Reusing Rubbish & Food "waste" to save some coin..
We are very conscious about recycling & reusing as many materials as we can around the patch & there are so many great materials we gardeners can use that businesses & others throw away daily.. I'm always curious as to what's in skip bins at building sites or stockpiles of "rubbish" behind businesses & have been earmarked for the landfill.. It only takes a few seconds to ask those in charge & I am yet to be told I can't have something that is destined for the tip.. We have received besser/cinder blocks, dining room chairs, bed frames, pallets & building materials that have not only been most useful to us and saved us a rather substantial amount of coin.. Below are a few ways we have used re purposed "rubbish" to give it another life..
The large wicking beds in the main veggie patch are all made from left over roofing tin, saved from a skip bin by a carpenter friend, as well as some angle iron salvaged from discarded bed frames.. Not only did using these materials save them from going to landfill but it gave us some very cheap, termite proof garden beds..
The chicken pen was made from 99% recycled items we bartered for or saved from the landfill..
The fence panels used to make the chook pen cost us a few hours labour to pull it down.. The metal framing, bird wire & tin for the roof/walls came from scrap both of our fathers had laying around.. The only real cost was the rivets, screws, & wire needed to told it all together with a few cans of drinks given as a "thank you" to the folks that gave us the fence..
The bathtub worm farm is another build that was made from salvaged & recycled materials.. The stand is made from an old lounge frame & bed rails with the top being made from an old sliding door frame & some weed mat to block out the light for the worms.. All these bits had been living under the house as I knew they would come in handy later ;-)
The bathtub we used was sourced from a great worldwide online recycling site called Freecycle.. It's a great service that lets you list goods that would normally end up in land fill so others can have a go at using or re purposing it..
Other ways we recycle around here include shredded paper to use as worm food & nesting box material for the "girls".. Bottles, jars & cans are also used around the patch a fair bit for storage & other purposes.. Bottles are used as storage & also cut in half to act as rodent/frog covers on fill tubes in the wicking beds.. Drink cans cut in half also serve the same purpose on smaller diameter pipes.. Bottles cut in ½ also make great funnels.. After realising we were wasting about 2L of water waiting for the hot water to make it to the kitchen tap we decided to collect it in a jug & using that to keep the Wetpot irrigation reservoir topped up..
To make this process easier we fitted a bottle funnel to a pipe that runs into the top of the reservoir under the house so we can easily add the saved water to it..
Bottle funnels make the job of getting larger seeds into the small bags a lot easier as well I've found.. This comes in handy when packaging up bulk lots of seeds for our seed sharing group..
Scraps from store bought produce can also be recycled.. The easiest way to do this is by feeding it to the chooks, tossing it into the compost heap, used to feed compost worms or in the case of meat & leftover meals, black solider flies..
Another way to get some value from the scraps is to save the seeds to grow some for yourself.. This is something we have done a bit with great success.. Not every plant will give you seed that will grow true to type as they may be hybrids, so it is a good idea to buy named varieties that are heirloom..
Some of the easiest plants to do this with are capsicums, tomatoes, eggplants, melons & pumpkins..
We have saved seeds from chilli varieties like jalapeño & birds eye, large white eggplants, toad skin melon, Kent pumpkin & bulls horn capsicum with all of them growing well for us..
Potato & sweet potatoes that have sprouted in the pantry are 2 other plants that you can make use of in the patch..
With potatoes we plant them directly into the spot they're to be grown.. With the sweet potato you can break off the vine like growths (slips) & strike them in some water or plant them directly into the beds if their leaves are developed enough.. The tubers are nearly always still firm enough to eat so don't get wasted either ;-)
So there's a few ways we've reused reclaimed materials around the patch.. It does pay to keep your eye out & mind open, as you never know where a good find will pop up & fit in well with your gardening methods..
Some helpful free gardening sites, groups & events..
With winter winding down & Spring around the corner, it's time now to make a decisions about what plants we will be growing as the weather warms up.. When it comes to new varieties of plants or growing methods I like to rely on books, sites & knowledgeable folks for guidance.. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the places I have found useful for us here on the blog..
I find free planting guides put out by the likes of Gardening Australia & Gardenate, to be great resources as well as a great jumping off point when trying to work out what to grow.. They will give you the heads up on what plants are ready to sow, as well as growing notes.. Gardenate is particularly useful for folks here & overseas as it also covers New Zealand, North America, UK & South Africa..
I also like to go through online seed saving/trading groups as well as some seed retailers sites as they quite often offer some great information on what is best to plant during the year & also have other helpful tips on how to grow your fruit & veg.. The retail sites can be a dangerous place to glen information from, as you are normally one click away from an impulse buy :-/
I also really like sites like FaceBook & G+ for picking up a few tips on gardening/backyard farming from specialised groups.. There are all sorts of groups that specialise on particular subjects including seed saving, compost worms, backyard farming, aquaponics, animal husbandry & organic gardening.. We have made some great friends through these groups, some of whom we have met up with to swap seed & ideas over a coffee or 4..
Nothing beats local knowledge though.. If you are starting out it might pay to make enquiries to see if there is a gardening group or community garden in your area.. The folks there will be able to help you out with what grows well in your area & when is the best time to plant it.. Many members will be only too happy to share their knowledge with others keen to start growing their own food..
Some local horticultural gurus also have websites where they offer up information relevant to your region.. Annette McFarlane has a site packed full of useful growing tips, planting guides & organic growing methods.. I've been back there more than once for DIY pest control recipes alone ;-)
Some local government authorities will also put on fee gardening related classes.. As an example, Brisbane City Council offers courses that cover such things as plant propagation, growing in the subtropics, back yard chicken raising & more all centred around growing/raising food in the suburbs..
For those folks just starting out, the Internet can be a wealth of knowledge but sometimes it can be a bit hard to know where to start.. Hope that helps folks out with a few ideas on where you can source some helpful gardening information..
Pickings from the patch..
Have been most chuffed with the harvests we have been getting this winter..
The cauliflower & broccoli have been fantastic this year & are still being harvested every second day..
We also picked our first ever "edible" wombok cabbage which really had me stoked.. every other time we have tried to grow these they ended up being demolished by cabbage butterfly grubs..
Another first for us was Florence fennel.. This is one plant we have never tried to grow for some reason.. I think we let the first one go a bit too long & it ended up looking like some sort of cabaret head piece we thought :-D
The first bulb made it into a salad made from pickings from the patch & I must say we were very pleased with the result.. Fennel will be one plant that will make it into the patch again..
Have been picking some great tomatoes of late which is a bonus for us as the full sized varieties don't do that well for us in summer..
Here we have a mix of black carbon, Brad's black heart, boxcar Willy, broad ripple yellow current & black Russian tomatoes with some jalapeño chillies..
Last week I harvested some ginger, turmeric & yacon from the patch.. Made a clip on the harvest results for anyone that's interested..
Well that's about it for this blog.. Shall see you next Spring with an update on the aquaponics system & patch..