Tag Archives: compost

Piled Higher and Deeper

Three cheers for the Chief of Implementation! He built a new compost setup with four bins. Here’s the plan:

Bin 1 (on the right) contains “brown” stuff — high carbon material to balance the composition of the pile.  We’ll stockpile leaves in the fall here and add any leftover straw too.

Bin 2 (second from the right) contains the current year’s compost.  After every two inch layer of food scraps and garden waste are added, we’ll add a six inch layer of brown stuff.  Food scraps and garden waste are considered “green” compost materials that are high in nitrogen.

Bin 3 (second from the left) contains the previous year’s compost.  Once a year, we’ll turn Bin 2 over into Bin 3 and restart in Bin 2.

Bin 4 (on the left) contains compost from two years ago, which is ready to use.  Once a year, before turning Bin 2 over into Bin 3, we’ll turn Bin 3 over into Bin 4.

Here’s a picture of how it looks now.  The trash can is full of wood chips and leaves which are brown material from our old compost setup.  The orange wheel barrow contains the last of our old compost heap ready to be added.

Compost Bins, 31 May 2012

No glamorous pictures in this post, but I’m VERY excited about this setup.  Our old composter was overflowing and smelly because we weren’t careful about adding brown stuff to it.  This should be a much better setup.  This was inspired by the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge for February.  I’m late, but still game!

May your compost heat quickly, rot odorlessly and enrich your life.


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It’s Not Easy Being Green..Or Is It?

With apologies to Kermit the Frog,my garden is fairly Green, and it’s been fairly easy.  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about “living Greener,” and decided to summarize my progress so far.

The Garden in the Woods is not strictly organic, but it’s close.  Compost is my soil amendment of choice, and I order a truckload once or twice a year in addition to composting everything in sight.  I keep other soil amendments to a minimum and choose organic options when I do amend.  As an example, I added greensand and soil acidifier from Espoma to the blueberry beds when I installed them last year.  I avoid pesticides like the plague.  On the other hand, some of the raised beds are built with treated timbers and the containers are filled with commercial, fertilizer enriched potting soil.  I’ve also fed roses and houseplants with Osmocote or Schultz African Violet food.

The garden is almost entirely pesticide free.  I plead guilty to using really scary poisons to kill wasps when they build a nest in the window frame .  Otherwise, I can say (with a straight face) that I use integrated pest management.  It goes something like this:

  1. Plant lots of flowers, claiming that they attract beneficial insects  (What do you mean butterflies aren’t beneficial?!)
  2. Admire all insects (especially butterflies) until there is significant damage to a plant I care about
  3. Frantically research in books and online to identify the perpetrator
  4. If it’s deer or rabbits, swear to fence everything next year
  5. If it’s an insect, spray forcibly with a hose or handpick and drop perpetrators into soapy water, gleefully watching them drown

The garden isn’t sustainable and isn’t an example of permaculture.  I’m working toward minimizing the outside materials that need to be added, and working toward establishing a stable system that mimics nature, but those goals are a long way off.  On the other hand, I water responsibly; I use minimal fertilizer; I compost everything in sight; I’ve started mulching with wood chips since I can get a pile when we have a tree cut down.  I’m learning to save seeds.  Sustainability is a very important goal for me, even if I never reach it.  I keep threatening to add chickens and beehives…

I’m not much of a plant snob.  I love many native plants, but I also love many non-native plants.  When I buy plants, they are nursery propagated.  Plants gathered from the wild can severely damage populations of fragile natives, and I don’t want my plant dollars to support that.

I avoid anything identified as invasive on the list for my STATE, and rip out any offenders that appear in my yard.  I also pay close attention to how much anything I plant spreads and remove anything that’s truly invasive.  I consider my mint collection very aggressive, but NOT invasive.

There’s definitely room for improvement.  I’m very serious about growing vegetables this year, picking fruit locally and shopping at farmer’s markets to improve our household intake of local, organic fruits and vegetables.  I’ve compiled a long list of canning recipes to try, part of a plan to stockpile homemade spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, salsa, ketchup, jam, chutney, preserves, and frozen and canned fruits and berries, and I’m researching organic, local meat, milk and eggs.  I considered joining a CSA, but as Ed said, “We’re our own CSA.”  We’ll be eating much more local food, and much more organic food this year.

I have plans to expand my composting and build a set of good sized bins for a multi-year composting arrangement.  I have PLENTY of straw and leaves for “brown” materials.  It may even reach the point where enough compost is generated from the house and yard to maintain a bed or two.

In closing, here’s a gallery of the wildlife here in the Garden in the Woods.  This is how I know I’m fairly Green, and its your reward for reading all the way through this post.  Photo credits go to my daughter who posts at http://cricketwerks.tumblr.com/

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Here’s to greener gardening as part of a greener planet!


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Achy, Breaky Fruit & Rotten Stuff

DH & I spent as much of the weekend as we possibly could installing cinder block raised beds for fruit trees.  Six of the seven trees I ordered are planted now.  We can both barely move and are trying to muster energy for positioning blocks and planting that last tree tonight. As you can see from these pictures, the trees are barely visible in the center of each cinder block square.  Truly a triumph of faith over reality!

Two plum trees: 'Early Laxton' in back, 'Stanley' in front

Baby pear trees: 'Moonglow' in back, 'Seckel' in front

Two apple trees: 'William's Pride' on the left; Liberty on the right (Enterprise to be added later behind.)

These trees are comfortably ensconced in that mythical garden environment:  moist, rich, well-drained soil.  The magical ingredient for this is of course compost.  Reading most modern garden books, compost is good for whatever ails your garden.  Soil too dry?  Add compost!  Too wet?  Add compost!  Too much clay?  Add compost!  Too sandy?  Add compost!  Children are failing in school?  Add.. no wait..that doesn’t help.

Seriously, compost is an amazing all purpose soil amendment.  I’ve been as generous as I can afford with it over my gardening career and NEVER regretted adding compost or wished I’d used less.

It was a marvelous addition to the hardpan clay front yard in my first garden when we renovated the lawn and ordered 10 cubic yards of “half horse,” that is compost that is a half and half mixture of composted leaves and composted horse manure.  I still remember my four year older daughter gleefully informing a horrified peer, “You know what THAT is?  It’s HORSE POOP!”  Ten yards was a rather excessive amount, and I’ve promised DH never to buy more than 5 yards of anything.

That same hardpan clay got another dose of compost when I put in a large flower bed using sort of a lasagna gardening approach:  Six to ten layers of newspaper (no colored ink) topped with six inches of compost.  I moved away several years ago, but the bed is still going strong.

After checking out the book Lasagna Gardening from my local library, I’ve adapted a slower approach,letting mulch turn into compost over time.  For existing beds, mulching once a year with shredded hardwood has made a significant difference in soil quality in just a couple of years.  The “new” oval bed where the plum trees are located was lawn before spending Spring through Fall of 2009 covered with cardboard and six inches of mulch.  I’m gradually adding shrubs and perennials over time, and topping off the mulch with a couple of new inches every year.  So far the weed problems have been tiny to nonexistent.

Now we’re systematically working our way through five yards of Leafgro compost to amend raised beds for this year’s edible gardening extravaganza.  In addition to the fruit trees, there are 50 strawberry plants, 8 blueberries, 13 raspberries and an assortment of ornamental plants from Burnt Ridge Nursery waiting to be planted.  Hopefully I’ll have plenty of fruit in the coming years!

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