Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Dwarf Orchard

March 22, 2016

Despite having only a limited amount of space I still want to have a small orchard. My needs have changed and being a single person with grown children means I only need small quantities of a range of fruits. In an attempt to satisfy the desire for fresh fruit I am establishing an orchard of dwarfed fruit trees.

Dwarf Orchard

This is the area devoted to the Dwarf Orchard. In the background is an established orange tree while to the right is a wood fired pizza oven.

This area was initially overgrown with various shrubs and creepers making a green massed jungle. I want to have as many areas productive as possible so the rabble was removed and this is the area I will plant. Before planting I will install the edge boards and the irrigation system ready for planting when we get a cool patch of weather. May have to wait a couple of months before that happens.

Well the weather remains warm to hot but the nights are cooler now and with work progressing every morning and night we eventually have something to show for it.

Garden Edging installed around the dwarf orchard on the southern side.

Garden Edging installed around the dwarf orchard on the southern side.

Edging installed around the orchard on the eastern side.

Edging installed around the orchard on the eastern side.

The edging is to help keep the paths clear because the blackbirds scratch any mulch onto the paths. These borders should stop them and help with any drainage.

After the edging I top dressed the area with premium compost that I purchased from Peninsula Nursery. I then set about sorting the rest of the soil and spent many hours digging out dead roots from plants that had been taken out over the past few weeks. With compost incorporated into the topsoil it only remained to plant the trees I had saved for this area.

Potted trees in position for final planting in the dwarf orchard.

Potted trees in position for the final planting in the dwarf orchard.

Potted trees in position for final planting in the dwarf orchard.

Potted trees in position for the final planting in the dwarf orchard.

Each hole for these trees were dug to the depth of the pot but twice as wide. Into the soil removed I incorporated some premium compost into the soil and back filled then watered each tree in well.

Still to come is the irrigation system which will be a micro spray system that will water the entire zone so that planned inter-plantings of flowering bulbs will be watered at the same time. Trees will be kept small and this will ensure the roots don’t compete too much.

After the irrigation is completed and bulbs planted the entire area will be mulched with bark or chips to help with weed control and moisture conservation. I will post the remaining work as an update to this post rather than holding this article back.

 

Commandomatic Worm Farm 2013

April 12, 2013
Commandomatic Worm Farm 2013

Commandomatic Worm Farm 2013

Over the past few years I have made several worm farms. My first was a simple polystyrene box with a lid and a tap. This worked well for my first batch of worms (supposedly 1000) and they soon bred up. I kept this farm in my shed out of direct sunlight.

As the worms  bred up it became obvious that a larger system was needed so I devised a wheelie bin farm using a 60l wheelie bin from Go-Lo. I kept this on the garden verandah. I seeded it with half of the worms from the foam box and left half to continue in that farm. The Wheelie Bin failed for two reasons: first there were too many air holes in the bin causing excessive drying of the bedding and secondly the bin got too hot in summer and those worms all died or left.

My next worm farm was made from an old Tucker Box chest freezer with a 120l capacity. This was also outside under the shade of a White Cedar tree near the pig pen. This became an outstanding success and worms in this farm did very well and rapidly bred up. I stocked it again with half of the worms from the foam box farm.

As the worm numbers increased and another chest freezer became available I made up the commandomatic freezer farm. I used the rest of the worms from the foam box to stock this but alas it failed. I am sure the design was good but the position was wrong. While I was at work in summer it took the full brunt of the summer sun for several hours and the worms died.

I decided to position it more carefully and this summer it was under another powton and white cedar on the southwest side of the house as shown in the picture above. This time I seeded it with just 20 worms from the Tucker B ox Farm and tested it over the summer months. The result was a success and the worms thrived and increased. Because this is a 300 litre capacity I harvested the worms from the Tucker Box freezer and put half in each farm and that should suit for a year or two.

Stage 1. The compost removed from the farm and tipped onto the grading table. The outer layers are gradually scraped away from the outer surface until worms are exposed. The worms burrow into the compost to escape the light. Wait a few minutes and scrape some more away.

Stage 1. The compost removed from the farm and tipped onto the grading table. The outer layers are gradually scraped away from the outer surface until worms are exposed. The worms burrow into the compost to escape the light. Wait a few minutes and scrape some more away.

Stage 2. Scrape away some more compost and clean up the casting to use as fertilizer. Repeat process ever reducing the mass of castings.

Stage 2. Scrape away some more compost and clean up the casting to use as fertilizer. Repeat process ever reducing the mass of castings.

 

Stage 3. The quantity of castings is ever diminishing with every round of scraping. No worms ever leave the table and the concentration of worms in the pile is increasing.

Stage 3. The quantity of castings is ever diminishing with every round of scraping. No worms ever leave the table and the concentration of worms in the pile is increasing.

Stage 4. Very little left in the castings pile as you can see against the paint scraper.

Stage 4. Very little left in the castings pile as you can see against the paint scraper.

 

Final Stage. The last layers of castings scraped away and the seething mass of worms are swept onto the dustpan. Becaus there have been several splits before the quantity is not as great as it once was but there are at least 5000 worms in this harvest. Half back into each worm farm will put about 2,500 in each freezer. Not bad and next year should be even better.

Final Stage. The last layers of castings scraped away and the seething mass of worms are swept onto the dustpan. Because there have been several splits before the quantity is not as great as it once was but there are at least 5000 worms in this harvest (determined by weight). Half back into each worm farm will put about 2,500 in each freezer. Not bad and next year should be even better.

 

Vegetable Garden January 2013

February 7, 2013
South Vegie Bed

South Vegie Bed. Bed 9a has the asparagus, 8b the sweetcorn in stages, 8a the tomatoes. You can just see the Vegenet Hoop Houses in the background.

Hoop Houses covered in vegenet protecting the Brassica crop and doing a great job as well! Bed 7.

Hoop Houses covered in vegenet protecting the Brassica crop and doing a great job as well! Bed 7.

Bed 6a was used for the last onion crop which has mostly been harvested. The Allium Fistulosum (Green bunching onions) Winter Ishikura remain for a gradual harvest. At the near end of the left bed you can see the Yacons growing and on the right in Bed 6b there are Wong Boks! The exposed remains have been covered in straw mulch to hold the weeds at bay until I can get to planting them up.

Bed 6a was used for the last onion crop which has mostly been harvested. The Allium Fistulosum (Green bunching onions) Winter Ishikura remain for a gradual harvest. At the near end of the left bed you can see the Yacons growing and on the right in Bed 6b there are Wong Boks! The exposed remains have been covered in straw mulch to hold the weeds at bay until I can get to planting them up.

View back towards the south along the vegie beds.

View back towards the south along the vegie beds.

Brussels Sprouts, Cyrus Hybrid well grown under the vegenet. No aphids or caterpillars in sight.

Brussels Sprouts, Cyrus Hybrid well grown under the vegenet. No aphids or caterpillars in sight.

View of the North Vegie Beds from the North Perennial Garden. KI Rhubarb in the foreground.

View of the North Vegie Beds from the North Perennial Garden. KI Rhubarb in the foreground.

 

Comfrey in front of the seed bed with Bed 3 in the background.

Comfrey in front of the seed bed with Bed 3 in the background. To the left is Bed 2 with the hoops in place ready for the brassica plantings. Vegenet will fitted over the hoops when it is time to transplant from the seedbed. In the meantime it is mulched with straw after being replenished with manures, composts and comfrey leaves.

Another view of Bed 2 with the Sweet Potato trellis in Bed 1 visible.

Another view of Bed 2 with the Sweet Potato trellis in Bed 1 visible. Beans are growing in front of the sweet potatoes. Strawberries in Bed 5 can also be seen. This is their 3rd year and this bed will renovated during winter.

Bed 1 showing Red Gauntlet strawberries in their first year and producing well. Sweet Potatoes can be seen to the right and also doing well.

Bed 1 showing Red Gauntlet strawberries in their first year and producing well. Sweet Potatoes can be seen to the right and also doing well. In the foreground left is the late planting of Blackjack Zucchinis and Stan’s Giant Rhubarb to the right. Stan’s Giant sent up a flower stalk recently which was removed but it seems to have set the plant back at this stage and a recent heat wave of 45C singed some of its leaves.

Wandin Giant Rhubarb next to Emperor Mandarin is now outdoing Stan's Giant and is certainly a massive rhubarb!

Wandin Giant Rhubarb next to Emperor Mandarin is now outdoing Stan’s Giant and is certainly a massive rhubarb!

Butternut pumpkin beside the garden bench near the old strawberry bed

Butternut pumpkin beside the garden bench near the old strawberry bed Wandin Giant Rhubarb to the left.

Looking back towards the asparagus bed with early zucchini plant still producing in the background.

Looking back towards the asparagus bed with early zucchini plant still producing in the background with yellow squash plant left and white chard in the foreground with a burnt leaf of Stan’s Giant also showing itself.

Wandin Giant glory!

Wandin Giant glory!

Worker's bench in the shade of the Powton tree.

Worker’s bench in the shade of the Powton tree.

Trommel Design – Part 1

May 6, 2012

This is my first real entry on my compost trommel. I need a powered sieve for screening various garden materials to add to my vege beds and flower beds. The most pressing need is to screen a truckload of composted cow manure which is good stuff but has a few bones and stones as well as more solid lumps not suitable for the garden beds.

I have decided on a barrel made of some bicycle rims running on a some furniture castors with 10mm weldmesh as the screen. The drive mechanism will be simple in the first instance employing a long v-belt draped around the barrel frame. The belt will need to be very long to go around 26-inch bike rims and onto a small pulley attached to an electric motor. Hopefully this will let it run slowly enough to screen properly.

Tomorrow I will go to Shmik engineering and have 2 pieces of metal 150mm wide rolled into a circle to fit inside the bike rims. These will then be welded into a closed circle that is a snug fit inside the rims. The two circles will be attached by a 5 or 6 spreaders to give a tube 900mm or 1200mm wide with the weldmesh attached to the inside. The frame will then be constructed so the castor wheels run inside the rims positioned with the barrel on the top held down by gravity initially. The belt will be positioned around the barrel next to the rim and hopefully it will do the job well once material is fed into one end and the large material will come out to other end if kept on a suitable incline.

I am sure I will need to make various adjustments along the way and will add some photos to demonstrate my progress!

26 inch Alloy Bike Rim to make the running track for the castor wheels.

Trommel end ring mad to suit the internal diameter of the bike rim.

Trommel end ring with bike rim fitted but not yet fixed.

Frame with furniture castor I intend to use to run the trommel on.

Bike rim on top of the castor wheels to show intended running style

Another view of bike rim on top of castors

Garden Update September Week 1

September 6, 2011

Father’s Day weekend and last match of the 2011 AFL football season, well, for the crows anyway! Maybe they will win this weekend and make it 8 wins for the season.

Unfortunately the crows were murdered by the West Coast Eagles and that’s that!

Work continued on painting the verandah ceiling, now to the area outside the rumpus room. Looks really bright and lifts the area nicely.

That is me painting the verandah outside the Rumpus Room

A nice bright ceiling to the verandah!

Now that the verandah is starting to look more impressive I thought I would renovate the old kitchen table we had used under the verandah. It was quite rickety and has extension leaves that always threatened to collapse, although they never did. I braced the main frame at the bottom with a piece of meranti 5in x 1.5in which served well as a footrest also. I then removed some of the hinges from the extension leaves and fitted two pine 42mm x 19mm supports the full length of the table by screwing through the 19mm side and gluing to give maximum strength. This has strengthened the leaves and improved overall stability. With the table now nicely serviceable I went a step further and started to apply some Feast Watson Outdoor Furniture Oil ‘Hardwood’ colour to the table top. Stopped there, ran out of time, and wanted to see if it came up well because the table had previously been varnished. I sanded the surface back with an orbital sander before oiling.

The Rickety kitchen table is now a partly refurbished verandah table.

In the vegie garden I decided to dig up a couple of potato plants that had died back. I was pretty sure there would be no potatoes because they hardly grew any size at all and had succumbed to fungal attack and died, never flowered I am sure. The potatoes were a couple of Desiree reds saved from my 2010 crop in the southern beds.  Out of the row 5m long only 2 plants grew, as they had been planted too early in the season. The plan was to simply replant the row with some new seed potatoes. However, I was astounded at what I found under the ground. For failed plants they produced a mass of 3 kg of good-sized potatoes, larger than tennis balls and almost as round. This spurred me on to continue with spuds a little further. Next to these two plants a row of Kipfler potatoes were planted at the same time. Although these did not germinate either when planted, now they have now all sprouted and are strong plants. To avoid the damping off with fungal rot of my earlier crops I have started a spraying programme with copper spray and baiting for snails, who love potato plants. I have now mounded up the row of Kipflers and will check their progress.

The row of Kipfler potatoes next to the Greenfeats Peas in Bed 1.

The newest patch of strawberries are looking a bit stressed. Pamela and I dug up some new plants from last year’s runners and transplanted them to a new bed in bed 8. Unfortunately they are not doing well and I suspect they have been allowed to dry out a bit too much. I decided to install their soaker system that I use throughout the vegie garden. Once installed they were given a good watering and picked up almost instantly. The soil drying out always catches me out here. The weather remains cool and you think that plants are going well but the rain has stayed away for a few weeks now and the soil is fairly dry. The same situation has occurred in other years so I must add August watering startup to my 2012 planner to avoid the element of surprise next year.

The new strawberry bed in Bed 8 next to the Dry Garden

Inspected the Raspberry beds and see that there is activity with new suckers and last years canes budding up. Still need to set up their trellis and irrigation.

Raspberry Bed with the first signs of spring growth, not very obvious right now

The newest perennial flowers are showing signs of stress so I watered them with the watering can. That seems to do them well enough for a week.

Newly planted Cistus showed signs of stress and were given a small amount of water

Tulips are budding up but only short stems. I wonder if that is because they were planted late or if they are a poor variety. The Diggers free tulips were planted earlier and they have produced longer stems. When the opportunity presents itself I want to get Tulipa Whitallii from Lambley. I have a lot of confidence in Lambley products at this stage. Not one of the plants I purchased from them has died and all are doing very well! I expect their bulbs will be as successful.

Yorktown tulips flowered very low in the vase of the leaves. Not very showy.

Diggers Tulip is growing on a longer stem than the Yorktown tulips

In the North Perennial Garden the Oyster Plant is doing beautifully and I can see at least 5 flower spikes coming. I thought it was going to take several years for our first flowers but we have some in our first year.

The moved Impatiens with the Oyster plant between it and the palm. Note the Day lilies to the right behind the jonquils.

The plant has now spread so wide that it has half covered my Impatiens which looks like it is trying to run away. So I decided to pull out my Comfrey which are dormant at the moment and will move them to the herb spot in the South Perennial Garden. I dug out the Impatiens and put it further to the front at the edge where the Comfrey were removed. Although it will probably stress a bit for a week or two I hope it will be looking nice again for christmas.

The day lilies in the North Perennial Bed are looking very vigorous and exciting. I  now there is at least one orange coloured one but the rest are a  mystery. Sweet Peas in the same bed are also looking very strong and beginning to show some flower buds but as yet there are no flowers. Daffodils flowered only poorly and were another disappointment. Bulbs came from Diggers and another of their less than successful plants. When the tops die back I will move them to the dry garden and see how they go there. The Rhubarb in this bed came from Kangaroo Island, Liz and Scott, and are also poor. They are growing fine but threw up so many flowers that I was for ever breaking them off. I have ordered a new thick stalk variety from New Gippsland Seed Farm and hope they will behave better. When they are established I will pull the others out. Alstroemeria is moving and expanding but no flowers at the moment. The Mother’s Day Chrysanthemum has died back and not showing signs of resprouting from the base. Dusty Miller is sending up tall flower spikes after sitting there doing very little for the past year or so. Will be interesting to see how it comes up. Clivia are flowering sporadically but they look like taking another year to settle in. Agapanthus look strong but not flowering yet. Elephant ears bulbs did not flower this year but leaves look strong and the same story for the Nerines. I suspect this bed may too wet for them to set flowers in the bulbs but the real test for these will be a comparison with those planted in the dry garden next season. Wild Irises have just started to throw out a few flowers. The Bay tree is budding up and looks like it will move soon. Bearded irises that are left in this garden look healthy but I suspect they may not flower either this year, garden is probably too wet in this area. I will check them against those in the dry garden.

The herb barrels have grown well over the past year and need some work. Unfortunately they were not used as I expected so this year I will change things around, not physically with the barrels but how they are planted. I planted some pansies in one empty one at the end of autumn and they are flowering beautifully.

Herb barrels with Pansies flowering in the barrel nearest the road.

Tom helped with rotary hoeing this weekend. Bed 1A and 1B were hoed as was Bed 8 ready for some early spring plantings. In bed 1A beside the Greenfeast Peas I will plant the latest Kipfler seed potatoes and bed 8 will probably have some of the sweetcorn beds.

Pamela got stuck into the Canna beds in the South Perennial Bed on Sunday. We are a bit late cutting them down to the ground, should be done in June but there hasn’t been much movement yet so it should be OK. Canna can’t be shredded with a cheap shredder, it just clogs up, so the stalks will be manually chopped then added to the cold compost heap, which seems to be working well as it reduces a fair amount each week. I will start a new one in Summer and close this one up for the next year or so.

Pamela chopped down the Cannas to make room for this year's flowers

Phillip helped out by emptying and screening the compost tumbler. It had a fair amount of woody material not composted so that will be added to the next batch. The screened compost he put into the spare wheelie bin ready for the next bed being ready.

Cut the first batch of asparagus on Sunday and made some cream of asparagus soup – delicious. Gave the patch a good watering and it looks like we may get a good result this season. The 1-year-old crowns are still in the foam tub but these will be planted out this month.

Asparagus bed jus beginning to produce.

Avocado Bed Update 1

September 3, 2010

This is my first update of the Avocado Bed entry for the 27th July 2010.  The bed has been dug over and a big amount of composted cow manure has been incorporated. There were a lot of rocks and hard materials buried below the surface here and these have all been collected and disposed of. The bed now looks like a rich garden bed. The Avocado trees are yet to be planted so will update further as I plant the bed.

Avocado Bed with the composted cow manure dug in. 1st September 2010.

Wheelie Worm Bin

September 2, 2010

For a while I have worked on a design for a flow through worm farm. I have looked into several commercially available systems but they were either too cumbersome, did not produce both worm wee as well as vermicompost or were just ridiculously expensive. However, by looking closely at all these systems I started to get a picture in my mind of what I wanted and how it could work.

As with any such idea I decided that a prototype was the best way to go before spending a lot more money on a bigger system. I was lucky to find a 60 litre wheelie bin on sale at a variety discounter and this gave me the idea of building a mini system to test the idea. The cost of this small wheelie bin was only $12 compared to $75 for a full-sized bin.

The planned flow through system is to have a collection basin for the worm wee, an access door for the spent vermicompost and top access to feed the worm and add any bedding materials.

Starting Bin for 60L Vermicomposter 28th August 2010

The bin shown above is one of four I purchased for various applications including my vermicomposting prototype. You will see a couple of screws already inserted as I had already installed the internal frame before remembering to keep a photographic record.

Tap installed to bottom of the bin to drain the worm wee from the collection chamber.

I installed a tap to the base of the bin so that the worm wee that has collected in the bottom of the bin can be drained into a suitable container for use in the garden. The tap needs to be positioned so that the internal opening is as close to the floor as possible, allowing for the fitting of the flange, to remove as much of the liquid as possible.

Battens for the floor of the false bottom.

Interior of the 60L wheelie bin with false bottom shown. Tap fitting can just be seen middle front.

The next step is to fit a wire mesh floor to create a self draining false bottom. The battens were installed first using 25mm x 25mm hardwood with four pieces fitted to each wall. They are positioned about 15cm above the floor to give a liquid storage capacity of  about 10 litres. The tap fitting can be seen through wall below the front batten. Cut a wire floor to fit neatly to the top of the battens. There is no need to fasten it down but make sure it is strong enough to support the mass of vermicompost that will be sitting on top of it. The next stage will be to fit some shade cloth or similar netting to prevent material and worm falling through.

Mesh Floor covered to prevent worms falling through but still allowing good drainage.

The shade cloth is now wrapped around the mesh floor. Time now to cut out an access door just above, 15mm or so, the floor to allow periodic removal of the vermicompost for the garden. Initially this door will show the start-up bedding but once the worms finish with it, it will all be good compost. Cut the door mostly the full width of the wall and high enough to allow a garden trowel to be used to remove the material. A height of about 100mm will do and a width of 200mm.

Access door cut into front of the bin. Hinge fitted and a latch system.

The picture above shows the position of the access door. I have already fitted a hinge to the top edge and a simple latch to the bottom to keep critters out and compost in. My access door is fitted to the front of the bin, same side as the tap but you can fit it to any side you prefer. The hinge is fitted to the top so that compost won’t get caught up in the hinge when you are clearing it out and it will naturally fall closed if you are distracted. I have found that 1/4 inch gutter bolts are ideal for the hinge while the latch is a galvanised (could be brass) screw screwed into the wooden batten with a washer to prevent the head pushing through the plastic wall. Only tighten the screw enough to control the latch effectively but not so tight as to lock it.

Vent holes drilled in all sides to give good air flow.

I then drilled air holes in all sides to make sure there is adequate ventilation. I used a 1/4 inch drill and made three rows of 4 holes are so. The next step will be to add pre-soaked bedding.

Soaked bedding added to the false bottom.

The bedding is made up of used egg cartons torn into small pieces and well soaked. Egg carton paper makes excellent bedding as it holds enough moisture but is light and holds a bit of air. My layer is about 50mm deep.

Shredded office paper is put on top of the soaked egg carton bedding.

Simply get hold of some shredded office paper or packing material, put this on top of the shredded egg carton paper and then soak with a small sprayer of some sort to get everything nice and wet.

Wet down the shredded paper with a sprayer or watering can.

I used a special little sprayer made from an old Coke bottle. The spray nozzle comes from Diggers Club who sell these and they are great for jobs where you need a small gentle spray such as for seedling trays and in confined spaces like this.

Add a layer of finished compost for a food and bedding for the worms.

Worms will happily work away on soaked cardboard but get very little nutrition from it and it will not feed them much. Adding some finished compost is ideal as it gives them something to chew on, so to speak, until they are fed their first lot of kitchen scraps or manure. A 50mm layer is enough to get them started. The thickness of the bedding, after settling, is now about 120mm and that will give a couple of thousand worms a good home to settle into. We will now wait a few days for the materials to settle and age a bit then add some worms and the new bin is under way. I will add about 1000 worms to see how it performs compared to my first system which also has only about 1000 worms in it after being harvested to supply the worms for the wheelie bin.

Mark’s OSCR Videos – Part III

August 27, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mark’s OSCR Videos – Part III, posted with vodpod

Mark’s OSCR Videos – Part II

August 27, 2010

Part II of Mark’s video on setting up his worm farm.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mark’s OSCR Videos – Part II, posted with vodpod

Hot Compost Using Stockpile

August 23, 2010

This weekend I started the next hot compost pile using fresh grass clippings and stockpiled brown materials including dead grass, autumn leaves and shredded garden plant waste. The brown materials had been saved over several weeks while waiting for the earlier compost batch to finish cooking.

Hot Compost Storage Cage in North Compost Area 25th August 2010.

New hot compost batch started 22nd August 2010.

Latest Hot Compost Batch started 22nd August 2010.


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