This organic technique is part of Send a Cow’s training in sustainable agriculture and is a great home garden idea too. Keyhole gardens survive floods and arid conditions well as the raised bed holds moisture and is ‘fed’ grey water and compost via a central basket.
I was donated thousands/s of worms from a local farmer who had too many in their bath tubs. They started from about 1KG of worms, just 2 years ago.
I collected bags of them and quickly transported them back to their new home that had been prepared with car tyres. I found this the most cost effective way to make enough space for all these worms as tyres are collected for free from the local tyre dealerships in town. This is a very effective way to turn your waste into nutrient rich vermicompost. I used layers of brown and green leaf matter, soil, grass cuttingsand damp newspaper matter for a couple days before the worms arrived.
What and what not to feed your worms.
Do Feed Worms:
- Vegetable scraps
- Fruit scraps and peels (mold/rot is fine)
- Bread and grains
- Non-greasy leftovers
- Coffee grounds (and filters)
- Crushed egg shells
- Napkins, paper towels, cardboard, newspaper
- Meats,fish, poultry
- Greasy foods
- Dairy products
- Twigs and branches
- Dog/cat feces, cat litter
Although they have been so wonderful to have on our farm. Very kindly donated by a local farmer. They have set us back many months of work by eating quite a few of our plants, mother plants and chicken feed. I could almost cry this week, when I woke up one morning to see that the wind had opened the vegetable garden gate and I found that the donkeys had got into the garden, eaten all the mealies, carrots and lettuce, aswell as hoofing up a few other seedlings. We were proactive about this, bit our lips and got the seeds out to plant what seeds we had left of these veggies.As soon as turning our backs they had eaten the last of our spinach seeds, mealie seeds, carrots and kind of just chewed on the beans. Packets and all. They have also broken into the workshop and got hold of the chicken feed, ate about 5Kg of mealie cournals in one evening. Besides all this, it just teaches me to be a better farmer, keep a watchful eye on them, and also block areas that they should not go into. It seems to be working better, and they seem to be fine.
On a plus side they are wonderful animals, make me laugh, fit in well with the other animals and are good deterrents of snakes, aswell as can be good alarm systems. Donkeys also make fantastic lawn mowers and saved me roughly R1000.00 on gardening services. I also pick up their droppings each week and add to garden beds as a mulch aswell as add it to our growing compost heap. They are easy to maintain, really don’t require much maintainance except for attention and the odd treat of fruit here or there. Oh something quite funny to watch them eat is WaterMelon, their lips go red!!
They have been the first permanent residents on the farm, and look forward to many happy years with them. I might be in luck and get hold of a newly born stallion in the next couple of weeks.
In times of recession, and expensive taxes by governments to fund their travel trips, parties and houses its always good to know how we can save money and use our resources to make more.
Water - Try and catch your rainwater and use in that your garden. It’s far better to use your rainwater than municipal supplied water with high amounts of chemicals, that can potentially damage your plants and your health. Also start reusing your grey water from baths, kitchen sinks and basins. As a previous article suggests, you can save up to 40% off your water bill. We are already using our grey water at Ramblers Rest. Just one note is to make sure you don’t use harmful chemicals in your water. Organic shampoo’s, soaps can be beneficial to the plants.
Soil – start composting, it’s a the best way to use your kitchen scraps, garden refuse, lawn clippings. Compost is important for your soil and provides much-needed aeration to your soil, acts as a mulch, and recreates a micro climate for little organisms to work their magic. Mulching is important and you can use animal droppings, shredded newspapers, old cardboard boxes, pine cones and retted lawn clippings to provide mulch.
Seeds – With doggie companies out there that run under multiple aliases, that sell genetically modified seeds ( Monsanto ) , now is a good time to start looking at seeds. Start saving your seeds, storing them in waterproof containers. They should be good on a shelf for five years or more. Also to propagate your seeds, use old egg cartons, empty tins. I also started cutting up old milk cartons to use as pegs with black marker to label y seedlings. It’s great to reuse and saves you trips to the dump.
Garden nutrients – Besides compost, there are other great cheap fertilizers available. Crushed egg shells add calcium to the soil and improve compacted soil. If you live near a racetrack/fairgrounds/riding stable, you can get free horse manure if you are willing to haul it away. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate – both vital plant nutrients. Dissolve some Epsom salt with water and use it on magnesium-loving houseplants, roses, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Dry out your leftover coffee grounds and sprinkle them around the base of your acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, roses, rhododendrons and blueberries. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, magnesium and potassium, and since they are acidic, they help maintain the soil’s acidity.
Weed Killers – pulling weeds by hand is much easier after a rain shower, you want to pull it out at the roots. Using a product called Roundup is possibly the worst thing you can ever do ever. Try not use anything produced by this company Monsanto, its expensive and taking its toll on our food production and soil quality. Mix some vinegar with kitchen soap and spray on weeds. The soap helps with getting vinegar to stick the leaves, and the acetic acid from the vinegar removes moisture from the weeds. To help with aphids, mites etc, you can make a simple organic repellent using kitchen soap, bioneem oil, cayenne peppers, crushed garlic, shake your bottle and spray on your plants.
I wrote this article and used content from another blog by Tara McAlistar from this website.
Chickens are a necessity on every farm. So far our biggest fans, Soulsby farm, have given me a bit of inspiration for chickens, and have an article I have read a few times, Why everyone should own chickens . Lovely to connect with other small farmers from around the world. Much easier than buying books!! They have written 10 reasons why one should own chickens. I would like to add to that.
Great news is yesterday my chickens produced their first egg. It was exciting, I never knew a chicken egg would make me smile, and has been a talking point for me for over 24 hours. I feel like I am a farmer now. We have suffered only two losses of chickens in the last few weeks. And from very kind neighbours and new friends I have been donated quite a few wonderful chickens, all different shapes and sizes. I do have too many roosters, but not worried about too many cocks spoiling the broth. I am considering building a chicken tractor to assist in housing the roosters and keeping them separate from the hens, aswell as assisting in soil regeneration.
Just getting my hands dirty, but also now recycling and reusing. Instead of throwing away your left overs there are ways to create small worm bins for yourself or your family and start converting your organic waste into valuble plant food aswell as revitalise your soil.
The scientist Charles Darwin described worms as the most perfectly evolved organism on earth, and said ” every grain of sand on this earth has been through the gut of an earthworm at least once “. Farmers of strawberries and grapes are using these worms as an addition to mulch around their vines. This kind of makes me think that it is necessary to get going with worms as soon as possible. I was in Port Elizabeth for the day and went past Blue Martin Nursery after doing a simple google search. I met up with Alan who has over 30 years of experience with worms, and uses these fascinating creatures as the basis of his nursery. What I have learnt about worms in theory and practically having a wormery in Johannesburg has been turfed out the window. I received a little booklet from him and spoke with him for a couple minutes. Alan has some very important lessons to learn about worms and I have decided to take his advice to make this work for me and my vegetables.
Alan has a technique to create a simple worm bin out of a 100 litre rubber maid bin, he also gives you a booklet to help you on your way. Using 30 years of experience will help me on my way for a successful wormery and definitely some nutrient rich soil which leads to wholesome vegetables and a healthy diet.
Red Wiggler ( Eisenia Foetida ) : There are over 9000 different earthworms on this planet, but red wigglers are the most suited to convert kitchen waste into microbe rich worm castings that can be used for pot plants. They create a number of products for us to use:
1: Worm castings
3: Worm tea
What you CAN use to feed your worms:
Vegetables and peels
Breads and carbs
Cardboard, newspaper, carpet veldt.
Manure from animals that eat greens.
Tea bags and coffee grounds
brown leaves and small amounts of retted grass clippings
Even use hair from your comb or pets combs.
What you should NOT use in your wormery:
Any processed food
Meat ( except for bone meal )
Green grass or leaves ( you can use retted grass )
Acidic plants ( lemons, onions oranges, citrus )
There are many ways for you to use these worms in your garden, compost heaps or self-made wormery’s. There are many designs that you can find online. The most important thing is to learn as much as possible to make these creatures recycle your waste as fast as possible. Worms in a good environment can reproduce very fast, so be prepared to expand your wormery, or pass them on to friends and get them involved in recycling thier kitchen waste. This is a very rewarding hobby for you, your garden and your environment. Good worming.