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I have a little garden in Rozelle about 5km from the centre of Sydney. I love to grow as much organic food as I can in a tiny space. The garden calms and excites me, and is a wonderful little green space in a big city. This blog is a record plotting the changes over seasons and years.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Macadamia love

I planted macadamia tree about 7 years ago. This was when I was establishing my new garden close to the centre of Sydney. Some of the trees I planted were dismal failures, but the macadamia has been beautiful, well behaved and pest and disease free. This year, for the first time, it has rewarded us with nuts!

The variety I chose is H816. It is a commercial variety established in Hawaii (hence the 'H' in the name). It is an upright tree which is perfect for our tiny garden. We have only pruned it a couple of times, lopping off the top and tidying a little bit. Apart from that, it needs little input apart from some chicken manure and compost a few times a year. I treat it much like my citrus and feed it smaller amounts regularly (stopping only in winter).
The tiny tree that I planted in 2008

The tree now

And the best part....the nuts!

  • There are 2 species - smooth shelled (M.integrifolia) and rough shelled (M. tetraphylla) with many grafted hybrid forms 
  • Maccas are native to Australia and were commercially a big thing in Hawaii during the 1900s, hence why some of the varieties are Hawaiian
  • They like to grow in rainforests close to streams. For this reason they like to be well watered, are happy under some other bigger trees and like life without frost
  • They do best in deep, rich soils with pH of 5.5 to 6.5, and a fairly sunny position
  • Harvesting is easy, as mature nuts fall to the ground. Just pick them up, husk them and let them dry out for a few weeks
  • Daleys have a good list of macadamia varieties including how tall they grow 
  • I strongly recommend researching the type to buy as they can range from a manageable upright tree only a few metres tall, to a tree that is 12 metres tall and almost as wide

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Home Brew - worms not beer

Worm tea, worm wee, worm juice, leachate. Aren’t these all the same? The quick answer is no, they aren’t. I will dedicate another post to this, as it is quite complex and can be controversial amongst wormy types. I've been reading lots about soil microbiology and worm farms in the last few months and this is the fruit of some of my learning. There are plenty more nerdy posts that I will do on soil microbes soon!

Right now, let’s just accept that leachate is the stuff that comes out of the tap at the bottom of your worm farm. Some people use it on the garden, others say it is highly toxic to plants. When people are talking about worm wee and worm juice, they are usually referring to leachate. 

What I am brewing here however, is worm tea – which is aerated worm castings. It is packed full of good microbes and is amazing for soil health. Worm castings are fantastic for the garden, but you can make them even better by helping the microbes multiply. The things they need to multiply are air and sugar. So by aerating the brew and adding molasses or golden syrup, we are helping the microbes go crazy!

I have noticed a significant difference in my garden since applying worm tea every couple of weeks. Anyway, here is how it is done.

Start off with a big bucket and put about 15 litres of water in it. You can put more or less, but from the reading on microbes I have done about 1 cup of worm castings to 15 litres of water is a safe bet. If you have rainwater, great. If you are using tap water, leave it to sit for 24 hrs so that the level of chlorine is reduced. Chlorine can kill microbes.

Apart from a bucket of water you need: (1) an organza bag or muslin to put the worm castings in. I bought these from a discount store, but you can also get them on ebay. (2) an old fashioned fish tank aerator and airstone. I got mine on ebay for under $10 but you can buy them at pet stores too

Get about one cup of worm castings (worm poo) from your worm farm and put it in the organza bag. Tie the top and plop it in the bucket of water.

Attach your hose and airstone to the aerator and put it in the bucket.

Add 2 heaped tablespoons of golden syrup, corn syrup or molasses. I use golden syrup because it is easily to find in Australia. Let it brew for 12 to 24 hrs. There is guess work in how long to leave it. If I had a lab strength microscope I could look to see when the microbes had multiplied to their peak level, but since we don't guessing is just fine.
Here is Dudley helping out with my home brew. He does try to drink it, but then, even at 13 1/2 he still tries to eat and drink everything (labrador genes).

I would love to hear from others about how they use their worm farm output.