Sunday, August 18, 2013

Compost and garden tools

Now that your plan has been made and you have bought your seeds, and even perhaps started them in seed trays, it’s time to do a stock check on your tools.

These are the top ten for me…

Large garden spade

Large garden fork

Metal tooth rake

Small hand fork

Small hand spade

Dibber (makes holes for seedlings)

Green garden wire (tying things up, together0

Ice lolly sticks (to label where you plant what!)

Watering can with sprinkler rose (soft shower for new seedlings)

And seeing that I cannot make a whole post about these, I am going to talk about COMPOST!

When I started my first garden in 1992 in our first home as newlyweds my mom told me to just add compost for the first while before planting anything. But I didn’t listen and put in just a little and then planted plants. We weren’t growing veggies at this stage, it was just a herbaceous border. Needless to say…I should have listened to mom!

Our next gardens faired no better, in fact our third was pure beach sand. I so desperately wanted to grow good plants and have a lovely garden but I also wanted to cut corners. In this garden we did have compost bins but I was busy caring for 3 small children 4yrs and down and didn’t have the time to care for it properly. I never watered the heap and therefore it didn’t breakdown properly.

When we started growing veggies in 2008 I forced myself to spend the money – an investment if you like – in compost. We had not started a heap when the first beds were ready to be planted up so we bought in a truck load from Master Organics.

For the most part now we only use our own compost and manure from a friends farm, but every now and again we have to buy in. When buying in compost it is best to by sterilized compost. This was you do not get weed seeds which will germinate along with your seeds that you plant. I use either Reliance or Master Organics, it just depends who has specials on.

The best of course is the homemade kind. You get to use up your kitchen waste, garden refuse and paper waste to make something good for your garden. If you add in manure – from your own chickens or from a horse stables – you have an even better product.

So here is how you make compost:

You can either buy a compost bin if your needs are small or you can make a loose standing heap or you can contain it like we do. Either way the principal is the same…layers!

We prefer a structure that allows worms and other garden bugs to get in and out of the heap so that they can aid in the breakdown of the organic matter.

First layer – small branches and twigs, torn newspaper, shredded cardboard boxes. Wet it well.
Second layer – a good layer of kitchen peelings or other green plant matter.
Third layer – Horse or chicken manure or compost activator.
Fourth layer – some grass clippings.

Wet this all well and then cover with a layer of soil. We cover ours in summer with cardboard boxes that we keep wet. This encourages the worms to move to the top and then down again.

Ideally you need two piles or bins. One that is cooking/being used and the other that is being built up.

After a month or so, give your compost a good turn and cover again. If it is too dry then increase your watering of it. You can add natural activators like Borage – before the flowers come. If you add it after the flowers have been pollinated you will find that you will be growing borage all over your garden.

Your compost heap should never stink. There should be a good earthy smell to it. Never add cooked food, potato peels or animal feces.

Compost is really the foundation for good vegetables, so learn a lesson from me - start the right way, put the compost in by the wheelbarrow load, do not scrimp on this stage of preparing your beds. The fruit of it will be in your harvest a few months from now.

If you do not have space for a heap, then consider a wormery.

1 comment:

Kelly-Anne said...

Thank you for this post Aunty Wendy! Very true what you say about starting right...

I gathered a big bucket of earthworm castings from our wormery today and then made it all comfy again for the worms.

If all goes according to plan, we start planting tomorrow:-)

Much love,