Posts Tagged ‘how to grow’

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!!!

Growing Lettuce

lettuce7 While lettuce is not an item in our Charley’s Vegetables line, it has an honorary position as an easy-to-grow early season vegetable.

Lettuce is a hardy annual that can tolerate light frosts and can be easily grown from seed or transplants. Lettuce need sunny locations early but can tolerate some shade and as the days get warmer, more shade is better. Sunlight combined with warm summer temperatures usually make the lettuce bitter. Lettuce grow best when the day temperatures are between 60-70 degrees F and when planted in well-drained soil that is kept evening moist with light watering.

Leaf lettuce is the most popular type of lettuce grown by gardeners, but you can also grow iceberg, butterhead, and romaine lettuce.

Sow leaf lettuce in rows with 10-20 seeds per foot and space rows about 12” apart. Thin out seedlings after sprouting to a spacing of 6” apart. If transplanting, plant individual plants 6” apart. For head lettuce plant 12-18” apart. Lettuce can be planted in between other crops that shade the lettuce during the heat of the day.

Lettuce has shallow roots so cultivate or hoe shallow to keep the weeds down. Overwatering can cause disease problems, and any overhead watering should be done in the morning to allow the foliage time to dry. Mulching is also beneficial since it keeps the leaves off the ground and the soil cool.

Generally, lettuce should be planted and enjoyed in the spring then abandoned when the it gets hot and the taste gets bitter.

Lettuce mature between 40-80 days depending on the variety.

Harvest leaf lettuce when the plants reach 5-6” tall. Harvest the older outer leaves first.  Harvest bibb lettuce when the leaves begin to cup inward. Harvest romaine lettuce when when the leaves have overlapped and formed a tight head that is about 4” wide and 6” tall. Crisphead lettuce is ready to harvest when a head is formed that looks like head lettuce in the grocery store.

Click here for more information on growing lettuce from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office.