Archive for the ‘compost’ Category

Autumnal snippets Friday, October 15th, 2010

What are you doing this weekend? Besides hunting.

Me, well

  • Raking – I do it more for fun and exercise – we like to fill a couple Halloween leaf bags for decoration. We still don’t have any trees more than 7 years old so we don’t get a lot for leaves except what blows over from the neighbors or the park across the street. But I am surprised to see that the meager amount has increased a bit – a sure sign our trees are growing up!
  • Starting to put away tools – clean off dirt, drag them through the oil and sand bucket to keep rust away.
  • Cleaning up leftover garden debris – cleanliness keeps disease away from next years plants. Rake it up and dispose of it – especially if you had any problems this year with mildews, blights, rusts or bacteria. Don’t put these back in your compost.
  • After the garden plot is cleaned up – turn the soil. Autumn is one of the best times to turn the soil – come spring, after snow and ice have packed it down a bit – it will still be easier to work with than if you didn’t. Add leaves while turning to lighten up your soil – great addition for heavy clay like we have around here.
  • Getting out for a walk. Listening to the crunch of leaves and the fleets of birds heading south and enjoy these ridiculously beautiful days that we’ve been having – they won’t last forever.
Bale out Monday, October 11th, 2010

Having forgone lawn treatments this year and needing some major weed control I’d been wanting to get some straw bales. So far this seemed one of the best options. We’ve had a host of issues with other cheap, reuse/recycle strategies:

  • Newsprint – trying to lay this down in normal S.D. weather means the neighbors get a free subscription. If you don’t wet it or lay stones on it immediately the wind sweeps it right away.
  • Cardboard – have to dissect a cardboard box from tape, labels and then over lap them is difficult. Also difficult is cutting through them when you want to plant and forget trying to do a seed bed and use them for weed barrier. There is one place they work fairly well and that’s on paths. They are usually the right width and heavier than newsprint so they don’t readily blow away.
  • Grass clippings – these work pretty well but can mat-down so solidly that water simply runs off them. If you use any time of weed killer or fertilizer these can affect the plants you lay your clippings on. Fresh clippings can suck up the nitrogen from the ground as they break down. Depending on the time of year and how often you mow you might also end up with lots of weed seeds you are now sowing into your veggie or flower bed. Use them in your compost – with turning and proper heat it should kill most weed seeds and break the clippings down so they can release their nutrients.
  • Leaves – I do love leaves for amending soil but they aren’t good mulch – they work much better if dug into soil to lighten it up. If left on top they generally blow away. I have taken a bag of leaves (usually decorative pumpkin one) and after the holiday I’ve placed them directly on top of less-hardy plants to over winter them. Works wonders. Come spring just empty the bag into your compost or (for shame) haul away.
  • Hay – has a wealth of seeds and you’ll end up introducing very invasive, native pasture weeds. I used one bale and now have a bad problem with the sticky grass tails that embed themselves so badly in certain materials that I’ve had to throw clothes away.

For some reason straw (dried plant stalks) doesn’t have the problem hay does. A bale tends to break easily into 3-4″ layers that mostly stay put with a breeze (do not fluff it, leave it in its self-made layers when you lay it down) the weight and tightness help it stay put. It lets moisture in readily but impedes the evaporation process from heat and wind. It also keeps soil temps more moderate.It doesn’t look bad like newsprint and scruffy cardboard – if you want to get crazy (ha!) throw the straw over the newsprint our cardboard for extra weed protection. Our initial use will be to mulch the garlic The Hub put in, we should have a bumper crop next year.

We picked up 4 bales at the local farm/supply store and they were a mere $3.99 a bale and they were loaded for us.

Garrrrrlic! and autumn ramblings Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sorry folks – too much work and none of it in the garden as of late. But, BUT, The Hub got his first garlic bulbs in – I told him we still had some ordered bulbs on the way but he was determined to plant some by the light of the Harvest Moon. We saved one good bulb of cloves from this last meager harvest so that’s what he stuck in the garden. This is possibly based on some principles from the idea of biodynamic gardening. But that’s another post at another time.

The garlic we ordered came in today – both varieties are hardneck. My mother gave me, basically, one tip: follow the directions. This calls for high nitrogen fertilizer (think lawn feed) and bonemeal (phosphorus) to be added at planting time. A good amount of hummus and fluffy, compost rich soil doesn’t hurt. So I’ll need to pick some of that up tomorrow in hopes I, or The Hub, can finish this last bit of fall planting. The Hub also plans on taking down the garden this weekend but I’m skeptical, we’ll see. It’s time to get the last hopeful tomatoes off the vines and cook up or store what pumpkins are left and gather those last few seeds to seed the dreams of next spring

Mom’s all ears Monday, August 9th, 2010

My mother and father did their most intensive veggie garden bed yet, this year. I’m not talking every veggie under the sun, but moreso the care they took with amending the soil (compost, peat, garden soil), laying down weed barrier (cardboard), mounding the beds so they are naturally raised and planning and thinning and staking and watering and . . .  It’s a lot of work they put into it but they are now reaping the returns.

A couple weekends ago I helped my mom wrangle anther level onto her tomato cages. It was like (my new favorite phase) wrangling PJs onto an octopus. They were huge and loaded with green ‘gold’ just aching to turn ripe yellows, burgundies, reds and purples. And, the corn, ugh I’ve tried to grow corn a couple years and had 1 raggedy looking ear to show for it. But my mother’s are towering over her, golden tassles whispering the wind’s directions. It goes to show, if you put in the work can get huge rewards.

Bedding down Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

raised garden beds

It’s June 1 and most of the garden is in. The Hubs is supposed to turn a corner of it yet for squash, pumpkin and beans.

In the 3 raised beds:

  1. Onions (Vidalia & Walla Walla?), buttercrunch head lettuce, Okra and soybean (edamame).
  2. Tomatoes, 8 (or whatever seedling survivors I had), purple basil, globe basil, parsley seeds.
  3. Peppers, 6 (some hot, some not?), with a little room leftover to plant . . . ?

The other ground level part of the garden has potatoes (red and yellow), watermelon, cucumber, louffa gourd and a couple volunteer squash/pumpkin (it’s fun to see what makes it through on Mother Nature Alone).

It my daughters bed we’ve been able to harvest radishes and a few salads worth of spinach. The sweet peas, chard and carrots are coming up too, along with a few more heads of buttercrunch.

What I’m concentrating on this year:

  • Weeding a little every day. My scuffle hoe is the best with little weeds, it just scrapes them to smithereens.
  • Sowing, planting in succession. Staggering planting times helps stagger harvest times too.
  • Thinning. Hadn’t done a lot in the past but it really helps with plant health, shape, harvest and weeding. So I’ve kept a buffer zone in between plants.
  • Turning the compost. I usually go with a long composting schedule – I just let it lay and only use it once a year. This year I’m trying to increase its turnover by actually turning it. The better circulation increases it’s breakdown speed.
When something ‘fishy’ is good Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

A recent comment spurred this post. Fish can be good in the garden. A reason to leave it out of the compost pile is because of smell and how it’d lure scavengers and flies. That said, I do add shrimp tails to my compost with little ill effect.

How to use fish properly – most recently (last summer we buried our beloved pufferfish under our newly planted larch. He’d met an early demise (though +7 years old) and so the larch marks his resting place.

Burials aside, when I was growing up I had an uncle or two who would go ‘smelting’. Smelt is a smaller, slender fish that (think anchovy-ish), I believe, have an annual ‘gathering’ of sorts and smelters net them while they are gathering at the waters edge. The uncle(s) would then give some to my father who would always bury them a couple inches under our pumpkin and squash seeds. Because they were immediately buried, we never had any type of maggot problem and seemed to have good luck with our produce. So, go ahead and bury in the heads and skeletons, staying away from the overly fleshy parts, in your garden soil. Skeletons (and shells of shrimp/lobster/crayfish) of fish contain high levels of calcium and other trace minerals that enrich the soil naturally – much better in my book than any synthetic fertilizer.

Earth Day: Yes you can Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Make a difference . . .

  • Buy local products – less travel = less energy
  • Plant a tree – help clean CO2 from the air
  • Pick up litter
  • Walk or ride your bike
  • Buy earth-friendly products
  • Opt for basic cleaners – vinegar, lemons, baking soda, etc. all are more environmentally friendly cleaners, they do a great job both cleaning and deodorizing, plus they are quite often cheaper
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – if you haven’t been recycling up to this point, now is a great time to start
  • Update an appliance with an earth-friendly one, but only if this appliance is not repairable
  • Take advantage of this weekends FREE SPRING CLEANUP in Aberdeen
  • Buy, and eat, whole foods – better for you and the environment
  • Eat at home – same as above
  • Use reusable grocery bags
  • Shut off your furnace and grab a blanket – unplug, switch off, shutdown and grab a book, board game or head outside
  • Use more organic methods of weed/insect/pest control/fertilizer – insecticidal soap, hand-pulling (bonus exercise), bone meal, fish emulsion
  • Start your own compost – less being thrown into the trash and free food for your plants
  • Reuse branches and scrap wood for raised beds or trellis – instead of buying new
  • Buy from a secondhand store
  • BE A GOOD EXAMPLE AND PASS ALL OF THIS ONTO A CHILD
Monday, February 15th, 2010

YARD AND GARDEN EXPO
MARCH 13, 2010
RAMADA INN & CONVENTION CENTER
ABERDEEN, SD

Registration—8:45 A.M. Registration fee- $5

THIS YEAR’S TOPICS

  • 9:00 A.M.:  PRESERVING YOUR HARVEST – Marjorie Zastrow, SDSU Extension Educator—FCS
  • 10:15 A.M. TREE AND SHRUB PRUNING MADE EASY – Aaron Keisz, Aberdeen City Forester
  • 11:15 A.M. HARDSCAPING-PATIO PAVERS & RETAINING WALLS – Jerry Mattern
  • 1:00 P.M. TIPS FOR DIVIDING AND MOVING PERENNIAL PLANTS – Glenda Oakley, Extension Master Gardener
  • 2:00 P.M. SMALL COMMERCIAL GARDEN, MAKING/USING COMPOST – George Piper, Extension Master Gardener
  • 3:15 P.M. FLOWER ARRANGING – Cindy Carlson and Renita Kainz, Lily’s Floral Design & Gifts

EXHIBITORS
Angerhofer Concrete Products; Beadles Floral and Nursery; Gary’s Engine and Repair; Harvest Garden Center; Lily’s Floral Design and Gifts; Parkview Nursery; Boston Fern; RDO Equipment; Scentsy; The Happy Gardener; Prairie Partners Master Gardeners

HOSTS
Prairie Partners Master Gardeners
South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service