We’ve been wondering if we’re adding enough compost to the vegie garden and there are circle beds where I think we would benefit from adding more organic matter – C6, C0, C7. Some others such as C4 really pumped out tomatoes this summer, and also now we are harvesting some great celery. C3 did really well too after a broad bean crop in spring and then carrots and beetroot in there now. Those two beds had generous compost additions and in C3 the beans must have added some good nitrogen. C6 is struggling – the apricot tree nearby benefits more than the vegies I think.
This year we have started getting serious about compost – our Christmas present to each other was a compost tumbler which brings our compost bin total to 3. The tumbler speeds up production, especially during summer. Clearing out the animal sheds and pens combined with some slashed comfrey and lawn clippings fills two bins easily. Being able to move the compost through the system quicker means we can get it into the garden and out of the bins before we need to fill them again. And the tumbler means less work with the garden fork.
The animals produce a lot of compost ingredients – pre-processed and rich in manure. Having rabbits again has been brilliant with clearing a bit of couch grass – they are the only way I know of reliably converting the roots to useful stuff with a 48 hour turnaround. The rabbits get excited when I walk towards their rabbit palace with an armful of greens.
After the Adult Ed permaculture course I moved our worm farm out of the afternoon sun and split off half to a second bin. The worms are happier and they are no longer in the way when I am potting up seedlings.
Sitting on the back steps today I realised I could make a stacking worm farm. Our first worm farm is a purchased one. It does a fine job, has an attached lid and a neat drainage outlet. But it has a limited capacity being stretched at the moment by all the preserving. The second is one old recycling bin sitting inside another. The top bin has a couple of holes in the bottom to allow for drainage into the bin below. We have another two of these bins circulating in the garden which I use for batches of seedlings and carting stuff about. Armed with a drill with a largeish bit, my plan is to make another two layers to the recycling bin worm farm allowing for easier separation of the active worms from the finished castings and improve drainage. If I wanted to get fancy I could add a tap to the side of the bottom bin for draining out the worm tea.
Over the past few months I have more regularly been feeding the worms and they are responding with enthusiasm, multiplying and processing more and more waste each week.
Another experiment we will try again is adding a shovelful of worms to a nearly ready compost pile to seed it with worms and give a final kick to the breakdown of materials.
Another Adult Ed workshop – this one with Paul Healy – has switched us from straw to hay. As all this material really gets used as animal bedding and feed, that reduces the weed seed potential. It is also cheaper (bonus). So this week the strawshed switched to being a hayshed. It did start life as a cubby house. I loaded 16 bales onto a borrowed trailer and would feel confident collecting a batch of that size again.