Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

After exploring trench mulching a lot in  my garden I decided to adopt some of the principles that govern honeyholes and fertility trenches.

The main variation from my past practices are:
  • tear up the newspaper and cardboard
  • mix it with green mulch and manure 
  • add water (even urine!) to the mix
  • let it marinate
  • ram the mix into the honeyhole

This is still an experiment.
  1. Honeyholes should be standard depth and diameter. In my established garden I keep them to a forearm's depth. 
  2. Honeyholes' location should always be marked.

When positioning your honeyhole remember that its contents may be a tad strong for some nearby plants. So remember: Location. Location. Location.
If creating new beds, long trenches would be more apt.
When watering the garden, be sure to always hose your honeyholes so that they absorb more water for slower local distribution. 
A honeyhole  is a pulpy version of a terracotta pot irrigator...and my presumption is that any fertilising is spread by the creatures of the soil especially worms. I'm thinking that juxtaposing terracotta pot irrigation with honeyholes makes a lot of gardening sense --esp on my sandy soils.


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Comment by Dave Riley on February 20, 2014 at 11:21

I just made up a delicious smelly batch and shoveled it into holes I prepared earlier. Topped the stuffing with a mulch blanket and marked the spot with coloured pegs atop bamboo skewers. 

Elevated coloured pegs raised high on skewers (or twigs) work better than lollipop sticks.

Now we wait...Slow Cooking.

What I want to see is:

  • gradual breakdown indicated by the rate at which the hole falls in on itself as its contents decompose.
  • no burning in local plantlife
  • massive growth in worm numbers not only at the hole locale but across the garden bed. These honeyholes should serve as worm takeaway outlets.
  • some sort of synergy developing between my clay pot irrigation stations and my honey holes.
  • that the honey hole and its surrounds constitutes a garden 'wet patch' esp if I consciously water the spot so marked.

These holes aren't as deep as I originally suggested. This time I took them down to the sand line and pushed the topside loam aside, while merely scraping a depression in the sand below the beds.  These holes take just over a spade full of stuffing mix, rammed diown. 

I'm beginning to consider them partners to my clay pots -- and roughly the same size, although the honeyholes can be deeper. Similar irrigation functions...but both are harnessing and fostering worm activity to  share the load:

  • facilitate composting
  • spreading carbon
  • engineering moisture passages.
  • distributing fertilizer.

So I'm thinking that there should be a measurable relationship between the two 'stations' -- that and a routine that suggests how often I'd need to either renew the honeyholes or dig new ones.

At the back of my mind is my last garden: a car tire garden -- while on clay soils it was driven by the trinity:

  1. earthworms
  2. grass clippings
  3. car tires

And a very efficient and productive, water wise garden it was too. 

The advantages with my new setup I'm hoping will kick in are:

  • That the manures are buried deep should slow down the sprouting of weeds from among the mix . I use  horse often and horse manure is vicious weed central. 
  • That the bones and other meaty food scraps, like prawn shells, when thrown in first don't attract the noses of my dogs. given the manuring above.
  • That I get more value out of each bag of manure and deploy it more efficiently as fertiliser. I get my manures for $2 from local farms..and merely spreading it atop the beds is cause fro dry out. It needs to be dug in, but I don't like digging over my beds. So spot burying in a rich cellulose mix, makes good sense.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 16, 2014 at 15:27

Ah, that's good thinking. Hmmm, with compost it's a carbon:nitrogen ratio … brown to green. There's plenty of twigs around here, mixed with whirred up paper and vege scraps. I'll give it a whirl.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 16, 2014 at 12:02

I'm not obsessed with the NPK mix thing but I do know that if I use a lot of paper and twigs/wood bits in the mix I'm sure to get better water retention and slower irrigation. That's the hugelkultur message. Originally I used only paper -- newspaper rolls inserted vertically -- and some grass clippings. They soon rotted down in the way that horizontally placed ones on or near the surface did not.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 15, 2014 at 20:45

Ah, a mini-swale - good idea Dave! Outside of the raised beds, there's very little organic matter and with all the dry now, a lot of it is very hard.

I'm thinking that in my soil a couple of feet would be the max, near one foot than two. Even the local soil-worker worms don't dig down a metre and the compost worms don't dig at all.

I'm thinking partly-composted kitchen scraps with sugarcane into a well-wetted hole. And if the hole doesn't collapse once it's empty, could use it again.

Will give it a go as soon as I can. Thanks for the ideas, Dave!

Comment by Dave Riley on February 15, 2014 at 16:59

The better soil I simply push aside. The sandy stuff I stockpile storage. Loam here is liquid gold.

Comment by Dave Riley on February 15, 2014 at 15:44

I find a single narrow hole much easier to dig than a long trench. It's like playing in the sand at the beach and I only use my  trowel and my hands. The forearm depth is Ok for my soil -- but that's also the limit of my reach. In your case Elaine -- just thinking -- you could dig your hole and use the dug soil as a sort o swale on your slope directing water run  off into the hole.

Like playing sandcastles....

Comment by Dave Riley on February 15, 2014 at 15:27



I've found that my garden takes in moisture unevenly. This is a product of how much carbon matter is in my sandy soils...but other factors come into play.

Mulch can shield the underlying soil from getting wet...especially if precipitation is often light. While using terracotta pots for irrigation will get regular  moisture below that layer , the pots'  seepage envelope  can only reach so far.

The honeyholes serve as supplementary irrigators as their carbon/cellulose content hold moisture and their vertical alignment ferry moisture below the mulch layer. They are like so many wells. 

If I had planning options I'd alternate terracotta pots with honeyholes and let the worms work out their daily lifestyle. But as much vermiculture proves, a good worm colony will spread the fertility everywhere they go -- moving carbon about like dodgen cars. 

My other experiments with additions -- such as laying down rolled up newspaper and logs on top of my soil, in hugelkultur fashion -- have not been very successful. The cellulose needs to be buried, encased in soils and its biota. 

So these little mine shafts --adapted from my trench mulching experiments -- may suit my conditions. Filling them is like stuffing cannoli. 

 But a few question remain:

  1. How many freshly made honeyholes/how far apart can I insert in the one garden bed?
  2. How close can I locate a honeyhole to a growing plan or a freshly planted seedling?
  3. What happens to the hole once its contents has rotted down? Do I refill the space with more 'honey' or with the soils I initially  set aside -- and dig a fresh hole elsewhere? 
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 15, 2014 at 15:23

This would be more manageable for me than a trench. You're really using anaerobic composting, or it seems like it. There's nothing wrong with anaerobic anyway … Myrtle Charteris from BOG used it forever and her produce was something to behold. On my slope, it sounds like a good idea.

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