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FIELD TRIP TO ALLIGATOR SWAMP
Sarah Robinson, Waiwera, Saturday 30 June 2001
We took a short cut down to Sarah¹s place, through bush down a steep winding path to her home on a shared 100 acre property.  Fifty percent is bush, some under covenant, with other areas reverting back (gorse to ti tree to bush), some pines have been planted for timber. Sarah has Bio-Gro certified gardens and orchards supplying Ceres, Fresh Direct, Harvest Organics, and has been organic for twelve years.  She makes her own fish fertilizer and showed up how she builds a heap, contained within walls and having good drainage.
How to make fish compost:
Scoria for drainage
Shade cloth layer
Layer of gorse
Layer of hay
Layer of fish and mussel shells
Dusting of lime (go fast element)
Potash layer
Lay of sawdust
Layer of grass/weeds from gardens
Cover the heap with plastic weighted down with tyres.
After two weeks she adds another set of layers as above.  Drainage is important otherwise the compost will become anaerobic.  It needs air to work.  Sarah showed us a heap that was six months old ­ most of the fish bones had gone.  Turning the heap would help if necessary.
The gardens are laid out in raised beds, only wide enough to reach from either side.  Newspaper and carpet was laid over kikuyu grass to kill it. Initially the beds were double dug, sand was added to improve the heavy clay soil, then bark and compost.  The beds are composted with lawn clippings, dags and the fish fertilizer.  Vegies growing while we were there were perpetual spinach, kale and leeks, and Sarah and her Woofer were getting ready to plant garlic by weeding the beds and then adding a layer of compost.
Rotation over the gardens is pumpkin, garlic, mustard, leeks.  Compost is added twice a year.  Leeks are sown in a seedling bed in October, and the tops are trimmed off before planting out.  The leeks grow well in the heavy soil and more or less look after themselves.  Sarah¹s not had much luck with caulis/cabbage etc as there are too many slugs and snails.  Suggestions for coping with slugs and snails were:  catch them at night; apply Garuda slug and snail repellant; or grind them up, ferment and spray around (and it was suggested that what you were really spraying was a concoction of bacteria that are the natural enemy of snails, so infection was keeping the snails under control in this type of application?)
One of the orchards contains apples (Braeburn, Granny Smith, Gala) and pears (Bon Cretien).  The trees are given compost (fish 2 x shovels) and lime every year (about 2 handfulls per tree).  Sheep also graze the orchards. The second orchard we saw was planted with tangelos, lemons, navel oranges, feijoas and more apples.  The trees are pruned by and for stock (and protected).  No watering is needed ­ it¹s not really citrus/feijoa country at all - and the orchard sites are very sheltered.
The bush creates rather a possum problem for the orchard and Sarah¹s answer to this was hot-wired trees!  With the materials on hand, she worked out a system and woofers installed it.  Possum traps (Timms) are used also to keep them at bay.  Pindone poison is placed in covered bait stations outside the orchards.  Traps for rats are also set in drain coil/covered containers outside the vegetable gardens.  The ARC has trapped and poisoned in the area so possums are no so prevalent at present.
Not so much an alligator swamp but a little bit of paradise!  Many thanks to Sarah for a great day.