Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Composting for Beginners

image We all like to fertilize our gardens. It sort of makes us feel good, like in some small way we helped our budding plants become the bountiful harvest we always knew they could be if they just set their minds to it.  And we also like to do things we think are good for the environment.  Composting lets us do both.

Not only is composting a great way to dispose of yard clippings, leaves, and food waste in an environmentally friendly way, it also provides your plants with a virtual buffet of beneficial nutrients and increases your soil’s water-holding capacity.  It can even enhance your plant’s ability to ward off insects and disease.  Plus if you have children or grandchildren, it makes for a fun and interesting at-home science project.  And it’s not nearly as hard to start a simple compost pile as what you might think.

First you need to make a house for your compost.  Now compost isn’t finicky about its surroundings.  It’s just as happy in a store bought bin as it is in a homemade bin.  You can make a simple, inexpensive bin from welded wire, chicken wire, or even plastic garden fencing.  Just make a circle or square of 3 to 4 feet in diameter with the building material of your choice and make sure the ‘walls’ of your compost’s new home are at least 3 to 4 feet high.

Next, add some ingredients.  You can start with something easy like brown leaves, sticks, or plants that have passed their prime.  Then throw in kitchen scraps, grass clippings, chopped leaves, or other dead plants as they become available.  Every so often, add some water.  Not enough to make a swimming pool mind you, just enough to keep your compost pile moist, like a wet sponge.

Some people like to mix their compost piles every so often.  This is optional.  Compost piles will naturally break down on their own, but mixing them does help to move things along.  If you are the mixing type, invest in a pitchfork to help you shake things up.

Your compost is ready when you can no longer tell what the original ingredients are.  If your compost matures before you’re actually ready to use it, make sure you cover it to keep any rain from stealing away those nutrients you worked so hard to obtain.

And it’s that easy!  A treat for your garden and a good deed for the environment all in one!

Lacey created a compost pile last year that was a huge success.  The compost pile picture featured above is hers.  She says layering your compost pile with ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ makes all the difference in the world.  Browns are dry materials like dead plants, brown leaves, pine needles and small sticks.  Greens are your wetter materials like fresh grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Now, I know you’re just as ready as I am to start your very own compost pile this year, but before you go, keep these dos and don’ts in mind….

Do Add
– leaves hay and other dead plant material
– fruit and veggie trimmings
– herbicide-free grass clippings
– paper or cardboard (torn in small palm sized pieces)

Don’t Add
– meat scraps
– fatty, salty, or sugary foods
– chips and/or sawdust from treated wood
– manure from omnivores (humans, dogs, cats, etc.)

Ok, I think you’re ready!  Happy Composting!!!

January Garden To Do List

Here are a few items you need to do to prepare your garden in January if you want to get an early start on your plantings:

Plan your garden – What do you want to grow?  Are there any new varieties you want to try?  Where are you going to get your plants?

Order your seeds if you plan on growing your vegetables from seed.

Have your soil tested and add any recommend amendments to the soil as you prepare it (plow in the additives like lime etc.).  Your local county extension office can do the soil test for you.

If you use compost, now is the time to work it into your soil.

For those of you with limited space, now is the time to build any raised beds or square foot gardens if you plan on utilizing either this spring.  For more on square foot gardening check out this book and this book review.

square-foot-gardening-system-urbangardencasual

Lacey’s Garden – Compost Pile

Yay!  Sunshine…long time, no see, old friend!   The sun is out!  Doesn’t it feel good?  I worked in the yard and garden all day yesterday (Monday, May 18).  It was marvelous, and I am sunburned, but who cares?  

Have I told you about my compost pile?  It is looking real good.  I started with hay and kitchen scraps and rabbit poop; it was doing good, but it really started cooking when I added grass clippings.  All of the information I am reading says to layer brown and green to get the best mix.  They are right.  It made a huge difference when I added the green grass clippings.  I have been turning it every week.  It smells good and the worms are going crazy.  There are worms as big around as my fingers in there!   I have never been this excited about watching stuff decompose. 

I planted some radishes and buckwheat yesterday.  Both are supposed to germinate quickly and provide some cover to the soil as weed control and water retention.  Buckwheat also is a green manure adding nutrients to the soil.  I planted them in places that were once covered with the hay and mulch that washed away in the floods. 

So long for now and let me know how your garden is doing.  I love to hear about your gardening!