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Scrutinising the soil

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Costa Georgiadis takes a closer look at one of the important elements in any garden – the soil.    
Worm farming
It doesn’t take much to improve the soil in your garden and a worm farm is an ideal way to not only recycle green waste but it is as satisfying as growing vegetables. Just taking out green matter for the worm farm means that someone is having a break from the stress of modern life, which in itself is an advantage for that person.

A worm farm is a good place to start as it doesn’t require day to day commitment and the effort reaps rewards in the castings that can be spread on the garden. The “liquid gold” that is released through a tap can be diluted ten times with water before being used as a natural fertiliser.

The worm farm can be placed in many spots around the home, so long as there is shade and if looked after properly should produce no smell.

They are a great way for children to see the connections between nature, as shown by those schools, like Cabramatta Public School, that have established their own gardens. Many schools begin with a worm farm before going on to separate all waste, just like their local council systems.

There are two ways to use worm castings. Either remove them and mix with water before using this liquid fertiliser on the garden; or just spread the casting around the garden plants and cover with compost and mulch. This rich mix holds water better and also produces more worms from the worm eggs inside. This sponge effect recycles its own goodness into the garden, creating a kind of permanent soil improvement system.

Composting is another way to improve garden soils. It can be rewarding but it can also be frustrating, especially if done part time.

However there have been many changes to composting systems over the years. Once there was only one style of compost bin but now there are many. They can be the tumbler type with a handle to fully self-contained systems. They can also be built for specific purposes, such as the compost system in use at the community garden at Riverwood in Sydney’s south.

There, bays lined with plastic allow the seniors who use the garden to simply fill the bay with green waste, avoiding the need to turn or work the compost heap. When full, at about a metre high, the bay is covered with plastic and left in the sun for about eight weeks, producing rich garden compost. The moisture level of a compost heap needs to be checked: add water if too dry or leaves and other carbon-based materials if too wet. Chicken pellets and manure are also good at producing heat, helping the mixture to break down.

These are all ways to improve any garden and make it more sustainable.
Text: V.B. recorded 2009 edited 2016 Images from Costa Georgiadis


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