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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.

 

 

OUR PLEDGE – Landfill Once a Year!

Reducing Landfill

Our progressive local council, Lake Mac have kicked off their food waste composting program, and we are excited…

You see our Landfill bin use to go out more than us (sorry, terrible Dad joke) however with all our food waste now being composted, our little family of four have made a pledge to  put our Landfill Bin out only once a year!

Landfill Pledge

Cue – Gasps of horror from our family and friends!

We are actually quite confident after months of discussion, that with a few, fairly small changes, and some extra effort to recycle more, it’s actually very achievable.

So what’s the plan….

 

Like many Aussie families, we have already started the journey towards living waste free. Over 50% of Australian household waste is organic and can be diverted from Landfill

  • We compost at home, however previously this has been limited to fruit and vegie scraps. The majority of our waste is organic, and so composting has already dramatically cut down on our Landfill. The resulting compost is also amazing for helping my garden grow, even in periods of less rain, and for making my beloved pot plants look their best.
  • Our gorgeous pantry looks like my Nana’s did, with large bulk quantities of everything in glass jars, and piles of fresh produce. It’s where I spend alot of my time when home, and it’s  super convenient.
  • We use reusable cups for coffee. Coffee cups are non-recyclable without specific facilities because of the waxed coating, and so can really increase your landfill footprint. I have even stashed an extra set of 4 in the car now for caffeine, and hot chocolate ‘emergencies’.
  • We say no to plastic convenience at home. So no straws, no clingwrap, no wet wipes, no cotton wool buds, and only our Australian Certified compostable bags for liners, shopping bags and produce bags, all of which we compost after use. To be honest, I did have a hard time initially breaking up with cling wrap, however after building on my collection of reusable containers, I now have the right size for everything … and can normally match a lid to a base! Our lunch boxes are now single-use plastic free, and the sandwiches are just as fresh!

    zero waste

    Landfill items – The small things add up!

What’s going to be new…

  • We will need to be even more committed to the weekend markets. When we don’t get there, the increased packaging we bring home is remarkable.
  • If I miss my butchers closing time, we are vegetarian for the next few days. That way we don’t get stuck with meat trays and moisture cells which often are not recyclable. My lovely butcher even puts our meat into our compostable bags, which also saves on a single use plastic bag.
  • We are breaking up with coffee pods and tea bags. Did you know, in Italy, there are very few takeaway cups, as despite a culture obsessed with coffee, the Italians believe you should pause at the bar, and savour a few slow seconds enjoying the fragrance and taste of your fresh brew! I’m embracing this Italian traditional, and learning to deliberately enjoy the process of pausing to make a coffee or tea.

What’s left, when we are not quite waste free..

  • Textiles and broken items (I have a tendency to break wine glasses, which are not recyclable) We already try to buy good quality, natural fabrics and hand on items once the kids have outgrown them.
  • Some soft plastic packaging! There are certain products that my kids love, and while I’ve tried alternatives, such as home cooking and bulk stores, sometimes in the early morning, with a grumpy three year old, it’s best to comply to their wishes of their favorite cereal, particularly if it’s a healthy choice. Equally, to confess, with a full time job, and busy family life, sometimes I just need the convenience of packet biscuits and gourmet cheeses so I can invite my girlfriends over to debrief on a Friday afternoon!

I know some would consider this cheating, and I know many families achieve amazing zero waste lives. However for our little family, while we are working to minimise packaging, soft plastic from some packaging is a reality. We are however taking advantage of Soft Plastic Bins at our local Supermarket, and dropping our packaging back at the local store for recycling. If everyone were to do this, it sends a really strong message about consumers expectation of  corporate responsibility, and as the volume of that waste grows, and the management of that waste becomes more expensive, commercial businesses who produce excess plastic packaging will be increasingly likely to introduce more suitable alternatives such as compostable packaging, even if that are a little more expensive.

So with these strategies in place, we are confident we can put our Landfill Bin out once a year! However as things evolve, I’ll be sure to share how it’s going, and would love to hear your tips!

So with Plastic Free July now behind us, what’s your pledge!