There is no such thing as waste, only unused resources.

From every corner of the globe to the remotest island, our excess is piling up. Before the last century, only the most enduring artefacts of human habitation are preserved. Now, it seems we have an insatiable appetite for plastic – and it’s inedible! We poison our waterways & atmosphere & pillage our soils & forests.

Changing our ways is now urgent and we must all endeavour to repair the damage we’ve done, each of us starting with where we are right now – in our own homes & communities – zone one.

It may be that those living (or aspiring to live) in modern western societies aren’t fully cognizant of the effects of their throw-away society because they have the luxury of garbage collection & centralized sewerage. The 25L rubbish bin has become a 50L wheelie bin which some households manage to fill every week. If this weren’t conveniently removed weekly they would soon find their house & garden wouldn’t be large enough to hold their unwanted refuse after only 1 year! Remember, the Earth is round, it all comes back to us! If we can’t reuse, recycle, decompose or render it harmless, we shouldn’t create it in the first place!

Below: zone one’s ‘outhouse’ displaying non-toxic cleaners, compost additives & waste water inoculants.            Tips for reducing waste:               outhouse

¨ Buy quality not disposable

¨ Repair or Re-use

¨ Use no more than you need

¨ Use biodegradable or recyclable &

¨ products made from renewable materials

¨ Treat waste on-site (water treatment, composting, etc)

AND demand less packaging! Purchase wisely & buy local, buy fresh, buy in bulk

Return to Earth : Any biological material (food scraps, vegetation, paper, manure etc) is valuable biomass- not rubbish. Such material should be composted & used to build soil, not mixed with plastic & other non-bio degradable waste to rot in landfill. Home compost bins can be purchased or made from recycled materials. Worm farms & kitchen top bokashi bins can be used for small dwellings or apartments or get involved with your neighbours to create a communal compost area & lobby your local council to collect separate green waste & recyclable materials (bottles, cans, paper, metal etc.) Most importantly, avoid using products that do not naturally decompose or cannot be recycled.

Water treatment : Don’t put down the sink what you can’t drink! Avoid toxic & non biodegradable products, soaps, cleaners, shampoos etc – if it makes fish sick, it’s probably not good for our health either. We recommend liquid castile soaps for personal use, phosphate free cleaners & washing detergents, natural cleaners like vinegar, bi-carb & lemon juice, tea tree, eucalyptus & lavender oils for disinfectant, and our personal all-round favourite miracle product, EM-1© (Professor Higa’s Effective Micro-organisms) for biological breakdown of putrescent material & odour control. Activated EM© heart pondscan be used to wash surfaces, clean drain pipes, reduce grease & sludge build-up and is actually beneficial to natural waterways and soil.             Collect your own water (rainwater tanks), clean the water you use (filter with charcoal, inoculate with EM© & oxygenate with flow forms or fountains) & re-use it on your garden. Water is precious, treat it with love & respect. Left: oxygenating ponds in series

Don’t burn, biochar!: Burning creates smoke (atmospheric carbon) & wastes valuable biomass that is better returned to the soil. Biochar (pyrolysis without oxygen) retains carbon and when added to the soil, aids in retaining water and nutrients , increasing fertility over time – fortifying with fertilizer such as seaweed or manure is recommended.IMAG1067 

Right: Smokeless Champion T-LUD cook-stove (makes charcoal while you cook with small fuel-twigs, nutshells, etc)

More info & Links to treatment processes: 

Composting tips                                                                          waste

EM© & Bokashi                                                                           garbage gardening

Water Health                                                                               weeds

Biochar                                                                                       nimbin recycling



New Nimbin recycling!

The dynamic Blue Knob Farmer’s market team are starting our own glass recycling system. We are purchasing bulk glass jars & bottles for locally made products so we can offer a refund on returns. We will sterilize & re-use (with new lids as required by law). Unlike other recycling systems, the energy intensive process of re-melting the glass won’t be neccesary & hopefully will encourage locals to buy local products- only our glass range will receive a refund. (Of course, we encourage those at home to re-use any glass jars the supermarket has provided) Don’t forget, zone one co-op is also an agent for Alpacka Packaging & can order bo-degradable packaging for local businesses.

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