Sunday, July 18, 2010

Homemade compost bin

I set the resident labourer a task this weekend. Make me a compost bin. Well it wasn’t quite like that. I had planned to try and make it myself but because I needed his help to “acquire” a pallet he became more involved than either of us expected. He became the master craftsman and I, his supervisor and assistant. Our existing bin was one of those large black plastic things, seen here on the right. I never could get the hang of it. It seemed to take forever for anything to break down and was usually a soggy mess. Plus I could never figure out how to remove a small amount of compost from the bottom without the whole pile spilling out. And turning the mound was nigh on impossible. My new bin is super duper brilliant. And it was so easy to make that hubby is now keen to make more. This from a man who could hardly swing a hammer before I met him.

First we cleared the area for the bin.
Step 1:
Find pallets. Most companies have these lying around and are only too keen for the public to remove them. I regularly witness my neighbour carrying these up his driveway to be chopped up and put on his fire. We only grabbed one as we knew we had an old slatted bed in the garage which we could recycle. Dismantle the pallet and try to remove all the nails.

Step 2:
Divide the wood into 2 piles. Only one pile will need notches cut into them. Work out where the notches should be cut. Measure and mark on each end of the planks in the “notch” pile. We marked our notches 60mm in from the end and 30mm deep. The width of the notch should be just big enough for the “other” planks to wedge into. Our notches were a little bigger so are a bit loose but this will not affect the overall sturdiness of the compost bin.

Step 3: cut the notches. For this we used a jigsaw.

Step 4: assemble in place.

Step 5: layer compost.

All done. Brilliant.

Frost damage on a Puka

We’ve had some great frosty mornings lately. Usually this doesn’t bother me and I quite like wiping a gap in the steamed up kitchen windows to see if jack has visited. Sometimes the back lawn looks like it’s had a dusting of snow overnight – very pretty. The morning chauffeur (hubby) has a different reaction to the frost. For him it means lugging bottles of water outside to throw over the iced up car.

Because the sun goes down so early in winter I usually don’t get a chance to look around the garden after work so I was horrified last week to discover my lovely Puka (Meryta sinclairii) had been struck by frost damage. The Puka was a donation to the garden from a friend about a year ago. It was root bound in a tiny pot so I transplanted it to a larger pot. It loved that improvement of living quarters and immediately started producing lush new leaves. Then I thought it would like life even better if it was in the ground. I planted it towards the back of the garden on the south side of the shed and slightly sheltered by a large old plum tree. Even though it liked its new location, even flowering, I wasn’t entirely happy with its placement and when I was offered two hydrangeas I knew that the hydrangeas had to go there instead.

So….. That is how a healthy young Puka found its way to an open lower part of the garden with no protection from frosts and getting the morning sun. It was only a matter of days after the move that it was struck by the frost. The exposed leaves lost their colour, some turning brown, and drooped horribly. I have since covered it every evening with an old mosquito net to prevent further damage and covered the soil with a good layer of mulch. Only time will tell if the Puka will fully recover. Not all leaves have been damaged and some only partly. I have researched what to do and it seems the best thing is to wait until spring (at least until the last frost) and assess the situation. Then I will cut out the severely damaged leaves and pray that new growth is still forthcoming. I blame myself. A fellow gardener had warned me that pukas were susceptible to frost but I hadn’t paid enough attention.