope so the wee can then drain into a pipe and be collected by a bucket.
I have made some minor improvements. I covered the sharp edges of the metal sheet with some old recycled rubber garden hose. Handy Husband has installed some struts on the interior of the lid to prop it open securely, to ensure it doesn’t come crashing down on my head. Because it is located at the front on my home, I have also put a latch and lock on the lid.
I have since emptied all my worms into the big bin, where they have settled in nicely. They are so much happier in such a large volume of soil. A few weeks on, the worms are thriving. They are chomping through all our waste, plus the fruit waste from playgroup.
In a few weeks, I might set up a little cottage business and sell “dig your own” worms through the classifieds. My front garden renovations need funding!
Another sunrise, another new beginning. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie
This week, a cool change has been forecast. I hope summer is on it’s way out! Last Sunday, it was cooler than usual, a balmy 32 degrees. Feeling a rush of enthusiasim, I took the opportunity to finally pull out all the struggling plants left after a searing summer and put them all out of their misery.
I had so much green waste as a result and stuffing it all in the compost tumblers would have taken an age for it to break down. My last batch of compost has been tainted by the addition of some sweet potato cuttings. Instead of breaking down inside the tumbler, the robust sweet potato sprung roots and new shoots! I didn’t chop it up enough and it ended up becoming a tangled mess.
But luckily, this time I had a great solution. My dad has a fantastic petrol powered mulcher. We fired it up, fed it all through and it chomped it all up in less than an hour. Instead of a huge tangled pile of wilted capsicum, chilli, eggplant, sweet potato, spring onions and fermented watermelons, I now have a surprisingly small pile of lovely fine shredded mulch.
If you didn’t have a mulcher, you could chop all your seasons green waste up by hand using secataurs, or if you prefer hands that aren’t covered in blisters and callouses, you can run over the pile a few times with a lawnmower with the catcher on.
We shuffled a few things around, tidied up, cleared all the rubbish, swept the space clean and now I feel primed to go for the new season. Tomorrow, I will order some manure to be delivered and plan to spread it out to the last of all the remaining beds on Saturday, as it has forecast for rain next Sunday and Monday. The thought of two days of rain soaking into freshly manured and prepared veggie beds delights me no end, which is pretty hilarious considering haven’t actually planted anything yet. What can I say? I have this garden thing bad.
Even though it’s exhausting physical work, it feels fantastic to have it all done. That’s the wonderful thing about vegetable gardening, even if it is all a spectacular failure one season, the opportunity exists for you to apply all you learned and give it another go.
Come to think of it, it’s not a bad philosophy for life either.
A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. ~ George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)
Since this Summer was awash with some pretty spectacular failings, I thought sharing them with you would help your learning curve too. You more experienced gardeners can quietly cluck-cluck your tongues at my follies and be rest assured that I have finally learned a thing or two!
Mistake #1 : Thinking soil doesn’t really matter.
All soils have their issues, mine is that it is very sandy, alkaline and water-repellent. If my soil was advertising in the personals columns for a hook up, not many plants would be up to take on such obvious flaws. However, before I knew better, I was throwing plants into it and desperately trying to keep them alive.
Now, I have realised it’s not me, it’s
you the soil.
Frankly, my soil needs a little “personal work” done, before it can expect to make a plant happy. So now, before planting again, all soils are getting a complete makeover. Coconut fibre will add some much needed plant matter to hold water and trap nutrients. Poo and a good dose of minerals will encourage plants to thrive. Finally, a good layer of mulch will keep it all cool, calm and collected.
Just the kind of soil plants want to sign up for and sink their roots into.
Mistake #2 : Ignoring the season when planting, not looking far enough into the future.
Our climate here in Perth is sometimes quaintly referred to as “Mediterranean”. It seems every garden book I consulted assumed we were colder and wetter than we actually are. Not to mention, there was no mention of spikes of searing heat that are as deadly to plants as a layer of snow.
So, I had to seek the facts. The hottest summer in 30 years was (hopefully) a once in a generation opportunity to learn a thing or two in the veggie patch. My crop timing was way off. Some veggies, I planted too late. Some to early. Some had no chance regardless, as heat wave after heat wave cooked then where they lay.
To be fair to myself, our summer started early in November of last year and is still going strong in late March which is not typical, even for Perth. The best guide I have found was from the “Sow What When” poster from Diggers, which I used when planning the coming seasons cropping.
I am planning to have most of the harvesting done before the next searing hot summer sets in. Instead, I’ll use that time each year to clear the beds, replenish, work on the garden infrastructure and plan for the coming seasons. Just about the only thing that revels in the heat is compost. In some areas of the garden I will erect some shade. Otherwise, I am just happy to accept that for a few months of the year, it is nicer to stay in the shade or wallow in the wading pool with the kids.
Mistake #3 : Thinking “the more the merrier” applies to veggie patches.
I have pretty much ignored plant spacings in the past. Especially in my raised beds. To me, seedlings always look so lonely planted so far away from each other. So I would ignore the spacing guides and fill them up, until I was left with a choking, overflowing bed, a paradise for pests and disease.
Overcrowding for plants is about as much fun as it is for humans. Next time, I’ll give them their space so they are not competing for light, food and water.
More plants does not always mean bigger yeilds.
Mistake #4 : Mucking around with the watering.
Watering problems relate more to the soil than I realised. My sandy, water repellant soil is part of the reason why my plants needed so much water in the first place. We were fortunate enough to avoid total sprinker bans this summer, but were still only allowed to sprinklers on twice a week, for 10 minutes a station. Our domestic water pressure isn’t great either, so the sprinklers don’t always deliver a good drink. On the windy days, water would blow everywhere other than where I needed it to go!
I have discovered a good soaking every 3-4 days with the hose is better than bi-weekly dribbles.
While I managed to recycle water from this kids wading pool, grey water from the laundry and buckets collected from gutter downpipes, it was not utilised well enough. I am looking into incorporating a more formal grey water system and the installation of some water tanks. Then I can happily water when my plants need it and feel less guilty about using fresh drinking water.
Mistake #5 : What Planning?
Until very recently, I would only very casually plan my garden space, taking into account aspect, season and what was on sale at bunnings that weekend. Not exactly a winning formula for veggie patch success! I also let any old repeat vegetable wander in to invade beds and take over willy-nilly.
I planted homogenous crops and watched them all get wiped out by a single pest that gorged themselves silly without any companion planting to distract or repel them.
I know there is a practice that gardens according to the phases of the moon, but (without trying to be witty) it’s making me a bit loony. I need to do more research there to wrap my head around those principles.
Now, I have plans! I have mapped out the beds*, incorporating crop rotations and companion plants. I have made little mud maps, researched the plants that can handle the conditions and coloured them all in beautifully with my new pack of sharp coloured pencils.
So that sums up why my summer season was less than spectacular. Thankfully, time in the veggie patch is never wasted, as long as you learn from your mistakes.
That said, next season should be more of a success!
What has been your best garden mistake?
* I had anticipated doing this mapping and planning process through a promising, but pricy app I found for my iPad, but it was so disappointingly clunky, it drove me mad. More about that in my upcoming post I have titled “The Five Best Apps for Gardeners (and one of the very worst!)”
por-nog-ra-phy (n) : printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual activity.
Some people get aroused flicking through lingerie catalogs, Playboy, the annual fireman calendar, or ogling that bloke who plays Alcide the werewolf on True Blood. (ok, guilty on that last one!)
I also get all kinds of excited when the Diggers seed catalog arrives at my door. I need to find a quiet place, make a long cool drink and dive in.
(FYI, I am not an affiliate of Diggers, just a member and a happy customer)
Informative, but also with plenty of seductive photographs it’s as good as garden porn gets. Within minutes, I am turning the pages, planning which seeds I will bed first, picturing myself sinking my teeth into luscious produce. Like porn, it’s so visually appealing. I am not a natural artist, and find it tricky to articulate the vision in my head on to paper. I need to see it to understand it.
I take it with me everywhere, school, drop off, pickup, and it gets a little dog eared and tatty from constant gazing. I keep all my back issues. The kids aren’t allowed to touch them. I want to share it with other garden friends, but, feel it’s too soon to hand it over, just yet…..
Yes, I know I can see the full catalog online at www.diggers.com.au, but there is something about a catalog. I just love it.
But it also got me thinking. Gardening is still regarded as a bit of a “grandma” hobby. If food can be made sexy by the likes of Nigella, Jamie, Curtis and their charming peers, then who is raunching up veggie patches? Jamie Durie? Don Bourke? Peter Cundall? Hmmmnnnnnn.
Why shouldn’t gardening be arousing? It involves lots of sweaty manual labour, sunshine and getting all “dirty”.
Flowers are made for sex, they are probably procreating, right now, as you read.
I mean, the mere act of putting trowel to soil and watering in seeds should be “R” rated.
Hand pollinating your pumpkins? Shocking!
Spring asparagus emerging from the soil? XXX.
My recent sweet potato harvest? Arrrrggghhhh!
What’s your favourite garden porn?
(Please remember, this is a family site guys. Any penthouse style comments can’t be published. No matter how much I enjoy them!)