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Coriander all season herb

Coriandrum sativum

Originally from the Ukraine or Turkey, Coriander or Cilantro has been welcomed by every culture it has touched, especially the Indian sub-continent.
Also known, for some odd reason, as Chinese Parsley.

You can quite comfortably sow Coriander at any time of year but you must keep in mind that it does not respond well to drying out at any time of it’s growth cycle.
Basically, if you are growing it at home and can maintain it you will not have any problems with it ‘bolting’ to seed too early unless you just forget to water it.
Part shade, especially in the afternoons will slow it down and allow for more robust growth of the plant.

Coriander is an excellent forage plant for bees, especially Australian Native bees but as the flowers are self fertile, that is simply an added bonus.
Unfortunately harvest of the seed is a tricky business as they never seem to mature at the same rate.
Green seed has a rather unpleasant aroma (hence, ‘koris’ Greek for ‘stinking bug’ ) and is not great for cooking at this stage, so you are best not to shake the seed from the umbels until they are on the brown side of khaki in colour.
Whether you are harvesting the seed for growing or for cooking it is always wise to ensure they are thoroughly dry so don’t pop them into a sealed container for a week or so after harvesting.

Of the two major types of Coriander, the round light brown seeds are European Coriander and the golden oval shaped seeds are the Indian version of the plant.
Both types are wonderfully heirloom as the herb has been cultivated and traded for thousands of years.
The two types will probably not cross pollinate in the same garden and any new plants will just revert to either one or the other rather than a perfect combination.

The fresh young leaves are excellent in everything from salads to stews but the seeds can be used with fruit (baked, stewed or preserved), fish and other meats including sausages and vegetable dishes, curries, breads, biscuits and cupcakes and will even lend their warm, aromatic signature to oatmeal porridge, pickles, ratatouille and many liqueurs.
Pungent, freshly chopped young roots are essential in much Thai cuisine.

On the medicinal front Coriander has a long history as a mild sedative and a digestive aid to soothe flatulence and ease migraines as well as the popular use of the essential oil in massage oils for facial neuralgia and muscle cramps.
Commercially it is widely used in toothpaste and perfumes.

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Urban Gardens

I have always been thoroughly impressed by the confident look of a gardener as they emerge from the garden bearing the fruits of their labour in one or both hands or even a basket full.
There is nothing quite like trying to look nonchalant while walking back to the kitchen buzzing with self pride that you have achieved an edible result from a little patch of dirt.
The same feeling emerges when faced with a unwell child or visitor and walking out to get an herb that you know you can steep in some boiling water and will help their problem.

Now, as the population of Australia becomes more and more urban and suburban, we need to retink just how to achieve this in different, specific ways.
Great tasting produce is all in the preparation. The soil, the nutrient and the environment in which they grow.
Most fruit, vegetable and herb prefer a sunny, sheltered position with no competition from surrounding trees.
If this is not possible in your case then we just need to think differently about what to plant first.
Backyard. Allotment. Veranda. Balcony. Window box or sil. Completely Indoor.
A good pH neutral,well draining loam soil that is light and airy is essential to produce healthy full-flavoured fruit and veg.
Organic matter
We all produce plenty of organic matter that once mixed into the soil or used as mulch on top will adequately feed your plants to then feed you. There you go, the circle of life.
It is always better to start with seed than seedlings purchased that have more than likely been grown a long way away, in an artificial environment and of the easiest variety of plant to produce en-masse.
If you buy seed, not only will you have a seedling that is already prepared for your environment, but you will have started the process that concludes with saving seed from your own plants to sow next season.
A great habit to start.
Seedlings should always be grown in a protected environment so the purchase of seed raising trays and boxes is rarely a bad idea.
Growing root vegetables from seed is also the only way you can be sure to avoid the curled, bent or retarded root system that so often happens when attempting to transplant a tray of carrot seedlings.
Your plants need to be protected from insects, birds, animals and a variety of mollusc pests, strong winds, hail, flood and blistering sun.
Fruit and veg benefit from being regularly fed and watered , feeding does not always mean feeding the same thing over and over. You need to vary the diet to suit the season.
Leaf veges such as the lettuce, cabbage and mustard greens need more nitrogen for healthy leaf growth, whereas tomatoes will need more potassium once fruit starts to form.
Choose the best varieties to suit your environment and the season.
Once you are completely aware of the temperature, wind, humidity and climate in your specific micro environment it will be an easy thing to plan your planting.

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When Spring approaches….

Now, we are on the tail end of Winter and it was a dry one for most of the country, but, on the positive side, the cold, dry atmosphere will have decimated a lot of pupating and developing pests that seem to take the wonderful edge off a good Spring.
For many gardeners Winter will have left the Vege and Herb gardens a little worse for wear, but these things are easily remedied with a pair of cutters, digging fork and the wheelbarrow.
Now is a great time to sow your Spring Annuals to ensure a bumper crop. Coriander, Basil, Tomatoes, Parsley, Chives, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Beans, Strawberry, Nasturtium, Chinese Greens and Asparagus.
If frost and chilly mornings are still on the cards, then be sure to sow your seed indoors or at least out of the wind and frost.
Sowing early will ensure that you will use efficiently the best part of Spring for robust growth. Don’t be tempted to fertilise just yet though as the plants can only use it when they are naturally active.
For edible Spring Flowers, sow Borage, Calendula, Heartsease, Nasturtium and Sage.
For Chinese Stir fry and salad, sow Pak Choi, Mizuna, Radish, Birds Eye Chilli and Bitter Melon.

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Seed Viability Testing

Germination of seed and it’s viability for germination often seems a bit like ‘jibberish’ when quoted on seed packets and does not always seem to apply to the average gardener.

Here at Beautanicals’ Australian Gardener farm we test every crop of seed that we harvest as soon as it is dry and ready to be packed into our seed packets.
To illustrate our process, the image here quite clearly shows the very basic, practical nature of our viability testing.

We sow 100 seeds (in this case Coffee seeds) into 100 tubestock pots filled with seed raise mix and vermiculite. No fertiliser is added as the nature of germination means that it is not needed. We use 100 as a base measurement simply because of the real percentage conversion convenience. 10 seeds tested is only 10, not really 100%.
As you can see from the photo, not all seeds have emerged at exactly the same time and so, within the 100 pots, some seedlings are 21 days old while some are only 3 days old. But 100 seeds have germinated. It doesn’t get more successful than that.
So, consequently, we are very confident that the seed is good for sale. This process happens with every crop of every variety of plant that we sell as seed.
Rarely do we have seed left over from a previous harvest as we budget our planting carefully due to the wide range that we grow, but each previous crop is discarded as a new one is ready.
This is why we are so confident (and sometimes a little arrogant) that you are purchasing seed that will germinate as we, personally, have been successful with it.

There are a few practical considerations before purchasing seed that must be addressed, as they are often used as excuses.
1. Dormancy. Only some seed enters a dormant state. You need to be specific.
2. Floating seed. The idea that only seed that sinks to the bottom is viable is just so much rubbish.
3. Locally grown seed is better. Not always. Seed viability reduces with age. Seed from overseas is most likely quite old as, practically, it is harvested, stored, wholesaled, stored, freighted in storage, eventually stored in a Retail environment and left there until someone buys it. As all plant types are very individual, ‘sow by’ dates that are general due to printing convenience, are just padding. Most seed packets sit in a Retail environment for months to years, so local or not is no guarantee.
4. Testing seed in some wet tissue paper. Never! This technique for conveniently trying to germinate seed in folded paper put into a plastic bag is just a recipe for frustration and disenchantment. We only ever germinate seed the way that nature has carefully prepared the seed to do so. Why some people keep trying to invent new techniques baffles me when the old technique is not broken.
5. Organically grown seed will produce organic plants. No! There is no evidence to suggest that organically grown seed is in any way superior. The organic growing of the plant will produce organically sound fruit or vegetable but it’s the growing that makes the difference. Many Retail Nurseries will buy organically grown seed and then produce their seedlings in a completely un-organic way, but will proudly say on the tag that there is some organic component to the seedling you are buying. Not legally but morally wrong.

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Companion Planting

It is true you know that good neighbours create a great Garden.

Experiment with companion planting as there are some very unusual combinations that exist outside of the usual suspects.

Here are some that we have have noticed but the list will grow as our observation increases.

Alfalfa Everyone except tomatoes.
Angelica Nettle and Dill.
Anise Coriander, Peppers, eggplant,  lettuce, kale, cabbage and beans.
Basil Tomato, peppers, oregano and asparagus.
Borage Beans, strawberry, eggplant, cucumber, squash, tomatoes and cabbage.
Caraway Strawberries, peas, radishes, beans, corn.
Catnip Eggplants.
Chamomile Cabbage and kale, cucumber, onion.
Chervil Radish, lettuce and broccoli.
Chives Carrots, tomatoes, brassica family, melons, peppers, lettuce, pumpkin and spinach .
Comfrey Around established Trees.
Coriander Anise, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, tomato, beans, peas, potatoes, nasturtiums, corn, catmint and roses.
Dill Brassicas, broccoli, cabbage, corn, eggplant, fennel, lettuce, onions, cucumbers.
Fennel Does not play well with other herbs and Vege. Keep it on it’s own.
Flax Carrots and potatoes.
Garlic Peas, brassicas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, parsley, Chinese cabbage and potatoes.
Hyssop All Brassicas.
Lavender Chamomile, lettuce, brassicas, onions, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, basil, lemon balm and squash.
Lemon Balm All mints, basil, oregano, chives, tomatoes, lettuce, okra, cabbage, carrots, radish, squash, berries, fruit trees, rock melon, watermelon, marjoram, sage, thyme and parsley.
Lemon Grass Most herbs and vegetables.
Lemon Verbena Alfalfa, lemon grass, fruit trees and other herbs.
Marjoram Eggplant, carrots, cucumber, peppers, loofahs, pumpkins, radish, strawberries and tomatoes.
Mint Brassica family
Oregano Tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cabbage and cucumbers.
Parsley Asparagus, corn, beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, kale, lettuce, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes.
Peppermint Alliums, brassicas, cabbage, peas, tomatoes – in general the same as mint.
Rosemary Cabbages, beans, brassicas, carrots, thyme and sage.
Rue Goji’s and lavender.
Sage Brassicas, rosemary, kale, cabbage, beans,  carrots, strawberry, tomato, marjoram.
Spearmint Onions and Garlic’s, cabbage, peas and tomatoes.
Stinging nettle Chamomile, mint,tomatoes, valerian, angelica, marjoram, sage and peppermint.
Tarragon Everyone.
Thyme Lavender, cabbage, onion, sage, tomato, eggplant, salad burnet, potatoes and strawberries.
Valerian Mints, bee balm, chamomile, calendula and other flowers.
Wormwood (Artemisia) Brassicas and carrots.
Yarrow Cucumbers, lemon verbena, marjoram and oregano, corn, melons, roses, tomatoes.


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PinYin to Common Name List

For ease of reference, the table below has been ordered alphabetically by pin yin name.
PinYin is the official phonological system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet.
Other names for the herbs are then easy to identify.
I have made no reference to the Pharmaceutical name as it is not within our scope to discuss TCM as a therapy but simply to ensure the the plant discussed in Traditional Chinese Medicine is the plant that we grow for seed.
I have only included in this list, the plants that we grow.

Some listed, but without a hyperlink to the seed page, indicates that we do not grow sufficient quantity to harvest for seed yet. Stay tuned!!

Pinyin Common Name Latin
ba ji tian Brahmi Bacopa monniera
ba la gui cha  ma dai cha Yerba mate Ilex paraguariensis
ba xian cao Cleavers Galium aparine
bai bian dou Lablab Bean Dolichos lablab
bai guo Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba, L.
bai jie cai Greater Celandine Chelidonium majus
bai jie zi Mustard Sinapis alba
bei chai hu Bupleurum Bupleurum chinense
beng da wan, han ke cao Gotu Kola Centella asiatica L.
bi bo Long Pepper Piper longum
bi qi Water Chestnut Eleocharis dulcis
cai ji Globe Artichoke Cynara scolymus
can dou, hu dou Broad Bean Vicia faba
cang er zi Cocklebur Xanthium strumarium
chan su Cane Toad Bufo bufo gargarizans
chang chun teng Common Ivy Hedera helix
che qian cao Japanese Plantain Plantago major
chi xiao dou Mung Bean Phaseolus radiatus
chou cao Rue Herb Ruta graveolens.
chuan da huang Rhubarb Rheum officinale
ci wu jia Siberian Ginseng Eleutherococcus senticosus
da mai  mai ya Barley Hordeum sativum
da jiao hua Cooking Bananas Musa paradisiaca
di dan cao, ku ao, ku ban Common Thistle Cirsium ovalifolium
dong gua ren, dong gua zi Winter Melon Benincasa hispida
dou shu, sha ge Yam Bean Pachyrhizus erosus
fan mu gua PawPaw – Papaya Carica papaya
fan shi liu Common Guava Psidium guajava
fu xiao mai Wheat Triticum aestivum
gan cao Chinese Licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra
gan shu Sweet Potato Ipomoea batatas
gan zhe shao Sugar Cane Saccharum Officinarum
gan, chen pi Mandarine Citrus nobilis
gan,  chen pi Bitter Orange Citrus aurantium
gang song Weeping Coast Myrtle Baeckea frutescens L.
gou qi zi ; di gu pi Chinese Goji Lycium chinense
gou qi zi ; di gu pi Goji Lycium barbarum
gou zhua dou Velvet Bean Mucuna cochinchinensis
gua di Rockmelon Cucumis melo
guan ye lian qiao St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum
gui zhen cao Cobblers Pegs Bidens pilosa
hai feng teng Japanese Pepper Piper kadsura
he ye Sacred Lotus Leaf Nelumbo nucifera
hei zhong cao zi Nigella Nigella sativa
hong hua Safflower Carthamus tinctorius
hou po Magnolia Magnolia  officinalis
hu jiao Black Pepper Piper nigrum
hu lo fu Purple Carrot Daucus carota
hu lu ba Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum
hu sui, yuan sui, xiang cai Coriander Coriandrum sativum
ji Shepherds Purse Capsella bursa–pastoris
jia ye shu Butcher’s Broom Ruscus aculeatus
jia ye song guo Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
jia zhu tao Oleander Nerium incidum
jian hua, ba wang hua Dragonfruit Hylocereus undatus
jiang Ginger Zingiber offcinale
jiang huang Turmeric Curcuma Longa
jiao gu lan Immortality Vine Gynostemma pentaphyllum
jie geng Balloon Flower Platycodon grandiflorum
jie gu mu Elder Sambucus nigra
jie zi Mustard Greens Brassica cernua
jin yin hua Honeysuckle Lonicera japonica
ju hong, chen pi Pomolo Citrus maxima
ke fei Coffee Coffea Arabica
ku gua Bitter Melon Momordica charantia
ku zhu Bamboo Phyllostachys bambusoides
kuan dong hua Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
kui hua Sunflower Helianthus annuus
la jiao Bird’s Eye Chilli Capsicum annuum
lai fu zi Radish Raphanus sativus
li zhi he Lychee Litchi chinensis
lian zi, lian xin Sacred Lotus Nelumbo nucifera
liang dang, tian xian zi Henbane Hyoscyamus niger
long yan Longan Euphoria longana
lu e mei Chinese Plum Prunus mume
luo shen hua, luo shen kui. Rosella Hibiscus sabdariffa
man jing zi Chinese Vitex Vitex trifolia
man tuo luo Datura Datura stramonium
mao gen Kunai or Blady Grass Imperata arundinacea  Cyr.
mao xu cha, shen cha Cat’s Whiskers Ocimum Aristatum
mei gui hua Dog Rose Rosa rugosa.
mo li hua Tea Jasmine Jasminum sambac
mu shu Cassava Manihot utilissima
nan jiang Galangal Languas galanga . Alpinia galanga
nan tian zhu Sacred Bamboo Nandina domestica
pu gua Bottle Gourd Lagenaria siceraria
ri ben chuan xiong Cinidium Cnidium officinale
shan nai Lesser Galangal Kaempferia galanga
shan yao Wild Yam Dioscorea batatas
shan zhi zi Gardenia Gardenia florida
shang lu Pokeroot Phytolacca acinosa
she gan Leopard Lily Belamcanda chinensis
shen luo le Tulsi- Holy Basil Ocimum sanctum
shi da gong lao Mahonia Mahonia japonica
shu wei cao Sage Salvia officinali
shui fei ji St. Mary’s Thistle Silybum marianum
shui qie Ashwagandha Withania somnifera
shui xian Paperwhite Jonquil Narcissus tazetta
si gua luo Angled Luffa Luffa acutangula
si gua luo Smooth Loofa Luffa cylindrica
su mu Caesalpinia Caesalpinia sappan
su xing hua, da mo li hua Common Jasmine Jasminum officinalis
tan hua. Night Blooming Cactus Epiphyllum oxypetalum
tian hu su Dwalf Pennywort Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides
tong hao Garland Chrysanthemum  Chrysanthemum coronarium
tu jing jie Wormseed Chenopodium ambrosioides
tu mu xiang Elecampane Inula helenium
wang bu liu xing Soapwort Saponaria vaccaria
wang jiang nan zi Cassia Cassia occidentalis
wu qing Rapeseed Canola Brassica rapa
wu zhao jin long Morning Glory Ipomoea cairica
xi gua Watermelon Citrullus vulgaris
xi shu guo Noni Morinda citrifolia
xi ye bai tou weng Wind Flower Pulsatila vulgaris
xia ku cao Selfheal Prunella vulgaris
xiang fu zi Nut Grass Cyperus rotundus
xiang lin tou.. Screwpine Pandanus amaryllifolius .
xiang mao Noosa Native Curculigo ensifolia
xiang ru California Poppy Elscholtzia patrini
xiao bai ju Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
xiao hao Barberry Berberis vulgaris
xiao suan mo Sheep Sorrel Rumex acetosella
xie cao Valerian Valeriana officinalis
xun ma Nettle Urtica dioica.
xun ma Stinging Nettle Urtica urens.
ya ma, hu ma Flax Linum usitatissimum
ya pian Poppy Paparver somniferum
yang gan ju German Chamomile Matricaria recutita
yang hui xiang Anise Pimpinella anisum
ye tang hao Tall Fleabane Erigeron sumatrensis
yi mu cao;  chong wei zi Chinese Motherwort Leonurus heterophyllus
yi tang Sugar cane seed Saccharum Granorum
yi yi ren Job’s Tears Coix lacrym-jobi.
yong jiu hua (la ju) Curry Plant (Grey) Helichrysum italicum
yu gan zi Indian Gooseberry Phyllanthus emblica
yu shu shu, yu mi xu Corn Zea mays
yuan wei Wall or Water Iris Iris tectorum
ze lan Bugle Lycopus
zhang nao Camphor Laurel Cinnamomum camphora
zhi ma; hu ma ren Sesame Sesamum indicum
zi ran Cumin Cuminum cyminum
zi su Perillia Perilla frutescens
zi zhui ju, zi hua song guo ju Echinacea Echinacea purpurea



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Common Germination Problems.

The most common causes of seeds not germinating are:
1. Soil was too heavy (Clay).
2. Soil was allowed to dry out. (Only once is enough to kill the emerging seed)
3. Seeds were not given enough time to germinate before sower gave up. (Many seeds
have slow or erratic germination.)

The most common causes of seedling loss are:
1. Damping off, caused by over watering or fungi.
2. Using containers that don’t hold enough soil. (Containers need to be at least 6cm deep and
filled to the top with seed-raise mix.)
3. Using potting mix, common garden soil, or previously used soil. (It’s best to start fresh
each time to avoid fungi, etc.)
4. Insufficient air circulation.
5. Planting in previously used containers that were not properly cleaned. (Wash containers in
a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water before re-using.)
6. Overcrowding. If you’ve planted too many seeds and they’re all competing for space and resources.
7. Introducing seedlings to full sun or outdoor conditions too quickly (not “hardening off”).

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Nano Gardening 1.01

As space is at a premium and the gardens of city builds are smaller than ever, outdoor space now means balconies or, for the really determined, Community Gardens.
Enter Nano Gardening.
Nano gardening allows gardeners to not only plant up, but to plant in a very considered and pre-planned way.
Smaller gardens means vertical gardening including climbers and hanging plants as well as Indoor, Window Sill and Skylight planting.
Now, while you could browse around and collect plants with interesting foliage, you could also consider that growing your own food and medicine is certainly not out of the question.
Indoor Nano gardening gives us the edible garden, mainly in the kitchen, which allows nano-gardeners to nurture in small spaces.

No more vege patch hidden away at the bottom of the back yard, kitchen gardens can be visually pleasing, useful and able to be displayed like trophies in the window cabinet.
While it just so easy to adapt many of the Culinary herbs to indoor pots to flavour the cooking or cocktails, it is also very easy and convenient to grow many vegetables this way as well.
The vegetable plants can be beautiful, edible and useful for entertaining they are also infinitely more brag worthy due to their oddball nature.
While the range of herbs and vegetables that can adapt easily to Nano Gardening is huge, I will begin the discussion by choosing one.

Sweet Potato.
Not the plant you were probably expecting but one of the easiest and most beautiful vegetables to maintain and propagate indoors.
It is possible to arrange the growing plant in several ways to suit the space and the format of your choice.
Firstly, it will need light for several hours during the day.
Secondly, they will need to grow in dirt or potting mix to ensure good quality tubers.
Understanding the nature of the Sweet Potato is key to success. It is actually a vine that will ramble along and cover as much space as you allow, so as our parents used to say, ‘give you inch and you will take a yard’ applies to the Sweet Potato.
The plants will naturally run horizontally but if they encounter a vertical surface they will be just as happy going up.
Unfortunately, the more they ramble, the less they produce tubers.
So, for everyone’s sake it is best to keep them from straying.
Once established in a pot (the right size for a good sized tuber) it will vine outwards.
This is the time to place a pot of potting mix or soil underneath the vine. Using a ‘U’ shaped piece if wire to hold the vine in contact with the soil lock the vine in the middle of the pot but allow it to continue to grow.
Depending on the space that you have available, you can continue this process along, zigzag, upright or if using hanging pots, up and down a set of drops. Just rinse and repeat as many times as you want to.
Remember that the tuber will grow from the point of contact with the soil so the size of your tubers will be governed by the size of the pot.
(And, yes, it is possible to grow square tubers)
When the vine has reached your space allocation it is necessary to prune it off to create that ‘full stop’.
Feed and water each pot individually and every now and then probe around to watch the vegetable develop into a healthy Sweet Potato tuber.



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Compost at Home

There’s more to composting than just tossing bits of unwanted food in a bin every now and again.
Yes, it is eco-friendly, yes, it is natural and yes, it can help your garden enormously, but only if you remember a few things.

When you start don’t be pressured into investing in a whole composting system that looks great but is totally unnecessary.

Firstly, think about the nature of rain forest and remember that the luxuriant growth of the South American rain forests exists on only 600mm of constantly composting material with practically no soil to speak of.
In Australia we are faced with some of the shallowest topsoil on the planet so it can work here too.
There are a few different methods of composting that can be applied to every type of home.
Whether it’s a plastic bin with a few holes in the side, a ‘pile’ in a corner of the backyard, a serious timber or wire box made from old wooden pallets and chicken wire, or a very serious set of adjoining boxes with removable slat walls, the principles are still the same.

1. Ensure that wherever to locate your compost heap there will be sun for more than 4 hours a day. (compost is heat activated)
2. The ground should be reasonably level to help with drainage. If you have no drainage in your bin, drill holes in the side and make sure they are always free.
3. Remember that you must be able to turn or mix things up in there.
4. You need to balance the amount of green and dry materials in your heap. (50/50 is good. Green adds nitrogen and Dry adds carbon)
G. Fruit and veggie scraps, green leaves and spent flowers, grass clippings, Coffee grounds and tea leaves.
D. Shredded paper (including newsprint, excluding magazines and mail-outs), lint from the dryer or vacuum cleaner (do not use this lint if it is predominantly synthetic) and sawdust.
5. Never add any animal materials such as meat scraps or bones, animal fats and definitely no dog or cat poo. (this is not manure, this is poo!)
6. If you add dry leaves in Autumn, well and good, but, if you do not turn the mixture often they will never break down and can stop the whole process of composting for years.
7. Turn or mix your bin, heap, pile at least once a week, as this creates oxygen exchange, moisture equalisation, and encourages decomposition.
8. Water your compost at least once a week. Dry compost is a contradiction in terms. Once it dries out it takes ages to get the rotting happening again.
9. Give it time to become ‘soil’. Don’t be impatient, it it rot away at it’s own pace. Some plants like Yarrow will speed the decomposition up a little but generally be patient.
10. It can help to occasionally spread a layer of dirt or potting mix on top (not too thick) to add texture and volume to your compost.

Once your bin or whatever is full, simply carry on with the above activities.
You will know when it is ready to use by the sight and smell. It actually looks like good soil and smells a kind of ‘earthy sweet’ that is quite comforting.
The volume of your bin will about 15% of it’s initial volume. It really takes that much in compression and conversion.
Hopefully, after your first bin was full you found it necessary and imperative to start another one while you waited.




The success of ‘making dirt’ in your first one will encourage you to keep going further.

Now, as I mentioned, there are hundreds of composting products available and, if you feel the need to spend money on the project, all and well.
But, if you want to take the roll of waste management fundamentally, then I would suggest obtaining (for free ideally) five timber product pallets that are usually only made for one use and then discarded.
Four sides and the base of your compost bin is done! A few self tapping screws to hold it together will give you a very ‘airy’ box.
A 10m roll of chicken wire wrapped around the sides and the bottom and your bin is complete.
Fill and wait.

Usually the timber used in pallets is low grade and generally untreated with chemical.
This means that, naturally, the same organisms that compost your waste are going to have a go at your bin as well.
Personally, I don’t see a problem with that as the bin was never intended to be an architectural addition to the garden.
Your bin will probably be a one metre cube which is pretty well an ideal size to use for an average family and garden waste disposal and it’s not too large to turn.
The bigger the bin, the more effort is required to layer and to turn it so keep it real. I know from experience that leaning over a large compost bin and tumbling in is no party.

Remember that your compost bin is ‘supposed’ to be full of life. Worms, snails, slugs beetles and other weird looking creatures can live out their whole lives in your compost bin and the circle of life is so complete that it’s just magic.

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Snails and Slugs

Warm winters can disturb the hibernation of slugs and snails.
They will eat and breed throughout the winter months, creating an extra generation of molluscs that will continue your infestation.
Slugs are very beneficial in the compost heap but unfortunately they may not stay there and the heat generated by the pile of decaying matter may just be enough to take their breeding cycle to a new high.
Adult slugs can eat 40 times their own weight in a any one day.

So, from our perspective, you can have your plants and eat them too.

If your compost area has a border around it that is inhospitable to slugs and snails, they are unlikely to leave and declare war on your vege patch.
Coarse sand, harsh bark mulch or copper wire around the bin will help keep them in their place.


In your garden they will always prefer fleshy foliage and stems and just about any seedling they can get their slimy mouths or foot on.
Some popular methods of control that we have tried are:
1. Beer. They simply love a drop of the amber liquid and, like many Aussie’s, can smell it from 500 metres away.
1/3 of a glass placed near but not with the vegetables will encourage them in. Easy to get in but not quite so easy to get out.
2. Egg shells
Now, we tried this with broken shells but found that it was a bit hit and miss. Then we washed and crushed the eggshells creating lots of sharp edges over a larger area and the perimeter worked much better.
3. Sand
Sand does keep them away but you have to have a generous border that will not retain water as the water will simply create a skimming medium for them.
4. Predators, like frogs can help a little but the most effective predators are the birds if they feel comfortable wandering through your patch.
5. Seaweed
Collected seaweed (dry) can, strewn around the garden but not under the plants, help to dissuade the molluscs and never needs to be removed as it breaks down eventually into useful plant food in the garden.
6. Copper wire or tape
A decent ring of copper around a plant stem will react with their natural moist skin and the current created will act a little like an electric fence.
7. Repelling plants
Like pennyroyal, mint and may of the Alliums like chives will deter them a little but the unfortunate thing about these herbs is that they are only effective if they are bruised or crushed.Snails and slugs do not have a heavy footprint.
8. Diatomaceous earth
can be very useful as well because it dries the mucous that the slug or snail use to create an easy path and will be very discourageing for them.
9. Ducks, Chooks and Geese
are also extremely useful police but unfortunately not possible or practical for many urban or suburban gardeners.
10. Nocturnal Safari
Armed with only a flashlight, bucket of salty water (or drinking water if you wish to transfer your catch to the compost bin) and two spoons to catch them in to avoid getting ‘slimed’, spend an hour each evening for a week, collecting.
You will have solved most of your problem for quite a while.