Sharing and Caring

Soren and I did a little video in our street the other day to celebrate International composting week.  We counted out the stickers that I’ve put on peoples letter boxes, showing the households that are composting, worm farming and so on. I’ve realised there are a few that are composting and haven’t got stickers, so I’ll need to get the stickers out and do some door knocking!

Getting people to be as excited as I am about composting is pretty hard. It’s not really one of the things we’re inclined to share with our friends, (or if we do they’d probably rather we didn’t!) I’m hoping that by putting stickers on our letter boxes, making something we’re doing in our back gardens visible from the street, we can all feel like we’re doing something to make a difference.

Visibility

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I surveyed my street in 2011 and I was surprised  to find how many people in the street  were actually composting or worm farming already. Almost everyone I talked to was aware and engaged with the idea, and a fair few houses in the street had substantial composting systems, along with bountiful gardens.

If you walk or drive down our road you’d have no idea that was the case. How can you tell who’s doing what? Recently I saw a sticker from a project in Melbourne, which puts little stickers on houses and letter boxes when people start composting. I think this is a great idea. A letter box is a good place to make a statement. The sticker then tells a little more about the people who live there, it says something about what it is that’s important to them.

Some people put a lot of effort into their letter-box, so it says a lot about who they are and what they care about. My letterbox is a bit neglected, but it still does the job. I think it’s fair to say we’ve got the full range on our street.

Stop!

Simply putting a sticker on your letterbox about anything is a pretty strong statement. If it’s a statement about something you do to help improve the environment even better. If you have a sticker that says ‘No Junk Mail’, what about one that says ‘Composting happens here too’? If you walk down the road and it seems a lot of people are doing the same thing, you might consider it too. If you know that the neighbours are composting, and you want to learn about it yourself, you can ask them for some help.

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That’s what the stickers in our street are about. I asked people if they would mind putting them on their letter box or fence to make their composting activity visible to the rest of the street. I’ve been offering them to people in Halston Road for some time now (nearly a year) and at last count 19 households (of 45) have stickers on their letter-boxes or wheelie bins. I think a couple have gone MIA in the winter rains…

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One of the concepts people talk about in sustainability is ‘Visibility’. We all take cues from those around us, and this shapes a lot of what we do. If everyone’s looking at you, you feel a bit sheepish right? It’s the same in reverse, if you’re doing something cool, it’s nice to know you’re not alone… This shapes a lot of the decisions we make or things we do. If we don’t know what everyone is doing around us, it’s hard to relate to the idea that we’re acting collectively, or that what we do actually has a meaningful impact.

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More composting, less rubbish trucks, less cost for us and the environment in the long run. Hopefully we’ll get a few more stickers on letter-boxes in our street soon, and then we’ll start looking for another street that wants to be part of the revolution!

My own backyard

In this blog, I’ll be writing posts about gardens that are fertilised with home grown compost, including my own. Why? Because I think it’s a bit hypocritical to be making statements and writing about about better ways to do things if you’re not walking the talk yourself.

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What better way to start than in the garden, and with one of my favourite plants, garlic? For a start, I love eating garlic, and use it all the time in my cooking. I also love the idea of planting a crop on the shortest day of the year and harvesting it on the longest. It feels like I’m part of something that is centuries old. We have a little ritual every year when we plant and harvest our garlic. It’s a chance to stop and really appreciate the amazing seasonal process unfolding in front of us.

I also really enjoy the moment when the first little garlic shoots come up and signal that spring is truly on its way. I always feel thrilled when I see the first one poke up out of the soil.

IMG_9062Garlic is a gross feeding plant, in other words it needs a lot of nutrients. Like almost all plants, to get a good harvest, you need great soil. Nothing is more satisfying than harvesting a big bulb of garlic that you grew yourself. Because you grew it yourself, it absolutely tastes better too!

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Nothing will help your garlic grow faster larger and stronger than high quality compost. When I prepare the garden beds for garlic planting, I dig in a lot of compost, and over the growing season I will sprinkle compost around the roots to help keep them fed. I also water my garlic with liquid from my hungry bin worm farm. Generally when I fertilise plants with worm liquid I don’t dilute it at all. I just put the liquid right on the soil. If the soil is a little dry, I’ll dilute the worm juice 10 or 20 – 1 to help it go further.

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Garlic also needs moist soil when it’s growing, so I try to remember to keep it watered, especially if it’s dry during the spring when the bulbs are sizing up. We often invite friends and neighbours to help us harvest. All part of the ritual – and it comes at just the right time of year. The longest day – or summer solstice – falls just before Xmas. It’s definitely a time to celebrate and get together with your friends.

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