DIY Potting Mix

How to make your own Potting Mix

Notes from a workshop at the 2018 Spring Fair.

Plants need oxygen, water, nutrients, stability and light. Soils give them the first 4 of these. When we put a plant into a pot, we have to try and replicate the conditions of the soil, but in a much more confined space. In making our own potting mix, we are basically trying to balance the water and air needs of the plants (via their roots).

When working with the ingredients of potting mixes, it is important to remember your safety! These materials can harbour micro-organisms and dust that may have a negative impact if inhaled. For your safety, ensure you wear a dust mask, safety glasses and gloves when working with potting mixes. Always wash your hands after mixing and potting.

There are as many recipes for potting mixes as there are veggie curry recipes and many different materials that can be used in the process. Commercial mixes will often use materials that have come from far afield. In this workshop, Ali focused on materials that can be made or produced locally, so we can all do our part towards reducing our carbon footprint.

The ingredients:

For water holding:

Available to buy:

  • Peat – should not be used as it comes from one of only a few remaining peat bogs in the world.

  • Coir ‘peat’ – this is a by-product of coconut production and so far better option than above. However, it is not (to my knowledge) yet produced in Australia so always has large transport miles attached to it.

Make your own:

  • Leaf mould – gather leaves (ideally from deciduous trees). Place in a pile or open compost bin/container and let sit, getting wet, for at least 12 weeks.

  • Composted sawdust - ideally from untreated wood. Wet down, leave in out in the open and turn once a week, for 8-10 weeks.

For aeration and drainage:

  • Vermiculite – a naturally occurring volcanic mineral, super-heated so it ‘puffs’ up. Comes from overseas as is not naturally occurring in Australia

  • Perlite – glass, super-heated so it ‘puffs’ up. Not produced in Australia (that I know of).

  • Composted wood chip -- ideally from untreated wood. Wet down and leave out in the open and turn once a week, for 8- 10 weeks

  • River sand – cheap and available locally

Nutrients:

  • Soil – not recommended to use more than 10% in your mix

  • Compost – sieve it for best results and ensure it was made using the ‘hot’ method so seeds and disease are managed

  • Worm castings – use in small quantities in any mix (very dense so will not allow enough air if you use too much

 Image source: https://www.pipmagazine.com.au/grow/make-your-own-diy-potting-mix/

Image source: https://www.pipmagazine.com.au/grow/make-your-own-diy-potting-mix/

 

The recipes:

Basic potting mix

  • 1 part leaf mould or composted sawdust

  • 1 part river sand

  • 2 parts sieved compost

  • ½ cup worm castings

For propagation mixes (raising seedlings)

  • 1 part leaf mould or composted sawdust

  • 1 part river sand

(No nutrient required for seedlings!)

For vegetables

  • 1 part leaf mould or composted sawdust

  • 1 part river sand

  • 2 parts sieved compost

  • 1 cup worm castings

For succulents

Increase the ratio of sand in the basic mix and reduce the compost/worm castings

Other considerations:

  • It is a good idea to check the pH of a mix when you have made it and adjust if necessary. You want the pH to be somewhere around 6.5. (very slightly acidic).

  • Un-composted wood chip and sawdust are toxic to plants, so make sure you compost first

  • Add a slow release fertiliser (you can buy organic pelletised varieties, or use blood and bone or similar as per directions)

  • For vegetables, use liquid feed at least once a month

 

links which may be helpful:

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/making-potting-mixes/9431086

http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/mixing-it-up/9440482

https://www.pipmagazine.com.au/grow/make-your-own-diy-potting-mix/

Wood-fired Pizzas

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One of our most dedicated garden members, Graeme, has definitely worn the crown of 'head pizza chef' at The Lost Plot. He is the king. The pizza oven has been up and running for over a year now, and with Graeme's expert lead it has been churning out pizzas at most Thursday morning working bees, occasional Saturdays, and at many of our events.

But in the spirit of sustainability, which is what we're all about, Graeme keeps reminding us that we need to be able to cook pizzas without him. "What if I'm not here one day?" he asks.

Please don't leave us Graeme!

But it is a good point - we need some pizza Queens and an expanded pizza-making royal family to ensure long-term sustainability of our pizza-eating habits.

So, if you want to have a crack at making your own base - here is Graeme's recipe:


Pizza Dough

  1. Take 475 g of any flour but 00 and the Laucke brand are Graeme's preferred. If you wish to reduce the amount of flour, you can substitute up to 150 g of semolina.
  2. Other ingredients: 240-280 ml warm water, 2 teaspoons yeast dried, 70 ml olive oil, 2 teaspoons sugar. Do this next bit by hand or in a food processor with a dough hook:
  3. Mix water, yeast, sugar let sit for 15 mins until foamy. Add oil.
  4. Combine the yeast mixture with your flour combo until a firm dough is formed. Roughly 10 minutes by hand, or four minutes on low in machine.
  5. Rest for three hours then punch down and lightly knead, three or four minutes. Make two round balls out of dough.
  6. Now you can freeze until the day you want it. Or place, covered, in the fridge overnight and then use the next day.

If you wish to make a dough, and try it out in the Garden's pizza oven, bring it along to a Thursday morning working bee. Ideally bring a few of your own toppings as well, but we usually have the basics, and the garden is a good supply of fresh herbs, etc!


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Cooking the Pizza

  1. Light a small fire in the centre of the oven but slightly towards the front.
  2. Gradually add to the fire over the next half an hour, every ten minutes or so adding 5 or 6 medium sized branches or roughly arm-thickness pieces of wood.
  3. Between 30-50 minutes add one or two larger pieces, moving towards the better hardwood.
  4. After an hour to an hour and a half, add one or two large pieces of hardwood.
  5. Check the temperature after two hours using the laser gun from shed. Aim for about 400 c. (very hot!)
  6. Smash up all your burning wood to reduce most of it to smaller coals and pull it towards the front. We want to cover all the bricks inside the front with an even layer. Let it burn for ten minutes, then push all the hot coals to one side or the back. 
  7. Throw a small piece of wood, a 30 cm stick essentially onto coals as you put each pizza in. The stick with alight and create a circulating blast of warm air. To the side is better as the hot air isn't circling towards you but to the back makes it easier to fit three or four pizzas right in front of you for easier management. Just watch out for the hot emergent air.
  8. Traditional way to check if its hot enough is to chuck a small handfull of flour etc onto the front floor bricks. If it burns black immediately its probably a little hot. A few seconds, better , about ten seconds, ideal!
  9. To use or not use metal pizza trays. Do you like ash on your pizza base? If so then put it on the floor of the oven. If not then use a tray and dust it with semolina or polenta before adding your base. I start on the tray, move to the floor after two minutes, then back on the tray. Theory being the base collects less ash when its a bit cooked. Rotate your pizzas at least once as one side will be closer to the fire and likely to blacken if you don't do this.
  10. Don't use the metal door on the front for pizza making. It is good for bread making when the oven drops to 200 degrees ( about an hour after your pizza cooking). You can use the door as a dampener of the fire if you wish to slow things down but only have it at about. 45 degree angle.
  11. When you have finished move all the coals back across all of the floor to speed up burning. When you are ready to leave, push it all to the very back of the oven.

Any questions?

Best time and place for answers is at The Plot on a Thursday morning. The working bee runs from 9-12am (8-11 in Summer).

We look forward to crowning more Pizza chefs in the garden! Will you be next?

Note: The Pizza oven is available for use during working bees and events. Members also have the option to request to use the space outside of these hours, and non-members can hire the space at a fee. Equipment and tools will be provided. We are currently drafting a policy for hire of The Plot. If you are interested, say for a work Christmas party or other event, please contact info@thelostplot.org.au

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Chemical-free Cleaning with The Rhi Rebellion

On May 7th 2016 Rhiannon Simmonds hosted a fully-booked-out Chemical-free cleaning workshop. (We cap the numbers on some of our workshops, to ensure they are intimate enough for everyone to have a the best possible learning experience!) This is another blast-from-the-past, but one we thought definitely worth sharing with the wider community.

The workshop was a hit, with many attendees reporting going home and successfully using some of their freshly made cleaning products on some stubborn old grime.

All attendees took home a little recipe booklet, and Rhiannon has kindly agreed to share some of her recipes here.

Stove Top Cleaner

  • 1 Part olive oil
  • 2 parts baking soda

Mix all ingredients into a paste, apply to burnt /grease stains on stove top and allow to set overnight. Wipe away with “all purpose cleaner” (see below)

All purpose cleaner

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 10 drops of tea tree oil
  • water

Add all ingredients to spray bottle. Use on surfaces as a cleaner!


Toilet Cleaner

  • I cup white vinegar
  • 1-2 drops lavender oil
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

Mix all ingredients together, apply to toilet bowl. Leave for 15 minutes, scrub and flush.

 image source: http://www.lemonslavenderandlaundry.com/cleaning-tip-tuesday-diy-toilet-bombs/

image source: http://www.lemonslavenderandlaundry.com/cleaning-tip-tuesday-diy-toilet-bombs/

Toilet BOMBS!

  • 1 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 citric acid
  • 1 tsp water
  • 30 drops lavender essential oil
  • 30 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 30 drops lemon essential oil

Mix baking soda and critic acid together to create “Dry Mix”. Add water and essential oils to spray bottle (this will help prevent premature “fizzing”) spray small amounts of wet mixture to dry mixture, stirring in between.

Test mixture by squeezing a small about in your hand, if the mixture comes together easily its ready, but if it is still a little crumbly add some more water to your spray bottle.

Once mixture is ready place into silicone ice try and press down firmly.

Leave Bombs to dry for 2-3 hours, once dry pop out gently. These are great for a quick clean or to add to the cistern.


Scrubber!

  • Citrus cut in half
  • Salt to cover

Place salt on a plate, cover opening of citrus and use to scrub tiles, kitchen sink, bath tub, shower, tiles and grease!

Grout Cleaner

  • 1 part water
  • 1 part baking soda

Mix into paste, using a brush apply paste to affected areas, brush in circular motion to remove any mould or stains then rinse off with water!

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DIY (Borax-Free) Dishwasher Detergent Tabs

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar (have some extra on hand in case you need it)
  • 1 teaspoon castile soap
  • 20 drops Lemon essential oil
  • 10 drops Orange essential oil
  • 15 drops Purification essential oil
  • 2 ice cube trays (I recommend ice cube trays that are flexible or have bottoms that pop up – makes it MUCH easier to remove the tabs)!

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the DRY ingredients. DO NOT PUT THE VINEGAR IN YET!!
  2. Add in the castile soap and the lemon, orange, and Purification essential oils. Mix well.
  3. Next, SLOWLY add in the vinegar a little bit at a time and mix well. It will start to fizz and it will start to clump... this is what’s supposed to happen, but you want to act fast. You may not need to use the whole 1/2 cup of vinegar, so go slowly and work a little at a time. I used the whole 1/2 cup. If it looks too dry, add in a little more vinegar a splash at a time.
  4. Once it is mixed well, pack well into two ice cube trays (take your time doing this and make sure they are well compacted – they should feel “wet” but not solid yet.
  5. Set ice cube trays out to dry for at least 24 hours in a sunny spot (I put mine in a window sill)
  6. After 24 hours, remove the tabs and store in an air-tight container. I highly recommend ice cube trays that are flexible on the bottom... my trays were NOT and it was TOUGH to get the tabs out. I save ALL of the crumbs and crumbles so that I can use all of those at the end for a cycle.
  7. When it’s time to wash your dishes, put your dishwasher tab in the detergent container and start your cycle! If you REALLY wanna boost your wash cycle, put a 1/2 cup of white vinegar on the top rack.

 Rhiannon Simmonds

Rhiannon Simmonds

About Rhiannon

Rhiannon is a Creative Workshop Host, Upcycler, Recycler, Wood-worker, Artist and Crafter. She hosts all sorts of workshops, including sewing workshops for kids, with her aim being to up-skill people of all ages, in areas where skills are (sadly) being lost. For more information about Rhi, or to find out what workshops she has coming up next, follow the links below:

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/rhirebellion/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-rhi-rebellion/rhi-rebllion-april-workshops/1225024507618846 (list of April 2017 workshops)

https://www.instagram.com/rhirebellion/

rhirebellion@gmail.com

 

Building a Productive Food Garden

8 GREAT LESSONS from the

"BUILDING A PRODUCITVE FOOD GARDEN" workshop.

at the Port Macquarie Community Gardens on Saturday 2nd April 2016

Hosted By Green Dean.

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1. BIOMIMICRY - copy nature!

Nature has been gardening pretty well for a long, long time, and we can learn many of its secrets to success if we learn to observe and listen to nature.
Nature is organic – only natural inputs!
In your garden, commit to ‘keeping it organic’ – use only natural, organic inputs. Avoid synthetic inputs and toxic chemicals at all times.
IF IN DOUBT – KEEP IT OUT!
Always ask yourself: what does and would nature do?

2. STRONG FOUNDATIONS!

It all starts in and with the soil.
WE ARE ‘DIRT FARMERS’ – our sole purpose and focus is on our soil. Keep soil care in mind at all times. A good philosophy should be: If you wouldn’t give it to your children to eat, don’t put it in your soil.
Focus on ‘build it and they will come’ – encourage and care for all your ‘soil life’: worms, fungi, bacteria, countless microbes and insects and much more!
Lifeless or mediocre soil = lifeless, mediocre food. Living, great soil = nutrient dense food.
ALWAYS RETURN TO THE SOIL!

3. Remember the organic gardener’s mantra: COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST! MULCH, MULCH, MULCH!

Keep adding good quality organic material to your soil – compost, mulch, composted manures, worm castings and more.
Work on always building and maintaining HUMUS! Humus is the lifeblood of soil for gardeners. Humus adds soil structure, retains water and nutrients, repels ‘baddies’, stores carbon and is a magnet for good soil life.
Humus is the goal … food growing is a bonus!

4. THE PAST IS NOT THE FUTURE!

Explore many things outside our current model of the 4 seasons and climate zones. You don’t have to grow strictly according to the 4 seasons and climate zones. Some of it is important and functional, but we need to break free from the old European legacy of gardening rules.
We need to stop cutting the ends off the roast meat to fit in the baking tray!

5. WATER IS AN ART!

Watering is a skill, but we can practise and experiment with it until it becomes intuitive. Nature will always give us feedback whether we are watering too much or too little. Again, observe and listen to nature!
Soil needs a certain amount of water to provide nutrients to plants and trees, and soil life needs water not only to thrive, but survive.
WATER IS LIFE!

6. A SHIFT IN ATTITUDE!

Every week or fortnight, commit to trying a new veg or fruit, or try new ways to cook and eat various produce. Variety is the spice of life!
Then commit to growing new produce – break free from the European legacy of edible gardening. We live in a different country, with different seasons, climates, soils and plants. Try new ways of growing things – organic, biodynamic, urban farming, permaculture, intensive, bio-intensive, verticle gardens, wicking beds and other growing methods.
Focus on perennials … and focus more on SE Asian food plants for our climate zone and hot, humid Spring and Summer.

7. GROW FOR LIFE!

Experiment and practise growing food year round!
Celebrate and embrace the energy and change that each season brings, plus the fresh seasonal produce that each season and sub-season, and climate zone, offers.
Remember that seasonal = fresh, nutrient and climate appropriate food.
Seasonal = taste! Seasonal = reconnection to nature and our gardens in a fresh new way as each season rolls around. Yay!

8. FOCUS ON AND CELEBRATE THE ‘TOTAL SUM OF YIELDS’ from your garden, not just the obvious ones like the produce we eat.

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A single 1m x 1m raised garden bed yields fruit, vegetables, herbs, soil and other fertility, biodiversity, water, shade, fibre, exercise and recreation, entertainment, satisfaction, love, food, sustenance, nutrition, community, family, learning, spiritual connection to nature, seeds, animal food, mulch, compost, sustainability, self-sufficiency and self-reliance, intimate personal food, stimulation, a legacy and so many more things.
A single small garden bed, or even a few herbs in pots on a balcony, can be a wonderful gateway into the awesome world of edible gardening and urban farming.
ALL of these things are the TOTAL YIELD from your garden – not just the obvious food we grow. How exciting is that?

I wish you all the best in your food gardening and pursuit of a more ethical and green lifestyle. Thanks to everyone who attended the workshop on Saturday. For those who couldn’t make it, I hope to meet you in the future.
— Green Dean

The No-Dig Garden Bed Workshop

As Part of our Spring Fair on the first weekend of Spring, 2016, The Lost Plot President, Ali Bigg presented an interactive No-Dig Garden Bed Workshop. It was a hit for young and old, and one of the most fun workshops in the garden so far. Below we will outline the basic steps involved, so that you too can make one in your own backyard.

 Step 1: damp newspaper as a 1st layer to stop the weeds coming through.

Step 1: damp newspaper as a 1st layer to stop the weeds coming through.

 Step 2&3: Palettes down to create an 'air-pocket' which will prevent the roots of a nearby eucalyptus from impacting on the garden bed. (This step is only necessary if there is a eucalyptus nearby!) Then, a layer of shade-cloth to prevent the soil falling through.

Step 2&3: Palettes down to create an 'air-pocket' which will prevent the roots of a nearby eucalyptus from impacting on the garden bed. (This step is only necessary if there is a eucalyptus nearby!) Then, a layer of shade-cloth to prevent the soil falling through.

 Step 4: Lucerne hay (rich in nitrogen) in a nice thick layer.

Step 4: Lucerne hay (rich in nitrogen) in a nice thick layer.

 Step 5: The kids did a fabulous job watering in the lucerne. We wanted to make it nice and wet. We also added a few watering cans full of weed-tea (a fertiliser we make at the garden from all of our non-compostable weeds), and a watering can of worm-wee (from a worm farm). These would both have to be well diluted if applied directly to plants, but in this case we could just pour it in, nice and strong!

Step 5: The kids did a fabulous job watering in the lucerne. We wanted to make it nice and wet. We also added a few watering cans full of weed-tea (a fertiliser we make at the garden from all of our non-compostable weeds), and a watering can of worm-wee (from a worm farm). These would both have to be well diluted if applied directly to plants, but in this case we could just pour it in, nice and strong!

 Step 6: Next up, layers of horse manure, lawn-clippings, shredded paper (No shiny stuff!), worm-rich matter from the worm-farm and finally a layer of good quality compost/garden soil. We kept the hose running the whole time to get plenty of moisture in there

Step 6: Next up, layers of horse manure, lawn-clippings, shredded paper (No shiny stuff!), worm-rich matter from the worm-farm and finally a layer of good quality compost/garden soil. We kept the hose running the whole time to get plenty of moisture in there

 The finished No-dig garden, complete with a groovy sign post! This final layer can be planted into in at least 3 weeks time. It's best that we let the garden bed sit for a while, especially to give the horse manure some time to settle in. It will be creating a lot of heat as it breaks down, and that could be too much for some young plants to handle! Many thanks to Ali for running the workshop, Adrian for building the frame from some recycled fence posts, and to all of our enthusiastic participants and helpers. Fabulous effort!!

The finished No-dig garden, complete with a groovy sign post! This final layer can be planted into in at least 3 weeks time. It's best that we let the garden bed sit for a while, especially to give the horse manure some time to settle in. It will be creating a lot of heat as it breaks down, and that could be too much for some young plants to handle!
Many thanks to Ali for running the workshop, Adrian for building the frame from some recycled fence posts, and to all of our enthusiastic participants and helpers. Fabulous effort!!