Free compost & mulch...
Have had to reign in the garden budget at the moment due to the cost of setting up the new recirculating aquaculture system (fish farm), but am lucky that we have free fertiliser just laying around & growing in the yard just waiting to process & use..
One of the easiest & cheapest ways we have to feed up the beds is by cleaning out the chicken pen & yard.. Greens from the patch, tall grass from the fence line, kitchen scraps, & lawn clippings from the back yard all go in to their pen on a regular basis.. At the moment they are also being treated to a self service tomato bar & a fair few mangoes that have been knocked down by possums & flying foxes..
What isn't devoured by the girls is scratched around the pen, mixed with manure & composts down.. The varied diet the girls have means that the manure they produce is rich & when added to the composted scraps/clippings in their pen makes for a very rich additive for the garden.. It's packed with organic matter to help feed the compost worms in the garden beds which is another bonus.. The last lot that was collected was added to our sweet corn bed which was sown out on the 7th of January & I think the results speak for themselves :)»
Composting garden & lawn scraps is also another great way to make some free garden amendments.. Out in the front yard we have a pile that is mainly lawn clippings under a stand of pigeon pea bushes.. This pile would, if left alone, eventually break down but as I'm impatient I have been boosting it with some other pruning's from the yard.. As the pile is mainly a cold composting grass clippings heap it does tend to dry out a little & become slightly hydrophobic, not allowing water to penetrate deep into the pile.. To combat this I like to give it a water whenever anything is added & turned over..
A few different bits from around the patch have been added to this heap.. The first lot of goodies to go in was the old pumpkin & spaghetti squash vines that had been growing out the front.. They were run over with the mower to make the composting process faster & then buried in the centre of the pile..
Was most surprised to find that the composting process had started the very next day with the centre of the pile hitting 60°C/140°F.. I think the fresh greenery added the nitrogen & moisture that the pile needed to boost the composting process..
A few weeks ago we also started to add the pips & skin from the mangoes we harvested from the tree in the backyard into the heap.. We have found that mangos & pineapple in particular attract black soldier flies into the compost where they lay their eggs.. These flies are great to have around as not only are their larvae great composters, the adult flies release chemicals that tend to keep house & blow flies away..
In no time at all these little composters can devour your scraps (including meat & some dairy if in a purpose built farm) into waste that can then be composted down further into a great fertiliser.. We actually have a fair few mangoes that have been blown by Queensland fruit fly so they too will be going into the pile.. Before they get added though they will be put into a bag or bucket with a lid & left out in the sun for a few days.. The heat will kill the fruit fly larvae that would otherwise continue their life cycle in the compost pile & become pests later on..
Over the weekend some mulched up weed tree branches & pigeon pea bushes were added before giving the pile a good turn over & a good soaking.. The pigeon pea will help add extra nitrogen to the mix & the leaf mulch will add beneficial microbes as it had already started to break down in a barrel it was stored in out the back.. When the next batch of mangoes go into the pile another load of pigeon pea mulch will also go in as well..
Mulch is another product you can grow, chop/mulch up & add to the garden to save you some coin.. Some good sources for home grown mulch that we have used in the past are lemongrass, comfrey & pea plants.. A new one we have been able to try this Summer is corn stalks..
Rather than trying to compost down the hard corn stalks, I thought it would make a great mulch on the bed it was grown in.. That way it can slowly break down & become food for the compost worms in the bed.. So far I think it's doing a great job & it will be interesting to see how long it takes to breakdown..
Hope that gives folks a few ideas on how they might be able use plants & prunings from the patch in different ways to help them out & save them some coin.. Let me know if you have any other great ways to processes organic matter for free on site.. Will be interesting to see what others do I think..
Some great harvests...
Finely had a great crop of fruit fly free tomatoes from the patch :)» Most of the fruit ended up in the pot to make some stewed tomatoes for later use, while keeping a few of the choice black Russians for salads.. I think the tomato plants have had their run for this Summer so shall be removing the plants this week.. Will be looking at starting up some new seedlings so we can have a go at a cool weather crop..
Took these 2 Jade perch out of the aquaponics to share with my parents over the holidays.. The smaller fish weighed in at a respectable 405g/0.9lb while the larger fish weighed in at 715g/1.5lb & is the largest we have pulled from the system so far :)» Both went on the BBQ & turned out very nice :)» Still have a few in the system & hope to have them down to about 10 over the next month or so..
This Summer's mango crop isn't as large as last year's yet has given us over 4 dozen mangoes so far.. I think we should be able to get at least another dozen or so off before the season is over.. Our eldest has been de-fleshing the fruit & popping them into the freezer for later use.. She is experimenting tonight making up sweet mango rice for our breakfast tomorrow.. Will be interesting to see what it taste like methinks..
That's about it for this month's blog & should be able to introduce you to some new residents in the patch next blog ;)»
I hope you all had a great Christmas/holidays & wish you all some great crops in 2014..