GARDENING HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS

Page Index

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FERTILIZER FACTS & INFORMATION

EARTH WORMS

POTTED PLANTS

LAWN CARE

PLANTING HINTS

COMPOSTING HINTS

TREATED TIMBER INFORMATION

LINKS

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ABOUT EARTH WORMS

Now I won't profess to being a scientist because I'm not, but this is what I have learned about Earth worms from things I have read and heard.

There are 3 groups/types of worms involved (sounds like a criminal investigation so far), subterranean worms that work underground, sub-surface worms that work just below the surface and worms that emerge after dark and work at the mulch layer below the grass layer.

So in my lawn and garden care and in my planting it's all of these type of worms that I am trying to encourage.

Don't worry if at first there does not seem to be many worms, just concentrate on getting the moisture level to the desired level, and commence using composts or organic fertilizers, and they will come in their droves.

For more information read Some uses of Earthworms1 - courtesy of Ken at Earthly Good Products

Following is a scan of my recently set up worm farm, as you will see the construction is simple and cheap, but it works very well. The length of the drum is 990mm and the width is 550mm, this makes it about a 44gal imp' size or about 200 litres.
There is a hole approx 1" cut in the middle of the bottom underneath (would be better I think if the hole was at one end and then slant the farm to that end), to allow liguid to drain into an icecream container, the wooden frame was what was used as my first frog pond.
We cover them with one sheet layer of newspaper, one layer of cloth (old towel) and another single sheet newspaper this is then kept damp.
The farm is about 2 weeks old and the worms are getting down to the business of recycling our kitchen scraps.

POTTED PLANTS

When potting plants it is best to use a good quality potting mix, as these contain some organic material and good drainage capabilities. Potting mixes don't compact in the pot like ordinary soil will.

For ongoing fertilizing of potted plants use slow release fertilizers, and as an extra foliage fed the plants with a good organic liquid fertilizer.

Generally when you buy your potted plants from the Nursery, or Supermarket, the potting mix that the plant is growing in is what is called a nursery mans mix.

Nursery's generally raise plants to all grow the same, so that the finished product looks it's best for the reseller, so they have irrigation systems that keep the plants in a well watered situation, because of this the potting mix they use is formulated to be free flowing and contain not much organic material that may cause rotting under these conditions.

So you will need to repot the plant into another potting medium one that has organic matter and has water retention capabilities, or you may find that the plant won't thrive outside the nursery, because nutrients and moisture are not being provided from the irrigation system.

When you do repot use a slow release fertilizer, and water when necessary.

As it is not really beneficial to have earthworms in pots, as they create galleries which enable the water to flow through without wetting the mix around the roots of the plant.

A way to try and inhibit earthworms from entering the pots is either have the pots raised above ground level when outside, or use squares of fly-screen mesh to cover the drain holes.

BUILDING A GARDEN FROM SCRATCH

WHAT DO YOU NEED ON HAND

Your garden shed need not look like a garden supply shop, although if you like plenty of knick knacks around go for it. Apart from the lawn cutting equipment, you basically need a wheelbarrow,a post hole shovel, a spade, a square nose or bull-nose shovel, long or short handle whichever suits, a lawn rake(yeah I know you've got a vac, but the rake will come in handy spreading mulch etc.,).

Other small hand tools would be a pruner, a garden trowel and a lawn weeder (very handy for digging a hole to plant small snippets).

A bag of fertiliser, container of Osmocote (slow release fertiliser), a bag of potting mix and a bag of Gypsum.

That's about it, with that I find I can tackle all my gardening jobs

LAWN CARE

If you want the greenest and the softest lawn around and a lawn that doesn't need a lot of watering under normal circumstances then I suggest the following.

But a word of caution - this may not suit everybody and it probably won't suit those with a swimming pool in the yard.

Never cut the grass shorter than about around 2"s or so (bowling greens and lawn tennis courts are planted with special types of grasses), cut longer in length if you so desire.

Don't use a catcher (the process of a rotary mower picking up grass and throwing it into a catcher also picks up some of your top soil, and if this bi product is dumped you can figure out what is happening) leave the clip to mulch in and improve the lawn, soil and earthworm activity. Leaving the clip cuts down the use of fertiliser and also helps control lawn grubs with the assistance of your local birds, who then will not be put at risk from eating grubs that are dying from being sprayed.

Grass clipping aren't the best to create a top mulch for gardens as most grass seed will still be active after mulching and if this is then added to the garden you could end up with grass sprouting in you garden along with any other weed spore that may be present. If you convert you clipping to mulch use it as an under mulch which is covered with either another mulch material or soil.

The best sort of mower then is a mower that is designed to mulch, but if your like me you have a catcher type mower so here's what to do ;

Mow with the catcher off, after mowing go around and either sweep the clods or rows around so that they disappear and will be washed in with the next shower of rain or blow them around with a yard blower, as this clip contains seed at particular time you will in fact cause more grass to grow thus strengthening and thickening you lawn.

Your lawn will also be softer to walk on because of the addition of mulching material over a continued period, I've found that in a 2 year period a lawn will look much more improved, at little or no extra cost.

The DOWNSIDE ah you say "thought there'd be a catch", well here it is YOU WILL NEED A VERY GOOD MAT AT EACH DOOR for people to wipe their feet on to remove the grass, or a basin of water to rinse off, or wear thongs or some sort of footwear that can be put on when going into the yard and taken off when going into the house. You will find this is only necessary until after a good rain shower or about a few days later. And the neighbours could think you a little odd sweeping grass around the yard with a wicker/straw or witches broom, but so what.

The other downer is that you may end up having to mow an extra 3 or 4 times in the season, as this process works better when the clip is shorter.

Having said all that! Keeping perfect Lawns is a very resource wastefull folly, our policy is it lives on available rainwater, and resists all bug attacks or it gets turned into a productive resource efficient garden.

PLANTING HINTS

When planting major plants (by major I mean the main feature plants) in your garden, I suggest the following procedure that has worked very well for me :-

To begin with you will need to dig a hole that is roughly twice the diameter of the pot that now contains the plant, the hole will need to be half again as deep as the pot is (deeper and wider depending on how bad your sub soil is).[When I learn to draw graphics I'll include some diagrammatical sketches or if a kind person reads this and can help I would be appreciative].

This is to allow the new plant some growing space before it meets the new surroundings, and to allow space for the inclusion of a good quality garden mix and Gypsum and fertilizers.

At this stage you would have worked out whether the plant needs to be raised because of the wet conditions of the surrounding ground, or whether it should be lower in order to trap a sparse rainfall like in dryer areas.

Once the hole is dug, then the planting process begins;

First: Put a generous layer of Gypsum in the bottom and throw some up the sides.

Second: Begin to backfill with the garden mix soil, and do consecutive spreads of soil and organic fertiliser until the mix in the bottom of the hole will hold the plant at the desired level. This then can be lightly tamped down so that the settlement is not that mush as to affect the final position of the plant.

Third: Remove plant from pot, place in the hole taking care to centre and level the plant so that it sits right for you.

Fourth: Begin to fill in around the plant, fill with the soil forming a slope from the top of the root ball to the edge of the hole, this allows a space for the addition of more gypsum and organic fertiliser up the hole as you backfill around the plant.

If you are going to have the plant above ground level you will need to build up to form a shallow crater around the plant with the same diameter as the original hole.

Fifth: Finally give the plant a good watering, leaving the hose slowly trickling around the base of the plant until the water wells up from the ground around the plant is about the best way to ensure a good deep water, there after water as normal. Planting this way will encourage earth worms to take up residence and multiply.

At this stage no I opt' for a layers of mushroom compost &/or stable manure, and a good layer of mulch hay, it is the fodder grass/lucerne hays that now proivide the ongoing nutrients for the plant. We went this way to remove the need for any man made chemical or supposedly organic based fertilisers.

This same method can be used when planting minor plants around the garden, however do not use these fertiliser around ferns use a slow release fertiliser.

If you need to correct an PH problem use Lime or Dolomite as extra to the gypsum, lime should be used 2 weeks prior to fertilzing.

The recommended PH range for successful is 6.0 to 7.5 (this will vary for some applications), if your PH is too low it can be corrected with the application of Lime or Dolomite, the application rates are as follows:- for Sandy Soils 150 to 200 Grams per Square Meter for Loam Soils 200 to 250 Grams per Square Meter and for Clay Soils 280 to 450 Grams per Square Meter.

Remember soil conditioning is not permanent and the soil will return to its original condition so repeat applications may be necessary depending on the use of organic material to assit the soil.

Finally in time you will have a magnificent healthy mature plant.

COMPOSTING HINTS

    

Here is how i compost the vegetable scraps that the worms can't handle, I have 3 of these plastic bins with the bottom cut out, I have found it is best to drill a maximum amount of 1/2 inch holes around the top and the bottom.

Composting of recyclable vegetation material

For kitchen scraps (not meat products) a Worm Farm or Tumbler is best. That way you won't attract any rodents or undesirables.

Composting Hints

Composting of recyclable vegetation material, is a environmentally user friendly method of disposing of waste from our homes.

The methods of composting are wide and varied from using Compost Heaps, Worm Farms and Compost Makers/Tumblers and the list goes on.>

What system(s) you decide to use are what you need for your purpose, and using more than one would be more than feasible, as of course you can have as many individual composting methods as is need by you to recycle all of your material.

With all composting I generally adopt the rule:-

"DON'T PUT ANYTHING IN THE COMPOST THAT YOU DON'T WANT IMPACTING ON YOUR GARDEN"

For kitchen scraps (not meat products) a Worm Farm or Tumbler is best, that way you won't attract any rodents or undesirables, by keeping this material out of the heap.

If you are going to use grass clipping at all, then it would probably be best to use the clip when the grass is not in seed.

>The best products are leaves green or brown, shredded tree/shrub pruning's, all types of manures, and even some of the old soil you may end up with after planting a tree etc.,.

Because there are micro-organisms at work breaking down the compost and converting it to humus, the heat of the mixture must be regulated, too hot will mean a rotting pile with not much use. Generally if you can't stick you hand in it without it feeling very hot then you will need to cool it down. This can be done by turning the mix over, and tumblers are designed to do just that (there only downside is their size).

If you have a compost heap then you would begin piling the compost to one side (half) of the bin, then turn it over from one side to the other every couple of days or so (more so when everything is generating a lot of heat). This allows cooling to take place and lets oxygen into the mix to aid the breakdown. Above all keep the mix moist.

If your compost heap only contains recycled trees then a short cut to turning, is to keep it very wet to keep it cool, oxygen is not as critical here as the shredded material as fairly course and doesn't compact.

I have always used Compost Heaps because it allows the earth worms to get into the mix and help with the breakdown (I am told that the earth worms from worm farms won't survive outside of the farm environment), if you have shortage of worms don't worry they'll find the heap and multiply.

Nitrogen based and organic fertilizers can be added to enhance the intrinsic value of the end product. The % ratios for adding fertilizers are as follows:- Horse/Cow Manure 25%, Sheep/Goat Manure 15% and Chicken Manure 5%

If your compost heap has stopped or slowed down it can be regenerated by using Comfrey

If your compost heap gets too hot you will kill off the Aerobes Bacteria which are the more beneficial Bacteria neede to break down the compost, you will then end up with Anaerobic Bacteria which will give you a slow compost heap, the heap will need moisture but as with heat too much moisture or very wet compost will give you a slow heap. The ideal heat range for composting is 55 to 60 degrees Celsius.

AS WE LEARN - WE DEVELOP: Now some eight years after compiling this site, we no longer aspire to the use of worm farms or compost bins or heaps, now we look back and to us it is all that extra work, when the pleasure of enjoying one's efforts was to be had (ie.,. sitting in the shade relaxing with a suitable cold drink and admiring what has been achieved).
Our garden beds are now our worm farms and compost bins, we just simply keep adding all those things on top and cover it with mulch, composting worms will live for a very long time in a well fed garden bed.
We in fact harvested composting worms when we needed them for our composting toilet, and of course in these dry times our beds get watered with all recycled material.

links

Vermicomposting Forum How To Compost: From beginners to experts this web site is designed to be a hub for all composting information. No matter what your interest is,

Information on Treated Timber

Not recommended for Edible Gradens

Environmental Protection Agency Consumer Information Sheet on CCA, ACA, and ACZA Treated Wood Here is the text of the Consumer Information Sheet about pressure treated wood, received from the American Wood Preserver's Association {PO Box 5283, Springfield, VA 22150}, that is SUPPOSED to be provided to every purchaser of CCA, ACA, and ACZA treated wood.

This wood has been preserved by pressure treatment with an EPA registered pesticide containing inorganic arsenic to protect it from insect attack and decay. Wood treated with inorganic arsenic should be used only where such protection is important. Inorganic arsenic penetrates deeply and remains in the pressure treated wood for a long time. Exposure to inorganic arsenic may present certain hazards. Therefore, the following precautions should be taken when handling the treated wood and in determining where to use or dispose of the treated wood.

USE SITE PRECAUTIONS:
Wood pressure treated with waterborne arsenical preservatives may be used inside residences as long as all sawdust and construction debris are cleaned up and disposed after construction. Do not use treated wood under circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food or animal feed. Examples for such sites would be structures or containers for storing silage or food. Do not use treated wood for cutting boards or counter tops. Only treated wood that is visibly clean and free of surface residue should be used for patios, decks, and walkways. Do not use treated wood for construction of beehives that may come in contact with honey. Treated wood should not be used where it may come into direct or indirect contact with public drinking water, except for uses involving incidental contact such as docks and bridges.

HANDLING PRECAUTIONS:
Dispose of treated wood by ordinary trash collection or burial. Treated wood should not be burned in open fires or in stoves, fireplaces, or residential boilers because toxic chemicals may be produced as a part of the smoke and ashes. Treated wood from commercial or industrial use (e.g construction sites) may be burned only in commercial or industrial incinerators or boilers in accordance with state and federal regulations. Avoid frequent or prolonged inhalation of sawdust from treated wood. When sawing and machining treated wood, wear a dust mask. Whenever possible, these operations should be performed outdoors to avoid indoor accumulations of airborne sawdust from treated wood. When power sawing and machining, wear goggles to protect eyes from flying particles. After working with the wood, and before eating, drinking, and use of tobacco products, wash exposed areas thoroughly.

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Aussie BEE: Australian native bees show fascinating behaviours.

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