Monthly Archives: February 2009

Composting

I started composting a few years ago. I believe I have learned the hard way that not cutting your vegetation and table scraps into small pieces  and not aerating the compost will result in your composter taking a while to cook. I’ve had my composter set up for over 2 years now and I’m just now seeing some usable compost. I am a lazy composter but I am going to work at it this year. I am going to be conscious of aerating it and also about getting the right mix, as much as possible.

I have two composters and I hope to fill them to the brim this year.

There is a lot of information online that covers the basics of composting so I will not go into the “hows” of composting or even really all of the “whys”. But I will share why I compost.

One of the reasons I started to compost was because of the nagging question,  “where does all the trash go?”  Followed by contemplation and a continued nasty cycle in my head of feeling responsible and yet still not taking any action. But it was not until I had kids that I realized how important it is to teach them to take care of our earth and I did not want to just share with them verbally but I wanted to model to them the importance of being proactive in this area. Also with children it seems there is a lot more waste to dispose of so my conscience would not let me sleep at the point when the kids began to arrive. I had to move beyond contemplation and start to take responsibility for my own trash. It was a bonus that the compost can be used in my gardens.

A type of composting I have been reading more about lately and thinking about trying is Vermicomposting. Vermicompost as defined by Wikipedia , “is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by some species of earthworm. Containing water-soluble nutrients, microbes, and bacteria, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. The process of of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting.”Some friends of mine are beginning to setup up a worm farm for vermicomposting. They are I believe in the middle stages of getting it started and so I hope to buy some worms from them and get started in the near future. Their farm blog and their updates on the business are here. Check them out!
kitchen-composter

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Four Season Gardening

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When I first started to plan a vegetable garden I came across the idea of gardening all year around, in every season. This concept fascinates me! And so this year I plan to grow vegetables all year. I have 5 raised beds, the fifth one just came in the mail, and I read that you can take flexible pvc pipes and arc them over the beds thus creating a coldframe. The ends are stuck into the ground far enough down so that they are unable to move. Then a thicker plastic (or layers of plastic) is thrown over the beds and pinned down with garden stakes. When you need to water you just pull a stake out, lift up the plastic and water. When it’s time to cut some spinach for salad, just remove a stake and lift up the plastic. This year I’m going to try the plastic that is put down when you paint. It seems durable enough to stand up to snow and cold temperatures. I would love to hear what others do if you grow vegetables in the winter.

A book I’m using as my go to source is Four Season Harvest. The author shares a lot about cold frames and what you can grow in them during the colder months. Right now as I am preparing my beds for planting and collecting my seed starting materials together in order to start the sowing and growing process, I am also thinking about what I want to grow in the late fall and winter. I am excited about the prospect of going to my backyard in December and collecting fresh greens to make a salad! Can you imagine! Or perhaps you don’t have to because you are already a winter gardener and so you know all to well the opportunities that lay before you.

My mind is swirling with all the options I have in hearty winter vegetables. I will make a list over the next few weeks of what I plan to grow in the winter. Eliot Coleman the author of Four Season Harvest shares the idea of throwing all your leftover seeds into your garden beds in late fall, leaving them be and then revisiting them a few weeks later. He says the ones that are hearty will grow and the ones that are not hearty won’t grow. I could see this with seeds you have to use up, that are perhaps older but I think I would rather search online for what is a hearty vegetable and what is not.

One concept I am taking away as a newer gardener is the importance of having a vision and a plan. The vision of what I want is incredibly motivating and creates hope in me for the possibilities that lie ahead.  The planning helps me to be realistic in terms of my space, my finances and energy level. And it keeps me on track with what needs planted when. The art of gardening to me is a lot like the art of baking, bear with me. Baking is incredibly creative and you can produce an assortment of beautiful items but baking is also a science in that it requires specific measurements. Gardening too is this way I am finding. The specific measurements are a bit more flexible but other than that if you want your beautiful item to turn into its most beautiful potential it requires planning and specificity in soil conditions, how much to water, when to plant it, when to harvest it for its peak flavor and when or how to prune. Just my thoughts.

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Seed Harvesting

A way to attain seeds without spending any money is to harvest seeds from your own plants. I have never done this before. I hope to do document my experience of seed harvesting this year.

But some of the benefits of harvesting seeds and what led me to decide to try it this year are

-Buying  new seeds is unnecessary.
-I get to know my plants and my seeds. No tricks on how to grow them.
-I can produce a seed variety that I own and like that may not be sold anymore.
-And I can reuse what I already own-a great thing I am learning to teach my children especially in our consumer lead culture that is having dire effects on our environment.

Sounds like a win win situation.

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Rain Barrels

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A few summers ago I read an article about rain barrels. The whole concept of using the rain water that my husband and I pay for to water my garden intrigued me and so I made a decision to invest in a few of them. Little did I know that they were pretty costly. But last year a friend of a friend was able to get his hands on some large soda pop syrup containers-3 feet in diameter by 4 feet high.  These containers cost me $5 each. I was unable to get my rain barrels setup last summer but they should be ready to install into our gutter system soon.

I’d love to hear if others collect their rain water and if so did you put together your own rain barrel(s) or did you purchase one? And what has been your experience thus far in using them? I’ve included a few links below to tutorials online to assist you in this endeavor if you don’t already have a rain barrel setup and you are interested in building one.

A few facts about rain barrels:

-They can help conserve around 1300 gallons of water during the summer months.

-They are eco friendly because they prevent stormwater runoff. If you are not familiar with the implications of stormwater runoff check this out   for more information.

 -And they help you the owner save your money because you are not paying double for watering your garden. Double because we pay for the  water that runs off our our houses and into the sewers as well as the water that comes out of our hoses to water our plants; this honestly being the number 1 reason for me to want to convert to rain barrels.

 Links helpful in creating a rain barrel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6ndwzVu8Pw

http://home.comcast.net/~leavesdance/rainbarrels/construction.html

http://www.blackstoneriver.org/programs/build_a_rainbarrel.php

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Prepping For The Spring Garden

Something that I recommend doing at the end of the Fall season, if you don’t grow a winter garden, is to prep your garden space for the following spring growing season. I had full intention of  breaking down my raised beds, which are made of recycled plastic, and storing those for the winter in the garage, but I was unable to get to it. So I took advantage of the sunny but chilly day today and the kids and I went outside into the backyard. While the babes played I started working on cleaning up all the dead plants and pulling up my raised beds in order to rake the dirt and spread it out on the ground. As I was assessing the backyard while prepping I started getting excited for the warmth of spring. I can’t wait to plant my seeds, transplant them and start working with the kids on their Pizza Garden.

While shuffling through the garden shed looking for a rake I came across my seeds from last year. I feel pretty silly realizing that 1) I meant to bring them in and store them properly and 2)  that I did not need to buy as many seeds as I bought over the last month. I am going to chalk this up to inexperience with gardening procedures. This is the sort of stuff that I am assuming others that are newer at gardening can relate too. On that note I thought it would be a good idea to perhaps share how to properly store seeds.

In storing seeds, what I have found to be helpful is to stick the extra seeds in a ziploc bag  or in a glass jar and store them in the refrigerator. I’ve read that the cold suspends the embryo of the seed so that it doesn’t eat up its stored sugars resulting in a still successful germination rate. If you do not store seeds properly the embryo will consumre the stored sugars which will then affect its ability to germinate. Although it is much cheaper to grow your plants from seed rather than purchasing them from a nursery you will want to take great strides in preserving the seeds that are leftover so that you are not purchasing new seeds every single year, which can still be costly.

Also, there are seed exchanges on the web that you can participate in. If you have an abundance of seeds that you decide you don’t want anymore you can exchange them for other seeds that may be appealing to you. One thing to consider if you go this route, is that when exchanging seeds with someone be aware that you may get non viable seeds. So perhaps when exchanging seeds you only exchange the leftover seeds from that growing season. Seeds that you’ve had success in germinating. If you have seeds that were not stored properly and are 1 year old or older, like mine I just found, it would be courteous to communicate that information if you plan on offering them up for exchange. The same goes if you are requesting seeds from others on a seed exchange forum. Only request seeds that are from a “packet” that were proven viable from the current season.

This is what awaited me as I entered my backyard. I hope to finish cleaning it up and prepping it for new soil over the next few weeks or two.

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Garden Challenge

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One of the best things about gardening in my opinion is being able to feed your family. It is incredibly gratifying and a blessing really. One of my desires of this blog is to document my own gardening experience as well as my experience with canning, dehydrating and participating in a CSA. I know I will have an abundance of food that will adequately provide for my babes, myself and my husband soon enough. But I will also have plenty of food to possibly provide for a few other families as well. With that knowledge I joined a Garden Challenge. The intent of the challenge is to motivate participants to donate 10% of their garden bounty to soup kitchens, food pantries or another organization like these. My new Twitter friend Rachel thankfully pointed me in that direction, what a great idea, thanks! Check out Rachel’s blog  and her online store geared towards sustainable living. I recently ordered a few items there and they are quick to deliver and the customer service is excellent.

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My Seed Sowing Chart

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The frost date for where I am is May 9th (I put May 15 on the chart), as far as I can tell. That means I will need to sow my seeds indoors anywhere from March 14th to April 11th. Last year I planted a majority of my seeds directly in the ground on April 6th. I imagine the seeds that can go directly in the ground before the frost date will be planted in April.

As far as my raised beds, I will need to go to the local nursery next month and purchase peat, vermiculite and compost. Sadly my composters didn’t produce enough for my 5 beds, perhaps next year. When I plant my garden I really like to go with the Square Foot Gardening method. I have 3’x3′ beds so that means I will divide each of my beds into 9 squares. Each square will have anywhere from one plant to twelve plants depending on the plant.

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