The hairy, dark green, finely toothed leaves are a real sign of winter. Although it is regarded as a weed by many and needs to be prevented from becoming invasive, I love this much maligned plant. It feeds the soil, plants, compost, hens and the humans in this household. It is an important component of my garden, and as Judith Collins says, it is valuable in any organic garden. This is because nettle is so nutritious, and beneficial to plant and human health.
Our recycling photo competition has produced an inspiringl collection of ideas for giving old materials a second life in the garden! For some entrants, foraging local hard rubbish collections has become a very productive obsession. Several entrants have concentrated on creating works of art for both indoors and outdoors. Others have seen the potential of discarded materials to build structures for the garden and others have found another use for household items without needing to reconstruct them.
Making a decision about an absolute prize winner was impossible because of the fabulous creativity of all our entrants. So we have chosen winners in three categories i.e. art, constructions and repurposing. Even then, it was not easy to separate these categories from each other, so there was a tiny bit of overlap in some cases. So congratulations to all entrants and especially to the winners!
The winning entry for artistic creation goes to Carolyn Noel for some amazing flowers made from old dishes. At left, some enliven a dead tree. At right, are some “planted” in the ground.
What a joy it must be to roam the garden in winter when these glass creations are happily blooming! Carolyn sent us many examples of her work saying “For many years I have been passionate about using what I have around the house and other people’s rubbish to improve my environment. I have recently retired from my work as a creative arts therapist and now spend much of my time in my shed making more adventurous works from roadside rubbish.” She hopes that our “readers are inspired to see rubbish in a whole new light”.
There were many beautiful pieces of work submitted to us by Carolyn and others, so we will feature a range of those in other web posts later in the year.
The most interesting repurposing endeavor was turning the barbie into a potting bench. It is almost as though this style of BBQ was designed for exactly that purpose in the first place. Congratulations to Kelly Wooster!
The prize for construction goes to Deborah Cantrill and Quentin Jones of Nirvana Organic Produce who have turned a freezer and cold room from a supermarket refit into several separate significant items. Along with panels from the walls there were racks and sliding Perspex lids.
The freezer panels were used for the walls of a series of 5 compost bays. Their inbuilt insulation keeps the compost warm and moist. The other materials used for this construction included used polypipe and timber from old pallets cut into thirds for the front removable panels.
Covers for cold frames and a mini-glass house were created from the sliding lids.
Wire racks were transformed to become plant protectors in the orchard, various barricades in the poultry pens, a sprouting bench for the chook yard, potting benches for the veggie garden, a tunnel house and, as in the picture at right, gates.
A big “thank you” to all the other avid recyclers for sending us their innovative work!
More photos of recycling in the garden will be featured in other web posts later on and also on our Facebook page.
Can what we do in our gardens affect our ecological footprint? You bet it does, and we explore here just how.
Do you know what Australia’s ecological footprint is? It’s certainly bigger than that of India, Egypt, Finland or even the United Kingdom, but not greater than that of Canada or the USA. I’m sure you don’t need a reminder, but just in case, the ecological footprint is a measure of the area of land and water it takes to provide a person or population with the resources it uses. It includes productive land and water, that used for roads, cities and other infrastructure and the ecosytems that are required to deal with waste. So it is a measure of human demand on nature’s capacity – a measure of how the natural environment is affected by human impact.
The worldwide footprint is 1.7 of the earth, based on the most recent calculations by the Global Footprint Network, in 2010. That means that the world is consuming 1.7 times the earth’s capacity. Australia’s was 6.8 with the biggest component coming from grazing. So if the whole world was having the treating the environment in the same way as Australia, we’d need 6.8 earths to support us!
Rachel Reef writes: Have you ever noticed that somehow, the temperature seems to be lower on the outskirts and in the countryside? Yeah, so have I. But when you think of it, it absolutely makes sense with all that concrete downtown. Although the thought of more balmy summer days doesn’t seem like such a bad thing (hello, beach!), the decreasing amount of greenery in our cities means that city microclimates are forming and the heat rise could be affecting our health and bank balances – as well as our planet.
Cities are getting bigger, more polluted and less green, while climate change is becoming increasingly unavoidable. As more and more people are choosing the city-living lifestyle, what does this mean for our dear planet Earth?
Declining concern about water
Water is one of the most valuable commodities. During drought, water supply is at high risk especially in areas that rely heavily on grazing and agriculture and use water for gardens. Yet, despite weather-related risks, water continues to receive little serious regard, except when water restrictions are implemented.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides some interesting insights. In 2007-2008, 89% of Australians thought that water shortages were a concern but their most recent figure in 2011-2012 showed a decline to 64% 1.
Supporting Biodiversity? or just Garden Art?
Ever wondered where all those bugs go in the winter or when it rains? They don’t pack their bags and take a flight to Noosa like some lucky retirees do when the temperature drops below 21 degrees. They seek out a nook or cranny to take five when they need a break, to lay some eggs or find shelter. Given that we have destroyed a lot of their natural habitat, an insect hotel can be just what they need.
The word “insect” conjures up a whole range of images. Children talk to me about lady bugs, butterflies, bees and maybe snails (I haven’t the heart to correct any child under 10 years that snails are not really insects they are molluscs), cute creatures that dot the landscape with beauty, just like flowers in the garden, fuzzy animals and sunshine. By the time they are adults they might think of flies, stinging wasps and bees, termites, mosquitoes and those annoying critters that might interrupt a perfectly good day or beat us to our home grown vegetables before we get a chance to pick them. But love them or hate them, they are here for a very good reason, and there are billions of them behind the scenes performing tasks that we humans are largely oblivious to.
Art, or the human creative element, can be an important element of any garden, and can be a contribution to sustainability.
Why have art in a garden?
There are many different reasons to have art in a garden. Art can add some magic and some soul. It can entertain or soothe you and others and help create a place we enjoy being in. It can really change the atmosphere. In your garden, art can also be used to convey an environmental message both for yourself and those who share or visit. But this doesn’t mean you need to forgo enchantment and extra interest.
Art in our gardens can help us express ourselves through creating it and choosing it and through how we display it.