How To Make Worm Tea

It requires surprisingly little effort to make your own organic fertilisers from various waste materials we generate every day around the house. Not only does this help the environment, it also saves money in fertiliser and potting mix costs. It can also be done effectively in very small spaces, so even if you live in an apartment, it is still very practical to make your own fertiliser.

There are a number of options as to the type of organic fertiliser you can create. Liquid organic fertilisers give an instant boost to your plants as the dissolved nutrients are immediately available to the plant which is particularly important for very fast growing vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuce. In this article, I’d like to explore how to make your own worm tea.

Worm farms are one of the best ways to make organic fertiliser that is highly nutritious and adds beneficial microbes to your soil and potting mix. As the worms chew through your kitchen scraps and other organic materials such as cardboard and shredded paper, they release nutrients and also add valuable humus that stores water and nutrients. Collecting the liquid that accumulates naturally under your worm farm works quite well, however, it must be stressed that this liquid is generally very concentrated and should be diluted to a light brown colour, about the colour of a weak cup of tea.

A second way to make your worm tea liquid fertiliser is to use a watering can to run about 10 litres of water through your worm farm. Putting a relatively large volume of water through at one time dilutes the fertiliser strength of the liquid down to something that is ready to use without further dilution. Be guided by the colour of the water coming from the worm farm. If it is dark in colour, you may need to run extra water through until it comes out in a light brown colour. See the above picture…..the lighter coloured jar of liquid is what you are aiming for. This process can be done every week if necessary.

For more information and to see the visual of how its done You can watch a video of how to do this on Angus Stewart Youtube.

SA Autumn Garden Festival 2019

Saturday the 7th April 2019. Open 10am-4pm

Clare Showgrounds, Clare, South Australia

The SA Autumn Garden Festival was South Australia’s first gardening festival. It is a fantastic opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s top gardening experts and stock up on the latest plants and accessories.

Visit over 60 exhibitors, all nestled under magnificent Eucalyptus trees at the northern end of the Clare Show Grounds.

Guest speakers- Angus Stewart, Tino Carnivale and Dr Lucy Sutherland

ENTRY FEE: Adults $10.00, concession $8.00, children free

CAR PARKING FREE at the Showgrounds

Find out more here>>>>

The Brisbane Plant Collectors Fair

The Brisbane Plant Collectors Fair

1st and 2nd of June, 8.30 am – 4 pm on Saturday and 8.30 am – 3pm on Sunday

Rocklea Showgrounds, corner of Ipswich Road and Guburra Street, Rocklea

Entry $7, children under 15 free!

A unique gardening event with a strong focus on rare , unusual and difficult to find plants from around the world, sold by local and interstate growers and retailers.  Talks from the experts Including Angus Stewart), great food and drinks available. Free parking, plant creche available

Tasmanian Garlic and Tomato Festival

17th March 2019
338 Four Springs Road, Selbourne (near Launceston)

ADMISSION – Adults $10 Children under 16 free

​​Gardening legend, Peter Cundall, will be doing the grand opening at 10.45

Peter then goes on to do a Q and A session with Angus Stewart  where they will endeavour to answer all your tricky questions about tomatoes and garlic.

Penny Woodward from Organic Gardener magazine will give two talks – ‘Garlic Growing for the Home Gardener’ and the other ‘10 Facts you did not know about Tomatoes’

A day steeped in everything tomatoey and garlicky. A great day out for all the family in the glorious Tasmanian countryside. A dog friendly event.

  • tastings
  • produce
  • guest speakers
  • competitions and more,

​For Kids – Balloon animals, face painting, animal nursery, a play area and from 2.15pm games.

Find out more here>>>

Newsletter #45 – February 2019- Creating habitat gardens

In light of recent articles about the rapid decline of insect numbers, I’d like to take the opportunity in this month’s newsletter to look at practical ways we can personally help. There are many things we can do on an individual level, whether you live in a terrace or apartment with no back garden, a suburban block or a farm or larger property. If you want to be inspired, read on!

For many of us, our garden or outdoor space serves its purpose in our daily lives. It might be a quiet place to rest and relax. A place to sit in the morning or afternoon sun with a cup of tea and a book. A place where we can feel the breeze, hear the rustling of leaves, become cool in the shade on a hot summers day. Our garden or outdoor space might be a play area for our children or grandchildren, a place to hang the washing, a manicured landscaped garden, a pathway to the shed or laundry, a place to grow edible produce, a paved area or a place where nature runs wild! Either way our outdoor space, whether it be a small apartment terrace, or a large acreage, means something to us, as humans.

It seems to be easy to forget that what we consider to be our own outdoor space could also mean something to the wildlife that we share our earth with. As human population increases, the natural habitat of many living things decreases, and not just for the insects. With a little bit of knowledge and forward planning we can purposefully place things into our outdoor space that can help restore some of the natural environment that has been lost and which creatures both large and small rely on for life.

butterfly on babingtonia flowers

There are many different forms of life that we can consider if we want to provide habitats as part of our outdoor space. When we talk about creating habitats, people often think about the more obvious creatures, such as birds and butterflies. People love the ‘beauty’ that these certain types of creatures can bring. For example when a butterfly floats into the garden, it really is a majestic sight. Or when a flock of rainbow lorikeets choose your garden or balcony rail to sit on, it certainly does bring a deep joy!

In this article I’d like to delve a little deeper and consider the broad scope of creatures that we may be able to cater for in our outdoor dwellings. There’s a big diversity of lives that can utilise, visit or permanently live in our garden. Birds, possums, bats, butterflies, frogs, lizards, ants, beetles, earth worms, slaters, bees, moths, stick insects, praying mantis, ladybirds (just to name a few) and some creatures that live in soil and water that are too small for the human eye to see. Taking action to provide habitats starts with knowledge and understanding. Let’s take a closer look at some simple ways we can go about creating habitats.

If you live in a unit or an apartment, don’t be disheartened. You can still create some wonderful little habitats utilising a small amount of space. You might begin with attracting pollinators to your outdoor space. Pollinators are the insects responsible for spreading pollen from one flower to another. Bees are the most well-known pollinators, however, many more insects play a vital role in the pollination process. Many of the world’s crops are pollinator dependent. Without our busy little pollinating friends, we would not have all the fresh produce that we have today. If we look after them, they will continue to look after us.

Now that we know how important these little creatures are, let’s look at how we can provide habitat for them. Firstly, to attract pollinators, you will need some plants. If you like to use herbs in your cooking, a good way to go might be to plant a herb garden. Pollinators such as common bees, native bees and butterflies seem to find plants from the “Lamiaceae” family irresistible. Some plants from this family include:

  • basil
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • mint
  • lavender

For those who may lack space, plants from the Lamiaceae family do really well in pots, hanging baskets and look sensational as a vertical wall garden. Gardens both large and small can benefit from the addition of these plants. All herbs in the Lamiaceae family are aromatic, so in addition to their flowers catering for pollinators, they are useful in the kitchen and can provide a wonderful sensory experience that anyone from babies to elderly and all in between can benefit from. There’s nothing quite like going into your own herb garden, looking at the herbs, touching the different textures of their leaves, smelling the aromas coming from their oils and tasting each one. Science says that smelling rosemary daily can improve memory and that many herbs have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Could the fresh herbs on your home made pizza make it a little bit medicinal as well as delicious?

Once you have established a garden and the pollinators begin to visit if you would like to encourage their permanent residence, you can look at adding something like a native bee hotel. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so even if those with smaller spaces can still consider having one. Many local plant nurseries stock these and they not only provide a home for our precious native bees, but they can also look like a sculpted work of art. If you have some artistic flare and a bit of extra time on your hands, you might even like to try and make one for yourself. A great activity to involve kids in!

Bee hotel

It should go without saying that minimising or eliminating insecticides from your garden is a must. The indiscriminate use of them is encouraged by advertising that suggests that all insects are bad, dirty, scary. Of course there are some insects that are so, such as disease carrying mosquitos, flies that land on your food etc. But there are good options for dealing with these other than spraying, which eliminates the good critters along with the bad. Making sure there are no sources of water for mosquitos to breed, and good old fashioned fly paper or the joy of whacking flies with a fly swat are good alternatives to destructive chemicals. It is useful to change thinking, from insects being invaders of your space, to looking at the place they have in a habitat. Insects can serve as a food source for other creatures such as birds and lizards, and for each other. Did you know that dragonflies not only look wonderful, they also eat mosquitos and other bugs? If you go around spraying everything in sight, then you poison beauties like these.

Native plants are also good for attracting many species of insects and other wildlife such as birds. Things like Leptospermum, native daisies, kangaroo paws, banksia, grevillea, callistemon, lilly pillies have flowers rich in nectar, seeds and provide wonderful living quarters. Keep in mind that large flowered grevilleas attract the larger birds which can outcompete the smaller birds. Search out the smaller grevilleas as well to add to your garden, some also have slightly spiky foliage which gives great protection for the tinier nectar feeders.  You can use the advanced search on my website to look for plants that are good for wildlife, any good nursery will also be able to give excellent advice.

Anigozanthos 'Landscape Orange' - kangaroo paw

When planting a garden with the desire to attract birds in mind, it is good to consider the different kinds of birds you might like to cater for. Some birds drink nectar from flowers, some eat seeds and others diet on insects, or a combination of the above. Other wildlife can also utilise the plants which are producing food for the birds.

A key element in any wildlife friendly garden is also to add some water. This is often overlooked for insects. If you already have a bird bath, adding an island of stones in will stop the bees and other insects from drowning. Alternatively a simple small dish of water can provide the perfect place for bees and other smaller insects to rest and drink. Adding the element of water to your garden, you might also attract some surprises visitors such as frogs and lizards. Water dragons can be a great thing to attract to your garden as they can often become relatively tame, and just love eating cockroaches! Just be sure to clean out whatever you use regularly to prevent mosquitos from breeding and so that the water stays sweet and drinkable.

water dragon visiting the garden

All these elements combined can be done on any scale you wish. From an apartment balcony to a large rural property and anything in between, creating habitat in any outdoor environment is most certainly possible.

I recently had a plant customer contact me and share some photos of a habitat garden she is working on. She lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne and has observed that some gardens consist of fake grass, stones and palms. With the help of a program run by her local council called ‘Habitat Heroes’ she is creating something very different. She said: “The yard has gone from seeing just Myna birds visit to getting a bird bath full of New Holland and White Plumed Honeyeaters, European Goldfinches and Magpies – no more Mynas! The birdbath is just in front of my office window so the birds make a delightful break in my day when they visit for a drink and bath.”

Habitat Heroes aim is to establish a corridor for the local wildlife, and protect the endangered flora of this area. As well as providing valuable information about the local flora and fauna, people in the program also get a free landscape design for a small part of their garden, and free stock tubes supplied from the local indigenous nursery. It’s an amazing incentive for this area where new homes are popping up everywhere! There is also a similar thing called ‘Habitat Stepping Stones’ which is also useful to look at.

Many local councils have advice and incentives such as these, so if you are interested in starting a habitat garden, it is definitely worth getting in touch with them to see what they offer. Specialist native nurseries not only have a good range of suitable plants, they also offer personal advice.

This newsletter has just touched the surface of some of the things you can do to create habitat in your own outdoor space. If you are interested in looking further into it and broadening your knowledge of this subject my good friend, A.B Bishop has a book called ‘Habitat’ which has been recently published and will be in my shop very soon, along with my own books. There is also a range of tube stock plants on my website shop, many of them chosen not only for their good looks, but as great habitat creating plants.

Leptospermum flavescens ‘Cardwell’ – Tea Tree

A fast growing and versatile large shrub that can be used for screening, informal hedging or shaped into a small weeping feature tree. It flowers profusely in late winter to late spring, and the branches get masses of small white flowers, looking like they are snow covered. Grows naturally to 2 metres high and wide, but can be pruned to smaller sizes if needed. It is attractive even when not in flower, with a beautiful weeping habit, and the leaves are aromatic when crushed. Likes well drained soil. suits sunny to partly shaded spots, but best flowering is with more sun. A good waterwise plant, moderately frost tolerant once established, easy care.

Banksia nivea – Honeypot Dryandra

An attractive small shrub, with attractive ferny foliage with silver reverse, and orange flowers in winter and spring that are bird attracting. Smaller forms are ground hugging, with larger forms growing to 1.2 metres high and wide. Drought and frost resistant once established. Best in a light well drained soil and sunny position.

Newsletter #44 – January 2019 – Identifying Kangaroo Paw Rust, My Tasmanian Projects

It’s been a busy Spring for me, so apologies that there have been no newsletters for a while. I’ve been working away on plans for my property, plenty of horticultural therapy in my garden and out bushwalking, and on some exciting projects I look forward to sharing more about in the future. One of the projects I am excited about is the Macquarie Point Development in my new home state of Tasmania. This is a 9 hectare waterfront site, which in its previous life as a rail head adjoining the docks in Hobart, had to deal with various industrial products and workings. It is now in the process of being remediated and turned into an impressive new area for locals and visitors.  There are plans to include community and cultural events, education and performances. I am involved in one part of Mac Point, the Edible Precinct. I’ve been collaborating  with one of my favourite urban farmers, Tino Carnevale and Kris Schaffer, an Aboriginal horticulturist and brilliant bush food educator. The project is a marvelous experiment in sustainable urban farming and the gardens created will be both a productive garden and a great educational resource and experience for visitors to the site. I’m excited to be part of a project which will educate about Tasmanian aboriginal culture and plant use.

It has also been a great opportunity to experiment with the use of larger scale worm farm and composting systems, which are incorporated into the site to create a sustainable supply of rich topsoil for the reclaimed industrial land, as well as producing liquid feed for the plants grown there. We’ve been getting great results with this. Edible plants are the main focus of the garden, which is based around bringing people together and sharing knowledge and traditions around food. This means I’ve been able to combine some of my favourite bush food plants with non-native food plants to tell this story, and to show the relationships between our native food plants and their more commonly known botanical relatives. The garden will also supply native food plants to other organisations in the greater Macquarie Point site, and is currently on track to open to the public early this year. It is exciting for me to go from small scale edibles, compost and worm production at my own place, to large scale efforts. The growing systems we have set up are very do-able on a smaller scale, as well as working admirably on quite a large area. The hope is that people once people see the results, they will be inspired to grow and recycle in their own local home edible precincts!

Plant of the Month- “Rampaging Roy Slaven”

Anigozanthos 'Rampaging Roy Slaven'

Anigozanthos ‘Rampaging Roy Slaven’

The Kangaroo Paw is one of my absolute favourite natives, and this variety is one of many that I’ve created over the years to bring the beauty of the wild kangaroo paw and it’s brilliant range of flower colours with the home garden and wider Australian landscape. This particular variety has a bit of a story to it, involving an old friend of mine and a wonderful Australian charity organization –

***https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fWG6uDBMEs ***

A medium sized and reasonably tough variety from the Bush Gems Landscapers series, it has iridescent sunset red-orange colours in the flowers. “Rampaging Roy Slaven” is suitable for landscaping, garden or container planting. The bright flowers attract native birds and pollinators to the garden and also make great cut flowers. When selecting a plant to buy, one thing to keep an eye out for is small orange spots which can indicate the presence of Rust.

Rust pustules on a kangaroo paw

Rust pustules on a kangaroo paw

Look for plants with clean foliage to avoid bringing this fungal disease into your garden. Ideally prevention is the best cure in this case! Though I should mention that the tall kangaroo paws are not troubled by rust, so if you want to avoid it, use any of the colours in my Tall and Tough Landscape varieties (Scarlet, Gold, Tangerine, Lilac, Yellow, Orange, Lime), as well as Yellow Gem, Big Red, Federation Flame.

These plants are currently available in an affordable tube in our online store, these are great bang for your buck and perfect to establish in the garden or pot up into containers of your choice – https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/product-category/plants/affordable-tubes/* , or at  your local native nursery…….find some of my favourite nurseries here>>>

I’ll be putting up some good info on identifying and dealing with Rust on the website soon so keep an eye out for that. I’m also looking forward to sharing more updates on what’s happening on my farm as I get in and start establishing my own plantings and gardens on what is essentially a blank canvas at the moment. Part of the aim of my farm planting will be exploring more Australian plants for useful botanical products that can be grown and further developed here in Australia.

Australia’s native plants hold a wealth of useful compounds, and I love this new journey, discovering more about the unique components that are created by plants, and exploring the relationship between humans and plants, and traditional knowledge and uses of native plants in particular. I’m taking a break from travel and touring this year so as to have more time to invest into this area, starting with selecting a collection of many different plants with possibilities for new compounds. There are many purposes these can be put to, from creating new essential oils, to flavourings for foods and drinks, to medicinal. When you consider that an essential oil from one plant can sometimes have a hundred or more different components, it gets to be a complicated project!

I’m working away on the Pure Oils Of Tasmania range, as it expands into new products, and we test new uses. We now have a stall at the well known Salamanca Markets in Hobart, every Saturday. Come and check out the essential oils and the products we are developing, as well as my books and cards. I’ll be there as my time allows. If you can’t get to the Salamanca markets, then explore the website for Pure Oils Of Tasmania>>>>>

Koonya Garlic Festival

Saturday February 23rd, 2019 , 10.30am – 4.30 pm, 564 Nubeena Road, Koonya, Tasmania. Entry : $10 adults, children under 16 free, locals $5

More about the wonderfully quirky garlic fest here>>>

I first got involved with this event around four years ago, and the wonderful community spirit and simple fun of it was one of the things that sealed my desire to move to Tasmania. My good friend Tino Carnivale will also be there to share the love of Tasmanian grown garlic.

Koonya is only an hour’s drive from Hobart airport if any of you mainlanders want to experience the delights of a regional food and gardening festival in Tasmania.

This Long Weekend – Plant An Australian Plant

Head to your local nursery and buy an Aussie plant or two or more to add to your garden, or to someone else’s garden! A phrase that really resonates for me is from our First Nation People- ‘Caring For Country’.  We can all do our bit of caring by improving our surroundings to create habitats and more useful spaces. Get creative, find something edible, or to bring shade to a hot area, something beautiful, or good for wildlife, ones for cut flowers, or quirky plants.

These are some of my favourite specialist nurseries for Australian plants-

Sydney Wildflower Nursery

The Wildflower Place on the NSW central coast

Newcastle Wildflower Nursery

Cool Country Natives in the ACT

Zanthorrea Nursery in Perth

 

Mad About Dirt

11th May, 2019

Soil is the miraculous carpet of life that covers much of our planet- and yet we often “treat it like dirt”!

This event is a must do for all who know how important soil is to so many areas of life, and who would like to learn more. Join Angus Stewart, Tino Carnivale, soil scientist Simon Leake and other experts as they lead talks and also answer questions.

Practical demonstrations, soil science and analysis (testing and tasting!), composting and worm farms, permaculture and regenerative agriculture, chemistry and biology, and getting hands on with it all.

Venue:

  • 9.30 am to 1 pm: Narara Valley High School, Fountains Road, Narara, NSW 2250.
  • 1 to 4 pm: Narara Ecovillage, 25 Research Road, Narara, NSW 2250.

In the morning at Narara Valley High School, hear inspiring talks and join panel discussions with horticulturalists Tino Carnevale and Angus Stewart, soil scientist Simon Leake, and people passionate about permaculture, biodynamics, safe soils and regenerative agriculture, meet exhibitors over lunch and visit the school farm.

In the afternoon (1-4 p.m.)at the Narara Ecovillage (just up the road) hear talks about soil science, composting and health; join a Darkinjung smoking ceremony, go on tours of the ecovillage property, visit a permaculture garden, learn about Central Coast soils, join in kids activities, see steam weeding in action, and see houses being built with materials from the earth – strawbale and rammed earth.

Find out more >>>>

Modular garden design scholarship announced for Central Coast students.

In association with the Mad About Dirt event at Narara in May, Builtsmart Modular of Lisarow, have just announced an $8,000 scholarship for year 11 and 12 students of Narara Valley High School and Lisarow High School.  The scholarship will be awarded to the best design for a modular garden that can accompany Builtsmart’s modular homes. Students who wish to enter the competition will have a special opportunity to get expert advice from horticultural experts Angus Stewart and Tino Carnevale at the Mad About Dirt event.

Micromyrtus ciliata – Fringed Heath Myrtle

A charming and very easy care small shrub, with a low growing and spreading habit. It has masses of small close set leaves, which look very attractive all year round, and comes alive in late winter to spring  with numerous small red buds which open to white flowers to early summer. The flowers are flushed pink in early stages, creating a multi coloured effect, and are good for cut flowers. It likes to be watered in the first year or two while it becomes established, but is hardy once it does, needing little care, but looks at its best with some care. In tough conditions there can be a branch or two die off, but these grow back once conditions improve. The foliage is pleasingly aromatic when crushed and is rarely troubled by pest or disease. Happy in poor soils, as long as there is no lime present. Frost tolerant.