Setting up a Backyard Worm Farm

Setting up a Backyard Worm Farm

Worms are an amazing addition to a self-sufficient homestead as they turn scraps into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer to help you grow more food. Creating a sustainable lifestyle is all about taking small steps and changes to close the loop and nurture thriving ecosystems. You don’t have to do it all at once and I highly recommend starting small, mastering a manageable garden, and then start adding layers one by one. If you overwhelm yourself and don’t have habits and systems in place it won’t be sustainable long term and you can end up with unproductive chaos.

Click to watch a warm farm tour

Tips for setting up a backyard worm farm

1. Source a Worm Farm or Home for your Worms

There are many options for backyard worm systems from kit-set to DIY. You will also more than likely be able to pick up a second-hand worm farm so keep an eye out on your local listings and marketplace. Be mindful of your local climate and do a little research. In Perth, Australia, we have extremely hot summers that reach over 40 degrees. Cool shady locations are a must for worms. If you do live in a hot climate there are some great DIY options using old fridges and freezers to offer more protection. This is something I will be creating very soon!

backyard worm farm

2. Choose a Location

Choose a location for your worms that is out of direct sunlight and is well protected. On the flip side if you get snow or cold temperatures you would need to make sure you can bring your worm farm somewhere warmer.

The other important consideration to make is to keep it close and convenient. Worms like to be fed a little and often so you don’t want them down the back of your property where they may get forgotten about. Permaculture zone 1-2 would be great or have them located on a path that you frequent regularly. For example: on the way to the chicken coop or the washing line. Having things in convenient locations is the absolute key to being consistent and having systems in place that easily become habits means you don’t even have to think about it just becomes part of everyday life.

3. Source Composting Worms

There are many times of worms in your garden and they all play different roles so it’s important to get the right worms for your worm farm to make sure they are happy and thriving. Tiger worms are a popular type of worm for this system and can be purchased at many plant nurseries or hardware stores that sell worm farms. You may also be able to get set up with worms from friends that have their own form farms established.

4. What to Feed your worms

Feed your worms little and often! Be consistent.

What to feed: Coffee grinds, tea leaves, vegetable scraps, egg shells, banana peels, shredded paper or cardboard, dried leaves, greens, vacuum dust, and hair. The more variety the better as this will help keep a balanced pH. Add a little sprinkle of soil when you feed as the grit can help the worms break down the scraps. Keep the food scraps in smaller pieces if possible.

What to avoid feeding your Worms?

Avoid citrus, garlic, or the onion family as this will create an acidic environment that will harm the worms. No meat – as this can create bad bacteria and attract rats and other unwanted pests.

backyard worm farm

5. Water your Worms

Worms like a moist environment of around 70% moisture, so it’s important to give your worms a regular drink. Keep a damp sheet of cardboard, hessian sack, or newspaper on top of the food scraps to retain moisture and regulate temperatures. This also acts as a slow-releasing food source.

6. How to care for Worms when you go on Holiday

If you are going away for a few weeks your worms should be fine if you get them prepared. Flush water from the top tray, add plenty of food and some slow-release food such as pea straw, hay, and place some layers of wet newspaper or cardboard on top. This will help keep the worms nice and moist. If you are worried or going away for longer ask someone to stop by and feed your worms.

How to harvest the Worm Tea and Worm Castings?

The by-products of worms are both castings and worm tea. Castings are the worm poo which is your food scraps converted into soil. Add scoops of worm castings to your garden beds to feed and enrich the soil. Warm castings are quite concentrated so it’s best to mix this through with other soil first.

Once the worm bin starts to fill up with worm castings and the worms start trying to get out it may be time to change the bins over. Depending on the size of your worm farm and the population of worms this can be done 2-4 times a year. The active worm bin should be in the top layer so it is time to move this down and place an empty bin on top. Lift out as much of the uneaten food as possible and add it to the empty tub. Put in some fresh food and bedding and pour water over the top to moisten it all down. The worms will start to come up to the top layer to access the food and leave the bin of castings behind.

This may take a while for the worms to move up depending on how much uneaten food is left behind and how dense the population of worms is.

If you don’t have multiple layers in your worm farm another way to harvest the castings is to tip it all out onto some cardboard. The worms don’t like sunlight so they will move to the bottom of the pile and you can harvest off the top layer before putting the worms back in.

Worm tea can be watered down 10:1, especially on young seedlings but we also use a much more concentrated version of 50:50 on fruit trees. Just be careful when using it around young plants as they will be more sensitive, that’s when I would water it down more. Like with everything in the garden, when you are unsure or just starting out do sections and test it out first.

Use the worm tea within a month or two as you want to ensure the living organisms stay alive as that is the key to healthy soil!

If you have extra worm concentrate, bottle it up for gifts or this could be a great little side hustle for kids to sell.

10 tips to Produce more Food from your Edible Home Garden

10 tips to Produce more Food from your Edible Home Garden

Today I’m going to share with you 10 tips to grow more food from your edible home garden. These tips are so easy and you can implement them today to boost your garden’s production. No matter whether you are renting or living in an apartment.

It is no secret that we are facing a very real food security and shortage with many supermarket shelves completely empty. There has never been a better time to start growing your own food or ramp up your home gardens production. These tips will help you maximize the amount of fresh homegrown food you can produce from home. Starting NOW!

WATCH 10 tips to Produce more Food

10 tips to Produce more Food at Home

1. Trim your Herbs

Especially if they are starting to flower. Herbs such as Basil, Mint, and Thyme can all be grown in pots, and trimming the tops will promote a bigger bushier plant. When plants get hot, stressed, or are just left to just grow, they will send off flowers to produce seeds for another generation. Trimming off these seeds will let your herbs know that it’s not time yet, and to keep producing. Just chuck the tops and seeds back in the garden and they will sprout new plants, dry or preserve your herbs, or pop the purple stems in vinegar and make a vibrant basil infusion! You can then use this to make salad dressings by mixing with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Regularly Plant “quick-to-grow” Crops

Quick-growing crops are great to continuously interplant in your garden to get quick wins. Edible plants such as Radish and Rocket are super quick to germinate and grow. Plant radish in the gaps of your garden for quick and easy food production. Radish is ready from seed to table in just 28 days and is one of the quickest things you can grow! Radish not only provides fresh crunchy vegetables to add to salads but you can also eat the leafy tops by making pesto or chimichurri. If you are not a fan of the spicey radish, then try them with your roast veggies! So sweet and delicious!

3. Succession Planting

A little planning goes a long way in an edible home garden. If you know your veggies will be finishing up soon, plant new seeds to have seedlings ready to go. You can plant your new seedling out before you have pulled out the old ones so that you can transition straight away and prevent empty spaces from going to waste without producing food. I also like to grow different varieties so I plant each type two weeks apart to help stagger the crops.

4. Hand Pollinate

In an ideal world we will have lots of bees and pollinators in our home gardens to do the work for us. This isn’t always the case, especially if you live in an apartment or your gardens are new. Hand-pollinating can help ensure more of your fruit and veggies are pollinated and set to form full-sized fruit. We definitely want to encourage bees and pollinators by planting flowers but hand-pollinating can be an added insurance. This works best on plants such as Melon, Squash, Zucchini, and Pumpkin. Click here for more info on how to hand pollinate.

5. Feed your Plants

Whether you make homemade compost teas, worm wee, fresh compost, dried Banana Peel, compost manure, or use organic liquid seaweed. Regularly feeding your plants 1-2 times per month can accelerate the growth and boost the health of your soil.

6. Harvest Crops Regularly

Your plant’s main goal is actually not to make delicious food to feed us humans… but to produce seeds to secure its future generation. If the plant feels it has enough fruit or vegetables produced with seeds it will slow or stop producing. Regularly picking your harvest when it is just ready will make the plant think that it has lost its seeds to predators so it will continue to produce more and more. So try not to leave things too long on the plant once they look ready. This also reduces the risk of other critters nabbing your produce first too.

7. Learn more about Root to Shoot

Conventionally 30-50%, maybe even more of the edible plants are discarded. Crops such as Beetroot leaves, Carrot tops, Brassica leaves and stems, Sweet Potato leaves, male Pumpkin or Zucchini flowers, and so much more! Learn what parts of the plant are edible and you could double the amount of food you have in your garden in a matter of hours!! I have some recipes on my blog but this is something we dive deeper into inside my membership.

8. Plant Perennials

Perennials are plants that last longer than 2 years. These may be a little slower to establish but once they do, they produce an abundance of food with just a little maintenance. These are plants such as Berries, Fruit trees, Artichoke, Asparagus, perennial Spinach varieties, Rhubarb and so much more! Having perennials in your garden will help you maintain your food supply. I also have an article on A-Z edible perennials available inside my membership.

9. Stack in Time and Space

Use the space you have in your edible home garden to grow both horizontally and vertically. This can maximize the amount of food you can grow. Having a trellis at the back of your garden or container can help create structure and expand your food production capabilities. I also let plants use my fruit trees to grow up. Whether that’s beans, tomatoes, melons, or pumpkins. Growing vertically can double the amount of food you can grow in a single space. Stacking in time is just like succession planting. Plant crops that will be starting to take off as the previous ones are finishing up. If you have a vertical crop that may produce more shade on the lower levels this can also provide a cooler climate to grow some more sun-sensitive crops such as lettuce. Especially in these hot summers.

10. Utilise Space with Container Gardens

Even if you have a large veggie patch, container gardens still have plenty of use. Container gardens are great for growing prolific plants that can be a little invasive. These are plants such as Mint, Nasturtium, and Sunchokes. Not only will you get lots of food but your precious garden space won’t be overrun with the weed-like growth of these plants. Containers are also good for maximizing the sun and shade. You can move them around during the year to follow the sun or reduce the amount of direct sunlight in summer.

Start TODAY with these 10 tips to produce more food from your edible home garden! Let me know if any of these tips sparked inspiration with you in the comments below.

10 ways to become more Self-sufficient right NOW

10 ways to become more Self-sufficient right NOW

10 ways to become more self-sufficient right now! Start small but start today. These 10 steps to becoming more self-sufficient are things that you can easily start implementing in your life right now. Build layers of knowledge and experience to create a life that is not only more self-sufficient, but is also sustainable. Slow and steady solutions are what will make this lifestyle change last long term. I know, it is so exciting! and we want to do all the things, but, get the basics right from the start and it will flow and be easy.

Click to watch 10 ways to become more Self-sufficient

1. Grow your own food

Growing your own food is a great step towards living a more self-sufficient lifestyle and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start small but start today. Whether that means, converting part of your garden to edibles, planting a herb garden, starting a veggie patch, or planting a fruit tree.

Herbs are a great place to start for beginners because they are easy to grow and incorporate into your daily meals. Herbs are also quite pest-resistant and can tolerate a range of growing conditions. Herbs can be grown in pots and even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

You don’t need to be self-sufficient in everything but you can be self-sufficient in something. Take a look at what you buy regularly eg: salad mixes and plant that. Each season you can continue to expand and work your way up to providing more and more of your household’s fruit and vegetables.

Planting a fruit tree is also a great step towards self-sufficiency. Even if you have a small space or you are in a rental, you can still plant a fruit tree in a pot. That way when it does come time for you to move to a bigger location, you can take your established fruit tree with you. Fruit trees can take a while to start producing, so establishing trees in pots can allow you to get abundant harvest without waiting until you have more space.

So grab some seeds, get them in the soil and start growing your own food on your journey to become more self-sufficient.

2. Compost Scraps

Composting turns your scraps into organic, nutrient-rich soil that is going to help you grow a lot more plants. As well as reducing waste, composting will save you buying lots more soil and compost, because you will be able to produce your own soil at home using what you already have.

Composting your waste helps close the loop and make your gardening more sustainable.

You can purchase compost bins or tumblers at most of your local garden or hardware stores. You may even be able to pick one up cheap or free on marketplace or local buy and sell pages.

3. Learn to Cook Garden to Plate

This is another important one, and I think second to growing food, it is so important to learn how to cook. Even if you are a great cook, it is very different cooking from your garden. You need to get creative and come up with new ways to use and maximize the veggies you grow. Most cooks will be used to incorporating a lot of packaged products into their cooking and to be more self-reliant, you need to get creative.

Whether you use Zucchini as pasta, or Rainbow Chard as wraps, or Cauliflower as a pizza base, there are so many ways to get the most out of everything that you grow. That way, you can create more meals from the garden, and rely less on the shops! Saving you a lot of money. Because, we all know that when you pop to the shops for a couple of things… you end up with 3 bags full.

It takes lots of practice and is a skill to continually work on. Learning to cook with vegetables in lots of interesting ways will help you to become more self-reliant and build up your self-sufficiency. Having lots of recipes and ideas will help you to create exciting and wholesome meals so that you can sustain the lifestyle long term.

Garden to plate cooking is something I am incredibly passionate about, and the main reason I started my online membership. This is where I share my recipes with creative ways to use your harvest from root to shoot! I try to keep them simple, easy and of course delicious! If that is something you’re interested in Click Here to find out more.

4. Preserve Extra Food

Make hay while the sun shines as my dad always used to say! When you grow an abundance of produce in the garden, learn ways to preserve that to use throughout the year. That way you can still create balanced and wholesome meals all year round. 

You don’t need a big garden to start doing this. People are often giving away lemons or extra fruit they can’t eat. So utilize this and learn how to preserve them. You can always trade a big bag of fruit for a finished jar of jam, chutney, dehydrated fruit or sauce. Utilize what’s in season. If you see in-season fruit and vegetables that are really cheap or have bulk buying options, buy them and test out some ways to preserve them. That way, you will be building knowledge and experience for when you are growing your own! Plus your pantry will be full for the rest of the year. 

5. Learn to Take Cuttings

Growing food from cuttings will boost your garden’s level of sustainability. This is the best way to level up and grow more food for less. You can make an endless amount of trees and plants when you learn how to take cuttings. I have an ebook on cuttings if you want to learn the basics and I go through the easiest plants to grow from cuttings. This guide will show you some easy and quick ways to grow a tonne of food. You’ll be eyeing off your friends’ gardens in no time. 

6. Save Seeds

Saving seeds can go a long way towards creating a sustainable lifestyle. Seeds have the power to grow an endless supply of food if they are continuously saved. Saving your own seeds will not only provide you with a sustainable food source but it will also save you money in replenishing your seeds each year.

Each vegetable you grow has the potential to grow an endless amount if you learn how to save seeds. Save seeds from heirloom or open-pollinated varieties to ensure the next generation will be “true to type”.

You can even try saving seeds from vegetables you have purchased. Pumpkins and squash are the easiest ones to try! Clean off the flesh and let them dry out on a plate. then keep them in a brown paper bag or somewhere cool, dark, and dry, and then pop them in the soil in spring. You can try this with others such as Passionfruit, capsicum or tomatoes. It is best to choose organic heirloom varieties from your local farmers markets as many store bought vegetables are hybrids. Both can work for a bit of fun a bit of fun.

Saving your seeds is a great step towards self-sufficiency and when a world crisis happens, (hello 2020) the seed shelves are empty. People became more aware that they are relying on others to provide for them. Having your own seeds will mean you will have more resilience and can be more self-reliant. 

7. Swap and Trade

Get into a habit of swapping and trading items rather than purchasing new. Use your new found skills of propagating and saving seeds to trade with others for more plants. Or if you have extra produce, try hosting a swap meet and encourage your friends or local community to get involved. This can be a great way to recycle your unwanted items and get useful items in return. Swap meets can be great for extra seeds, produce, cuttings, houseplants, books, furniture or clothing.

8. Learn about Edible plants

There are so many edible plants around you every day and you may not even know it. Learning to identify plants and what parts are edible will hugely increase your food sources and self-sufficiency. This means you will be able to get the most out of everything growing in your garden! There are so many native plants and even weeds that are edible. Continue to build knowledge by learning to identify plants.

9. Harness Natural Resources

Every day nature is providing us with so much energy that is often ignored. Harness the sun, rain, and wind to use to your advantage.Β 

  • Dry your washing 
  • Capture water for your gardens
  • Dehydrate herbs, flowers, and food using the sun
  • Create power with solar panels
  • You can even make solar ovens
  • Put your pot plants outside when it rains 

10. Up-cycle and Re-use

Use what you have. Get creative. Train your mind to come up with new ways, rather than slipping into the consumer mindset.  Try to forage sticks for Tomato stakes and make your own trellis or up-cycle cups and crates for pots. Whatever it is you need, think about other ways that you could achieve the same outcome. 

It can seem hard at first, but over time, you will start switching your mindset to up-cycle rather than consume and it will become so much easier. This will save you a lot of money and reduce the number of things you have lying around that get used on rare occasions.Β 

Check out this upcycled DIY Greenhouse

I hope you found some inspiration and tip to get stuck in and started today. Let me know in the comments what you are going to start with to become more Self-sufficient right now!

Holly 🌱

MY GARDENING ESSENTIALS //


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Preserving Herbs from the Garden

Preserving Herbs from the Garden

Preserving herbs from your garden is a great way to make the most of their abundance and store them for the winter months when many herbs will not be growing. Herbs are a great way to add flavour to any dish and once you make your own dried mixed herbs you will never want to buy them ever again!

Click below to watch

In this video I share how I pick, dry and preserve my herbs for both a dried mixed herb blend and also to make tea blends.

Why Grow Herbs?

Herbs are the easiest thing to start growing because they are hardy and less susceptible to pests. They also do not require a lot of room to grow. So you can grow herbs in pots or containers if you do not have room for a garden. It is absolutely achievable and you never know where the journey will take you.

indoor herbs

Grow Abundant Herbs

Nature provides so much abundance when we learn to see and utilise it. Sometimes cutting your plants can spark new growth and they will continue to flourish in new directions. Young new growth is much nicer to eat than the older woody growth too. Preserving your harvests also allows you to slow down and reconnect with where your food comes from. It just feels so right to go out to the garden and pick food that you know exactly what has gone into creating it. No chemicals, pesticides, or nasty sprays.

Basil is a warm climate herb and will start to die off as the temperatures decrease. So harvesting and storing basil will mean I will be able to have it available during winter. Basil also responds so well to being cut. Especially towards the end of the season as it starts going to flower. By cutting the tops off, it will grow out thicker and will also help prolong the life of the plant.  

preserving herbs
herbs

Take Cuttings for Gifts

My rosemary is growing a little wild and has even collapsed in the middle under the weight. So I am going to take some cutting to replant and also harvest a big bunch to dry and preserve. Taking cuttings to regrow will give me new plants to gift and trade. It is always good to have some on the go for last minute gifting.

When to Harvest Herbs?

The best time of day to harvest your herbs is first thing in the morning. This is when the plants are hydrated and full of life. As the day goes on they will lose moisture and not be as fresh and vibrant. Early in the morning, the bees are not yet active. As the sun comes up and the dew drys, the bees will be about in a hive of activity. So if you do pick later in the day just be slow and cautious not stress them out and avoid getting stung.

Take time to Slow Down

Spending time in the garden harvesting and caring for your plants allows so much time to observe and learn from your garden.

To slow down and reconnect. Giving your mind time to think. Some of my most creative ideas come when I can quiet the rest of the world. Harvesting also gives such a sense of pride. That you have grown all this delicious food is so special. 

How to Preserve and Dry Herbs?

To preserve these herbs I first rinse them off in the sink. Next, I separate the stems and lay the leaves out on my dehydrator trays. I put a layer of brown baking paper to stop them from falling through the tray grid. I keep and reuse the brown baking paper for future dehydrating. I then pop them in the dehydrator on the lowest temperature setting. Between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. You can also do this in the oven but just be aware it may take 5-8 hours to dry depending on the thickness of the herbs. So it is important you are home when using the oven. To air-dry your herbs, hang them upside down but make sure you have a dry and warm climate. If you live in an area with humidity I would avoid air-drying. You want the herbs to dry as fast as possible.

Dry the herbs until they feel crispy as you do not want any moisture still left in the leaves. If there is still moisture they may spoil or grow mould in the storage process.

Once they are completely dry you can pop them straight into clean, dry jars or storage containers. If you want to save room you can crush them up using a mortar and pestle. Mix some of your herbs together to make a mixed her blend ready for all your winter soups and meals.

Share and Inspire Others

These dried herbs also make great gifts. Taking gifts from your garden to friends and family is something that should become a regular ritual. They will so feel special and you will also feel joy and pride in sharing your homegrown produce. Sharing from the garden can also spark others to try to grow their own food too. You have no idea how many people can be inspired to make changes from your single action of sharing. It should be the way of the future. Because what we are doing in the world right now is not sustainable. 

I hope you feel inspired to grow your own herbs at home and make your own dried mixed herbs. They are so easy to make and so vibrant and full of flavour. Nothing like the dull grey herbs you find at the supermarket.

If you have any questions leave me a comment below.

Happy Gardening,

Holly 🌿

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DISCLAIMER: Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge for you! Thank you for supporting my page so I can continue to provide you with free content!

Growing Nasturtiums

Growing Nasturtiums

About Nasturtiums

My nasturtiums are abundant again for the Autumn/ Winter season and are popping up everywhere! They make a beautiful lush ground cover and are so easy to grow! Once you have them in your garden they will pop up every year without any effort on your behalf. They have so many uses and integrated relationships within your garden which makes them one of my favourite permaculture plants. Their lily pad-like leaves also give all the magical fairy vibes.

Growing Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums seem to thrive well in most soil types and you will often see them spilling out onto the street from gardens or popping up in the wild. They have quite a weed-like growth because they are so easy to grow and self-seed. They come in a few different varieties and range in colours from yellow, red, orange, peach, white, and a beautiful scarlet red that I have my eye on.

They can also make a companion plant as they keep the soil protected and create a great space for beneficial insects to live. They are a great addition to any garden and one of my top permaculture plants due to the number of beneficial uses and positive relationships with other plants and animals.

Medicinal

Nasturtiums have many medicinal and healing qualities. They are rich in vitamin C, boost your immune system, as well as a natural aid to antibacterial and fungal infections. Plus most of the plant is edible which I love! Please note it is best to try things in moderation and I am by no means a medical professional.  I did read that you should possibly avoid Nasturtium if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have kidney disease. 

Chickens

Growing Nasturtiums can also attract snails, aphids, and other bugs which keeps them away from your sensitive crops and then you can just harvest patches of affected plants and feed them to your chickens. The chickens will love the snails/bugs and the Nasturtium itself is a great natural medicine for the chickens. Nasturtium can improve reproductive health and immunity and help as a natural antibiotic.

Ways to Eat Nasturtiums

There are so many ways to use this plant and I have only tried a few so far. It is so important to learn how to use your edible plants so that you can get the most out of them! Here is a list of ways along with links to any recipes I have on my blog.

Are you growing Nasturtiums? Do you use Nasturtium in any other ways? I would love to know, please leave a comment below.

Holly🌱

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MY GARDENING ESSENTIALS //
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More gardening tools: https://bit.ly/32IQmbD

DISCLAIMER: Links included in this description might be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service with the links that I provide I may receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you! Thank you for supporting my page so I can continue to provide you with free content!