Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The OPAL New Zealand Flatworm Survey

Emptying the compost trug onto the freestanding heap the other day, the contents cascaded down the front and sides, missing my legs and feet only because I stepped briskly back out of the way. It's big enough to possibly fill two of my compost bins. The front garden now has its own heap in the centre, since anything I dig up in terms of grass and weeds will eventually have to be either brought through the house to the back garden, or left in place to rot for long enough that it can just be spread as mulch over the front garden. As far as the freestanding heap in the back goes, something will have to be done. Perhaps if I turn the top of it over to lean against compost bin #1, as there doesn't really need to be any space between them? I've another trug-full to empty now, not to mention disposing of the remaining tomato and courgette plants, now showing the effects of the cold nights we're having. I decided to have a look in my compost bins, after all the emptying, turning and refilling I did a few months ago.

Bin #3 is the next one to be emptied, and looks like it's almost ready to go. It has avocado stones growing in it, sending up pale, elongated shoots. Tempting though it is to transplant them and try to grow them on, using etiolated seedlings is not a good start and I know they really will not grow to a size to yield fruit in this country, short of being patient for a number of years while they grow in a heated glasshouse. I used to work with a chap who had an avocado tree in a large pot in the corner of his office. Last seen, it was trying to get through the ceiling and out of the window and although at least 10 years old, was still nowhere near ready to start producing flowers.

The other two bins seem to be rotting down nicely, (the compost accelerator seems to be working) with bin #2 being the most recently filled. I topped it up a few months ago with a forkful of stuff from the bottom of the (then newly-started) freestanding heap. Although it has space now for more to be added on top, I'm loath to do it, as the weight might reduce the air in the existing contents and lead to anaerobic conditions, which will stop it rotting down.

When I was turning over compost back in June, I was quite worried over the lack of worms, both in the compost bins and in the garden. But now, the bins are full of worms of all sizes, and I'm finding plenty of earthworms where I've been turning over the front garden. More significantly, in the time I've been gardening here, moving aside stones, pots, bags of compost and so on, I have looked for, but not found any New Zealand Flatworms. Thank goodness for that! Which reminded me that I'd had a card asking for results for The Opal New Zealand Flatworm Survey.

Having forgotten about that for a few months, I wondered whether it would still be ongoing. I went to the website to submit my survey results and it is! There has also been a soil and earthworm survey going on, although November is rather later than ideal to be doing that and it requires things like test strips and mustard, neither of which I have in the house. However, there was the most awesome guide to the common worms. Yes, I know, not everyone's idea of a thing to contemplate, but take my word for it, it's very well done and I shall doubtless use it sometime to study which worms have chosen to make this garden their home.

Oh well, that was the easy bit. At some point, I shall have to go out to empty and turn the contents of the bins; #3 into an empty compost bag if I've no bare soil that it could go onto, #2 into #3, #1 into #2 and the best rotted stuff from the freestanding heap into #1. At least now I have a lot more worms in the garden to help it on its way to lovely compost!

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