Friday, July 30, 2010

Planning A Compost Bin

Planning A Compost Bin


Get rich compost in as little as two weeks! Learn how to build and maintain a compost pile! Great compost the easy way! There are many reasons to compost. Of course, the rich compost is wonderful for plants. Composting is also a way to recycle organic waste.

A compost pile can be elaborate or it can be inexpensive and simple. The time devoted to making compost is directly related to how fast compost is made. The more time spent, the faster the results.

When the compost pile has the proper balance and is turned every three days, rich compost can be made in as little as two weeks! Composting can be done with or without a bin. If a bin is used, it should be at least three feet square and three feet high. At that size, it can retain adequate heat and moisture, but not allow the material to be so heavy as to crush out the air that is necessary to composting.

A compost pile is not made up of just anything. To create compost, a group of microorganisms must be allowed to flourish. They will interact with each other to make the compost, so their proper balance is crucial.

Some things decay faster than others. For example, kitchen waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, break down quickly. Cardboard pieces and tree branches rot very slowly.

The microorganisms that will break down the materials in the compost pile require a certain balance of nitrogen (or protein) and carbon (or carbohydrates).

Waste products that are high-nitrogen include, fruit and vegetable peelings, seeds and grass clippings. Nitrogen-rich materials are usually green vegetation. Animal waste is also high in nitrogen.

High-carbon materials are usually dry and tough plant parts, such as leaves, paper, tree branches and straw.

The ideal balance for composting is 20 parts carbon to one part nitrogen.

The two other necessary elements of composting are moisture and oxygen.

The pile should be kept damp, but not wet. If the compost pile smells bad, it is probably too wet and it may not be getting enough oxygen.

The pile must be turned at least every three days to keep it oxygenated.

An ammonia-type smell indicates too much nitrogen.

Never add meat, animal fats, bones nor anything synthetic to the compost pile.

[...]

  1. Layer your materials, either in a bin or just on the ground. Keep the carbon/nitrogen ratio as close to 20:1 as possible. Once the pile is "working," do not add more material unless you need to remedy an imbalance.
  2. Turn the pile every third day. Bring the material from the inside to the outside and from the bottom to the top.
  3. If the material is not damp, sprinkle it lightly with water.
  4. After a couple turnings, the pile should steam when you turn it. This tells you the microorganisms are at work.
  5. If you notice any "off" smell, determine the problem: too much nitrogen, too much moisture, etc., and correct the situation.
  6. The interior pile temperature should reach 150 degrees F after about a week to 10 days. A lower reading means the pile needs more nitrogen.
  7. At the end of about two weeks, the temperature of the pile will drop. This indicates the compost is done.

[...]


Now, the above method takes two weeks. What if you don't want to put so much effort into making compost? Easy!

  1. Layer the materials in a bin or on the ground. Try to get the carbon/nitrogen ratio close to 20:1.
  2. Sprinkle the pile with water.
  3. Don't do anything else!


In about a year or so, check the pile by turning it. You will find rich compost!

Without any help at all, the microorganisms will make rich and wonderful compost! So, you can make compost in two weeks, or allow nature to do it for you! Either way, composting is a great way to recycle waste into a good garden supplement!

Happy Composting!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Compost, A Valued Commodity You Can Create

Compost, A Valued Commodity You Can Create


How to create a compost "heap" to help the environment and your garden. Compost, also known as humus and affectionately known as "black gold" by gardeners, is a substance that is quite simply rotten. Perhaps the term decayed is better but the truth of the matter is that compost is just decaying natural materials.

Now the primary materials used in composting are the ingredients used to make this black gold. Other materials can vary by choice or by cost. It can be as simple as a heap in the back corner of the yard to a bin that holds all materials above ground to units that rotate and spin, mixing materials with just a crank of a handle. Deciding which style unit will be right for you will probably require a trip to your local home center.

So many things to consider what kind? Does it fit into the budget? What is it made of? The biggest question is probably the materials it's made of. If its wood, it will need to be redwood or pressure treated lumber. Something that is not going to rot as well, or rust like metal will. But by far the most durable units are made of plastic resins. They won't rot or rust and with the proper care, will long be a part of your gardening equipment.

Now, the unit itself will have to provide a certain amount of ventilation and will have to be accessible enough to allow the addition of water when necessary. A variety of designs exist and you can even select a model or build one to match existing structures on the property.

Back to the primary ingredients. What will be important to remember is that only natural biodegradable ingredients should be used. Grass clippings, leaves, any other yard trimmings and even certain kitchen scraps can be added. Coffee grounds, egg shells (if they are rinsed off) and vegetable scraps are good. Even newspapers if they are printed with soy or other natural ink can be used.

One point should be made about what NOT to put in the compost pile. Do not add any kind of animal products to your compost like bacon or cooking grease, scraps or anything of the sort. Fats and meats will attract vermin and create more of a problem; also they host bacteria that are not good for your garden or you, if you consume the vegetables grown in it.

Now, to the compilation of the compost. In starting, you will need to add the ingredients in layers; it's the simplest way to start. For example, you finished mowing the lawn, and rather than throwing the clippings in the garbage, spread them evenly across the bottom of your "heap". You can add leaves as you rake them from your yard or if you can add wood chips (the smaller the better), spread them all out and keep adding the natural debris until you have a sizable amount. Be wary of adding certain types of weeds to the compost though, if they flowered and have seeds they may end up in this fertile soil in your garden.

In adding kitchen scraps, add them as they are collected. Don't worry about getting enough scraps to get an even layer. That can be an odorous proposition! If you are going to add newspaper, shred them first so they will break down faster. You can do this by hand or use a simple leaf shredder as well. Layering gives the pile texture, allows a certain amount of airflow and as contents decay, it will leave portions of nutrients, which later will be mixed throughout.

After several weeks of layering and adding water every couple of days, depending upon where your "heap" is located (full sun, partial sun, shade) the bottom layers will have begun the process of breaking down. Now it's time to "toss the salad".

Turning the compost pile is a required action. This will aerate the heap and mix in the organisms that aid in the breakdown process. Just mix it all in from top to bottom. Now is the time you can add certain items, if you so desire, like lime, or perhaps cow manure or other fertile organic matter. You can even add sand if your garden has a clay-like consistency or vice versa. Since you need to mix it in anyway, why not add it now, its called amending the soil or giving it the correct items it needs for change.

Now after a time most debris will be broken down and you will be able to "amend" your garden soil with your own homemade compost. Some people use two smaller compost pile rather than one big one so they can alternate… load up one pile while using the other so they will always have a fresh supply of "black gold".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ingredients for Compost

How To Compost


Learn how to compost with this easy guide.The benefits of adding compost to your garden are miraculous! Compost is a substance that has the magical ability to improve any soil. The rich black crumbly loam is chock-full of nutrients and good bacteria that has the ability to protect your crops from disease as well as pests.

Making your own compost is easy, great for the environment, and extremely gratifying. Compost is made when plant materials are broken down into dirt. Some people call the process "cooking", because proper compost will generate some heat as the material ferments and rots.

It's a myth that compost will attract unwanted animals such as rats or raccoons. Proper compost will only have an earthy smell and will not attract unwanted dinner guests.

A compost container can be constructed out of a variety of inexpensive materials. A quick compost container from an old plastic trash can with the bottom cut off is a great place to start. Another option is to construct a compost container out of five wooden pallets. Lay one pallet on the ground and four pallets for the walls. Use a power drill to screw it all together. Another simple compost bin can be made from chicken wire or any kind of wire fencing. A 10-foot piece can be made into a cylinder. Use wire to hold it together.

The best place to compost is in a sunny, out of the way location, preferably close to your garden.

Now comes the fun part! Fill your compost container with lots of good stuff. The key to successful composting is variety. Too much of one kind of material will take longer to break down. You will produce compost faster if you remember to layer the material. Sprinkle a shovel full of topsoil between each layer then spray with water before adding another layer.

Ingredients for wonderful rich compost:
  • Bark (shredded)
  • Blood meal
  • Bone meal
  • Coffee grounds
  • Corncobs
  • Egg shells (rinsed)
  • Fruit peelings
  • Grass clippings (dry or fresh)
  • Hay
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust
  • Spoiled fruits and vegetables
  • Straw
  • Tealeaves
  • Vegetable peelings
  • Weeds from your garden

Only add plant products to your compost! NEVER add materials that come from animals such as bones, meat, pet manure, cheese, eggs and grease. These items will attract animals and will not make good compost.

Check your compost after a week. It should feel warm. If its not cooking yet, try mixing in some 'browns and greens'. In the gardening world, 'browns' are considered dead material like dead dry leaves, shredded dead twigs. Anything that crackles is a 'brown'. 'Greens' are anything that is fresh and green. Fresh grass clippings are great because they are extremely active.

Mixing the 'browns' with the 'greens' is an effective way to get that compost to cook. If after a week your compost still hasn't generated any heat, then try adding nitrogen. This is incredibly easy, its simple household ammonia, one cup to a gallon of water. Pour the solution into the compost, and it WILL cook. Using a pitchfork or a shovel stir up the compost every couple of weeks or so.

Keep a coffee can with a lid under your sink in the kitchen. Whenever you have to peel a fruit or vegetable throw the waste into the coffee can. Put your coffee grounds in the can. Every night after dinner dump the day's worth of kitchen waste into the bin.

If you begin a compost pile in early spring, by the time August rolls around you should have enough compost to start using in your garden. Okay, so you have all this wonderful black gold, what do you do with it? Try spreading around all of your crops a half inch thick. The bacteria in the material will combine with the dirt that's there and actually grow and multiply. The compost will actually improve the soil. If your soil has too much clay, the compost will bring it into balance. Is your soil too acidic? The compost will bring it into balance. Any problem your soil has will eventually be 'healed' by the addition of compost.

Adding compost to a garden will produce stronger and more bountiful crops. The addition of compost will even help to protect your crops from unwanted pests and molds.

Spread the compost in your favorite flower gardens, berry patches and even in orchards. If spreading compost around trees, it's important to spread it even with the tree's branches. This will protect the tree's leaves from parasites. Compost can even be added to your lawn spreader. Sprinkling a lawn with compost will benefit your grass the same way that it would benefit your garden crops.

There have been extensive studies on the benefits of compost and it has been proven that the addition of compost on a regular basis will eliminate the need for pesticides or fertilizers. The uses of compost are boundless, just try composting and see if it isn't worth the effort!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How To Compost

How To Compost


How to compost: rich organic compost is a key step in a vital garden. Experienced gardeners refer to compost as "black gold"; most others would look at how it's made and say "trash". Call it what you want, if you want to have a wonderful garden, you have to compost. It doesn't take anything but a little time, and the dividends it pays are enormous. Compost can be used as an organic fertilizer, mulch, and to start your seedlings and it doesn't cost a thing. A compost pile is a stack of organic material that is allowed to rot. Once this material completely breaks down, it forms rich vitamin packed soil.

The first thing to do is select the area where you want to house your compost pile. Although a properly maintained compost pile will not smell or attract animals, it will be around for awhile, so you may want to keep this in mind when locating the pile. There are several ways to stack the compost. You can heap it into a stack, or you can build a three-sided bin to store it. Garden supply catalogs also sell a variety of compost bins. Use whatever you prefer. Once you have decided where you want your stack and how you are going to store it, start building. The compost stack consists of any organic matter. Use lawn clippings (pesticide/ herbicide free), leaves, twigs and other lawn waste, as well as the vegetable scraps from your kitchen. Also from your kitchen, add eggshells and coffee grounds. Once you begin your stack, you should keep adding to it and "stir" it with a shovel periodically. The more often you turn it, the quicker it composts. The optimum size for your compost pile is around four feet square.

If it is much larger, it will take a lot longer to compost, and if it is too small, it will not generate enough heat to compost. If you generate a lot of clippings and waste you may want to have two compost piles, one with your fresh compost, that you add to and stir, and the other of finished compost that you use in the garden.

So how do you know when your compost is ready to go to the garden? After it is complete, the compost will be dark brown, or black, crumbly and moist. It will not have any discernible ingredients, with the exception perhaps of a stray eggshell, which are slow to compost, but excellent for your plants. This can take anywhere from three months to one year, depending on a variety of factors. How often you stir the pile, its exact composition, and the weather all play important factors. There are products available on the market that add to the speed that your pile will compost, and many old gardeners swear by pouring a bottle of cheap beer over the stack occasionally. These methods may help, and certainly couldn't hurt, but they are also not necessary.

Once your compost is ready, what do you do with it? Use it as mulch around your vegetables and flowers, or work it into the soil around each plant. You can also use it as a potting mix, as it retains water very well. Once your compost is ready, use it! Your garden will thank you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How To Build A Compost

How To Build A Compost


Learn how to build a compost! The materials are in your very own yard. The results of it's use will grow fantastic flowers and vegetables. Compost is a valuable, free resource; it is used to increase the granular effect of garden soil. Trimming from your trees, leftover grass from a mown lawn, and old veggies are all worth throwing in the compost heap. Compost is actually decomposed plant material mixed with soil. By increasing this organic matter in the soil, gardens will grow stronger and will more successfully be able to withstand drought conditions. The high organic content will grow wonderful vegetables, fruits, flowers, and lawns. The soil will be better able to hold water and improve the productivity of gardens and flowers.

Composting is fairly easy and cheap and can yield a valuable substance called humus (natural fertilizer) that can be returned to the soil with great results, or used as mulch. Here's how to set up a compost pile.

Compost Bin:
You can go to great lengths and expense, or you can mix your compost on the ground. If you plan on using and producing compost on a regular basis, you may want to consider building a permanent bin. There are many commercial compositors, or you could construct your own. These vary from concrete blocks to chicken wire and wooden planks. Snow fencing makes a good and simple bin.

Location should be in an out-of-the-way place. You will need to be close to water. It could be hidden with vines that flower or annuals. A partial shade is best as full sun may cause too much drying. Four things must be present in order to cause decomposition in a compost pile: nitrogen, water, oxygen, and soil. There are microorganisms in the soil that decompose the plant material.

In order to create just the right mixture for decomposition, a variety of materials should be added:
  • Leaves
  • Shredded paper
  • Hedge clippings
  • Sawdust
  • Food scraps from the kitchen
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Banana peels
  • Apple peels and cores
  • Coffee grounds
  • Poultry, cow, and horse manures
Start with a layer of plant material and then follow with garden topsoil. A small amount of commercial fertilizer as a top dressing should be added to each layer to provide nitrogen. Do not add animal fats and bones; they do not compost well and will attract animals. Avoid diseased plant material and weeds that have gone to seed.

You will need to keep the pile moist; the decomposing heap should feel somewhat like a damp sponge. Regularly add water to keep the compost soggy. The compost pile will generate heat and will reach a constant temperature of 150 to 170 degrees.

For rapid decomposition, the pile should be turned consistently to supply aeration (oxygen). As you frequently turn the pile, the heat will build; turn from the inside out.

Making compost quicker:
  • Chop or shred materials.
  • Turn about once a week, adding some water each time.
  • Add barnyard manure.
  • Add more nitrogen by adding nitrogen fertilizer to the pile.

A well-maintained compost heap is ready in about 2-4 months. The finished product will be dark brown and have a smell of earth. The key is to be diligent in your care; turn as required, add moisture, and shred materials if possible.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Organic Plant Food

Organic Plant Food


Organic plant food saves money, and your plants. Try using these free gardening fertilizers!
Whether you have killed your plants with kindness or have a truly green thumb, there is something in this article for you. Most plant fertilizers are toxic if not used precisely, and it is difficult to get the treatment right if you are not extremely knowledgeable about plants. Even if your houseplants love you, it can be frustrating, time consuming, and expensive to keep up with their care. Read on for a few ideas on how to nourish your plants with your leftovers, and watch your potted friends prosper!

Coffee grounds:
Just about all plants love coffee, and they will not get anxious from the caffeine! You were going to throw out those coffee grounds? Sprinkle cooled grounds at the base of your plants instead. It is great for the soil, helps keep moisture in, and presents a pleasant scent and fine dark appearance in the pot. If you do any outside gardening, be sure to put all of your coffee grounds in the compost pile. If you do not compost, just apply the cooled grounds directly to the base of your plants. This is a great secret of professional gardeners and talented amateurs everywhere.

Vinegar:
Did you think there were only three hundred used for vinegar? Here is one more. Many flowering plants do not only thrive, but require the pH balance that vinegar can produce. Research which of your plants can be helped by this home remedy based on the soil type they prefer. Then add tiny amounts of vinegar to houseplants. Their soil should be well balanced when they are potted, so they should not need much help to remedy it. Outdoor plants can benefit much more from vinegar. If you have not yet had a soil composition study done on your garden, scoop up some dirt and take it to your local nursery. Many nurseries will perform this service free, and then you will know exactly what kind of help your plants need.

Cooking water:
If you boil any vegetables or beans, your plants are craving what you pour down the drain. Whenever you cook food in a large amount of water, many of the vitamins and minerals from your food are leached right into the water. You will know this is true simply by observing the color of your water after you have cooked. Instead of pouring all of those nutrients and water into your sink, set it aside and let it cool. Unlike chemical fertilizers you add to water, cooking water is natural and plant based. Therefore, you do not have to worry about over medicating your plants. Be certain the water is room temperature before you use it, and water your plants with this super food instead of the usual tap water.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fertilizing Your Yard

Fertilizing Your Yard


How should you fertilize your yard to maximize the healthiness of your grass and plants?
What do you need to know about yard fertilizers? You've heard a lot about the importance of fertilizing your yard, but you've been a bit skeptical. After all, it appears on first glance that your yard is in fine condition and that it is quite healthy. So, why would you need to fertilize? Here are some tips.

Living grass and plants need certain nutrients in order to survive and remain healthy. They're kind of like humans in this regard. We need certain vitamins and nutrients in order to remain healthy. The main nutrients your lawn needs are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The amount of nutrients your grass needs varies depending on the region of the country you're in. You should consult a local plant expert to find out how much of each nutrient you should give your lawn. Standard levels of nitrogen is about four to seven pounds per 1,000 square feet each year to be applied throughout the course of the growing season.

A good rule of thumb for how much nutrients are needed in the spring months (the beginning of the growing season) are a fertilizer ratio of 4 to 1 to 2 parts of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium. In the summer, you won't need as much nitrogen, and your ratio should shift to 3 to 1 to 2. Then in the fall, you'll need more potassium to help your roots grow strong to survive the winter healthily. Your ratio at that point should be 3 to 1 to 3 parts.

Putting too much of any one nutrient can prove to be detrimental to your yard. It can lead to a build up of unwanted grass in certain areas and can cause some parts of grass to grow more quickly than others. These ratios are ideal if you want a green, healthy and even-growing yard.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Organic Gardening Tips

Organic Gardening Tips


Organic gardening tips: work with living soil using nature's methods to produce pesticide-free fruits, flowers, and vegetables in a safe environment. Organic gardening simply means gardening with methods as close to nature's own as possible to encourage the living soil to be most productive. While organic gardening is not complicated, it does require dedication and a willingness to learn. The rewards are well worth the effort. You'll be harvesting pesticide-free fruits, vegetables, and flowers while living in a safer environment.

The practice of organic gardening has two basic components. The first is soil building using naturally occurring nutrients. The second component consists of managing pests, diseases, and weeds through natural controls.

The type of soil in your garden and the types of plants you plan to grow will determine the methods you use to build soil fertility. Always test soil pH (whether it is acidic, neutral, or alkaline) before adding nutrients. Soil is made more alkaline by adding dolomite, crushed limestone, or wood ashes. If your soil is too alkaline, you can nuetralize it or make it more acidic with peat moss, pelitized sulfur, or decayed pine needles. Consult a pH preference chart to determmine the pH requirements of the plants you intend to grow. For example, broccoli, celery, cabbage, and onions prefer neutral to alkaline soil, while radishes, raspberries, potatoes, and peanuts prefer acidic soil.

Your soil will be predominantly either sandy, loamy, or clayey. If you have sandy or clay soil in your garden, you will need to add amendments to improve the soil texture. This is necessary to allow for the retention of adequate moisture and nutrients in sandy soil and to provide proper drainage in clay soil. The very best organic soil amendment is compost from your own compost bin, if available. Others include rock phosphate, greensand (which contains potash), well rotted manure, and well rotted hardwood sawdust. In addition to improving soil texture, these amendments also provide nutrients (fertilizers) for your plants. There are many kinds of organic fertilizers, from kelp and fish meal to earth worm castings and bat guano. Some organic fertilizers have high nitrogen levels and low amounts of phosphorus. Others are more balanced. Base your choice of fertilizers on the needs of the plants in your garden.

Organic gardeners use a variety of methods to control insect pests. It is very important to learn to distinguish pests from beneficial insects. If you can not identify a ladybird beetle (or ladybug) and a twelve-spotted cucumber beetle, buy an insect guide. A good example of insect management using an organic method is a Japanese beetle trap placed upwind 50 to 100 feet from a garden. Other methods to control pests include floating row covers to protect young plants, releasing lacewings and mantids as predator insects, using repellent plants such as marigolds, and spraying fruit trees with dormant oils. The most effective controls for your garden will be determined by the types of pests, the plants being grown, and the season. Consult a reliable reference.

Finally, all organic gardeners use mulch to control weeds, regulate soil moisture and temperature, and add nutrients to the soil. Use the best organic mulch available in your area, whether it's peanut hulls or shredded leaves (except maple). And happy gardening!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Making Organic Fertilizer

Making Organic Fertilizer


Making organic fertilizer is good for your plants and the environment! A rich, well-fed soil is all that most plants need to keep them growing vigorously. Few soils are naturally well fertilized so gardeners can enhance the fertility of their soils by adding organic fertilizer. Not only will organic fertilizers provide a wide array of nutrients to the soil, they encourage microbial activity, which allows the organic fertilizer to provide nutrients over a longer period of time. Unlike chemical fertilizers, the nutrients in organic fertilizers are less likely to leach away in rainwater.

In the range of organic fertilizers, gardeners are not limited to manure & compost. Although these fertilizers are abundant and easy to find, they can be the source of weed seeds and chicken & steer manure can be contaminated with antibiotics and other agrochemicals used in raising these animals. Alternatively, there are numerous other sources of organic fertilizer including alfalfa meal, canola meal, rock phosphate, bonemeal, kelp meal, and greensand. All of these fertilizers are naturally occurring but it is important to choose the right one for your plants' needs.

All of the seed meals including alfalfa, canola, and cotton meal are great sources of nitrogen. Nitrogen is necessary for healthy leaf & shoot growth. Leafy plants such as lettuce, spinach, and even corn require high amounts of nitrogen. Rock phosphate and bonemeal, on the other hand, are rich sources of phosphorus. This element encourages good root growth and is essential when growing potatoes, carrots, turnips, and radishes. Lastly, kelp meal and greensand, both full of potassium, aid in fruit and seed development and will help give a bumper crop of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash.

Not only do organic fertilizers provide these major nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, they are full of micronutrients, which are also essential to plant growth. Kelp meal, in particular, is rich with boron, calcium, sulfur, magnesium and manganese. In addition, kelp meal contains naturally occurring growth hormones, which stimulate plant growth.

It's often difficult to judge exactly what nutrients to supply unless you take a soil test. However, by combining organic fertilizers, you ensure that all the nutrients required for growth are available. A great recipe for an all-round organic fertilizer follows:

  • 4 parts seed meal (canola, alfalfa, or cotton)
  • 1 part rock phosphate (or 1/2 part bonemeal)
  • 1/2 part kelp meal or greensand

This organic fertilizer mix can be made ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. When planting in the garden, use 1/4 cup of the mix under light-feeding plants such as beans, carrots, beets, and lettuce. Use 1/2 cup of the mix under heavy-feeding plants such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, and broccoli.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Building and Rebuilding the Soil

Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is a way of building and rebuilding the soil and encouraging populations of desirable insects and birds to sustain plantings year after year. It doesn't matter if you plant food or flowers, a lawn or a grove of trees. The experience you will have working with nature to make something grow and prosper will satisfy you long after you have put the hoe back in the shed. That's the personal reward.

The planetary one is more magnanimous. Through gardening, you can actually help restore the earth in many, many ways. By favoring ivy or grass over concrete and asphalt, you replenish underground aquifers every time it rains. Because they absorb carbon dioxide, which causes global warming, every tree you plant will help cool the globe.

Maintaining a green landscape provides a safe haven for wildlife, especially the hundreds of birds whose breeding grounds are being destroyed by deforestation. And planting traditional and heirloom varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs helps reintroduce a biological diversity of seeds into the food chain.

The most "benign" way you can garden is organically. To many this means "without insecticides" period. But organic gardening is really much more than that. It's a way of building and rebuilding the soil and encouraging populations of desirable insects and birds to sustain plantings year after year.

Organic gardening works just as well on trees and flowers as on vegetables and fruits, but the need for organic approaches to food production, in particular, could not be more critical. Both the groundwater we tap for drinking supplies and our own personal health have been put at great and unnecessary risk from the application of excessive quantities of pesticides by the agriculture industry.

Whether you are a farmer, a homeowner, or someone who gardens a community plot, organic gardening lets you get the most out of your labor by causing the least amount of damage to the environment.

If you can't bear to give up synthetic chemicals altogether, you can still use less of them. Adopt a program of integrated pest management. Use intercropping to help control bugs and weeds. Rotate your crops.

What else can you do to reduce the use of toxic?

Identify the pests in your garden.
You can't eliminate a pest organically unless you know what it is. Use picture guides available from your library or county extension service, or take specimens of the pest or evidence of its damage to your county extension agent.

Try the least toxic solution.
If you can't wash the pests off the plants by spraying them forcefully with water hose, use a diluted spray of liquid soap and water, or nicotine spray (made by soaking cigarette butts in water.) If that fails, try one of the insecticidal soaps available in many hardware stores and nurseries. If you must use toxic chemicals, aim to dos so when the pests area bout to emerge. Call your local county extension agent for advice on how to keep track of insect pests.

Keep garden areas free of insect-attracting debris.
Properly store and dispose of garbage. Remove weeds promptly to prevent their scattering seeds. Fallen fruit and vegetables should be picked up, and all diseased plants or parts of plants should be removed and destroyed to prevent the spread of disease.

Attract native predatory insects and mites.
In every area of the country, thousands of native bugs consume other insect pests. For example, aphids are the main course for many valuable insects, including ladybugs, tiny parasitic wasps, and the slug-like larvae of flower flies. And fireflies feed mostly on snails, slugs and insect larvae.

Keep plants properly watered and organically fertilized.
Water should not be allowed to form pools, which can stress plants and in which mosquitoes breed.

Use your garden hose.
A direct stream of water from a garden hose can knock out many insect and mite pests in the garden.

Plant resilient varieties.

Design your garden so that it contains perennial beds or areas that remain undisturbed each year.
If possible, garden in permanent beds with sod or mulched paths between them that are not cultivated. Perennial beds and paths provide refuge for animals and insects while providing a stable habitat from year to year so populations of the beneficial animals and insects can build up.

Some safe pesticides are: insecticidal soap, soft soap, quassia, pyrethrum, copper fungicide.

If you currently rely on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, now is the time to begin the transition to chemical-free gardening.

It will probably require an "investment" of two or three years to revive your soil and start attracting the desirable bugs and birds that will control insects naturally. But as with any sound investment, the payoff will only multiply in the years to come as the bounty of your garden increases - and your bills for synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals evaporate.

Even if you can't give up all your chemicals, perhaps you can use less of them. At the very least, try some of the simple, chemical-free preventative techniques, such as mulching. You have nothing to lose, not even a plant.

It's open from March to November and can be reached by boat, train or car. There is a small admission charge and they offer several books available for purchase.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening

Organic gardening is growing and marketing health foods that have not been treated with commercial chemicals. Only natural fertilizers and pest repellents are used to qualify for the higher, health food prices. Organic gardening means growing and marketing health foods that have not been treated with commercial chemicals. Only natural fertilizers and pest repellents are used.

Natural and organically grown foods command higher prices because they cannot easily be mass-produced and generally require more TLC. Not only are natural foods more expensive, they are mandatory for people who cannot tolerate many of the chemicals commonly used by the majority of growers today. There are also many people today who feel very strongly about chemicals and are willing to pay extra for all-natural products.

The organic grower screens pests from the garden, uses insect-repelling plants (like marigolds); natural enemy insects (praying mantis, ladybugs); and natural, non-toxic pesticides to reduce crop damage. Some organic growers confine their operation to greenhouses or shade houses, where control is easier.

Natural foods include fresh fruits and vegetables; dried, frozen, or canned foods; and seeds, powders, and juices. They can be sold through health stores, directly from your garden roadside stands, or to markets in the area. It is also important to note that processed natural foods are equally as much in demand.

When advertising your organically grown produce, be sure to emphasize the "all natural" aspects, which is one of your best selling points.

Setting up to grow health foods is very much like readying a normal garden, except that you take special care to avoid the use of "forbidden" chemicals. Fertilizers are restricted to barnyard products and natural plant leftovers, which can be combined into excellent (and low cost)garden fertilizers.

In the natural food garden business, you will soon develop a routine to make your own compost almost exclusively from waste products, such as plant trimmings and fruit hulls. All plant parts that are not otherwise used (or diseased) are recycled into compost, along with other materials that you have on hand or can buy inexpensively.

The degree of isolation needed for an organic garden depends on its location. If you live in a hot area, consider a shade cloth enclosure to screen insects as well as the direct rays of a hot sun. Greenhouse enclosures are often used in the more temperate areas where frost is a consideration.

If your garden is in a relatively insect free area and not downwind from fields that are sprayed with commercial chemicals, you may need no special considerations other than some of the accepted insect deterring techniques.

Perhaps the most needed assistance for your organic garden will be compost, which is sometimes called (ironically) artificial fertilizer. The purpose is to fertilize, and simultaneously, add humus (decayed animal and plant matter) to your growing medium. Depending on the needs of your soil, it may be necessary to add specifics to attain the desired composition.

If you cannot test it yourself, take several small samples from different locations in your garden and have them analyzed. State universities and some large (especially, chain) nurseries will often provide this service at little or no charge. Call your county agriculture agent to find other sources of soil analysis (and remedial actions that may be unique to your area).

In a commercial operation, you will undoubtedly want to generate at least some of your own compost. You should have at least two compost piles so you can use one while the other is "working." One way to build an inexpensive compost box is to make an enclosure of wood and chicken wire, about 3-feet wide, 15-feet long, and 4-feet high. Use metal or treated lumber for the four corners and re-enforcing posts every 3-4 feet on the sides. There should be no bottom (just bare soil). Add the compost materials: dry leaves, grass clippings, cotton hulls, straw, fruit peelings, sawdust, vegetables, and manure (clean sacked is fine) in one-foot layers. Kitchen scraps are usually avoided because they give off odors and attract flies. Mix in a shovel full of regular garden soil here and there, along with some hybrid earthworms if available. Between layers, sprinkle well with some 8-8-8 or 5-10-5 commercial fertilizer (about a pound per square foot of compost surface). This small amount of commercial chemical doesn't count as a directly applied chemical. It speeds the decomposing action. Keep the compost pile moist and use a fork to turn and stir the material every few days to help foster decomposition. Add more clippings as the pile shrinks (decomposes).

When re-starting a compost pile, always leave a couple inches of the old compost on the ground to act as "starter". Depending on the weather and how well you take care of your compost pile, it should be "ready" in 6 to 8 weeks. Of course, if you use heavier products, such as wood that has gone through a compost machine, it will take a little longer.

Tip: If you can't afford a compost machine, put leaves and other small clippings into a clean metal garbage can and insert your weed-eater. This won't work with larger pieces, but is fine with the light material.

Another idea is to mount a barrel so it can be turned daily. Have one made with a door and good latch so it can be turned without its contents falling out. The barrel can either be mounted on rollers or have axles welded on each end and fit into receptacles on a sturdy stand.

Organic gardeners learn which insects and garden denizens are helpers and which are "bad news". Some may look bad but do a lot of good. Examples are garden snakes that eat mice and insects, spiders that eat insects, wasps that eat roach eggs and lay their eggs in insects, dragon flies, and ground beetles and caterpillars.

Here are some other beneficial creatures that eat harmful insects: praying mantis (insects and aphids), ladybugs (aphids, scales, spider mites), bees (pollination), lizards (large quantities of insects), frogs and toads (insects), pirate bugs (mites, eggs, and larvae of other insects), birds (worms, bugs), and dragonflies (flies, mosquitoes).

There are also "organic" pesticides that are used, but one must be very careful not to step over the line to toxic chemicals and lose the "organically grown" label!

As you learn more and more about organic gardening, you will discover many other tricks that work in your area. Some are iron-clad rules; others may be debatable, but in the final analysis, what works for you is best for you! Some organic gardeners NEVER plant anything in the same row twice to reduce the possibility of pests and disease.

For example: Tomatoes are especially sensitive to nematodes (root insects) as well as tomato worms. A crop of tomatoes may be followed by onions of cereal (not regular winter) rye for a winter green fertilizer (turned) under in the spring). The latter is reputed to kill nematodes, which become tangled in the thick rye roots. Many organic gardeners routinely place marigolds and other insect-repelling plants between rows and/or 5 castor beans to help repel flies and moles.

By subscribing to a good organic gardening magazine, and trial and error in your particular locale, you will soon become an expert for the products you raise.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Learning Gardening

Learning Gardening


Gardening is a skill that can be learned. Plants and flowers will grow and thrive more readily if the basics of gardening are followed. Here are the groundrules for nurturing a healthy garden. The experienced gardener will tell you that he's had his share of gardening mishaps. It's disappointing to buy a healthy plant or grow something from seed just to watch it wither away.

While some seem born with green thumbs, there are six groundrules for cultivating plants that, if followed, increase the chances for gardening success. These are: buy plants for the climate in which you live, follow planting instructions regarding sun and shade, water according to what the plant needs, give the plant the proper soil, treat for garden pests and diseases as necessary and give the plant attention.

Purchase a Plant for the Climate

Before buying any plant, make sure it will survive the climate. Primroses love the sun but will not tolerate heat. They will simply not survive hot summers. Tropical flowers and shrubs must have sun, heat and moisture. It's tempting to make an impulse purchase for something beautiful, but check first whether or not it's suited to your area.

Sun and Shade

It may sound simple, but a plant is at risk if it doesn't get enough or gets too much sun. Zinnias and daisies must have lots of sun, caladiums thrive in shade. Full sun is defined as at least four hours of direct sunlight per day.

Water
All plants do not need the same water. Bougainvillea thrives on neglect and will drop its leaves if watered too much. Impatiens won't make it without frequent watering. Yellow leaves are usually an indictor of overwatering. Find out what a plant needs and then provide it.

Soil
The soil provides the foundation for the plant's roots. While some flowers and shrubs thrive in anything, most need soil with enough nutrients and aeration to give the roots room and substance to grow heartily. Enhance dirt and clay with fertilizer, sand and vermiculite. Simply sticking a plant in the ground often will be disappointing later unless attention is paid to keeping the roots happy.
Pests and Diseases

After a plant is in the ground, there are multitudes of garden pests ready to call it dinner. Numerous products are available for combating insects, slugs and snails. If leaves begin to disappear or turn yellow or gray, take a sample to a nursery for a quick diagnosis. There are natural remedies also. For instance, crushed eggshells will deter slugs and snails and won't harm plants. Diseases which affect plants are often difficult to treat. Do what you can with the products available.

Attention
Finally, there's been much written on whether or not plants have feelings. Not to debate that point, they do as a rule respond to attention. And by watching what's going on with your garden, you're more apt to find quick remedies to problems. Though it may seem silly to talk to plants, the carbon dioxide released from breathing out is a nutrient to a plant.

These are the basics of gardening. Don't give up if you've had plants wilt on the vine. There are reasons why that happens. Learning from mistakes will help produce successes and lead to healthier plants and a happier gardener.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gardening For Beginners

Gardening For Beginners

Gardening for beginners! Basic explanation of planting flowers and vegetables. Lots of tips to boost your plants growth and blooms and a list of easy plants to grow.

You have probably told someone who enjoys gardening that they must have a "green thumb." We usually say this to mean we were not blessed with one and they must have a natural born talent for it. As a first time gardener, I can tell you it is a lot easier than you may think. With each flower you plant, you learn so much and gain confidence. You can apply this new knowledge to the rest of your flowers. There are a few exceptions, as I will point out later, but all plants require 4 things to survive: Water, oxygen, food, and some amount of sunlight.

Water is the substance of all living things and so is true with plants. When watering, it is best to do it in the morning before the afternoon heat hits. When you water in the afternoon, 2/3 of the water evaporates, leaving your plants thirsty. Watering just as evening hits is ok too, but be sure to do it before it gets too late or you leave your plants open to catching diseases and growing fungus. You should water the ground until it floods, let the soil soak it up, and then repeat once more. If your plants are not getting enough water, they will begin to look as if the leaves are shriveling on the ends. To test if your plants need more water, stick your finger in the soil, about an inch deep, and check to see if it is damp. If not, the water is not getting to the roots and you need to water again. Using a slow drip watering hose is great, but you can also use a normal hose, just don't turn the water on too much. The normal spray nozzles don't adequately soak the ground; even a watering can is better than this option.

As with humans, plants need oxygen. This may seem like an obvious thing, but most people forget this one. The plants need to get oxygen to the roots to enable them to grow and be strong. If you have them packed into soil that was not turned and aerated before hand, this might be a problem. Some plants need lots of aeration, such as azaleas, or they will not thrive. It is best to make sure you have turned the soil about 4-5 inches down from where the root structure will be. This will give them a good supply of oxygen as well as an easier time with growing into the soil. Also, when you transplant into the ground, try to loosen the roots of the plant. If you have to cut them, go ahead, but not too much. This will help the roots to spread out and your plant will be more likely grow and fill in your flowerbed.

Your plants need food in order to thrive. Not necessarily fertilizers, but the soil needs to be full of nutrients. The best way to do this is to mix organic compost into your soil as well as some topsoil. These are fairly cheap and really do help. Your plant needs this in the soil to help it grow. Vegetables need the nutrients not only to grow, but so that they produce fruit. We also want the fruit to contain vitamins for us to eat. A lot of times when a crop is planted over and over again in the same area, the soil is depleted and therefore the foods we eat are not as vitamin rich as they should be. This overgrowing in one area of a particular vegetable also ups the chances of the plant getting diseases, so be sure to rotate your vegetables every year. Using a spray-on fertilizer is also helpful to many plants, but especially vegetables. You should only use it on vegetables when they are flowering and producing fruit. This will help them to produce more blossoms, which are necessary for it to bear fruit. Certain plants require a special plant food. As an example, azaleas need their own food because they need the soil to be acidic, but you need to watch it the first growing season because too much will burn the roots.

Sunlight is the easiest ingredient for a healthy plant. Most plants require lots of sun, so they are very easy to satisfy, but there is also a group of shade loving plants as well. The easiest way to determine this is to read the labels on the plants when you buy them. They will tell you exactly how much that particular plant needs: Full sun, part sun, part shade, or shade. The only hard part is that certain climates are too hot or too cold for certain plants. Usually, the plants you see at your local nursery are a safe bet for your climate, but if you are not sure, just ask. Plants like tomatoes require a lot of sun, whereas impatiens are a shade-loving flower.

Something else you may need to know are the two main types of flowers for planting. Annuals are flowers that have one flowering season. They usually last only one year and then die. Most of these will last longer than a year if in the right climate, but generally they don't. Perennials are plants that come back every summer. They usually die down in the winter, but come back up in the springtime. These are usually harder to take care of, but well worth it since they last for years.

It is a good idea to "deadhead" your flowers. Flowers such as marigolds, petunias, impatiens, and dahlias do much better when you use pruning shears to clip off the dead bloom. This enables the other blooms to get the much needed sunlight that the dead ones were blocking as well as putting all the plant's efforts to the new blooms rather than holding onto the dying one. Petunias will spread and bloom again and again all summer if you pick the bloom as it wilts. There is no need to wait til it shrivels. Once it loses the strength to hold itself up, pick it off. Dahlias really do well with this too, but they go even a step further. If you want this plant to have larger, prettier blooms, then clip a few of the smaller buds on the same stem.

Taller plants may also need to be stalked. This is where you put a stake in and tie the plant to it for support. Sunflowers are good candidates for this. Certain vegetables need support to help hold their fruit, in which case trellises or wire cages should be used. Good candidates for this are tomatoes, peppers, and all vining plants, like beans and cucumbers. Melons and squash will do much better if left to crawl along the ground since the fruit is too heavy for the vine to sustain.

All of these rules apply to potted plants as well. The great thing about these is that you can move them to the correct climate. Many of the annuals, such as pansies, can be brought in during the winter and will bloom up until January. In fact, in some climates they will do this outdoors as well. After your first year, you will know what works for your climate, soil, and personal tastes. Here is a list of ones that I have found to be easy to maintain:

  • African Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Alyssum
  • Impatiens
  • Dahlias
  • Snapdragons
  • Verbena
  • Lobelia
  • Dianthus
  • Sunflowers (Mammoth Russian, Teddy Bear, and Chianti)
  • Morning Glories
  • Globe Amaranth
  • Coleus
  • Silver Thyme

Vegetables:

  • Tomato-all varieties
  • Peppers-all varieties
  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Pole Beans
  • Cantaloupe

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Planning A Garden

Planning A Garden


Before taking on the labor intensive job of a garden there are a few things we need to consider. How much will we use and need the food we will produce? The effort you put into your garden will be the deciding factor as to how much your garden will produce. Your space for a garden may be limited. If that is the case, the thought you put into planning it will eventually pay off. Before your hands get soiled, or before the shovel touches the soil you should have a very good picture of what it will be, in your mind’s eye.

Consider how much time do you have to dedicate and how much space do you have? If you have a large amount of ground, you should not necessarily plant the whole space; you may bite off more than you can chew. Gardening is not easy; yes it is satisfying and enjoyable but is definitely labor intensive. The amount of area you choose should be done well, and you will want to make sure you have the time. You will be getting the soil ready, mulching watering planting and weeding as long as your garden is growing. Choosing a too small area at first is better, at least you will know you can handle it, and will not have to look with disappointment at a garden that is grown over with weeds and un-kempt. If all is well the first season then increase the size the following season.

Think about the actual purpose of your garden. To what degree do you expect it to meet your food requirements? A very small 4X4 patch with tightly spaced rows and planting can provide a nice salad garden. This could be located outside your kitchen door, handy when you need a fresh salad.

The modest “soup” or summer garden will produce fresh vegetables during the growing season, leaving none for winter storage. The small plantings can be staggered to mature over a specified period.

Then there is the large garden, that meets the family’s needs during the growing season and enough will be produced to last through the winter by storing and processing. You will not visit the grocery store nearly so often, and your food will be fresh and processed according to your specifications. Vegetables such as the following examples should be planted in a large garden with an idea for storing and preserving.
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Winter squash
  • Cabbage
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Winter radishes

These vegetables can be planted twice and the second planting should be with the idea to preserve them for the winter months.
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Peas

Planting in large blocks encourages a larger amount of vegetables to mature at the same time, and makes processing easier.