garbage gardening

“There is no such thing as waste– only unused resources”

Get creative “Start where you are, use what you’ve already have”                      

zone one is lucky to be next to Nimbin’s famous ‘Rainbow Cafe’ & we have access to some great resources that would normally be called ‘rubbish’. Not only do they make kick-ass coffee, (local brand ‘Cafeind’) which used grounds we take home by the bucketful every day to make super worm food, but also lots of useful containers as well as newspaper & cardboard for sheet mulching (see below). Food wastes, however, are snapped up by local chook-keepers whose free range eggs the cafe serves up for their ‘big breakfasts’ , otherwise we would use for making compost. In fact, any cafe could supply at least some of their own herbs or fresh greens by using their wastes.                  

Anything can be used as growing containers- here’s some of our experiments:

styrofoam box


styrofoam box with bamboo wagon cover                      Styrofoam produce boxes (the ones with holes at bottom) make great mini-gardens- even to float on ponds (centre picture) for edible aquatics like watercress, kang kong, water chestnuts. We have started rice seedlings like this & grown lettuces in hot summers when they would normally wilt in the full sun without constant irrigation. I’ve contemplated covering my whole dam with these strung together to prevent evaporation in summer & plants would be self watering


potato crates

Old Milk crates filled with straw mulch watered with seaweed solution (helps prevent mould, as well  as fertilize) & good compost are planted with seed potatoes. The crates at right are stacked to make a wall of potatoes, tops grow through the gaps. Easy to harvest, good drainage & a great space saver! We have these in the narrow footpath lane that leads to zone one.sack o'potatoesOld car tyres make stackable potato patches too.

seed potatoes

Left: We start the seed potatoes in these foil lined 1kg coffee bags with good potting mix & barely water (just keep damp till sprouted)       Right: These potatoes are growing in old hessian sacks (potato sacks!) Start with one layer of straw, plant spuds & then add layers of straw/soil mix, rolling bag up as plant tops grow. We call it ‘a sack o’potatoes’.

milk carton ladder

Milk carton Madness Lots of our city visitors to zone one in Nimbin say they don’t have enough space, so Steph started on the milk bottle madness to demonstrate a do-it-yourself vertical garden, using 2L milk containers (The Rainbow Cafe goes through dozens every day) Small containers like this are best for shallow rooted plants like lettuces & herbs, although they are also good for raising seedlings. We’ve also grown rice & peanuts in them too! More pics below: 

hanging carton detaillettuceIMAG1069 carton cloches  From left: carton detail, lettuces, milk pots hanging on fences, cut bottoms & remove lid for seedling cloches- protects newly planted seedlings from insect attack, sun & wind burn, conserves moisture (mini greenhouse)

Steph makes these hand painted tea light lanterns from milk cartons. They float on water or can be hung up in the trees.       butterfly lanterns   

 wanderer butterfly  purple butterfly

Now what to do with all the bad/old news? And bottomless piles of cardboard boxes at the back of shops? Hopefully, they collect & recycle such things in your area, but if, like me, you don’t want to spend endless hours battling weeds or break your back clearing bare ground for new gardens, start collecting newspapers & flattened cardboard boxes to use for sheet mulching. Newspapers are lighter & break down faster, so I use these to cover freshly prepared beds before planting & cover with straw or raked leaf mulch to impede weed growth.   Cardboard is heavier & takes longer to break down, so I use this to cover large new areas. Don’t bother digging! Place straight on top of grass/weeds (a bit of slashing helps with tall rampant growth) If you like, add lime, seaweed, weed tea, activated EM , or whatever organic soil boosters you prefer before covering with cardboard. Hold in place with branch trimmings (for strong winds) or cover with mulch if you can afford it or can’t stand the messy look. Personally. I no longer bother-the neighbours can’t see in & I’m happy knowing the rubbish is working for me. After 3-6 months, I can plant into the area, the cardboard has broken up a bit & the original growth is gone, composted in situ to feed the new garden area. 

cardboard sheet mulching new pumpkin patch pumpkins                     Above: 60m2 covered in cardboard (without mulch), planted to pumpkins

Remember, Nature fills every niche (& wastes nothing), so we can too. Replace your lawn & pot plants with things you can eat. Use whatever you can think of for growing containers, remembering different plants have differing growing habits- one local friend without a permanent garden grows all his food in buckets (for deep rooted plants) so they can move with him. A little creative garbage collection means you can always have your own free food garden spaces!     

More creative gardening 



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