Sunday, September 27, 2009

Organic compost harvest

One of the challenges of an organic garden is getting enough nutrients into the soil, given that you can't use chemical fertilisers. A great way to address this problem, and reduce your waste that will otherwise go to clog up a landfill somewhere, is to compost your kitchen waste.

It's very easy: the basic rule is - no animal products (i.e. meat and dairy). This means it doesn't get smelly, and also won't attract rats and such. Basically this means all the vegetable peels, cuttings, rotten vegetables, teabags, tealeaves, coffee grounds, etc. Also use garden waste, and also chuck in some shredded newspaper from time to time. However - unless you're able to grind it up, it's best to leave out woody items because they take ages to decompose.

We use two bins - overturn them, cut out the bottom, and you're ready to rumble. Then you fill one, and leave it for about three months while you fill the other. Empty the first one and start again. The timing will depend I suppose - the high humidity and temperature of the Malaysian sub-tropical climate means that the decomposing is quicker than in Belgium, for example.
organic compost bins malaysia

Here are some photos from a 'harvest' I did in February. One thing I've noticed is that the space taken up by the compost reduces - so if you stuff it up one day with trimmings from the Morning Glory (for example), wait a week and there will be more space.

This is the result of being left alone for a few months
organic compost malaysia

One surprise here was when I lifted off the bin, there were loads of red wiggler worms! I vaguely remembered chucking in some from our vermicompost bin, and they obviously thrived!
red wigglers organic compost malaysia

This contributed to the nice quality of the compost - crumbly and moist
organic compost malaysia

but there were also some compacted parts, probably because I didn't turn it up often enough. This helps to oxygenate the parts below.
organic compost malaysia clay compacted

There were also stuff that decomposes slowly: in particular mango seeds, mangosteen rinds, and various twigs and stuff. I just put them into the other bin (and I also cut mango seeds in half now, before I put them in the compost bin).
organic compost malaysia slow decomposers

In the end, I got one bucket of compost, that was spread around the papaya trees, the jasmine bush, and the frangipani tree.
organic compost malaysia

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grasshopper in the organic mint

One of the problems with organic gardening is that you can't just give a blast of insecticide or herbicide from time to time to reduce pests. So far, we haven't had any major problem, so touch wood that continues.

Often in the morning I cut some organic mint to make some lovely tea - mint tea is very nice for an unsettled stomach, so it's good when you have a hangover too :)

When I was picking off the wilted leaves and such, it suddenly turned out that this guy had come in with the mint
grasshopper mint malaysia

Grasshoppers are officially of the suborder Caelifera, but apart from that I dunno what it was. It was about 4-5 cm long, and you can see how it blends in with the green of the leaves. Its main defence strategy seemed to be to freeze and hope nobody sees it, which was useful for taking photos of it!
grasshopper mint malaysia

Monday, September 21, 2009

Birds of paradise

Around the front of our organic garden, we have a raised bed (that used to be a long fish pond I think), which has some Calathea lutea planted, and some Heliconia. I'm not sure exactly how to identify them, but I'm pretty sure they are Heliconia psittacorum (usually called 'birds of paradise' here in Malaysia).

The Heliconia are invasive, so it's good they're restrained in the bed. At first I liked the way that they were mixing with the Calathea, but I'm beginning to wonder if they are restricting the growth of the Calathea...
heliconia birds of paradise malaysia
Unfortunately, they also have to compete for space with the dogs, who like to use the bed for barking at dogs, cats and assorted passers-by.

I like the birds of paradise: it grows very easily, it can act as a screen of sorts, it flowers constantly with flowers that have different colours
heliconia birds of paradise malaysia

and some are just orange. I wonder how many other colours there are?
heliconia birds of paradise malaysia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


When I was a kid, my brother told me that dragonflies would eat their own tails if they could - I found this really gross and since then have been somewhat repulsed by dragonflies.
Dragonfly in Malaysia

Anyway. I should be happier to see them, as apparently they eat mosquitoes - which is good! They are of the Odonata order, and "the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera" (from Wikipedia).

I still don't find them particularly attractive - most insects are kind of alien and creepy to me - but the intricacy of their design is still quite fascinating.
Dragonfly in Malaysia

In terms of identifying the dragonfly, I don't know what kind it is - but it does look similar to the Yellow Winged Darter, or Sympetrum flaveolum.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ptychosperma macarthurii - identified

Previously (Palm tree flowers with bees), I was wondering what type of palm we had and was unsure whether it was a Ptychosperma macarthurii - it looks like one, but I had never seen the red fruits on it.
Palm tree Ptychosperma macarthurii

Well, now I'm sure that it must be one - see the red fruits!
Palm tree Ptychosperma macarthurii fruits

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spider eats a mantis

The other day, while harvesting some of our chillies, WW spotted this
spider eating mantis in Malaysia

It seems like some member of the Mantidae family went into the wrong neighbourhood...
spider eating mantis in Malaysia close up

Normally I welcome spiders gobbling up insects, but maybe in this case it's less good, as apparently Mantises can be good for organic farming because they eat other insects, as do spiders I suppose…
spider eating mantis in Malaysia close up

Another interesting thing is, similar to the previous post, that the pattern on the spider’s back looks a bit like a face of some Japanese comic villain, or perhaps a malevolent Lord Shiva.
spider eating mantis in Malaysia

What do you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Spider mistaken identity

This is a photo of a spider with its web spun on the bamboo in the garden. I don't know how to identify spiders, but I think it is a 'true spider' Araneomorphae (check that link for many photos and subdivisions of Araneae).
spider in Malaysia

Doesn't look like much right? A lump of dirt or something… but when you see the other side it's quite surprising
spider in Malaysia

To me, it looks like some Japanese cartoon character or something.
spider close up in Malaysia