Friday, March 18, 2011

Gardeners Sustainable Living Project

I mentioned that next Saturday is earth day and that we should turn off the electricity for an hour.....   mmmm -  maybe just the lights?  Not the TV surely :)  that doesn't use much power.....
So how sustainable is my lifestyle really?
I wouldn't consider myself a "greenie" as they are called here in Australia, but the more I garden the more green I become.   As I watched five caterpillars eat half of the leaves on my lime tree I thought about the butterflies that this would produce.  If I was greener I would probably have left every Caterpillar I ever saw, but I do recognise the orchard swallowtail caterpillar and so they got to stay (just five of them mind you, I would like some limes in my future).   When you have seen a butterfly emerging out of its chrysalis something changes deep within you:
We compost everything we can and I so enjoy digging that black gold into the earth and finding my soil wriggling with earthworms.  Since we live in the tropics and everything breaks down so quickly here I add the compost to the soil when it is not completely broken down.  The final stage of composting seems to be the earthworms doing their bit, so they might as well do it in the garden as far as I am concerned.  This means I have a quick turnaround in the compost bins. (about 2 months)  Here I was emptying a full bin of compost into my new tomato bed just before the wet season started- I planted the tomatoes about 4 months later.

I do turn my compost a couple of times a week so it gets quite hot and composts quickly.  As the bin gets full I will drag some out from the very bottom where I cant quite reach down to mix it.  At this stage it mostly looks like compost with a few "undigested leaves or eggshells remaining, so this gets placed into the garden somewhere.  I don't dig it in - the earthworms do that.  I don't put it directly where something is growing - preferably where I am getting ready to plant something in the next couple of weeks, and by that time it has normally been incorporated into the surrounding soil, and I just brush away any large pieces before planting.
 I also bury all the prawns shells (we eat a lot of prawns !)   and after just a few weeks if I dig down in that same area there is nothing left, so it decomposes rather quickly.  If nothing else I am keeping them out of the landfill!  I also grow comfrey and collect seaweed and you know what that means? -  I don't have to buy any fertilizers as I am providing them all myself.  Yippee!  Here I am making some comfrey fertilizer by compressing the leaves and catching the juice in a bucket.

We do have a very small bit of a garden, but the amount of lawn compared to the rest is very very minimal - and this makes me happy.  I know this makes my garden more productive and it is giving back rather than taking from the atmosphere.  Every year I grow more and more vegetables, hoping to be able to have produce from my garden year round.   Some of the tropical vegetables I have tried and wont try again, but I have developed a few favourites.   One of the permaculture principles I really use is growing upwards - behind us there is a Telstra yard and the happy plant on their side of the fence is fifty foot high - so my passion fruit and loofah have forty feet of height to climb!  
If anything can grow up I let it, rather than scramble around taking up precious ground space.
The back corner where I grow my sweet potato scrambles over the fence, and now as the season changes I am planting butternut there - might as well get into guerrilla gardening as well!
A lot of these phrases I would have not known before I started blogging, I have learned so much about how I can improve my little corner of the world.  I have become more sensitive to what gets thrown into the bin - my hubby often says that our rubbish bin is hardly worth wheeling to the kerb these days.  That makes me happy.  I want to know that if I can possible make a difference by doing these little things day by day that I am doing my bit.  Recycle, re-use, reduce.  Earth day is good advertising to make us aware of the things we need to do for the environment, but in reality it is what we do in our day to day lives that really makes a difference.
I want my grandchildren to be able to go and explore the rain forest and breathe in that fresh pure air just as we do.

I am entering this post at " thanks for today"'s  competition,
thank you Jan for the opportunity.  Hopefully we can all pick up some extra tips from the entries submitted.

Since I live in Australia I wont win the big prize, (boo hoo - I would love that rain barrel), but who knows, I might just win a book or something they will be willing to ship all this way.  Why don't you check out all the other wonderful ideas, or enter yourself, and remember to turn off the lights at 8.30 on Saturday March 26th.
 Happy Earth Day!


  1. This is a lovely post AA. I agree with you that the more I garden and blog, the greener I become too. I am no greenie, but like most of us I try really hard to be as green as possible. Thanks so much for sharing all the great things you are doing with us :)

  2. Thanks for the great tips! I remove part of my lawn every year. It is shrinking and I like it this way. I compost too but vertical gardening is something that I need to learn.

    That's a great close-up of a butterfly.

  3. Nice post.... the more we garden, the closer we get on with the other inhabitants. Composting is always a nice gesture in handling nature delicate balance.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. Yet again, packed with all sorts of interesting tips.

  5. It seems that personal gardens come with so many benefits, it's a pity they aren't more popular in the urban settings where I've lived, though they're catching on. It's my hope that testimonies like yours will enamor an increasing number of people with the practice.

  6. It is my theory that if each household used a bit of common sense mixed with personal responsibility we would all leave a better world to our grandchildren. Gardeners go steps beyond and practice sustainability for what we love to do. Your compost is much like mine... quick turn around and breaks down quickly even in the beds. I'm always reminded here I need to do some research on comfrey. Between you and Sanddune I'm thinking it is something I could benefit from using, too.

  7. You blog is were good.
    I followying you blog.

  8. All of us doing our part together can make a big difference. Kudos to you for all you do!

    I've been thinking about growing some comfrey here, have only hesitated as I'm not sure how well it will do here since we don't have full sun.

  9. Ali,
    This is the best way to learn I think.
    good luck with the vertical gardening.
    Yes, it is only gardeners who get really excited about good rich compost.
    sometimes it is good to review all the things we each do.
    Oh yes I am sure that exposure will make people more aware.
    I am glad to hear you use the same composting system I do. Good luck with the comfrey, you wont regret it.
    thank you and welcome
    Garden girl,
    it is funny how it all evolves, and then suddenly when you assess it all it has become quite a bit. Mine is not in full sun, so give it a try

  10. Hi Gillian, I'm so glad you joined in--thanks so much for linking! I don't consider myself green and that's why I like to have this project. I want to let people know we don't have to be over-the-top tree-huggers to garden sustainably. Even just a little bit can make so much of a difference. But you do a LOT:-) I love how you let things grow 'up' and allow more room for other things that way. As for the composting, I've been only recently doing that. The pile we made last year was so good I just planted directly into it! And now, I'm using a tumbling composter so I'm experimenting with it, putting new stuff into it daily. I can't wait to see what it will produce! Thanks again;-)

  11. Hi Jan,
    I think it is a great thing you are doing as it brings the issues to everyones attention. Plus we get to pick up hints and tips from other bloggers. It will be interesting to see the results you have with the tumbling composter. I just use one of those standing plastic bins and use my muscles and a garden fork to turn it!

  12. I love all your ideas, but I am intrigued by the use of comfrey as a fertilizer. What is the basis of that and how does it work? I grow comfrey so I am wondering if it is the same plant? what is the botanical name?

  13. Hi Carolyn,
    I first heard about comfrey from KGI - you can link to the website from my sidebar. It seems to be very common in England. I also have a few posts in this blog where you can see the breakdown of nutritional data that comfrey fertilizer provides. here is a link

  14. Thank you for your kind words. Even though the deportment of most garden bloggers is modest and self effacing, a compliment on our work is always appreciated.


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