April Sustainable Gardening meeting.

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Here is a happy group photo of the Gardening People. We met at Shane’s place on Sunday for a couple of hours. This man has been very busy in the garden.

I’ve mentioned his blog before. Since I met him I’ve started bringing the coffee grounds from work home every day and digging them into the ground, putting them into the compost and giving the worm farm a caffeine hit. He’s been doing some interesting things with experiments with composting, garden beds and worm tea. Sounds appetising, does’t it?

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First up was his little worm farm. (I only say ‘little’ to differentiate it from the many worm farms he has in the garden. This farm is covered with newspaper and old cotton clothes which keep the worms insulated and fed. I’d never thought of using clothes before. A mix of food scraps and coffee grounds keeps them munching away happily; and also reproducing at an alarming rate. They were seething in there. Probably not with rage, but with warm happy hippy feelings. Shane takes the castings out from this farm and uses them to make worm tea, which is absolute gold for the garden.

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Here’s the teabag, otherwise known as an old sock. He fills it up, pops it into water mixed with some molasses and Seasol, then aerates it for a few days with a bubble-maker-thing from an old aquarium. (I know I’ve missed out some ingredients and steps, so visit his blog if you want more information. I’m sure he’ll have something about it there.)

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There’s your liquid fertiliser! We were each given a jar of worm tea to take home. Once it’s been poured, you have to use it within 8 hours. I was at a friend’s place after I left here so when I got home I didn’t have much time before nightfall. I took the easy way out and decided to water my herb pots with it. They should be practically picking up their roots and walking around with vim and vitality after such a drink.

Actually, that sounds a bit “Day of the Triffids.” That’s not such a good thought…

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Shane has been working with how to get the best use from the coffee grounds. Here he demonstrated how to dry them out so they can keep for longer. He sifts them through a wire screen to get rid of any clumps and also to put air through them.

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Here it is while being sifted. Shane obviously brings home much drier grounds than I do. Mine still has water on the top. It doesn’t bother me; I figure that the garden/compost/worms could do with a drink anyway, but if you were going to preserve your grounds for future use you’d need to thoroughly drain your coffee grounds before doing this.

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Then you just leave them to dry, (preferably away from any high winds, I’d imagine!) He said that he turns it over every day or two just to make sure it dries evenly, then it’s safe to package up. We left with a “showbag” of dried coffee grounds to play with. Actually, it’s a garbage bag, which is still sitting in a corner of my kitchen. The air smells beautifully coffeeish whenever I walk past it so I’m in no hurry to move it.

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Shane is really interested in improving soil quality to increase the yields of his crops and he has all sorts of experiments going on to try things out. Just like me! (Except I’m sure his experiments are actually fully thought out and entered into responsibly, unlike my way of blundering into things.) Here he has a worm farm made from tyres sitting in the middle of a raised garden bed. The worms can come and go as they please, coming back to the worm farm for food and warmth and migrating out into the garden bed for the thrill of adventure, leaving their castings as they go.

This is very similar to the idea with the wicking beds where you have a yogurt container with holes in the bottom where you leave vegetable peelings, so the worms in the wicking bed stay well fed and happy. Thus they continue to fertilise the bed and makes the vegetables grow beautifully. (I need more worms. Which, incidentally, is a sentence I never thought I’d use.)

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This isn’t a shot of my arm, just in case you were wondering. I was really interested in the home-made water tank system Shane’s devised to get some water from the roof of his garden shed down to where he can easily use it to water some of his garden beds. He’s cut into the drainpipe leading down from the roof and put a pipe in it, which you can see in the middle of the shot. He sourced some incredibly cheap food-grade plastic bins which now have a tap at the bottom. Voila! A little water tank! I’m inordinately excited by this, because I could so easily set up something like this running from the garage to water the chooks and the back part of the garden. I thought I’d have to invest hundreds to get a water tank to do this, but now it’s within reach.

He also uses these bins as a compost tumbler, with holes drilled into the sides for ventilation. He and his son roll the bins around to get the tumbling action happening. If I had a drill I’d be interested in trying this idea out too.

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Shot of actual garden produce. It’s getting on to winter here so people’s gardens don’t have a great deal to show. But this capsicum looks pretty happy with its position beside the worm farm.

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Wicking bed with a broccoli. The white dust on the leaves is some sort of powder that Shane sprinkled on to try and get rid of cabbage moth (I think). Now though, he’s trying an experiment with peppermint.

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Apparently moths don’t like the fresh minty smell, so he’s growing the peppermint next to the broccoli and crushing a leaf and throwing it on the broccoli whenever he’s nearby. It’ll be a great thing to do over here at my place if it works.

Shane’s wife also makes soap, so we had a lively conversation about what we both do and we swapped samples. I’d brought over some fresh eggs and a couple of my soaps as a “thanks for having us”, not realising that bringing the soaps to their place was like bringing coals to Newcastle.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and informative afternoon. Whenever I leave these afternoons I feel energised and enthusiastic about getting back out into the garden and really making things happen.

An anecdote to leave you with:

The last time I’d harvested some tomatoes there were a few that needed to ripen a little more so I left them on the kitchen bench. Evan4 picked them up and saw that one had definitely gone past its ‘use by’ date. I picked it up and was about to throw it outside to the chooks when he said, “Shouldn’t we be putting it into a jar and getting the seeds from it? Or don’t we want the seeds from this sort?”

Talk about monkey see, monkey do! The jar that came in this house full of Shane’s worm tea is now sitting on the kitchen window ledge with a squishy tomato in it. Manna to the soul of an educator!

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5 Responses to April Sustainable Gardening meeting.

  1. Scott says:

    I think my window boxes need some worm tea.

  2. persiflage says:

    Oh Froggie, I do applaud you, but it sounds like so much work. And so sort of high-tech know what you are doing.
    If I ever get a proper garden again, instead of an overcrowded pocket handkerchief full of a bay tree, kaffir lime tree, curry tree and lemon verbena, and sundry other plants squeezed in holus-bolus and willy nilly, I might get around to having a proper garden and grow beans and a few other nice simple idiot-proof veggies. As of now, my garden is FULL and most of what happens therein is pruning. The lovely garden I had before moving here has been neglected, afflicted by drought and lack of interest, and looks quite sad.

  3. Urspo says:

    that is a lot of work and effort – some serious gardening going on here!

  4. shane says:

    Well i can tell you there will be manny hours spent in the garden over the easter break! Many hours if I have a say in the matter 🙂

  5. andi says:

    Hysterical!!
    I went to school with Shane!!!!
    Such a small world!
    (Does he quilt too?)

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