Composting and Starting our Garden

New Zealand does take the environment more seriously. The City Council gives households recycle bins for paper/plastic and for glass. The way they force people to recycle is to have everyone buy the city council official rubbish bags, they cost NZD 1.75 each and hold about 40 litres. Apparently this is not the best way since it’s so expensive but it is effective. I am surprised to see how little general rubbish we have generated after recycling and composting. We wanted to recycle and compost anyway. Michael found this tumbling compost, which is very basic compared to the electric, temperature-controlled one we had in Cary. Since kitchen waste takes up about third of the total waste, I have been pretty diligent about putting food waste aside in a separate bowl. We also decided to go with a private rubbish collection service so have a nice wheelie bin that goes out every Thursday. For now it works since even though I started cloth diapering the boys again, there are still quite some disposable diapers on a daily basis – the boys really eat and go all the time.

We love the idea of composting ever since we met, but we didn’t have the space to have a garden. Now we do, since we can’t really build one on the property, we ended up getting two large garden beds, and I started seeding with some vegetables that need to be transplanted 3 days after we moved in , in a few weeks, cucumber, tomato (beef steak and heirloom), celery, zucchini will be ready to go outside along with the green leafing ones that can be grown directly such as spinach, bok choy and Chinese cabbage, etc.

There’s a Supergrans chapter in Manawatu and an office in Palmerston North and I already set up an appointment with them for a home visit. Supergrans is a New Zealand home grown organization that offers free service helping people to improve their skills at home such as cleaning, cooking, planning, budgeting, and gardening. Since one of the goals we have is to grow organic vegetables that are not available in stores, we picked out organic seeds or organic young plants if the seeds were not available like Bok Choy. Compost just happens to be the best nutrients for our plants. Most of the homeowners use commercial pesticides and herbicides these days, there’s no exception in New Zealand and it’s really not necessary since there’s so much rain here the grass is green year-round anyway, I am actually grateful that the previous tenant never mowed the lawn, even though our yard is like a wild flower field (that’s not a complaint from me but probably one from the neighbors), the soil is much less toxic that one that had been maintained with commercial fertilizers/pesticides/herbicides regularly. We do not understand why people would spend money, time and labor to dump all these chemicals while mowing the lawn just for the look, knowing that all those toxins go into not only their own yard but eventually the water system for everyone. And up until recently the problem of polluted water system problem JUST surfaced. Once the very last door of the fence is complete, boys will be able to play outside on the lawn, we do NOT want them to get near any chemicals. Michael got a RYOBI electric cordless mower and trimmer last week but it’s been raining a lot so we still have to wait for the ground to dry up. Supergrans actually advised me that if the wood is treated, we need to put a plastic liner in before filling it up with soil. I agree. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

I don’t know if our gardening plan this year is too ambitious, but from my previous planting experiences in North Carolina, even though a few seeds of cucumber yield I dont’ know how many cucumbers, we let the birds and the worms eat them.  I lost about half of the tomatoes due to not using any chemical, however, the other half was still more than what we could consume. And the home grown vegetables are so delicious, one can only appreciate it if he grows his own food. Some herbs and plants will stay inside as a nice decoration and cooking aid in the kitchen, and we are really excited about the composting. We currently are just disposing the kitchen waste, which is mostly green materials, once the grass clipping is harvested, that will fill up our compost quickly and we need to get a second one while the first one composts. We also had a lot of cardboard boxes from the move that Santa Fe can haul away but we might keep some and get a shredder to use them as brown materials, currently we are using the sawdust but that can be overwhelming to the composting process and we have to pay for them. Anyway, since 90% of our food is organic, the finished compost 2 months later should be the best fertilizer for our plants and lawn, it will also enable the plants and grass to grow healthier in order to have better resistant to any potential disease.

Day 1 – Oct 25th, 2011








2~3 weeks later, celery, cucumber and tomato heirloom





I couldn’t find organic bok choy seeds so here we go…

Our tumbling compost and kitchen waste (the corn cob is actually a brown material)


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