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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Harvest from the Earth

COMPOST -Brown Gold
Healthy plants need healthy soil and well-made compost is at the top of the list of soil improvers. It supplies a mix of nutrients as well as coarse organic material that helps aerate the soil.

Earthworm manure, or vermicompost, is 10 times more nutritious than commercially bought compost. It is a natural fertiliser and soil conditioner. Plants that receive vermicompost are healthier, disease resistant and drought tolerant.

Vegetables are more productive and full of flavour. The earthworm species (Eisenia fetida), which produce vermicompost, feed on decomposing organic matter and produce waste (called castings) that contains five times more nitrogen than topsoil, as well as high amounts of potassium and phosphate.

Another by-product is earthworm tea. It is a combination of earthworm urine and the liquid leached from the decomposing material. It can be diluted with water (1:50) and used as a foliar feed, as a rooting agent or as a pre-soak for seeds. The only way to harvest this waste, is to keep a wormery. This is simply a container in which the earthworms are kept, in conditions that are dark, warm and moist. They are fed whenever necessary, on fruit and vegetable scraps, or soft garden waste. It is as simple as that. The cost of a ready-made domestic system can be from R550.00 (approx. $55.00) to several thousand rand, but it includes the worms and once it is in place, can last virtually forever.

Green tea is made from soft, dark green leaves such as comfrey, yarrow and borage leaves. Green tea is best for leafy vegetables. the dilution rate is generally 1 part tea to 7 parts water.

Manure tea is made from any kind of manure. some manure is strong than others. For instance, only two handfuls of chicken manure are needed compared to three to five handfuls of cow or horse manure.

Good sources are stables, dairies, as well as nurseries that sell manure in bags.
The final tea should be the colour of weak tea. Manure tea is a good root drench for vegetables, flowers and containers.

If using seedlings, the dilution rate should be 1:12, but for larger plants can be 1:7 or 1:10.

The ideal site is a level piece of ground with the top and sides open to the air to aid decomposition. Ready-made compost bins and drums are also available from garden centres and hardware stores.

The basic method is to alternate wet, green material (nitrogen rich) with dried (carbon rich) material, interspersed with activating materials like manure, already made compost or soil.

  • Dried leaves
  • Grass cuttings
  • Garden waste, like shrub prunings, spent annuals, weeds (without seeds or flowers)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Kitchen waste: vegetable and fruit peelings (except potato peels and citrus), eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds.
  • Ash from a wood fire
  • Manure
  • Pine needles, hay, peanut shells

Meat and fish left-overs, cat litter, dog droppings, coal ash, magazines, synthetic fibres, glass, tin or plastic.


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