Local sources for cheap/free composting material..
I have already mentioned how we make our layered compost in IBC cages in previous blogs but thought I would fill you in on a few ways that you could make up your own compost or feed the compost worm farm using free or very cheap local resources..
We are lucky enough to live close enough to farming areas & have access to pre bagged horse manure.. Some people collect their own animals manure & offer it for sale at the farm gate while others collect it in bulk, rebag it & sell it to the public.. The most I've have ever paid for a 25 litre bag of manure is $2 & that was home delivered..
Our favourite source of horse manure offers aged horse manure in 45 litre bags for $2.70 & comes already aged for well over a month which is great..
If you have access to a ute or a trailer then another option opens up to you.. I have seen offers on FaceBook pages & Gumtree for free manure from stables & properties where folks agist out their horses.. All you need to do is make an appointment & be prepared to put in a bit of elbow grease to collect it yourself..
There are other manures that are fine to compost for the patch like cow, poultry, sheep, alpaca, rabbit, goat & even guinea pig.. I think it's a good idea to age any manure you bring into your yard to allow time for any drenches or pharmaceuticals to breakdown, especially if you are unsure of its origin.. We like to leave ours for a month minimum if we're uncertain..
Another great source of organic matter for your compost pile is the local shops and shopping centres.
Cafes and restaurants will quite often hold aside coffee grounds for anyone willing to take them.. Juice bars are another great source of free organic matter in the form of skins & fibre removed from fruit/vegetables.. I was surprised to find out how much organic matter the local juice bar throws out with their general rubbish.. The local fruit and veggies store is also good place to pick up bulk organic matter for composting. Every time we have asked to raid the scraps bin we have been told we can take as much as we can carry..
A resource a lot closer to home would have to be yours & your neighbour's lawn mower catcher & green "waste" pile/bin..
Our neighbours are great when it comes to helping us out with compost building materials.. One side always offers us lawn clippings to use in our compost or to add to the chickens pen.. They have also provided us with tree trimmings which we then mulch up & add to the compost pile.. We also have access to spongy rotten tree branches & trunk in our other neighbours yard.. Some of that has been crushed & added into our current compost cage.. Not only does it add more "browns" (carbon) to help even out the carbon/nitrogen ratio but also acts as a sponge to that will hold more moisture in the pile.. Another kind local has offered as much duckweed as we want from their pool that has been turned into a pond.. It will most definitely come in handy as there are no trees left to prune back here for the next compost cage..
Shredded paper also helps to add bulk to the compost pile..
We are fortunate that we get a fair bit collected for us by friends & family as well as the free "newspaper" that Bianca collects on her evening commute.. We mainly add the soiled shredded paper from the chickens nesting box as the bulk of what we collect & shred goes into the worm farm..
I hope that gives you a few ideas on how you can gather resources for your next compost pile or the vermicompost farm from local sources for free or very little outlay..
A wander through the patch..
Thought I'd do a bit of a rundown on what's going on in the patch now that Spring has well & truly arrived.. The weather has been great with a few days in the mid 30°C's & nice mild evenings.. We haven't had much rain but I dare not wish for any as that could come back to bite me in the rear..
The front patch..
The front beds have been producing a decent amount of food for us so far this season.. Have been very pleased with the amount of asparagus that we've been able to pick.. The plants spear production has slowed down a bit with only a few being ready for harvest every couple of days & most of them have become my breakfast as I do my morning wander through the patch ;-)
The perpetual spinach is being harvested a fair bit for both ourselves & the chooks to munch on.. The chickens are getting some leaves every few days & we are having a meal or 2 a week from the small stand we have growing here.. We're mainly using it in dishes like vegetable frittatas, mashed through roasted pumpkin/squash as well as in one of my favourite home made "Fast food" treats, spinach, feta, olive & sundried tomato pasties..
The corn in the front yard is also going great guns..
I have noticed a few small potential corn cobs growing out from between the leaves & stalk on a few plants but there are no signs of the tassels forming at the top of the plant yet.. Another bed will be planted out in the next week or so with others later so we can have a continuous supply of sweet corn all the way through into winter..
The next bed to be planted with corn currently has some broccoli in it that was let go to seed..
As the broccoli wasn't really intended for the table & only for seed collection, we didn't mind that some aphids infested the branches.. They quickly built up in numbers but I wasn't worried as they attracted a load of ladybugs that also decided to call the broccoli home.. The ladybugs have multiplied to the point that we now have hundreds of them in all stages of development crawling over the plants & feasting on the aphids..
Posted a clip to our YouTube channel for anyone interested in having a look at the different stages of the ladybugs life cycle..
After we have collected all the seed we need, the remaining branches with ladybugs on them will be placed in the hoop house out the back to help increase the population there.. Hopefully they will keep any whitefly or aphid infestation under control while the adults may help in pollinating the plants..
There will also be a couple of carrot flower heads dry enough to collect seeds from over the next week..
I'm really looking forward to growing some carrots from some seed we have saved ourselves.. In the next blog I will include a bit of a look at collecting the seeds from these & a few other plants..
Bits Out the Back..
The hoop house out the back has been extended a bit to allow a bit more area around the aquaponics to be shaded.. Is not a lot but should be enough to set up some NFT tubes to grow some leafy crops in..
A few of the plants in the backyard patch have really taken off over the last few weeks.The long purple eggplant have again proven to us that they are one of the most productive varieties we've grown..
I was planning on frying the first lot for some veggie burgers but decided on grilling them with a bit of parmesan cheese on top instead.. It made for a very tasty little side dish & to my surprise, was enjoyed even by Kira who isn't normally a fan of eggplant.. I think we might look at removing one of the udumalpet eggplant as this one plant will give us more than we need methinks..
The mouse melons have also picked up with the warmer weather sending out new sections of vine over the top of the shade house already.. The vine is covered in female and male flowers at the moment but have not seen any fruit start to form as of yet..
Surprisingly there is still one or 2 fruit on the plant that made it through Winter..
Another plant that has taken off is the blueberry bush. It's absolutely loaded with fruit and think it will be a best harvest to date.
Have already started to munch on the odd ripe one in my morning walk around, much to the displeasure of the girls ;-)
There hasn't been much progress on the aquaponic system of late other than a lot of sitting around listening to the water splash while I contemplate what style of growing systems I'd like to use & where they can be fit into the system..
The grow beds had become a bit of a jungle over the past few months so decided to give them a bit of a trim back..
Any tomato plant that was removed was hung up on the clothes line so the immature fruit could ripen.. Was also surprised to find over a dozen pepino fruit hiding under the jungle that was hanging over the side of a grow bed..
There are a few less here now as 3 or 4 of the ripest were given away to some lovely folks that had a wander through the patch last weekend..
The broad ripple yellow current tomatoes have continued to supply us with an abundance of fruit from the various volunteer plants we have growing around the yard..
It has taken a while, but the girls have finely been retrained to cut up a small handful of these beauties for a sandwich instead of asking if we can buy some tomatoes at the store ;-)
It takes no time at all to cut up enough to make a tasty grilled cheese & tomato for lunch ;-)
We have also preserved a few harvests as tomato sauce to be seasoned & used at a later date as a quick meal base..
Making up the sauce takes no time at all really.. It's as easy as slicing all the fruit in half & adding them to a pot to stew down until the sauce starts to thicken.. Once I'm happy with the consistency I use a stick blender to puree the sauce & break up all the skins as I see no point in losing any of the goodness of the fruit.. These fruit have a nice sweet flavour & it really makes this sauce a bit of a stand out I think..
The remaining cauliflower & broccoli in the hoop house are still looking great..
Have been continually picking the broccoli side shoots & have noticed a few small heads forming on the cauliflower.. We are expecting a jump in the temperature to round 34°C/93°F over the weekend with a 39°C/102°F day at the start of next week so I think that will knock them around a bit.. Have added an extra layer of shade cloth over that section of the patch so that might help them to pull through OK..
All the potatoes are looking fantastic so far & am hoping that the heat doesn't knock them around too much either..
I think the ones that will be the most vulnerable will be the plants in bags near the house.. Might hang a bed sheet over them just to give them a bit of shade from the sun..
That's about it for this month's blog..
Hope you have a crack at sourcing some free local goodies to make up some living fertiliser for the patch or even just to feed the worms or other animals you may have roaming around the place ;-)
Shall see you next month with a bit of a look at some seed saving..
Cheers & have fun in the patch,