Country Traditions

February 6, 2011

Gardens: Old wives’ tales | Life and style | The Guardian

Filed under: composting, family, farming, gardening, wisdom — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 11:26 am



Crocks in pots improve drainage

The theory Water drains more quickly through coarse materials, so�a layer of gravel�or pot fragments in the bottom of containers lets excess water drain freely.

The evidence Research by soil scientists shows that water doesn’t flow freely from fine-textured materials into coarser ones. Water moves into coarser materials, such as gravel or crocks, only once the soil above is saturated, so a sudden change from a fine to a coarse texture causes water to collect in the�soil above, rather than drain away. This can be bad news for roots. Pot feet help to improve drainage and prevent waterlogging, especially in containers sitting on a�hard, flat surface.

The verdict False: a drainage layer in�the bottom of pots reduces the volume of soil available to plant roots. Don’t add gravel or crocks, but ensure pots�have drainage holes.

Watering in the middle of the day scorches leaves

The theory Water droplets act as�mini magnifying glasses, which�focus the sun’s rays and scorch leaves.

The evidence For the first time last�year, researchers investigated the effect of water droplets and sunlight on leaves. Scientists in Budapest studied various types of�leaves and found no evidence of sunburn caused by water and light. Watering in the middle of the day should, however, be avoided, because it’s wasteful. More water will evaporate compared with the amount lost when watering at a�cooler time of day. And not only that: watering in the heat of the day also raises humidity levels around plants, creating conditions loved by�fungal diseases such as�powdery�mildew and�grey�mould.

The verdict False:�watering in�bright�sunlight does not cause sunburn, but it�does waste water�and can create�problems with�fungal diseases.

Urine speeds up composting

The theory Human and animal urine is�a source of nitrogen, which�speeds up decomposition by�boosting the activity of composting organisms.

via Gardens: Old wives’ tales | Life and style | The Guardian.


December 7, 2010

How to Compost: Hot and Cold Methods

Filed under: composting, gardening, wisdom — Tags: , , , — dmacc502 @ 4:45 pm
A picture of compost soil

Image via Wikipedia

Composting is a method of recycling naturally decomposing matter. Ingredients, size of the pile, local weather conditions, and your maintenance habits will affect the outcome. Note that shredded leaves, chipped wood, and chopped food scraps generally decompose more quickly than whole or large pieces.

Hot, or Active Composting

The quickest way to produce rich garden humus is to create a hot, or active, compost pile. It is called “hot” because it can reach an internal temperature of 160°F (140°F is best) and “active” because it destroys, essentially by cooking, weed seeds and disease-causing organisms. The size of the pile, the ingredients, and their arrangements in layers are key to reaching that desired outcome.

Size: A hot compost pile should be a 3-foot cube, at minimum; a 4-foot cube is preferred. The pile will shrink as the ingredients decompose.


  • One part high-carbon materials (shredded, dry plant matter such as leaves, twigs, woody stems, corn cobs)
  • One part high-nitrogen green plant matter (green plant and vegetable refuse, grass clippings, weeds, trimmings, kitchen scraps—but avoid meat, dairy, and fat) and good-quality soil

Pile the ingredients like a layer cake, with 2 to 4 carbon materials on the bottom (twigs and woody stems here will help air to circulate into the pile). Next, add a layer of soil. Add 2 to 4 inches of nitrogen-based materials, followed by soil. Repeat until the pile reaches 2 to 3 feet high.

Soak the pile at its start and water periodically; its consistency should be that of a damp sponge.

Add air to the interior of the pile by punching holes in its sides or by pushing 1- to 2-foot lengths of pipe into it.

Check the temperature of the pile with a compost thermometer or an old kitchen thermometer. A temperature of 110°F to 140°F is desirable. If you have no heat or insufficient heat, add nitrogen in the form of soft green ingredients or organic fertilizer.

If a foul odor emanates from the pile, flip the compost to introduce more air. And consider: Did you add meat or dairy products? Remove and discard them, if possible.

Once a week, or as soon as the center starts to cool down, turn the pile. Move materials from the center of the pile to the outside. (For usable compost in 1 to 3 months, turn it every other week; for finished compost within a month, turn it every couple of days.)

Cold, or Passive Composting

Cold, or passive, composting uses many of the same type of ingredients as hot composting and requires less effort from the gardener, yet the decomposition takes substantially longer—a year or more.

To cold compost, pile organic materials (leaves, grass clippings, soil, manures—but avoid dog, cat, and human waste) as you find or accumulate them. Bury kitchen scraps in the center of the pile to deter insects and animals. Avoid adding meat, dairy, and fat. Also avoid weeds; cold compost piles do not reach high temperatures and do not kill weed seeds. (In fact, weeds may germinate in a cold pile.)

Compostable Goods

In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, any of these items may be added to a compost pile:

  • Coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Dry goods (crackers, flour, spices)
  • Eggshells
  • Hair
  • Nutshells
  • Pasta (cooked or uncooked)
  • Seaweed
  • Shredded paper/newspaper

November 9, 2010

Composting 101 | Real Simple

Filed under: composting, family, farming, gardening, rain water, weather — Tags: , , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:03 pm
better compost

Image by normanack via Flickr

Composting 101 | Real Simple.

via Composting 101 | Real Simple.

It’s not just for people in the sticks anymore: Composting is great for all gardeners because it improves soil, which in turn prevents plant diseases. And it can even reduce harmful greenhouse gases. “Organics that break down in a landfill produce methane gas, which is about 120 times more harmful than carbon dioxide,” says Cary Oshins, assistant director for programs at the United States Composting Council, in Ronkonkoma, New York. So why not help the planet and your yard by piling it on?

How to Get Started

Choose a container that’s made of wood (or some other sturdy material) and no smaller than three by three feet. Place it in your yard in a shady spot with good drainage. Start adding waste in a ratio of three “browns” to one “green.” Browns are carbon-rich materials and include wood chips, straw, branches, and leaves. Greens provide nitrogen and include grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like eggshells and carrot tops. When you’re adding new material, Oshins suggests, dig a hole in the pile and stir the new stuff in so it gets coated with the old mixture.

September 12, 2010


Filed under: composting — Tags: — dmacc502 @ 3:32 pm
It’s inexpensive, easy to build, and features five stackable sections for simple, efficient composting
By Jim McCausland, Sunset Magazine

When horticulturists at the University of California Cooperative Extension set out to design the perfect compost bin, they wanted one that was simple to build, easy to use, and efficient at making compost. The bin shown here meets those criteria.

This 3-foot-square unit consists of five sections. You start the compost pile by filling one or two sections with organic matter, then stack on the other sections as you add more material. By following the recipe below, you can have a load of finished compost in about six weeks.

TIME: Two to three hours

COST: $50 to $75, depending on the grade of wood (we used untreated pine)


• 60 feet 1-by-6 utility wood
• 10 feet 2-by-2 utility wood
• 80 2-inch woodscrews
• 1 quart of wood sealer


1. Saw the 1-by-6s into 10 36-inch lengths and 10 34-inch lengths; saw the 2-by-2s into 6-inch lengths.

2. Lay each of 34-inch boards over two 2-by-2s, with one 2-by-2 flush with each end but offset from the top edge by 1 inch. Drive two screws through the 1-by-6s into each 2-by-2.

3. Place one 34-inch board upside down with 2-by-2s extending upward. Place a 36-inch board against one end, flush with the top, bottom, and outside edge. Attach with two woodscrews through the 1-by-6 into the 2-by-2. Add second 34-inch board at other end of 36-inch board. Complete section with other 36-inch board, making a 36-inch square. Repeat the process for each of the remaining four sections.

4. Apply two coats of wood sealer.

Recipe for homemade compost

Compost improves soil texture, fertility, and ability to hold water and air. Here’s how to make it.

INGREDIENTS. Include grass clippings, dead leaves, and vegetable kitchen waste. Don’t add diseased plants, plant parts that contain thorns, weed seedheads, or meat, fat, or bones from the kitchen. Chop or shred everything to speed decomposition. I run my lawn mower over fallen leaves.

ALTERNATE LAYERS OF BROWN AND GREEN MATTER. Put down a 3-inch layer of brown matter, such as shredded dead leaves, which contain plenty of carbon. Cover it with an equal layer of green matter, like grass clippings, which contain a lot of nitrogen.

If you’re short on green matter, sprinkle the brown matter with high-nitrogen fertilizer (such as lawn fertilizer). To speed up decomposition in a new pile, add a few shovelfuls of old compost, which already contains bacteria and fungi.

KEEP THE PILE MOIST AND AERATED. Sprinkle the pile with water to keep it about as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Use a spading fork or pitchfork to thoroughly mix the ingredients and aerate the pile. When the compost is ready, its texture will be like that of fine soil.

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