Tag Archives: soil

To wriggle or rot?

3 Aug

I have been having a debate with myself for a little while now about whether to compost or worm farm.  Yes, I know, I think I might need to go and get myself something a little more interesting, and possibly a bit less smelly to think about.  Really, come on, I could be thinking about plants, flowers, vegetables, hell even mulch is better than compost.  But alas, my mind keeps wandering to whether we let nature or her wriggly friends do the work of turning our organics into garden gold.

I know this doesn’t make for the most exciting reading under normal circumstances, but I figure if I give it the Drawn Outdoors touch, maybe, just maybe I can make the art of decomposition a little bit more interesting.

I’m getting a bit sick of throwing out so much organic waste, when I know that with a little bit of organisation I can be turning this into fantastic free food for my yet to be constructed garden.  The vegie scraps I’m throwing out today could be working for me to feed the food I’m growing tomorrow.

I want to provide the Drama Queen and the Daredevil with a good understanding of how they can impact the earth they live on and the environment around them, and I want our little household to have the smallest impact on the earth as possible.  But what is the best option for us?  Not a huge dilemma, though getting it wrong can create some not so nice side effects. I know there are other fun options for getting rid of your organic scraps in a sustainable way – like keeping chickens (If you’re in Sydney check out Rent a Chook), but the reality is we don’t have so much space, so chooks are out of the question.  So the burning question is do we wriggle or rot??

Worm Farms

Worm farms are the more fun option, particularly if you have kids that aren’t too squeamish about wriggly things.  We don’t have pets, and worms could fill a bit of a gap in the family.  No, you can’t pat them or cuddle them and they won’t come when you call, but neither do fish, and they can teach the munchkins lessons in caring for other creatures.

The pros of the worm farm option are the amount of space required, the relative “tidyness”, their amazing efficiency and the lack of hard work required by us, theoretically the worms do the work for us then provide us with their liquid gold to help our garden grow.  But on the down side, the worms can be a little bit fussy, and if you don’t treat them the way they like then you may end up with not much wriggle going on in your farm.  While worm wee is fantastically full of garden goodness, it doesn’t provide organic matter to add to the texture of your garden soil.

Compost

Compost bins, piles or heaps take up a little bit more room and aren’t necessarily as pretty, and nowhere near as much fun.

So what’s the good, the bad and the unfortunately very ugly of compost??  The way I see it, Compost provides a superior product for your garden, not only do you get the nutrients, but you also get a great texture for your garden soil when mixed through.  Compost is nowhere near as fussy as worms, so you can put almost any organic waste into a compost heap.  The down side is they need a bit more work from us.  Turning, mixing and then spreading the compost requires a lot more work than the worms do, and the space requirement is a bit of an issue for us.  Compost bins or heaps need some space to work efficiently and to be able to be turned and mixed, and space is on short supply here.  And the last down side of compost is that it’s not really all that attractive, and it’s better left out of sight but not out of mind.

The Verdict – Wriggle or rot?

In the perfect world I would do both, but in reality I think worms are our best option.  Worms will take up a lot less space, and maybe we could even store them in the garage and then they won’t take up any of our valuable outdoor space.  The Munchkins will get a little lesson in caring for other creatures, neither of them are too squeamish.  So wriggle is the winner for us.

Maybe I can convince the Strata here to have a communal compost (though this is fraught with management issues to tackle) and we could have the best of both worlds and spread a little bit of green.

This weekend I might go and find us a new pet farm for the Munchkins and turn our waste to good!

Sam

Mud pies

13 Jul

Image from Danilo Rizzuti on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the most important considerations when designing and planning gardens or outdoor spaces is your soil type and underlying geology.  Hmmmm…. yes I know, exciting stuff.  I can hear you all reaching for your mouse, see the cursor heading to the little cross of blog post death, but wait, don’t do it, not yet.  Maybe, just maybe I can make it a little bit fun, slightly interesting, or at the very worst you might just learn something.  Come on, give the dirt a chance.

So, now I’ve convinced you not to click off, I have to make this dirt interesting…. here goes….

Boring bits first.  Soil structure is important for both plants and any garden structure and earthworks.  Different soils react differently and plants either like things wet and heavy or light and dry, or anywhere in between. There are basically 3 different soil structures that are made up of the base material (eroded rock) and organic material (the yummy stuff).

Clay soils – Come from shale, are really heavy, become waterlogged and don’t have a lot of the yum stuff.

Sandy soils – Well, just think of the beach.  Sandy soils have a large particle size, drain easily and also don’t have a lot of the yum stuff

Loam soils – Goldilocks would love this stuff, not too heavy, not too dry, just right.  Loams have  the perfect mix of clay, sand and organic matter , and if you have a perfect loamy soil you are set.

Image from smh.com.au

But how do you know what you have, and how to get goldilocks to love it? Well, have a dig, get your hands dirty, make some mud pies.  I had a lecturer at uni who used to make us test soil on our teeth (yum!).  The theory was similar to the pearl test, in that when you rubbed the dirt across your teeth they could detect the difference between the fine clay and more course sand particles.  Personally I think she just got a laugh watching 30 unsuspecting undergrads eating dirt – I know I would!

Much better is the mud pie test.  Grab a couple of handfuls of dirt, add a little bit of water and make some pies.  If your pie holds together so well you’re thinking about sculpting it into an award winning cake decoration, you probably have clay.  If it makes a nice round pile of mud that holds together well, but won’t handle more detail, then you’ve got the lucky loam, and if your mud pie just can’t hold itself together, and is a lot more like a sandcastle, then sand is what you have.

The good news is that any soil can be made better and create a happy home for any plant, providing all the other things like sun and water are there.  If you have clay then add sand and compost, sand needs compost and mulch, and loam, well everyone loves a little bit of the yummy compost stuff every now and again.  The even better news is that compost can be free if you’ve thought ahead, but more about that in the future, ’cause I’ve been weighing up whether to have worms or a heap.

Moral to the story is if you love your mud and give it some yum stuff, it will love you back and give you bountiful harvests.

image from smh.com.au

If I’ve actually got you thinking about mud, check out the 14th annual Boryeong Mud Festival at Daecheon beach, 190 kilometers southwest of Seoul, Korea. The festival encourages the use of mud for its benifits for skin-care and to promote tourism in the region. The festival runs until from July16-24.  But really it just seems like an excuse for college kids to get really really dirty!

Sam

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