Gardening

Composting, Mulch and Worm Farms

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Find out how to purchase our affordable worm farms, compost bins and Bokashi buckets. By producing compost from your garden clippings and food scraps you will improve your garden, save money, reduce waste and greenhouse gases.

Compost bins, worm farms and Bokashi bins

You can purchase affordable worm farms and Bokashi bins from our Customer Service Centres in Northcote, Reservoir and Preston.

Worm farm (colour) $75
Worm farm (black) $80
Bokashi composter and mix set $80
Compost aerators $19

All prices include GST.

Compost

Compost bins are a good choice for people with large yards as they can handle greater volumes of organic waste. However, they do require maintenance. Material in compost bins should be turned regularly to maintain air flow. This will help the micro-organisms to break down material faster.

Compost requires a balance of inputs to ensure the organic matter breaks down effectively. It needs a balance of:

  • Carbon  - dry leaves, straw, paper, sawdust, shredded branches, dry grass
  • Nitrogen - Food scraps, fresh grass, manures, blood and bone, seaweed, comfrey, lucerne
  • Oxygen - introduced by turning the heap once a week while the material is new
  • Water - to keep the heap moist and covered
  • Correct size of particles and heap (small particles, large heap)

Compost bins are available in a range of shapes and sizes from online retailers and hardware stores. Further Information:

Worm Farms
Worm farms are a good choice for people with small yards or balconies. With your worm farm you can produce rich soil (castings) and liquid fertiliser (worm juice) in a small area. Worm farming uses selected worms (typically Tiger Worms, Red Wrigglers and Indian Blues) to break down kitchen and garden scraps.

Tips:

  • Choose a cool shaded spot for your worm farm. 
  • Add composting worms, such as Tigers, Reds and Blues to your worm farm as they live, work and breed well in the rich, moist, organic environment of your worm farm.
  • Keep your worm farm moist, warm and protected from the hot summer sun
  • If possible, shred kitchen and garden waste into smaller pieces
  • Cover the worms with a small black plastic sheet in cool weather. In hot weather a damped hessian, newspaper is more desirable.
  • Always replace the lid
  • Castings can be placed in the garden around plants, in pot plants, around fruit trees, native trees and vegetables. 

What you can put in your worm farm?

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps and peelings 
  • Plate scrapings (cooked vegetables, pasta, rice, cheese, stewed fruit, etc). 
  • Hair clippings 
  • Shredded, soaked newspaper and cardboard
  • Vacuum cleaner dust 
  • Sawdust 
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags 

Coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen and are a great addition to your compost as well. Add together with your kitchen scraps and make sure you layer with about one third carbon based materials such as dried leaves or clean wood shavings. Coffee grounds also make good worm food. Some people like to add coffee grounds directly to their garden as fertiliser. They can also be sprinkled around seedlings to deter slugs and snails.

Two Darebin cafes are running a trial giving away coffee grounds to the public. This versatile material is now available FREE from Tasties Cafe, 356 High Street Preston (Phone 9470 2260) and the Kiln Cafe, 85 Clyde Street Thornbury (Phone 0403 089 408). Call to check first then bring your own container and let staff know before helping yourself.

Mulch

The purpose of mulch is to conserve water, improve the health and fertility of the soil and to reduce weeds.

  • Mulch adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil and reduces your watering needs
  • Mulch also helps keep your garden weed free by preventing weed seeds from contacting soil
  • Apply layers of mulch up to 8cm deep after winter rains to retain moisture in soil
  • It is environmentally preferable to use mulch containing coarse particles of wood, leaves or straw which have been recycled rather than pebbles
  • Keep mulch away from tree trunks and plant stems to prevent rot
  • Unless the mulch is rich in nitrogen (for example, Green Lucerne) it may be necessary to add some nitrogen such as blood and bone to your soil. Most mulch will take up nitrogen as it decomposes

Sustainable Garden Design

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These tips and resources can help achieve a visually beautiful, environmentally sustainable garden.
Garden Design Tips
  • List what you need (shed, washing line, kids swings, entertainment area) and what you want (vegie garden, shade area, pond, fruit trees).
  • Do a site analysis, (sun, shade, slope, privacy – all the problems that need solving) which will tell you what your site will let you do.
  • Do a scaled plan or mark out in the garden what will go where, practically and where it looks best. For example, placing a new shed in a shady corner, vegetables where they get full sun, a pond where it can be seen from inside the house, and a tree for shade to the north of the house.
  • Find a style you like which suits your garden so all the paving, pots, water features, and plants match, especially in a courtyard garden.
  • Make garden beds bigger and lawns smaller. If you mulch all beds this will reduce your maintenance and enable you to create interesting areas within your garden.

Download the Sustainable Gardening in Darebin Booklet, or our Guide to Indigenous Plants for further information.

Reducing Lawn Areas

If you want to reduce your lawn area to make bigger garden beds, you need to know what type of lawn you have.

  • If you have a fine lawn grass such as Rye or Fescue you can mow the lawn low, cover with 8–10 sheets of newspaper (overlapping), add 10–15cm of pea straw on top, wait 3–4 months and then plant directly into it. This must be done when the soil is moist and all the grass should have died.
  • If you have ‘running’ grasses such as Couch or Kikuyu they will not be eliminated by newspaper and mulch. They are very tough grasses to remove and you can try one of three methods:
  1. Cover the grass with a sheet of clear plastic for several weeks in hot weather so that the grass effectively ‘cooks’
  2. Mow the lawn area you wish to remove on the lowest mower setting and then dig out the remaining root system
  3. Apply chemical herbicide.

Further Information
Environmental Education & Promotions Coordinator
Phone: (03) 8470 8888
Email: environment@darebin.vic.gov.au

Water Wise Gardening

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You can reduce water consumption in your garden up to 30% by applying simple design and maintenance principles. On top of saving water these ideas will give you a healthier and more productive garden.
Saving Water
  • Check the weather forecast to avoid watering before rain
  • Check and clean your irrigation system every spring
  • Follow EPA guidelines when using greywater from the bathroom and laundry
  • After watering, dig down to see how far it has penetrated, it should be at least 10cm.
  • Install a large water tank - 3,000 litres of water in a tank for summer watering is ideal.
  • Water pots and plants with a low pressure on the hose. The water should be running slowly, not on a spray, as this does not penetrate very deeply. Micro-sprays waste up to 70% water through drift and evaporation and if the soil is mulched, water will not penetrate to the soil.
  • Use a tough drought tolerant grass like ‘Sir Walter Buffalo’; a native grass such as Microlaena stipoides, or a native groundcover like Myoporum parvifolium for the front garden.

Visit the Save Water Website for more information, and check our Energy and Water Efficiency Rebates factsheet for more ways you can save.

Improving the quality of your Soil 

  • Worms break down and aerate the soil and so plant roots can breathe. 
  • Spreading compost over your soil (under mulch layer) will encourage worms.
  • Late spring (November) is the best time to put on mulch once the winter rains have soaked in.
  • Bark mulch provides limited nutrients so is not ideal in areas where a rich soil is needed.
  • Mulches made from recycled organics last well and feed the soil when they break down
  • Most local and native plants like a relatively infertile soil so they prefer bark mulch on its own without soil improvement
  • Minimise digging unless your soil is compacted after building works. Digging disrupts the soil structure, therefore destroying the air holes and drainage spaces

Growing Your Own Food

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There is nothing like fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables grown from your own garden. We have tips and resources to get you started on your own home garden.
Food Harvest Network

The Darebin Food Harvest Network was created to assist and support community groups and individuals in the Darebin community interested in sustainable food initiatives or improving food security. 

Visit the Food Harvest Network Website to connect and share sustainable food initiatives, tips and events.

Sustainable Homes and Communities
The sustainable homes and communities website includes sustainable gardening and food workshops for both Darebin and Banyule residents.

Visit the Sustainable Homes and Communities Program website.

Further information

Native and Indigenous Plants

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Indigenous plants are not only beautiful, they also provide important habitat for native birds, insects and animals.

There are many indigenous plants that are suitable for the home garden. 

Benefits of Indigenous Plants
  • Create an attractive garden
  • Require less water
  • Provide a home and food for native animals.
  • Low maintenance - reduce the need for intensive grass cutting
  • Retain the natural character of an area
  • Prevent and controls salinity and erosion
  • Provide wildlife corridors

Creating an Indigenous Garden

  • Identify the area you would like to plant. Check for infrastructure including pipes, underground cables and overhead lines, etc. Ring Dial Before You Dig on 1100.
  • Decide on your total budget including plants, tree guards, mulch, jute squares, herbicide, contractors or stakes.
  • Prepare the site by removing weeds, mulching and pruning trees if required. Where possible plant in autumn or winter.
  • Plan for the size of the mature trees and shrubs and consider their sunlight needs.
  • Visit the Community Directory for a listing of local suppliers.

Further Information

Download our Guide to Indigenous Plants in Darebin, or contact the Bushland Management Team on Ph: 8470 8888
Email: environment@darebin.vic.gov.au


Chemicals and Your Garden

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While they are helpful in gardening, pesticides and fertilisers can be harmful to the environment if used incorrectly. Sprays can drift in the wind and powders can wash into waterways, moving from gardens into the natural environment.
Strong chemicals can kill our native insects, plants and animals. Too much fertiliser can put extra nutrients in our creeks and result in blue-green algae growing out of control and harming animals and people.


Reducing Chemicals in Your Garden

  • Many insects in the garden such as ladybirds are “good guys” that will hunt and eat pests such as aphids. If you spray lots of chemicals in your garden you will also kill these beneficial insects and make your pest problem harder to control. Multi sprays in particular kill anything they touch.
  • Too much fertiliser makes plants produce a lot of leafy growth that often becomes a target for pests.
  • Organic fertilisers such as compost, manures, seaweed and fish emulsion break down more slowly than synthetic (chemical) fertilisers and generally match the rate at which plants need the nutrients.
  • Synthetic fertilisers break down quickly and can ‘burn’ plant roots.
  • Organic fertilisers improve the soil structure meaning the soil is better able to hold water and make it available to plants.
  • Synthetic fertilisers add nothing to the soil structure and tend to move easily from the soil after heavy rain or watering.
  • When a plant looks sick the worst thing you can do is feed it.

Download the Low Environmental Damage Chemicals Factsheet 

Further Information Environment and Natural Resources Team
Ph: 8470 8888
Email: environment@darebin.vic.gov.au