Dr. Toby Smith

A Morning with Costa Georgiadis

Costa Georgiadis. If you’ve ever invested even a couple of weeks in attempting to start your own veggie garden, chances are really good you’ve heard of the guy.

Costa Georgiadis
Costa in the house

The vivacious and exuberant host of ABC’s Gardening Australia, Costa (along with his trademark beard) is a cultural icon of sorts.

In many ways, it could be argued Costa Georgiadis is to gardening in Australia as…

Shane Warne is to cricket

Steve Irwin is to wildlife conservation

And Michael Jordan is to basketball.

Overblown hyperbole? Perhaps. (The affable Costa would probably say as much).

Native Bee Aficionados
L to R: Dr. Toby, Arch and Peter

But you get the gist. When Costa speaks, people tune in and take notice.

So when the invitation email from the man to be a part of a live-streamed Facebook event on the topic of beekeeping presented itself, an all-hands-on-deck call went out. All with the intention of bringing everything together for what everyone was certain would be a momentous occasion.

But what eventually played out managed to impress even the most optimistic of expectations. And, if I dare to say, even the expectations of Costa himself.

And truth be told, the SBCG has two main individuals to thank for this.

Live Streaming
Live Streaming Peter splitting a hive

Peter Davenport, a practising beehive aficionado of close to 35 years. And Dr. Toby Smith, a native bee researcher based out of the University of Queensland.

Following a concise lead-in from SBCG secretary Arch Cruttenden, Peter and Toby would set the day’s Facebook Live Chat feed alight with their knowledge, humour and, most importantly, their passion.

It was a passion shared by the live feed’s other guests. Guests such as The Practical Beekeeper, Benedict Hughes from Melbourne, Victoria. Etymology Ph.D. student Amelie Vanderstock in Japan. And Christine Peterson, a backyard beekeeper out of Townsville, Queensland.

In all, the SBCG section of the nearly 80-minute-long live feed would top out at a little more than sixteen minutes…

But an amazingly stimulating sixteen minutes it was as Peter and Toby really pulled back the curtains on Southeast Queensland’s stingless bees,

Dr. Toby Smith
Happy is the man who follows his passion

Tetragonula Trigona Carbonaria.

If you’ve ever had any questions about bees and, more specifically, maintaining native

stingless bees here in Australia, you won’t be disappointed. So please click the link below and watch the replay of Costa’s presentation here. FYI, the SBCG segment begins at 18:45.

As it did for us, we’re sure it’ll be a presentation that (pardon the pun) will leave you with quite a buzz.

Thanks again to Costa and everyone that helped make the day both possible and so incredibly memorable.











Composted green waste

How to Start Composting

Of all the many ways to be both environmentally conscious and proactive, learning how to start composting is easily one of the most viable first steps for any household to take.

Viable because, according to the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority, the average Australian household’s wheelie bin is comprised of 35% food waste.

Nationwide that equates to over five million tonnes of food dumped into landfills per year.

What do five million tonnes of food look like? Incredibly, enough to fill 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Types of Composting Options
Compost Bin Friends
Everyone’s a winner with Composting

The first concept to grasp in learning how to start composting is learning how many options you actually have at your disposal.

Quickly, here is a quick list of options.

Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll be taking a big first step in removing methane-producing green waste from your local landfill.

But that said, this post will focus on the last option from the list above; open enclosure.

Open Enclosure Compost Bins
Turning compost
Compost Bin Turn

Open enclosure bins can be constructed of all shapes and sizes. Materials used to build them can include corrugated tin, chicken wire, timber, logs and even discarded pallets.

At the SBCG, our compost bins are approximately 1.5 metre square and have been constructed using extremely sturdy timber. And to help provide easier access for turning and aerating the pile, one side of each compost bin is comprised of removable slats.

Once you’ve decided on the size, building materials and location of where to situate your open enclosure bin, you’re ready to start loading it.

How to Start Composting with your Open Enclosure Bin

STEP 1. Use bare earth as the base of your compost bin. Not only will this allow your compost bin to breathe and drain properly, it will also allow beneficial organisms access to the waste.

STEP 2. On top of the bare earth, line the base of your bin with a generous amount of shredded paper, dry leaves, twigs, or straw. This layer will

Turning compost
One Last Turn

further help to aid in the proper drainage as well as provide an inviting place of residence for the organisms that end up calling your compost bin home.

STEP 3. Start adding your green waste in layers remembering to alternate between wet and dry. Wet ingredients include any of your kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings or tea bags. Dry material can include materials such as leaves, straw, coffee grounds, woodchips or sawdust.

To eliminate strong odours and pests, avoid adding such items as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and fats such as grease and oils.

STEP 4. Add a nitrogen source to speed the composting process up by activating the compost pile. Green manure is ideal but this can also include grass clippings.

STEP 5. Keep your compost pile damp. Too dry and the contents of your pile won’t break down. Too wet and things will start to smell. Aim for the moisture content of a wrung-out sponge.

STEP 6. Cover your compost pile as needed. You can use wood, scraps of carpet or even a tarp with the goal of retaining the pile’s moisture level and, more importantly, heat.

STEP 7. Periodically turn the pile. Use a pitchfork or shovel every two to three weeks, depending on the size of the pile. Turning the pile aerates it and allows oxygen to work its magic. This oxygen infusion allows an increased number and variety of micro-organisms into the mix and ultimately aids in speeding up the composting process.

How Much Time Does Open Enclosure Bin Composting Require?
Composted green waste
The Finished Product–Ready for your Garden

How long will it take for your compost pile to be ready to utilise on your garden depends on a few factors.

Factors such as:

  • The size of you compost bin
  • What material you put in the pile
  • How meticulous you are in tending to it

Assuming you’ve followed this list closely, three months is a realistic target for when you can expect your compost to be ready to use.

And by ready, this implies a rich, humus matter that is dark, crumbly and smells like a handful of soil scooped out of a bag of gardening mix.

All of which is a far cry from the alternative of a pile of smelly, methane-producing scraps rotting in your local landfill.

store bought worm farm

Worm Farming 101

Worm farming or worm composting, as it’s sometimes called, is a magical process. One that involves the use of unique composting worms such as ‘Redwigglers’ to eat and process green, organic waste.

In its place, the worms leave nutrient-rich wee and ‘worm castings’ that are some of nature’s best fertilizer and soil enhancers.

Here at the Southern Beaches Community Garden, you’ll see plenty of examples of worm farms.

Types of Worm Farms

The first and probably most common is the stackable, multi-tiered worm farm.

store bought worm farm

Another type is the DIY variety. These can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles but two of the most common are large 50 litre, plastic storage

Bathtub worm farm
Modified bathtub

bins or bathtubs.

Regardless of the route you choose to go, it is critical to make sure your DIY worm farm is equipped with adequate ventilation and proper drainage capabilities. Failure to do so can lead to a ‘die-off’ of your worms.

Double Grande Worm FarmAnd finally, located beside the SBCG’s propagation tunnel is easily one of the largest industrial options in SE Queensland. The Double Grande from Worms Downunder which, once fully operational, has the capability of processing 40 litres of green waste per day.

Getting Started

No matter what type of worm farm you opt to go with, getting started is straight forward.

First, line the bottom of your container with some cardboard or newspaper. This will be the foundation of your worm farm on which your next layer of actual bedding material will sit.

This bedding material can be finely shredded paper, damp leaves, or, ideally, moist cocopeat. Many store-bought worm farming kits generally include a dehydrated block of cocopeat for you to rehydrate and spread out for your worm farm’s new arrivals.

Once your worms have been placed in the bedding material you’ve chosen to use, cover everything with a ‘worm blanket’, and let your worms get settled in. A worm blanket can really be anything. An old, ratty towel, burlap bag, newspaper, or just an adequately sized piece of cardboard. Pizza boxes work great for this.

As for food, don’t worry. Your bedding material (preferably cocopeat) will both house and feed your worms initially. After a couple of days allowed for settling in, it’s time to start feeding them.

What to Feed Your WormsWorm Feeding List

The list of what to feed your worms is extensive. Essentially, composting worms will process anything organic (meaning anything once living).

Fruit and vegetable scraps and tea bags are ideal. And, especially when first starting out, make your scraps as ideally digestible as possible since composting worms actually don’t have any teeth. This means chopping, blending, and shredding your scraps. This will help speed up the composting process.

In addition to your green waste input, you should also aim to balance this out with an equal amount of ‘brown’ or carbon-based waste.  A few examples of this are moistened materials such as shredded paper, coffee grounds, straw, and even aged horse and cow manure.

Balancing out your green and brown waste you will ensure proper acidity levels of your worm farm are maintained.

Foods to avoid feeding your worms include raw or cooked meat and fish, chilis, bread, cake, pasta and rice, citrus products, onion and garlic, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.

Tips to Remember

When starting out, remember to NOT OVERFEED your worms. Overfeeding is the leading cause of die-offs of worms when starting a worm farm.

Red Wiggler Composting Worms
Happy Red Wigglers

Worms can eat half their bodyweight in food. So, if you’re starting out with a kilogram of worms, 500 grams of food would be the maximum you’d want to feed your worms per day.

And only once your worms have been allowed a sufficient settling in time period to adjust to their new home.

So go slow and monitor the feeding progress of your worms. Once they’ve processed at least half their food, they’ll be ready for more.

And your worm farming career will be well and truly underway.