Hopefully, your composting efforts went well last year and you have a nice supply of finished (or nearly finished) compost for your 2013 garden. Here's a little quiz to get you thinking about that good 'ole black gold... compost!
Select your answer to the question below, and we'll reveal the correct choice next week.
Thanks to everyone that voted... you can feel good knowing that many of your ancestors may have practiced the art of composting; as it is believed that mankind has used compost for over 4,000 years.
blog entry and photo by Mark Murphy, CMG
As temperatures fall, we get to enjoy the most spectacular fall colors as trees and shrubs begin to turn their leaves. This of course also means that those of us with tree-filled yards will soon be trading in the lawn mower for the rake.
Whether you bag your leaves or gather them into piles, raking is an important job that keeps your yard tidy and your lawn healthy. But don’t stop there! Those fallen leaves can provide two useful materials for your garden, leaf mulch and leaf mold, for FREE!
Leaves make great mulch and winter ground cover for gardens and around shrubs and trees. This will help insulate plants and protect them from winter freeze damage.
Since large leaves tend to compact down when they get wet, it is important to shred your leaves first. An easy way to do this is to run over them with a lawn mower a few times. A mower with a clipping bag is great for this and will save time. Another way is to put your leaves in a garbage can and use a weed whacker to chop the leaves into pieces. (Please wear safety goggles when you do this).
Leaf mold (sometimes you see it also spelled as leaf mould) is simply decomposed leaves. This material is great for improving soil structure and improving the water-holding capacity of soil. A University of Connecticut study found that soil amended with leaf mold increased its water-holding capacity by almost 50 percent.
Leaf mold is very easy to make: Just put fallen leaves into a bin or wire enclosure and turn them every month or so. It does take a bit of patience as it may take six to twelve months for the leaf mold to be ready for your garden. Shredding will speed things up a bit as it helps the leaves to decompose more efficiently.
Once ready, place the leaf mold around (but not touching) the crowns of your plants to help them maintain moisture during summer. Or dig some of it into your soil to make it less dense and help roots penetrate and take up nutrients more easily.
A great time to mulch your garden is after the first few frosts. Clear your planting beds of any dead vegetation and remaining weeds, then apply about 2 inches of your leaf mulch
In the spring, you can till the leaves into your garden.
No matter how you recycle your leaves, they’re sure to be a great (and free) resource for your garden.
By Sabine Ehlers, CMG
So, you can’t seem to get a compost pile going at home. Maybe neighborhood restrictions prohibit it, or perhaps you're struggling to pick a suitable location on your lot. Well, if you have a garden, even if it’s a small one, you can still recycle things like spent vegetation and peelings from the kitchen. How? By practicing trench composting; also known as sheet composting or row composting.
It’s so simple, just dig a hole (or trench) about a foot deep, anywhere in the garden that you’re not growing a crop. Pour in a layer of compostable organic matter, about 6 inches deep, and then top that off with the soil that you had removed from the hole. You’re done! That’s right, there is no need for the maintenance that a regular compost pile might require, such as watering and aeration.
In a relatively short amount of time, usually within a couple of months, the buried organics will decompose and enrich the surrounding soil. You can then rotate a planting into that area, and select a new location for your next trench.
<---- Compostable organic materials in the trench,
ready to be covered with soil.
If space allows, you may wish to dig the trench in advance, either as a straight row or as a "block" section of a bed. That makes it convenient to fill the trench in stages, by pouring in compostables whenever you need to, gradually filling the trench over time. If space is limited, or if you don’t generate a lot of material to compost, you might find it more convenient to just bury small batches when you have enough organics to make it worthwhile to dig a small hole.
Extra tip: mulch it too! After you've buried the organic materials, don't leave exposed soil on top; cover with a layer of mulch. Over time, that adds even more organic matter to your garden soil. And, if you dig the trench in advance, keep it covered with mulch to prevent erosion by wind and rain.
If you had concerns about neighbors seeing or smelling your compost, try this stealth alternative. No odor, out of sight, and out of mind … keep that valuable organic matter out of the landfill, and start enriching your garden soil by trench composting.
blog entry by Mark Murphy, CMG
Composting isn't as hard as it may seem at first and it is definitely worth a try as there is nothing (and we mean NOTHING) better than compost to improve and replenish the soil in your garden.
Step 1: Choose a Container
There is really no limit to compost bin options. Whether big, small, simple, fancy, wood, metal, plastic or any other material fits your style, here are a few ideas to get you started:
* Purchase a compost tumbler or plastic compost bin
* Buy a plastic garbage bin and punch some holes in it to create a
container like the ones you can buy at the store but for less money
* Make a simple wire hoop from heavy grade concrete wire
* Build a wood container with one of the many free plans online
* Just pile it without any container at all
Whichever kind of container you choose to use, we recommend that the size be at least 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet.
Photo by www.cultivatorscorner.com
Step 2: Start filling the Container
A compost pile needs green ingredients (nitrogen) and brown ingredients (carbon) to create heat that makes the material you add decompose. As you start out, don't worry about exactly measuring how much of each you add, just try your best to alternate a layer of green ingredients with a layer of brown ingredients so you get a little bit of both. Most of us won't get the perfect 30:1 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio and that's ok. If you are off a little bit one way or another you will still get compost eventually, it just takes a little bit longer.
Photo by www.soil-net.com
Here are some ideas on what to add:
Kitchen Vegetable/Fruit Scraps
Grass Clippings and Fresh Leaves
Manure from Herbivores (i.e. Horse, Cow)
Dry Leaves and Small Twigs
Straw and Saw Dust
Things not to compost: Manure from Carnivores or Omnivores (Dogs, Cats, Pigs);
Fats and Oils ; Meat, Dairy, or Meat Byproducts; Big tree parts
Step 3: Aeration
Your compost pile needs air to provide oxygen for the microorganisms that work in your compost. Since these bacteria speed up your decomposition process by up to 90%, this part is important. To air your pile you can turn it with a garden fork every 2-3 days, add a layer of sticks for every 6 inches of green material, build the pile around a PVC pipe with holes drilled in it, or just poke and stir the pile.
Step 4: Moisture
A successful compost pile also needs water. When touched, it should feel damp. Not enough water will make the bacteria stop working. Too much water will make your pile soggy and smell bad.
That's all there is to it. It's as easy as that to get started. Happy Composting!
Blog by: Sabine Ehlers, CMG