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Composting and the Art of Garden Maintenance

As a seasoned ‘Green Thumb’, let me tell you that a successful garden doesn’t have to be backbreaking work. It is as much getting the garden to do the work for you as it is doing it yourself. Don’t get me wrong, the garden can be a source of labour at times, something that the kids are prone to complain about, but through a short-cut here and there, it can be much easier.

A few years back, Mum decided to make a home compost heap at the back of the garden. She had always been enthusiastic about the prospects, but for some reason she was disheartened. I think it was the worry of the smell! I’m told now that it is only those who don’t do it right are the ones burdened with a stench.

Owning a compost heap is a great source of education for kids who aren’t normally exposed to practical ways to recycle. When we say recycling to them, they immediately think of plastics and straws as they are all over the news, but one of the most important streams of recycling comes in the form of our food.

There's nothing like getting your hands dirty to bring the classroom alive!

There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty to bring the classroom alive!

We sat our kids down and asked them where they thought the food went after it was disposed of in the bin. Clueless! We explained the messy process of a landfill, and all the horrible things that come with it.

The most important thing to explain was something that I think is overlooked slightly. The fact that you are not only throwing out the final product, but you are also throwing out all the soil, water, labour and transport energy that went into getting that bit of food from where it was grown to you!

Going through the process of separating food waste so that we could reuse it, and then bring it down to the garden, was met first with hesitation. Now I don’t even need to ask them to do it. I think this new generation are very keen to help when it comes to the environment if we give them the chance. Surprisingly so. It’s now cool to care. I wish we had the same attitude back then.

It was quite astounding to see the difference in growth pre and post compost. We are literally mining ‘Black Gold’! I would sing more than it’s praise to anyone looking to start up. Her plants are leagues ahead of what we have experienced in the past. If you’re worried that composting is hard, let me assure you that it is not.

Here’s how she did it

The 6 Easy Steps to a healthy compost

The 6 Easy Steps to a healthy compost

The key is to cultivate the microbes found in the soil. You almost have to treat them as pets. Feed them with food from the table, make sure the get enough water and in turn they will enrich your life.

A Healthy Compost

A Healthy Compost

Man’s new best friend are microbes. It was an important lesson to teach the kids. That being to value all of God’s creatures, no matter the size.

A little tip that I found is that having the appropriate kit is a must! Previously, the compostable bags that we had in the kitchen caddy would rip at the worst possible time. However, these days, Compost-a-pak supplies amazing products that leave me with confidence. No more cleaning up a mess on the way down to the garden.

Black Gold

Black Gold

For those living in the city, please don’t be discouraged by ‘prying neighbours’. Composting doesn’t have to be an eye sore as there are many great ways to hide a heap. The beauty of the project is that there are no wrong ideas. The materials you can use are not exclusive at all. Having said that, the best examples I have come across tend to be those whom have used natural frames, such as knitting together willow branches. Costing next to nothing apart from your time, it’s a great way to spend a day with the Grand-kids. Just remember to wear a safety hat.


Beans, Cabbage and Potato are all perfectly obedient this time of year. Three of the most versatile Veg, its no surprise that they are the most popular in cuisines around the world. Next time you fancy cooking Chinese or making a cauldron of soup,  you wont have to go to the grocers.

They are also very good for you, as all are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The beans will soon be jumping

The beans will soon be jumping

 

 

We found that basil has come early this year and quite frankly, its looking and smelling very fresh.

Sunday morning harvest

Sunday morning harvest

 

 

A member of our family, Murray, who currently attends University, told us that he had decided that he would buy a supermarket Basil plant to freshen up his kitchen. As you might image, horticulture and uni-culture don’t readily mix, and the plant wilted and died after a few weeks. This wasn’t entirely his fault.

This is because most of the pots your buy from supermarkets are in fact multiple clumps of seedlings. This is what gives the impression of a healthy batch. So, what basil needs is space from one another. Try splitting a single plant into 4 pots, it should be done easily. They wont compete with one another and you get 4 plants!

A thinned out group of basil is the perfect companion to the beans and cabbage, so if you were wondering where to plant them, you need worry no longer.

 

 

We are getting Italian, and making some Pesto Sauce. Join us here, to find out just how versatile it is.

 

 

Winter Gardening

Winter Gardening – Three (well four) tips for Leafy Greens

Running a small business with a young family can be challenging; add in a major renovation and it’s chaos. As a result, months after the building dust has settled, it’s only now we have found time to establish our family vegie garden…. Yes, just in time for winter unfortunately!

My priority for our family vegie garden is always leafy greens. Lettuce and spinaches are a favourite to smuggle into sandwiches and meals. You can really taste the difference between fresh and store bought, which is probably linked to the fact that fresh produce such as spinach can lose up to half of its nutrients within a week of being picked. I also think the ‘modified atmosphere’ bagged greens use to keep items fresh sounds terrifying 😊

My top three tips for Winter Leafy Greens

  • Mature compost, or worm tea is the secret ingredient, particular for a winter garden. This year having only just established the garden, we are still working to improve our soil, without the usual help from mature compost. I can really notice the difference with our young garden void of compost, compared to our previous patch, particularly in terms of soil nutrients and water retention. We eat a lot of fresh food, and so generate a lot of food waste. Composting is such an easy process and it means our food waste isn’t wasted as the nutrients all go back to nourish the soil for new crops. I usually add mature compost when the plants have approx. 4 leaves.

 

  • Spacing is really important. Planting seeds, particularly with kids, is a chaotic random process. Once the seeds have sprouted and have at least two small leaves I spread them out in our beds, to approx. 12 cm apart if possible. If they are overcrowded, you will end up with a smaller harvest overall, so if you have too many seedling, share with friends.

 

  • Mulching helps retain warmth and moisture in the soil and it also great at suppressing weeds. This is important as spinach in particular tends to have sensitive roots, so it often doesn’t like the soil being disturbed as weeds are pulled out nearby.

 

  • Actually one more tip!  When harvesting leafy greens, cut the outside leaves first right to ground level to get the most out of your season-long harvest.

 

This year’s harvest for us is not going to be a bumper crop, given we are still working on our soil quality. Even our carrots look quite…. unique, having being planted during flooding rain which compressed the newly filled planter beds.

Regardless, of the harvest, the benefits of getting into the dirt with the kids is significant. In fact, scientists have even discovered that the mycobacterium found in soil can improve brain function while boosting moods. Gardening with the kids, and enjoying our fresh food certainly makes me happy!

Winter Gardening Tips