Tag Archives: Composting

“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.
@martyroddy

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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

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

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 –
http://permaculturenews.org/2010/08/03/the-art-and-science-of-making-a-hugelkultur-bed-transforming-woody-debris-into-a-garden-resource/

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.
**Building
**Loading
**Planting and then long term as the wood breaks down and feeds the soil for years.

Compost bin Construction- Pig Pen gone and Compost on the Way

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New compost bin- 1st section ready, loading up

I recently helped friends start a new multi-bin composting system. The above is the way it looks now as 1 bin is ready and getting loaded. Eventually It will have 3 bins for Compost in 3 stages. (green- starting, half way and ready for the garden).

 

The footprint for the bin started the day as an old pig pen, all of the pieces have been reclaimed and many will be used in other projects around the house and yard. The old nails were too rusted and damaged to reclaim but will be sent to recycling.    

Image

Pieces and debris removed from the Pig Pen for Compost bin location.

The reclaimed HT (heat treated) wooden pallets will make a solid frame for the collection and creation of the black “gold” that will feed the garden and plants for years to come. The mountain soil in this are is very fertile but also heavy with clay. Additions of alluvial/sandy soil from the stream, leaf mold and compost will keep it strong for years to come and fertile as the garden of Eden.

There are plans to complete the full 3 bin system as well as a Hot compost drum- to speed up the process for the garden as to “spike” the other open compost bins . It will look something like this: Image   

 

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Ultimately the bins will look like this. 3 bins with a pallet base- covered by burlap coffee bean bags.

More plans and more work for the 2014 garden..