Tag Archives: compost

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.

GRASS CLIPPINGS-

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).

LEAVES –

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-

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.

COMPOSTED KITCHEN SCRAPS-

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

 

 

@martyroddy

 

65 Degrees at Christmas- My Bulbs are Sprouting

Welcome to Christmas season 2015 and in Central Virginia a time of spring-like temperatures have delivered a very warm and unseasonable Christmas holiday.

Now the lack of fireplace use and chestnut is not the only concern with this weather,especially if you are a gardener.

This warm weather has caused many trees to begin budding early and many flowering bulbs have sprouted after the short cold period early in the fall.

Will the flowers be ruined for spring time color? Will they be damaged?

What about the trees? AND

Is there anyting we can do to counter the problem?

*****************************

There is not much threat of damage if the bulbs do not flower and only the green leaves sprout. There is a good chance that the flower will arrive in spring , though it may be ealier than is the norm. Do not to do anything to try and help the bulbs. The flowers are still inside the bulbs.

Mulching is not recommended as this may kill the plant and bulb and prevent future growth. A heavy spread of frozen mulch can do more damage than strange weather. Now a light spread of compost or composted mulch around and on the leaves might be helpful – I would suggest that the leaves still be visible and open to the sun. Photosynthesis cn still occur and the bulbs will remain viable. You may still lose the bloom this year but the bulb will survive to produce another season.

There is even less that can be done for trees that have begin to Bud Out.

Be patient, enjoy the weather since snow shovels may be needed soon enough and this warmth will be gone.

Coffee to Wake Up …The Garden

Coffee grounds are a great addition to the home garden and the growing plans around the entire yard. If you have discovered a local coffee shop with a supply of grounds ( larger than average family making 1 or 2 pots of coffee a day) and can bring them to your house and garden you now need to know how to use them.

The most obvious is COMPOST. Add the grounds to the pile(they tend to be 2% nitrogen and <1% phosphorous and potassium) and thoroughly mix with leaves, grass, paper, kitchen scraps and seedless weeds from the garden.

This post will be a list and attached articles will fill in some information.

COFFEE GROUNDS from a shop:

1. Add grounds to the compost pile, bin or container. {different blend percentages are suggested- look some up}

  1. Raise your own worms for casings, and the grounds mix well with other food scraps s food for the worms= they love them.
  2. Spread on the lawn, under trees and bushes(heavier for acid loving plants)
  3. Top dress the garden , especially in the offseason, with the grounds. They will break down and add nutrients to the soil
  4. Slugs and snails hate coffee grounds – protect susceptible plants with the grounds
  5. squirrels and rabbits can also be deterred by the grounds underfoot
  6. Acid loving plants will love a ring of grounds that are worked into the ground/soil around the base of the plant .

The following articles address some of these ideas.

The most obvious and simple use is as compost, but The amounts can be important:  

http://www.planetnatural.com/coffee-grounds-compost/

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/composting/ingredients/coffee-grounds-gardening.htm

More than compost- other uses for the grounds: 

http://www.ehow.com/how_8038252_use-coffee-grinds-vegetable-gardens.html

Some plants love the grounds directly on them:

http://thegardeningcook.com/coffee-grounds/

https://twitter.com/martyroddy

Planning and Planting a Drought Tolerant Vegetable Garden

In Virginia we have had summer heat and dryness earlier . May and June presented many hot dry days and for some people the result is a stunted garden that was hit with heat before the roots and established at a safe depth to thrive in the heat of summer.

After we/you do some “regular” watering to keep everything growing………

WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR THIS SEASON?

The next question is , HOW CAN WE PREVENT THIS PROBLEM IN THE FUTURE?

Immediate Solution / Actions:

Water more frequently in smaller amounts. Water directly without sprinkler or over head water spraying gear. This will limit evaporation and get the most water to the roots. The plants will get stronger as the roots spread and reach more deeply into the soil. They will also get more of the necessary nutrients from the soil (and those added), as the roots grow and reach the plant becomes stronger. The stronger plnt will have deeper roots and greater ability to survive tough weather

HOW to MULCH  EACH PLANT ? :

If you have mulched already- how thick is it? What material did you use? What if the soils is naked now?…..What do you have to mulch with right now?
BIG MULCH QUESTION(s)- Can water flow through to the soil/roots? Does it remain damp?

You will need a BIO-degradable material and I have found cut grass to be the best option, since it is readily available, porous and lightly colored ( so it won’t get too HOT !!)

Rake up  some freshly cut grass ( or use the grass catcher when cutting)  and spread it  around the base of each plant or along the rows. Strive for a 2-4 inch layer of grass . May build up to 4 inches over 2 or 3 lawn mowing efforts.  give each newly mulched plant a bit of water to fix the grass in place and to start the process.

Mulch will serve a few purposes- 1) keep the ground cool   2) break down for soil amendment and BIGGIE 3) will help soil hold the water and keep it with the plant and roots.

Other mulch materials- chopped leaves (if whole- runner through mower), pine needles, shredded paper mixed with leaves or grass [don’t shred

LEAVES OF GRASS

] , wood chips, saw dust, or compost.

https://twitter.com/martyroddy

Be a Real Cheapskate – Grow Your own Fertilizer Part 2

In an earlier post Comfrey was the garden partner for grown fertilizer. In this post, Stinging Nettles ( Urtica dioica ) will be discussed. Stinging nettles are also a valuable food source as a dark leafy green it is a nutritional powerhouse in the kitchen as well as the garden.

     How to Use as Fertilizer:
1. Carefully harvest the leaves and stems (avoid roots and seeds)with snippers and gloves or in large patches use a scythe( pick up with fork or gloves. They are called STINGING Nettles for a good reason.
2. Fill a bucket or barrel with the harvested leaves and greenery, top completely with water and COVER for 2 weeks
3. After 2 weeks you will have a potent mixture loaded with – iron, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, copper and chlorophyll.
4. Removed most of the remaining solids and add to compost pile or spread around plants as a potent mulch.

Nettles are often considered a weed and may grow with abundance , over-reaching your need as fertilizer and food. they my be harvested and placed in compost piles and bins. They add a potent energizer to the compost
                                 Using the new PLANT FOOD ***
This mix will be highly concentrated and should be used in a 1/8 -1/10 mixture. In a gallon of water add approximately 2 cups of nettle tea.
Spread on the garden every every 2 weeks during or before a planned watering or rainfall

NETTLES ARE A VALUABLE FOOD SOURCE.

They are loaded with vitamins and minerals and rival the ever popular kale, spinach and collards in nutritional content. Nettles must be cooked or steamed before eating to eliminate the needles. They can be used in smoothies and there are many popular Green Smoothie recipes.
Nettles also make a delicious and potent Tea. Dry the leaves in a warm dry room or spread on cookie sheets in oven at lowest setting for several hours. Chop/grind the dried leaves and store until brewed.

https://twitter.com/martyroddy

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
MEDICINAL USES-
http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/comfrey-medicinal-uses-zmaz92jjzshe.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfrey

https://twitter.com/martyroddy

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