Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I want to post about some "Captain Obvious" things that I am surprised that I didn't know.  As a result, this blog will probably be updated regularly.  

1. Calcium

Yep - deficiencies cause blossom end rot in fruit/veg.  Sometimes yellow veins in the leaves.  I know that.  I've always tended to use trace elements to fix it.  

Easier answer is to throw gypsum into the soil when you plant.  It alters the soil composition to break clay and clump the soil to make nutrient uptake easier for the plants.  It is also very high in calcium.  Gypsum works as a preventative, as well as a cure.  Unlike dolomite and lime, it does not alter the ph of the soil.  So, you can plant straight into it. 

Surprised I didn't know that!

2. Manure

Poo ain't poo.  Well, I knew that.  I knew:  horses have one stomach and cows have two.  So, cow manure has less weeds.  

I didn't know that both of those manures are lower in nitrogen which means that while fresh, they won't burn your crops like fowl manure (high in nitrogen) will.  Lots of nitrogen will make the plant grow like crazy, but fruit very little.  However, horse, sheep and cow poo are rich in organic matter, just like compost so they help growth and fruit.  

3. Spring and Autumn

I'm a preserve maker:  jams, chutneys etc.  I always figured I grew and preserved to get through winter.  I think that's not true in Brisbane.  I'm finding with the likes of tomatoes, and most else, that I can grow and preserve in spring and autumn.  Winter is too cold and summer too hot.  Talk about Captain Obvious. 

Feel free to add your own comments!

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 5, 2018 at 6:25

Gypsum is the answer, Andy. Cheap and abundant.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on September 5, 2018 at 5:27

I find the same Elaine - I use heaps of egg shells.  I'm still calcium deficient.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on August 31, 2018 at 6:23

Snag I have found with eggshells, even organic ones, is that they almost-never break down. Eggshell still looks like eggshell - even when crushed - months to years after first composted.

Comment by Valerie on August 31, 2018 at 6:21

Might be worth doing a post per topic. Manure is a vast subject and I was told various contradictions at workshops. One speaker said fresh is best while another said, you must wait 2 weeks for worming agent to dissipate and not kill your earth worms. 

On calcium, egg shell is a good one too.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 30, 2018 at 12:08

The key issue is the amount of microbial activity the bolus was exposed to as it transited the gut. Aside from the churned and masticated foodstuff, that's the Holy Grail. A ruminant works so well living off grass because its gut flora converts it into useable nutrient.

In India, the farmers dry out the cow manure and after chopping it up, often plant directly into it.

I'm not sure that chook manure is historically often used  in the garden but guano is another story altogether: wars have been fought over that stuff. Nonetheless, pigeon coops (dovecotes) were often located within the vegetable garden because the birds plopped fertilizer and supplied meat.

Not recognized is the long tradition of the use of human manure in agriculture -- indeed with the advent of the cities the recycling of human waste has prevented the return of nutrients to the soil.

In 19th century Paris, market gardens were developed within the city relying on collected stable manures.These were so efficient and creative (eg: using manures to heat the plants into early/out of season growth) that the gardens supplied markets as far away as London.

In China there was a human poo market where town and country interfaced. In  Scotland farmers competed with one another for access to the sewage drain flowing out of Glasgow.

Thus 'nightsoil'...

Nonetheless, all manures (regardless of species) are going to carry pathogens into your garden. If you use them under the age of  approximately 3 months -- you need to be aware how to farm with that in mind. Assume your soil is 'contaminated' if it contains manures less than that age.

So be aware of that come harvest. (Good example is the recent cantaloupe tragedy:listeria.)

The safest 'manure', in my estimation, is urine. While it won't add bacteria its fertilizer profile is excellent and, when fresh from the tap, is usually sterile.

Some folks drink the stuff...!

I may be surrounded by horse and cow farms but I'm not so keen on using their manures because of the infection issue. If I composted it -- that would be kosher. The irony is that I sometimes buy in composted cow manure for the same price as the local farm gate manure market.

If these hobby farmers did that, composted, they'd corner a market niche.

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on August 30, 2018 at 9:21

" ten horses on 4 very stressed acres of poor grass" What do they do with the property  do they fertilize and is it divided into separate areas if you have a cover of dead grass stops any regrowth  and that is what you get after winter  do they slash or mow .The manure i think is more for the organic material then high nutrient value plus if its composted reduces in quantity quickly.

Comment by Roger Clark on August 30, 2018 at 6:29

On manure.

Everyone seems to think that all manures are equal or more or less so. The truth seems to be that (and this makes sense to me), that especially manures that come from animals that are not fed with top quality feed cannot be as good as ones that are fed top grade Lucerne, etc. Here at Park Ridge, the soil is poor so animals that graze on poor pasture cannot magically make it into wonder food. At best unless they are feed good supplementary food, the manure from these animals will be little better than cutting the grass and putting this on the garden.

I have two neighbours with horses. One of these spends a lot of money supplementary feeding his animals, the other cannot afford to do so, but has around ten horses on 4 very stressed acres of poor grass. I'll let you guess which neighbour I prefer to get some manure from.  

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on August 30, 2018 at 4:47

Good idea, Andy! One of the reasons behind the so-far-non-existent BLF eBook is to have a FAQs section containing these kinds of info. 'Everyone knows' - everyone does not know!

'Everyone knows' plants need water yet it was surprising how many customers of the Nursery I worked at, did not know they had to keep up the water!

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

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