Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Worms, Compost and now Chickens!

Since I got excited about gardening and growing vegetables, I decided to try and start a worm farm. Hubby kept having these large styrofoam boxes being delivered to the practice and my mum told me I could make a worm farm out of them. So I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately I had only one big styrofoam box and two little boxes. So I started with the big box and poked some drainage holes in the bottom. It would have been nice if I could collect this "worm wee" I read so much about, but I only had one box. The kids were also quite excited about the whole "pet worm" thing.

Image from Family Weekend Project: Practical Kids Make a worm farm
I did lots of reading and they said to put lots of "carbon" into the box. So I shredded lots of corrugated cardboard and paper and lined the bottom with a few pieces of newspaper so the worms didn't go out the holes as easily. Then I bought a box of worms from Bunnings and away they went.  However, we made more fruit peel than they could eat, so I decided to top up with another box of worms and see how that goes. I've been watching it carefully to make sure it's not too dry, and also to make sure food isn't going anaerobic in there. There are a few other bugs in there breaking down the food too, and I every morning we open the lid to see if we can see any worms eating the peelings and other scraps that we left there.  One website said that I should bury the food not leave it on top to help control the smell and I might do that for the second worm farm that I wanted to put in the house in square styrofoam boxes.

Then I decided I wanted to keep chickens. I'd been thinking about chickens for a while now, and I didn't have anywhere to put them, except in this area of the backyard that had lots of trees growing out of control in it. I've since cut down those trees, and there is a good space there for putting a coop, but we have the water tank collection thing there. However, I think we can cover it so the chooks don't poop on it, but I've finally gone ahead and bought a coop to put there from My Chicken Coop.

Thinking of starting with 2 Isa Brown hens, and I hope they're friendly so the kids can pick them up and have them treated like real pets. Also, looking forward to feeding them our scraps! I have resigned myself to being the person who cleans and looks after them (adding more time to my chores), but I figured I can at least use their poo on the garden.

Which brings me to the last thing, I finally bought a compost bin. After umming and ahhing about what to get, I bought an Aerobin 400, which seems to be a nice lazy composting bin that would work well for me. I would like to put the excess chicken poo in there and bedding (thinking of using hemp bedding rather than straw). I was doing a lot of reading about successful compost bins and it seems that having the right combination of nitrogen and carbon contents is the key. If you put too much food stuff in there it goes foul and stinky. And it has to be moist and warm too, much like the worm farm. I won't set it up until the chicken coop goes in, because I need some nice solid ground to put it on (like pavers or bricks) and I would like it near the chicken coop. I like how this person has set it up on a raised area.

But the vegies are doing well - the bok choy is growing wild on the tanbark because I threw the old seed pods there after I'd done a big seed harvest and they started growing so I thought, free food! So I've been looking after them, fertilizing and watering them, and even putting out slug and snail bait, and they have been growing nicely and should be right to have some leaves harvested in the next week or two.

I've also tried something my mother was telling me about. Her sister, my aunt, is the ultimate in recycling, and keeps chickens and grows her own vegetables. She collects large tins from her neighbours, punches holes in the bottom for drainage, puts compostable stuff in the bottom 5-10cm of the tin, chucks in some chicken poo and then potting mix on top and then plants vegetables in them and plonks them on the soil. She has containers growing vegies EVERYWHERE, and they're very successful!  My mother is a very keen gardener with a huge vegetable garden and takes great pride in her vegies but even she was impressed with her sister's work. My aunt gives eggs and vegies to her neighbours and in return they bring her their kitchen scraps and old tins and she feeds the chooks and makes more pots. So I decided to try that with my sister's empty baby milk powder tins, and have got some zucchini growing in one of them. It will be a bit of an experiment for me!

So currently I have dwarf beans, bok choy, carrots, spring onions, and cucumbers growing. I have just sown some thai basil, lettuce and zucchini and there are some wild spinach that have obviously grown from my failed earlier attempt at spinach (which bolted to seed because it was just too warm here). My poor chili plants have been resuscitated from the brink of death, and my Kaffir lime is growing all over the place (but never flowers or fruits). I have one basil plant that survived the slugs but I really should plant more if I want to get anything useful out of it!

I'm quite enamoured with my garden at the moment, having never thought I would be much of a green thumb, but I find it fun and the kids love to go outside and help water the plants and pick vegies. I bet they'll be even more excited to get eggs every morning!

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