Do you Compost? Reasons why you should!

Composting is a way for people everywhere to take responsibility for their yard and kitchen waste.

“Home composting is the ultimate way to claim responsibility for the many tons of compostable waste most of us generate each year without sending the waste to the landfill, plus there are plenty of benefits of adding compost to your garden and soil. This is a hot topic right now, as the world is going green and organic. Compost is a free fertilizer and soil amendment for all your gardens, whether you are into flowers or vegetables.

So why doesn’t everyone do it?

“In some places, almost everyone does. A 2006 survey by Statistics Canada showed that 98 percent of the residents of Prince Edward Island compost, followed closely by Nova Scotia with 95 percent. Compare and contrast: After 10 years of dedicated public compost education efforts in Portland, Ore. — including the sale of more than 90,000 plastic composters — just over 30 percent of households compost their kitchen waste. In compost-crazy Alameda County, Cal., about 24 percent of homeowners with yards are active composters.

These and other studies on home composting also shed light on the habits of active composters, who typically compost 70 percent of their food waste and either compost or recycle all of their yard waste. Once people start composting, they don’t stop — nine out of 10 people who start composting are still at it 10 years later. Long-time composters tend to keep more than one type of compost, too — usually a heap and an enclosed bin.” Mother Earth News

I personally have a 3-bin/stall system, which was completely homemade. We used fence and a heavy black fabric to put around the outer edge. After composting in one bin for a while, we then switch to the next. The last bin stores gathered leaves and old straw and hay to use to mix with kitchen scraps. The items to compost include browns and greens. Browns are leaves, straw, newspaper, cardboard, dryer lint, pine needles and sawdust. Greens consist of kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and filters, manure, grass clippings, hair and weeds. Most of these items are things we naturally have.

Until your compost is ready to use, which can take approximately 6 months, your local community or city will sell compost. Compost is a good move that helps my garden and my community, and it takes the pressure off of my compost to hurry up and get done.”

So, are you ready to compost now?


Growing the Best Tomatoes

“The most popular garden vegetable is the tomato. Varieties are available in a wide range of sizes, colors and shapes. Each having its own flavor and use.

Tomatoes can be propagated by seeds or clippings. They will germinate between 60F and 95F with optimum conditions between 75F and 90F. At 75F they will generally sprout in about 1 week. If you don’t grow your own seedlings and must buy transplants make sure you choose sturdy plants. The greener and shorter the plant the better, as they will grow best when transplanted. You should avoid plants that are tall and leggy, and those that have flowers on them already. If you do grow your own seedlings a grow lamp for supplemental light is a good idea. Even if you have a window that faces to the south the light the plants receive is not sufficient. Seedlings should be started indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting them outside. The seeds should be planted 1/8 inch deep in a sterile seed starting mix in either cells or flats. After germination the seedlings grow best at 70F.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to transplant you seedlings outdoors if the soil or weather is cold as the temperature can shock the plants. Hot caps and other protection can help the plants early in the season. All covers must be removed if the temperatures exceed 85F. Tomatoes do better if they are planted deeper than the original containers they were started in. They should be set in the ground just below the lowest leaf, allowing the plant to obtain a stronger root system. Tomatoes need a constant supply of moisture, and if you don’t receive at least one inch of rain per week, supplemental watering is necessary. Mulching will also help retain water, and drip irrigation is a good way to supple water without wasting it.

If you plan on staking your tomatoes do it right after you transplant your seedlings. If you wait too long the plant will have developed a mature root system, and the stakes may damage them. Tomato cages are an alternative to tomato stakes, but as these have short spikes as well it is best to set these up as early as possible. The advantage of a tomato cage is the fact that you don’t have to constantly tie up your growing plant to the stake.

Once the plants begin to grow they need to be pruned. Snap off “suckers” so that there are one or two vigorous stems. This should be done when they are about 2 to 3 inches long. If you are staking your tomatoes you should tie the stems to the stake with soft string. Form a figure-8 with the stake in one loop and the stem in the other. This will give the stem room to grow and prevent constriction. You should start tying about 10 to 12 inches above the ground and continue as the plant grows.

Avoid fertilizing your tomatoes with too much Nitrogen as this will lead to excessive foliage growth and not enough fruit production. Heavy rainfall or inconsistent temperatures also lead to poor fruit growth. Unfortunately we cannot control mother nature. For most soils, you can side dress a 5-10-5 fertilizer and work it into the top inch of soil. You should start fertilizing when the fruits are about 1 inch in diameter and repeat fertilizing again when the harvest begins.”

Do you grow herbs in your garden?

“Herb gardening is becoming more and more popular every day, and for a good reason. Herbs have practical value, serve a purpose, and with herb gardening you can actually use your plants. When most people think of herb gardening they automatically think of cooking, but herbs are also grown for their pleasant aroma and their beauty.

One important part of herb gardening is drying the herbs for use during the winter months, especially if you plan on cooking with them. First the tops of leafy herbs have to be cut, washed, and hung up for the water to evaporate. Then, tie stems together and hang up in a paper bag to dry. After two to three weeks they must be removed; crumble the leaves, dry them out in the oven, and store in a glass jar.

One of the most common herbs gown in herb gardening is basil. “Dark Opal” and regular green basil are beautiful additions to any garden and often used as decoration. Dark Opal has light pink flowers and dark red leaves. Basil isn’t just used for its looks; it is used for extra flavor in tomato juices and pastes.

Chives are very petite looking and resemble a blade of grass. They are much stronger than they look, however, and will grow well through a drought and a drought. Their toughness and sturdiness makes Chives a perfect plant for herb gardening, especially if the gardener doesn’t want plants that require a lot of hassle. Chives are good used in salads, egg dishes, and many different sauces.

Mint is also very simple to grow and is good to use in mint jelly, mint juleps, lemonade, and any other kind of fruity drink. Mint is also good in herb gardening for its unique minty smell. Two herbs that appear in nearly everyone’s herb garden are thyme and sage. Both of these herb gardening favorites are used for flavoring soups, chicken, turkey, pork, and other sausages. Sage is also grown sometimes for its beautiful blue spiked flowers.

Lavender is probably the best smelling herb in all of herb gardening and is often used in candles, as a perfume scent, and to improve the smell in linen chests. The light purple flowers smell absolutely lovely.

Other types of herbs often grown in herb gardening include borage (used in salads), chervil (used in egg dishes), sweet marjoram (flavors lamb, fish, salad, and soup), sesame (flavors crackers, cookies, and bread), and dill (flavors meats and used in pickles). Herb gardening allows gardeners to use herbs from their own garden for cooking, looks, and smell. Herb gardening will produce much fresher herbs with more flavor than store-bought herbs, and are a lot cheaper.” Courtesy of Organic Gardening

Starting a Garden

Growing vegetables and flowers can be one of the most rewarding hobbies you can pursue. Gardening can satisfy your need for beauty, accomplishment and nourishment. Plus, it keeps me from snacking allowing me to shed a few pounds, from the winter weight gain if you know what I mean.

It’s important to plant your garden seeds at the right time, and the key is knowing when your area will see its last spring frost. You’ll sure be sorry if you put your long-awaited, warm season crops in the ground too soon, but it’s easy to determine when the danger of frost has passed. You just need to learn your location’s average last spring frost date.

To get started, find a good sunny location. Determine the size of the garden you would like to have. First thing I did was to get a soil sample, which you can do through your local Extension center. They have soil sample boxes available for use at no charge. One box (1.5 to 2 cups) is all the University lab needs for analyses. I just use a brown paper sack. Using a small shovel or soil probe, sample to a 6 inch depth. Take 12 or more random cores from each area of the lawn to be tested and remove the thatch and live plant material before breaking up the cores and mixing thoroughly in a dry plastic bucket. (Metal buckets contaminate the sample with micronutrients.) Take random samples from the lawn as a whole unless there is a need to sample problem areas separately. Air dry the sample overnight before sending. When you receive your results in the mail, they will send you a guide on how to read your results as well as how you can amend your soil accordingly to the results. If you don’t have time for this, I would recommend tilling the soil and then adding compost. This would be a great start.

Compost is one of the ways to garden organically. You definitely will appreciate the fertilizing and weed controlling benefits of compost. You could ask your city parks department if they sell compost, go to your local nursery, or make your own. It will take compost several months to decompose so you will have to wait to use your pile until then. I started mine last October and after removing the top several inches, most of the pile is ready for use. If you don’t have access to compost you could add some sphagnum moss to your soil. This will allow air to get to your roots.

Americans generate about 210 million tons (231 million short tons) of trash, or solid waste, each year. Most of this trash (57 percent) gets placed in municipal landfills. About 56 million tons (27 percent) is recovered through either recycling, in the case of glass, paper products, plastic or metals, or through composting, in the case of yard waste. Composting is a method for treating solid waste in which organic material is broken down by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen to a point where it can be safely stored, handled and applied to the environment. Composting is an essential part of reducing household wastes. It can be done inexpensively by every household and produces a product — finished compost or humus — that can benefit the environment as a natural fertilizer for gardening and farming.

Next, I remove any large size rocks that would impede my vegetables from growing out of the soil by simply picking them out. Then, I remove some of the smaller rocks with a rock rake. With some type of post, mark out your rows per your seeds, making sure to keep your rows at their given distance apart. Read the back of the packet or tag for specific instructions for how and when to plant.