Category Archives: Planning

What am I thinking about or doing?

“Hiring” Some Employees for your Garden

Now this is a tongue in cheek reference making sure you have enough worms and other useful   partners in your garden.
Good soil with plenty of organic material added to build it up and fortify it for current and long term production. Having a compost pile and adding the properly aged compost to the garden builds the  soil and aids in growth and production. BUT WORMS …..

Worms that move into your garden perform 3 basic tasks :

1. Worm “tunnels” allow for beneficial wate and air to get into the soil

2. Worm ‘castings’ ( manure) enrich the soil

3. Worms participate in breaking down organic materials addd to the garden

A gardener can purchase worms but in many cases these will no survive the relocation . Worms can be purchased and used in a vermicomposting system. The best plans for filling a garden with helpful “employees” is to invite them in year round. One trick to invite worms during the growing season is to use worm tubes and veggie kitchen scraps .

Another method is to build up soil in the off season by adding leaves, leaf mold, coffee grounds, compost, kitchen scraps to the garden beds. If the general area soil is healthy Worms will come to materials to be broken down. The worms will stay in The area to aerate th soil and fertilize with castings.

With enough worms, ongoing composting and well planned gardens the soil will become and remain a powerhouse for years to come.


CHEAPSKATE Hints-Cheap nd Free Supplies And Skills for Garden

The original inspiration for this blog was the garden I was building in a $-rented-$ space in a city garden. I was building my soil, creating beds and starting some compost for future use. All of these items were done for free, but some work was needed to be successful. [and of course I was using tools purchased at retail price- but some of them could have been acquired at thrift stores/ yard sales.]

This post will put forth a list of free items for use in the garden.   Your garden  and my garden are places for peace ,fun, sweat and food. All of that can be attained with a big checkbook but there is something rewarding about reusing, and repurposing items for beneficial use in the garden .

The first is a free ( inexpensive) technique not an item but it still keeps things cheap. It is called lasagna or sheet gardening. Lasagna gardening starts your garden with NEW SOIL MADE BY layering yard and food waste. No need to break nor till the soil(buy/rent root tiller???)  just take a little time ,plan ahead and build new soft soil.  Make your new soil where you want your garden to be.  This is free if all of the material built into the layers is also free(see below). If this is done in the fall the soil will be ready to,plant in the spring and if started in spring some good topsoil or compost can be added to the lop layer as seeds or seedlings are planted.  Lasagna Garden HOW TO:  latest of cardboard or newsprint(15-20 sheets) on the bottom ,on top of the old grass.  The alternate layers of grass clippings, leaves, compost, manure. Shredded wood chips can also be built into the layers.


If you have a yard , you have a gardeners gold mine with all of the grass clippings you will generate spring to fall. These can be used in the lasagna garden, added to compost pile/container and used in the growing garden as a weed barrier that eventually breaks down and keeps the soil developing. If you don’t have a yard of green you can collect bags of cut grass around the community . Do this by driving around or do a search online for bagged grass ( see FREECYCLE for,your community).


These can also added directly to the  garden as weed barrier but in many areas th leaves fall as the garden is finishing for the season. They can be added as fall-winter cover , shredded and added to compost pile or bagged and set aside to,creat leaf mold for next springs garden.

If you do not have trees and leaves you may be able to find them from friends, or others in the community and in many communities leaves are collected and piled in a central location for local citizens to use.

WOOD CHIPS/shredded wood mulch-

The wood can be used as weed barrier or as layers in the lasagna garden. they can also be added to the compost pile sparingly. Much like leaves and grass clippings when added to garden as weed barrier they will eventually break down in to the soil.

Most folks will need to get wood chips and shredded wood mulch as few have the wood/trees AND equipment to chop them. Many communities that collect leaves and make them available also collect downed trees and branches AND  Christmas trees and shred in a central location available to the community.


Coffee grounds make a great addition to the compost pile, garden soil and directly for acid loving plants in the garden and yard. When building a lasagna/sheet garden-coffee grounds area a addition . Worked into the soil grounds loosen the soil and break down leaving it nourished.

They may also be spread under acid loving plants like azaleas and even broadcast out on the lawn.

If you drink coffee you will generate some supply but real volume can be found at most local coffee shops and many locations of large chain coffee shops. Some places bag them for you and others ask you to bring buckets.


If we eat any fruit or vegetables we will generate peels and scraps that can be composted for use in the garden. The scraps eggshells plus fruit and veggie only, no other animal based scraps ( meat , fat or bones).

They can be collected in an airtight table top container or the freezer until taken outside to the composting area or tool. The compost is usable after 3-9 months , depending on the method used.


Summary list of Cheapskate supplies:

1.Lasagna gardening

2. Grass clippings

3. Leaves

4. Shredded wood/chips

5. Coffee grounds

6. Composted kitchen scraps





Be a Real Cheapskate- GROW your Fertilizer Part 1

Russian Comfrey ( Symphytum uplandicum) and wild comfrey ( symphtum officinale) are partners to consider adding to your garden because when established ,after  year 1 , it provides plenty of “free” fertilizer for your plants and an energizer for your growing compost piles(bins).

Wild comfrey tends to spread so plan ahead and put it in a spot that allows for  that or control the expansion by planting in buried pots, buckets or old storage bins (make sure they have drainage) control / limit  the spread.
Comfrey has the added benefit of being a useful medicinal herb (See link below).

It is  a relatively tall plant that  likes to reach out and spread its “wings”, so set it in places where it can do so and not cast too much shade or crowd out neighbors, especially permanent plantings like trees, berries and bushes.

The average home garden will benefit from 4-6 plants . It is be propagated from cutting or established plants can be divided .  It is an attractive plant with attractive blue-purple flowers and a fuzzy green leaf.

            How to Use Comfrey in your garden:
A. Liquid Fertilizer: 1] fill bucket with leaves(not necessary to pack tight) and top completely with water and cover the bucket with lid or board and set in sun for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks the liquid should be dark brown-black. IT WILL STINK, BUT THT IS OK!!
2] Combine dark liquid with clear water and ratio of 1-2 cup liquid/1 gallon water
3] add spread around plants every other week during regular watering or before a rain.
B. Transplant Kickstart: Put 3-6 leaves in bottom of pot or garden hole when transplanting fruiting plants.
C. Power Mulch : Place a layer of leaves around plants, can be covered with cut grass or leaf mold
D. Compost Activator: add and mix into compost heap/bins. include flowers and stalks

WINTER GARDEN FUN – Harvest,Prep and Planning

Now that Christmas has come and gone the new year is a week or 2 old, we can relax and look forward to spring and the GARDEN.

Then the mail comes and in the place of Christmas cards and sale flyers….seed catalogs. My favorite is Johnny Selected Seeds…so much great stuff.

OK so what activities can we do in the garden when te freezing weather, ice and snow are around?

First question: Do we have anything growing over the winter?

Greens, roots, anything “stored” in the soil”

Did I properly clear/clean the garden in the fall?

Second question: What am I planting this year? Anything new? Where did I plant everything last season? [important for crop rotation] When can I plant? Start seedlings?

Third Question? : What work is necessary to prepare the garden for the season? Long term planning= helpful this yer but payoff will be realized over several years.

The following posts and articles address some of these ideas:

Info from another good seed catalog…

Enjoy and happy gardening !!

spring ahead, FALL BACK- the garden in Fall and Winter

The end of summer usually means an end of the garden but does that mean the work is over?

This post is just a free-for-all collection of semi-random fall gardening articles I found and enjoyed this week

what to grow when the sun goes away?



some more thoughts….

What to do in the garden?  or not…





Hugelkultur -Raised beds for True Permaculture and Long term Production.

I love the idea of hugelkultur and have tried it a few times with some success- I expect it to increase with time as the underlying logs break down.
Hugelkultur –

logs and scraps for base of Hugelkutur bed

logs and scraps for base of Hugelkutur bed

Fallen trees and branches and logs used as base for raised beds that will ultimately be fertile and require less water than traditional beds- especially after 2-3-4 years.
Logs and branches and leaves topped with soil/compost to grow..

Logs and branches and leaves topped with soil/compost to grow..

Huglekulture Inside

The next hill I hope to make is when I help some friends build at least one good sized herb hill or herb spiral. The hope is to make a medicine and tea garden as well as supply the the neighborhood bees with food.
May do a basic circle or spiral but I am thinking that a keyhole setup will allow for easier planting, weeding and harvesting.

Keyhole setup for hugelkultur and Composting.

Keyhole setup for hugelkultur and Composting.

U shaped Hugel - raised bed. Utilize a lot of wood and produce a lot of herbs and greens.

U shaped Hugel – raised bed. Utilize a lot of wood and produce a lot of herbs and greens.

Found these great images online and will add more as the real hills get assembled and used.
**Planting and then long term as the wood breaks down and feeds the soil for years.

Compost- Beautiful Black garden GOLD

Is that a silly title….Black Gold….Much like the Clampetts at their black Liquid Gold.

I love making compost but with a large garden you need a lot of compost. To generate enough compost I decided to create traditional compost bins with recycled (HT) shipping pallets.

barrel Composter In plastic- could be Stee

barrel Composter In plastic- could be Stee

3 bin Open Composter

3 bin Open Composter

The traditional 3 bin system will generate plenty of compost by next spring (for new system0 but I need compost this fall at the end of the growing season to prep the beds for next year- and of course fresh compost next spring for planting. That is why I like to have both an open system that will process the yard and kitchen waste ( plus some added manure) and and an eclosed system that will “cook” hotter and Create compost faster. The proper working of the fast and slow systems will generate the great garden food all plants need.

Access Panel in Compost Tumbler

Access Panel in Compost Tumbler

Recycling a barrel with an axle on a stand, a bunch or hole drilled into the container and an access panel created- will start turning leaves and weeds and grass and kitchen waste into dark useful food for the plants in your garden
It will also be useful to add to the open bin composter to give the material in there a KICK. The microorganisms pushing the process along will be transferred to the new material and get in cooking.

Structural Reinforcement for barrel

Structural Reinforcement for barrel

The barrel can be plastic or steel (even wood) but it need to be closed and able to spin to move the rotting material around without using a fork or other tools. Keep a good blend of carbon filled AND Nitrogen loaded materials in the bin and keep in damp but not WET. The movement allows the workhorses of compost- microorganisms and worms – to have access to much more of the material and break it down even faster.

The holes in the barrel allow for the process to continue aerobically and limits the “fun” smells that often accompany rotting of vegetation. The rotting is a part of the process but movement and air and “bugs” turn it into garden food with less stink.

A fun way to recycle tires and a barrel. Put tires arond barrel and roll in the garden to turn the material.

Barrel with Tires

Barrel with Tires

Can also set the tumbler on a vertical axis to do the work of Composting.

Vertical barrel

Vertical barrel