Washing machine firepit

Ever had an old washing machine that you didn’t know what to do with? Also, have you ever wanted a fire pit that wasnt in a ground but was instead on a stick? Finally, do you also have an old clothesline stand? Well my friends you have the perfect equipment to make a standing firepit.

Old washing machine firepit. Photo credit Andrea Stehpenson.

The making of said standing firepit isnt to difficult. You just simply attach the old spinner of the machine to the stand (securely of course) and ensure the bottom of the pit is stable. Just make sure the metal that is used wont melt (that could be interesting).

Global Outcome

○ Reduce the amount of waste potentially going to landfill (thats if you dont drop off the machine to a place that already recycles the parts) by using old machines and recycling them.

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Bees in the Garden

By now most of us have heard about insect biodiversity loss which is happening around the globe. You have probably also heard that bees, one of the most important pollinators, have also been reported as ‘bee’ing (yes – I made a funny) in decline.

With such sad news it is hard to keep the chin the high. But that is why I am writing articles for this blog, in the hope that people will get ideas on the little things they can do to help change the world. And one of the things that we can do is in the garden – and relates to bees (and not just the commonly known honeybee).

Flowers

You can very easily plant plants in your garden that will attract not just bees, but also other pollinators. This provides a valuable food source for bees and is becoming increasingly important in a ever expanding urbanised landscape. The types of plants that should be plant will vary depending on the locality you are in. Do your research into the bees that could be in your local area and research flowering plants accordingly. One suggestion, if I may, is aim on planting a variety of plant species that flower across different seasons. Even if you do your research you may miss species and planting a wide range of species increases your likelihood of planting for those bee species that you may have missed.

Pesticides

Numerous scientific articles have shown the negative effects of pesticides on bees.

Therefore, do not use them. I know, I know. I hear your thoughts (or angry, cursing). “What about those (insert insect that eat’s vegetables/fruit). I can’t grow a decent tomato without a good old pesticide.” True, this will remove those nasty pests that eat your carrots when they are growing but it will also have a negative effect on other populations of insects. The pesticides can even make their way up the food chain to other animals that we may eat (rabbit, cow, chicken). For the good of all, use alternative, environmentally friendly methods to reduce pest insect numbers in your garden.

Capture

Bee friendly habitat

Different species of bees will live in different types of habitats (and can be found within the garden). This will be dependant on bee species and the area in which you live. For those just starting out the placing a bee/insect hotel will help increase the biodiversity of bees/insects in your garden. You can make your own or buy (most likely from a local hardware store).

Capture

Alternatively you could get creative and make your own hotel.

Old TV turned into an insect motel – Photo credit Marilyn Rogers

You may also want to build or purchase your own native bee hive. This process can be costly and expensive. However, once you have one hive successfully established, you can very easily make more.

In short:

  • Planting a variety of flowering plants will help with increasing food sources for your bees
  • Reduction in pesticides will help to reduce bee and insect biodiversity loss.
  • Establishing bee friendly habitat will allow for an increase in bee biodiversity and overall bee numbers in all areas (urban and rural).

How to compost

Composting is not necessarily rocket science but there are a few hints and tips that will make the process easier.

There are a few fundamentals that you should follow no matter what type of compost bin (or no bin) you are using.

1) Decide on the right location. Too far one way or too far the otherway could result in the goldilocks syndrome.

Placing the bin on exposed soil will help the microbes that help in the breaking down of the material get in your bin faster. Also, placing the bin in the shade will help in reduction of lost moisture. Speaking of moistute….

2. Keep the compost moist but not like its a swimming pool. Moisture will help to increase the rate at which the compost is broken down. Too much will turn it to mush.

3. Turn the compost regularly. Not only will this expose the lowe level compost to the air but it will also help to reduce the number of pests within the compost (which is important if you decide to compost all food matter).

4. This next one is a matter of opinion but it is recommended to have a ratio of brown to green waste in your compost. Many ratios are suggested but 2 or 3 brown to green seems to ve standard.

There is a great info graphic here to help also.

Happy Composting

Mulching in the yard

Mulching is great thing for your garden. It helps suppress weeds and, when broken down after being exposed over time to the elements, will help to aid in construction of soil.

To mulch you need a layer of dead organic matter (usually leaves, striped sugarcane, grass clippings etc.) That is placed on top of the ground. Overtime it will break down into soil.

Photo credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming

The benefits of mulching are numerous and include:

○ preventing soil cracking during high or low tempertures.

○ prevention of plant diseases spreading through rain splashing on healthy plants.

○ keeping the moisture in the soil or a longer time period.

○ reduction of soil erosion by slowling down the rate water runoff occurs and by preventing rain hitting the exposed soil and making it erode.

○ reduction of global gas emissions by placing mulch on the garden when it would otherwise be thrown out (most effective if you make your own mulch).

○ it looks nice.

It is relatively easy to make your own mulch (and this is different to composting). In short, anything that is plant based can be made into mulch (you dont use veg or fruit as it will become smelly and not slightly). Leaves are the easiest to use from the yard as they are light and dont need to be broken down further. However, its those pesky sticks and tigs that are the big issue. You can buy or hire a machine that will turn these into mulch (known as the original name of a mulcher).

Overall, mulching is not just good for the environment but as your garden.

Should I compost that?

There are many a tale about what to compost and what not to compost. Let’s start off with the simple stuff shall we?

Fruit and Veg

The one we all hear about. The safe option. You can compost pretty much all types of food and veg in all types of compost. Avoid onions and other highly acidic food scraps if you have lots of worms present as it may go unfavorably for them. Additionally, try to cut up any veg that may ‘sprout’ in warm, dark, nutrient rich environments (e.g.onion and potatoes). You may find the compost pile/bin turns into a big potota farm (which is great if you like potatos).

Image: American Heart Association

Cereals and bread

In short – yes – go for it. Some cereals may also provide a nice little pick me up of nitrogen to the ole compost pile. Bread will also contribute to the end soil product that is the compost. Just be mindful that these can attract pests so regular turning may be required.

Oils

Avoid. It could upset the moisture composition of the compost.

Weeds and Diseased Plants

Sections of the weeds are ok but avoid seeds and seed pods. You dont want them sprouting when you use the soil made from the compost in that oh so awesome vegetable garden. Diseased plants should also be avoided as it may help to spread the disease when you use the soil made from the compost.

Weeds are a no no for composting

Image: WSU Washington

Woodchips

Yep. Go for it if the the wood was untreated.

Excrement from pets (and your own/familys behind)

Ummmmmmm. No. There’s this thing called health risks and…..yeah…….

Meat

All animal meat/bone will eventually break down (its the circle of life or something like that). It will, however, bring pets to the compost that are less then ideal and also produce some not so nice smells.

Image: Science Alert

Dairy Products

Please refer to meat info. above.

Paper/cardboard

Paper. Have you ever smelt paper. Waterworld. Great movie. I digress. Yes. It makes a good layering between food scraps. Be wary of paper that is gloss or has high print on it. Anything purely white (or even a newspaper) should be ok. Otherwise recycle options would be best.

Anything cardboard is good for the same reason (just avoid those things outlined above). Oh, and dont forget toilet paper roles.

Tea bags and coffee grinds

Yes. High in nitrogen and phosphorus. Just be wary of the acidic content of the coffee with worms and soil acidity.

Clothing

Nope. Elastic and plastics can be part of the material and your clothes are coloured. Colouring means bad nasty chemicals. Yuck!.

Leaves

Yes, yes and god yes. Perfect to help maintain moisture in the soil that is made feom the compost.

If you have any other ideas then pleass leave them in the comment sections below.

Compost World Benefits

○ Reduction of CO2 emissions through transport of soil that you then nees to buy and transport home (and save you $$$ in the process).

○ Reduction in landfill and therefore reduction of climate warming emissions.

○ Increase in insect numbers in your garden which will make for food sources for other animals.

Composting

One of the most effective methods to reduce the amount of garbage that we throw out (stop and think about it – we all throw out excess stuff in surplus amounts) is to compost it.

Im not going to get in the difference between worm farms and composting here but there is a big difference.

In short , composting is when you get your excess food scraps, throw it in a pile and let it turn to soil. You can donit with pretty much most of the food scraps you have.

Now I hear a few of you going ‘Whoa there fella. Hold on. I don’t want stinky smelly garbage laying around my yard’. To you I say – fair call.

Good thing that there are other options besides making a food hill in your yard. Any good home and hardware stores will provide you with a basic composter bin that is sealed (relatively) from the outside and will reduce (relatively) the smells that they produce.

Some examples of compost bins

In this new day and age with cities and whatnot there is often limited space to put our compost binnin the yard. Good thing there is an answer for that too with miniature compost bins that can be placed right in your kitchen (or bedroom- whatever floats your boat). The soil made from this can then be used for a nice pot plant.

A compost bin that is ideal for any home (big, small, medium, hobbit sized etc.).

The great news. Doing any form of composting will reduce your effect on the environment. While food scraps will decay in the garbage tip it will produce methane gas that is a contributor to global warming. Placing the food scraps to breakdown in the compost bin will expose the food scraps to oxygen and not produce methane as it is not an anerobic environment. You also get some great soil put it that is full of nutrients and is great for food growing.

Composting contribution

○ Reduction in global warming gas being released from garbage tips.

○ Production of soil that can be used for plants/food production around the house.