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My Urban Farming Investment

The fact that it is almost the end of the year has me reflecting on the start of the year. So much has happened in my garden!

While I am not yet laden with home grown produce, it seems likely in the coming months, certainly in a few years. What I have learned along the way has been priceless.

But, it has also been busy, and a bit expensive. Setting this garden up has been an investment of time, cash and grunt! Had we had more of all, it may have all happened faster!

The Tumbling Composters

My matching, rotating compost tumblers

These were one of the first purchases I made for the garden. At $90 each, they were more pricey than the stand alone bins, but worth the extra. They churn out about 4-6 loads of compost each bin, each year depending on what I feed them. If I had to pay for the same volume of compost, it would cost roughly $200 or more if purchased by the bag. Which means they have paid for themselves within that time.

Features:

  1. Rotating Design: Their primary feature is the ability to rotate or tumble, which simplifies the mixing and aeration process necessary for efficient composting.
  2. Speedy Composting: Due to the enhanced aeration and mixing from tumbling, these composters can produce compost more quickly than static models, often in just a few weeks.
  3. Ease of Use: The tumbling mechanism eliminates the need for manual stirring, making it easier and more convenient, especially for those who find it difficult to use a pitchfork or shovel.
  4. Odor and Pest Reduction: These composters are often fully enclosed, which helps to minimize odors and deter pests and rodents.
  5. Durable Construction: They are typically made from robust, weather-resistant materials like recycled plastic or coated metal, ensuring longevity.
  6. Variety of Sizes: Tumbling composters come in various sizes to accommodate different amounts of waste and space constraints.
  7. Improved Aeration: The design allows for better air flow inside the composter, which is crucial for the composting process.
  8. Dual Chambers: Some models feature two compartments, allowing for continuous composting; one side can mature while the other is available for adding new waste.

The Worm Farm

My new, old worm bin.

I found my mega-worm farm in the classifieds for $100. A total bargain. It’s fantastic. The worms that it contained would have cost me over $1000 to buy commercially, not to mention the construction of the farm itself. I have since sold the worms through the same classifieds for $20-30 for approx 2000 worms which earned me roughly $500 in the months since I have had it. A 400% return on investment isn’t bad for what is essentially my garbage.

Features:

  1. Natural Recycling: Worm farms transform kitchen scraps and garden waste into nutrient-rich compost, facilitating a natural recycling process.
  2. Reduced Waste: By composting biodegradable materials, worm farms significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.
    High-Quality Fertilizer: The compost produced, known as worm castings, is an excellent organic fertilizer, enriching soil with essential nutrients.
  3. Low Maintenance: Worm farms are relatively easy to maintain, requiring minimal space and care, making them suitable for both urban and rural settings.
  4. Odorless Process: Unlike traditional composting methods, worm farming is typically odor-free when managed correctly.
    Eco-Friendly: This method of composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with organic waste decomposition in landfills.

The Greenhouse

A bit untidy, but the Greenhouse is finished! A few hundred dollars worth of timber, cement and shade cloth and voila! Done.

Inside, it is furnished with finds I have scraped together from kerb collections, recycling centres and bits inherited or donated from family gardens. Except for the disco mirror ball. That cost $2.50 from the bargain store, but I think you will agree, it finishes the space beautifully.

Features:

  1. Climate Control: Greenhouses provide a controlled environment, regulating temperature, humidity, and light, which is crucial for growing plants out of season or in harsh climates.
  2. Extended Growing Seasons: By protecting plants from extreme weather, greenhouses extend the growing season, allowing for year-round cultivation of various crops.
  3. Pest Protection: The enclosed structure helps in keeping pests and diseases at bay, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
  4. Optimized Photosynthesis: The transparent walls and roofs of greenhouses maximize light exposure, enhancing photosynthesis and plant growth.
  5. Variety of Structures: Greenhouses come in various sizes and designs, from simple plastic-covered frames to sophisticated glass structures, catering to different needs and budgets.
  6. Water Efficiency: Many greenhouses incorporate efficient irrigation systems, like drip irrigation, reducing water waste and ensuring plants receive optimal moisture.

Seed Bank

Another classifieds find that I just had to have. My own seed bank is a retired library card index, complete with library book smell. It is solid timber, with all original fixtures. It sat in the garage of a carpenter, storing all his bits and bobs for almost thirty decades before it became mine.

Despite being covered in years of wood dust, it is in excellent condition, taking the pride of place in my home. I hope it will collect a lifetime’s worth of open pollinated seeds. At $750, it wasn’t exactly cheap, but then again, quality has a price.

The Front Raised Garden Beds

Here we are at the big one. The raised front garden beds. Taking into account the costs of tree removal, stump grinding, skip hire for rubbish and sand removal, plus machine hire for levelling, we are already taking a few thousand dollars before the beds have even arrived.

The formply beds cost over $3000 in materials, add a further $800 for enough pea hay and mushroom compost to fill them all up. We used leftover paint from another job to paint the beds. The weed mat and the gravel to cover the area cost another $600.

So roughly the front raised beds cost a grand total of over $7000. As a comparison, we were quoted upwards of $10,000 to have the area coved with AstroTurf. Now we have a dozen raised beds to grow edible produce with zero food miles! I usually spend about $70 a week on fruit and vegetables, so it’s going to take a few years to recoup that investment.

Features:

  1. Improved Soil Conditions: Raised beds allow for better soil control and amendment, enabling gardeners to create the perfect soil mixture for their plants.
  2. Enhanced Drainage: Elevated soil levels improve drainage, reducing the risk of waterlogging and root rot in plants.
  3. Easier Access and Maintenance: The raised design minimizes bending and stooping, making planting, weeding, and harvesting more accessible and less strenuous.
  4. Pest and Weed Control: The elevation can help deter some ground pests, and the defined space makes managing weeds more manageable.
  5. Aesthetic Appeal: Raised beds can add structure and beauty to gardens, making them not only functional but also visually appealing.

Chickens

Finally, we have the chickens. We purchased them a coop online that arrived flat-packed and ready for assembly. At $250,
It was half the price of the one at our local pet shop and a design that was better suited to our space. We then incorporated an existing fence to build the chooks an attached run, and secured them inside safely with a covering of chicken wire and shade cloth. All up the run cost another $300.

The chickens themselves are Hi-line browns, and I purchased them from the pet store at 3 weeks old for $15 each. I also purchased feeders and water containers for about $50. Their laying pellets cost about $8 for a month’s supply.

I share greens from the veggie patch with the chooks. The girls have yet to lay, but when they do, I would expect a dozen eggs a week. I pay $6 for a dozen free range eggs a week, so the chicken coop will take a few years to break even in a monetary sense.

The plants and seeds!

Of course, one must include all the plants and seeds I have collected in the last year. A Diggers membership at the start of the year cost $69 and was worth every penny. Of course, you dont need to be a member to purchase the seeds, but you do get discounts, free seeds and access to their online resources making it worthwhile.

Also, I scout seeds from practically anywhere! I have bought them at local farmers markets, bulk grocers, supermarket soup mixes and from websites near and far. I have raided the gardens of friends and family to propagate plants for free. I have had a few disappointments, but otherwise, I am willing to keep trying to grow as much as possible from seed. Everything I grow is open pollenated, heirloom heritage varieties.