Country Traditions

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

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

http://www.almanac.com/content/how-compost-hot-and-cold-methods

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.

October 19, 2010

Plants by Type: herb

Filed under: gardening, herbs — Tags: , , , , — dmacc502 @ 6:53 am
Mentha x piperita var. citrata 'Eau de Cologne...

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We’ve chosen North America’s most popular garden plants and provided “how to” gardening information to help you prepare, plant, and care for them.

For each plant, we’ve identified the hardiness zone, sun exposure, soil type, soil pH, pests and problems, harvest tips, recommended varieties, and special features. You’ll also find recipes, free e-cards, and a dose of wit & wisdom. Just click on an image below to view that plant’s growing guide.

Or, click the links below to browse by plant type:

VegetablesFruitHerbsFlowersShrubs

http://www.almanac.com/plants/type/herb?utm_source=Almanac%20Companion&utm_campaign=2e528bec3b-Companion_October_19_2010&utm_medium=email

October 8, 2010

Attract Night Crawlers to Your Garden – Organic Gardening – Ask Our Experts Blog

Filed under: animals, gardening — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 5:47 pm
Lumbricus terrestris (Nachtaufnahme)

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Attract Night Crawlers to Your Garden – Organic Gardening – Ask Our Experts Blog.

via Attract Night Crawlers to Your Garden – Organic Gardening – Ask Our Experts Blog.

Several species of helpful earthworms will magically appear as you dig compost and other forms of organic matter into your soil. The most important species in terms of soil improvement is the night crawler (Lumbricus terrestris), which specializes in taking organic matter from the soil’s surface and storing it in underground middens, which are combination food supply/trash heaps. As these middens decompose, they become nutrient-rich hot spots in plants’ root zones. In addition, night crawler tunnels create open channels for water and plant roots, which can make a huge difference in tight clay soil.

Using mulches will encourage night crawlers, as will creating grassy mowed pathways, which you might think of as night crawler reservoirs. But the best thing you can do to increase night crawler populations is to place piles of compost and mulch in or near your garden. More night crawler activity goes on around the edges of compost and mulch piles than anywhere else in your garden.

Chances are good that providing habitat for night crawlers will attract them in noticeable numbers, but if you want to import worms to colonize your new garden area, you can use night crawlers that are sold as fishing bait.#mce_temp_url#

September 28, 2010

How to Predict a Frost

Ice Iris

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  • How warm was it during the day? If the temperature reached 75 degrees F (in the East or North) or 80 degrees F (in the desert Southwest), the chance of the mercury falling below 32 degrees is slim.
  • Is it windy? A still night allows cold air to pool near the ground; a breeze keeps things stirred up.
  • Is it cloudy? If the Sun sets through a layer of thickening clouds, the clouds will slow radiational cooling and help stave off a frost.
  • What is the dew point? As a rule of thumb, don’t worry about a frost if the dew point (the temperature at which water vapor condenses) is above 45 degrees on the evening weather report.
  • How is your garden sited? Gardens on slopes or high ground often survive when the coldest air puddles down in the valleys and hollows.

See frost dates for your area. Click here for the U.S. Frost Chart and for the Canadian Frost Chart on Almanac.com.

Better Safe Than Sorry

If you’re a gardener, here are few tips on preparing for frost.

  • When nights get cold, protect tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants with old sheets, paper bags, or plastic at night and remove the coverings in the morning.
  • Bring geraniums indoors before the first frost arrives. Keep them in a sunny window in a relatively moist room; the kitchen is often best.
  • Harvest basil and other tender herbs before a frost. Even if they survive the frost, they don’t do well in cold temperatures. The same is true for summer squash, peppers, and most annuals.
  • Harvest all tomatoes and let them ripen indoors on tabletops or counters out of the sun.
  • http://www.almanac.com/content/blog-how-predict-frost

Roses Care

Filed under: gardening, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 7:54 am
Mulch, wood01

WOOD MULCH

Planting

Preparing the Soil

Roses prefer a near-neutral pH range of 5.5–7.0. A pH of 6.5 is just about right for most home gardens (slightly acidic to neutral).

An accurate soil test will tell you where your pH currently stands. Acidic (sour) soil is counteracted by applying finely ground limestone, and alkaline (sweet) soil is treated with ground sulfur.

Before you plant, be sure that you choose varieties proven in your climate. When in doubt, All-America Rose Selections winners are good bets. Or check with your local nursery.

Ordering Plants

If you order roses from a mail-order company, order early, in January or February (March at the latest). They are usually shipped in the spring as bare roots when plants are fully dormant, well before they have leafed out. They’ll look like a bundle of sticks on arrival. Note, they are not dead—simply dormant.

If you are buying container-grown roses (vs. bare-root roses), plant them by May or early June for best results.

Planting Tips

  • Plant roses where they will receive a minimum of 5 to 6 hours of full sun per day. Roses grown in weak sun may not die at once, but they weaken gradually. Give them plenty of organic matter when planting and don’t crowd them.
  • Wear sturdy gloves to protect your hands from prickly thorns. Have a hose or bucket of water and all your planting tools nearby. Keep your bare-root rose in water until you are ready to place it in the ground.
  • Roses can be cut back and moved in either spring or fall, but not in midsummer, as they might suffer and die in the heat. Large rose canes can be cut back by as much as two thirds, and smaller ones to within 6 to 12 inches of the ground.
  • When you transplant your roses, be sure to dig a much bigger hole than you think you need (for most types, the planting hole should be about 15 to 18 inches wide) and add plenty of organic matter such as compost or aged manure.
  • Some old-timers recommend placing a 4-inch square of gypsum wallboard and a 16-penny nail in the hole to provide calcium and iron, both appreciated by roses.

Care

Watering Roses

  • Diligently water your roses. Soak the entire root zone at least twice a week in dry summer weather. Avoid frequent shallow sprinklings, which won’t reach the deeper roots and may encourage fungus. Roses do best with 90 inches of rain per year, so unless you live in a rain forest, water regularly.
  • Roses love water—but don’t drown them. That is, they don’t like to sit in water, and they’ll die if the soil is too wet in winter. The ideal soil is rich and loose, with good drainage. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to not provide adequate drainage.
  • Use mulch. To help conserve water, reduce stress, and encourage healthy growth, apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of chopped and shredded leaves, grass clippings, or shredded bark around the base of your roses. Allow about an inch of space between the mulch and the base stem of the plant.

Feeding Roses

  • Feed roses on a regular basis before and throughout the blooming cycle (avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides if you’re harvesting for the kitchen).
  • Once a month between April and July, apply a balanced granular fertilizer (5-10-5 or 5-10-10). Allow 3/4 to 1 cup for each bush, and sprinkle it around the drip line, not against the stem.
  • In May and June, scratch in an additional tablespoon of Epsom salts along with your fertilizer; the magnesium sulfate will encourage new growth from the bottom of the bush.

Pruning Roses

  • Prune roses every spring and destroy all old or diseased plant material. Wear elbow-length gloves that are thick enough to protect your hands from thorns or a clumsy slip, but flexible enough to allow you to hold your tools. Always wear safety goggles; branches can whip back when released.
  • Start with pruning shears for smaller growth. Use loppers, which look like giant, long-handle shears, for growth that is more than half an inch thick. A small pruning saw is handy, as it cuts on both the push and the pull.
  • Deadhead religiously and keep beds clean. Every leaf has a growth bud, so removing old flower blossoms encourages the plant to make more flowers instead of using the energy to make seeds. Clean away from around the base of the rosebushes any trimmed debris that can harbor disease and insects.
  • Late in the season, stop deadheading rugosas so that hips will form on the plants; these can be harvested and dried on screens, away from sunlight, then stored in an airtight container. Stop deadheading all your rose plants 3 to 4 weeks before the first hard frost so as not to encourage new growth at a time when new shoots may be damaged by the cold.

Winterizing Roses

  • Do not prune roses in the fall. Simply cut off any dead or diseased canes.
  • Stop fertilizing 6 weeks before the first frost but continue watering during dry autumn weather to help keep plants fortified during the dry winter.
  • Mound, mulch, or add compost after a few frosts but before the ground freezes. Where temperatures stay below freezing during winter, enclose the plant with a sturdy mesh cylinder, filling the enclosure with compost, mulch, dry wood chips, pine needles, or chopped leaves.
  • Don’t use heavy, wet, maple leaves for mulch. Mulch instead with oak leaves, pine needles, compost, or straw.
  • Clean up the rose beds to prevent overwintering of diseases. One last spray for fungus with a dormant spray is a good idea.

Pests

Good gardening practices such as removing dead leaves and canes will help reduce pests. Find out which pests are most prevalent in your area by checking with your local nursery. Here are some of the more common problems:

  • Stem Borers
  • Japanese Beetles
  • Aphids
  • Black Spot/Powdery Mildew
  • Spider Mites
  • Deer: Roses are a delectable tidbit, so try planting lavender near your roses. Not only will you have the makings of a nice potpourri, but the scent of lavender will discourage browsers. You can also spread human or dog hair around the garden area.

Recommended Varieties

  • Rugosas, with their showy, bright-pink, five-petal blooms, are good for hedges and wherever a barrier is needed in an exposed or difficult site. They are disease-resistant and cold hardy to Zone 3. ‘Jens Munk’ is a good rose that blooms through most of the summer.
  • Pink roses such as ‘Carefree Wonder’ are well-rounded shrub roses. They are 3 feet tall with a quiet character. They require only a little shaping in early spring and are hardy to Zone 5.
  • Yellow roses such as ‘Harrison’s Yellow’ (Zones 4 to 9), also called ‘Pioneer Rose’, blooms early, brightly, and sweetly and will survive Zone 4 winters.

Recipes

Cooking Notes

The tart, reddish-orange hips of rugosa roses are loaded with vitamins and used for jams, jellies, syrups, pies, teas, and wine. The petals can be tossed into salads for color, candied to decorate cakes, or distilled to make rose water.

Wit & Wisdom

  • Rose hips are mildly laxative and diuretic.
  • Rose petals are brewed for tea blends and sometimes used in gargles and tonics to treat congestion, sore throats, and stomach disorders.
  • Rose water is a refreshing skin splash. Try a flower facial! Gentle, aromatic steam cleanses your pores. For oily skin, add a few rose petals to boiling water in a heatproof bowl. Make a bath towel tent and lean your face about 10 inches above the water. It should feel warm, not hot. After 10 minutes, rinse your face with cool water, then blot dry.

And I will make thee beds of roses,
And a thousand fragrant posies.

–Christopher Marlowe (1564-93)

Credit: Danis Benguria

http://www.almanac.com/

September 14, 2010

Things to do in September Our expert's guide to gardening this month

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , — dmacc502 @ 12:26 pm
View from Shooter's Hill. Looking NE to the wo...

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onionOverwintered onions produce the biggest and best bulbs

Winter seed, if sown in September, should establish with speed and be sturdy enough to survive the first frosts with covers. Crops grow slowly through winter due to shorter day lengths and fluctuations in temperature. They will tick over gently 4– 7C (40 – 45F), but, as soon as it drops below that, growth pauses until the weather improves. Crop covers will extend the amount of ‘growing days’ – 250 – 300 on average in the UK – by some two weeks each end of the season.

As the spring planted onions are harvested for winter storage, you can plant sets of the overwintering types that will cover the onion gap next summer. Overwintering onions produce the biggest and best bulbs butdon’t store for long.

Find a sunny spot,, fertilize the ground well and plant them about 7.5cm apart with the growing tip just below the surface. Brown skinned ‘Swift’ and ‘Radar‘ and the red onion ‘Electric’ can be pulled out ‘green’ from May onwards and will be full sized by June or July.

The original Japanese overwintering onions ‘Senshyu Yellow’ is another good bet. http://www.vegetable-garden-guide.com/how-to-grow-onions.html while ‘Tough Ball‘ claims to have extra storage power. For winter spring onions plant shallot sets and use the tops as a substitute.

sweetSweet peas sown in September will make better plants than spring-sown ones

Winter is a great time for growing all sorts of high vitamin greens. Turnips sown now are grown for winter greens rather than for their roots. Some varieties have been developed purely for their leaves. ‘Cima di Rapa 40’ – the sprouting turnip top or broccoli raab – will be ready in 40 days and can be harvested over the months. In Italy it is a prized Puglian speciality green for the pasta dish ‘orecchiate e cima di rapa‘.

It is easy to keep up a supply of salad leaves. If you want to grow lettuces to full size, choose hardy varieties like the heirloom ‘Winter Density’ – a cos type – or one of the winter butterheads. ‘Arctic King’ was bred purely for winter growing and has exceptional hardiness, as does ‘Valdor’.Lettuce seeds sown this month generally germinate quickly and can be thinned to about 16cm apart.

strawPlant new strawberries or pin down the runners in September, too

For winter salad leaves add American land cress, winter purslane, endive, along with rocket. You can treat spinach, spring cabbage and oriental greens in the same way for cut-and-come-again crops through winter.

Plant new strawberries or pin down the runners in September. Remember to start on fresh ground every three to four years either all at once or in stages of a third or a quarter each year. Keep youngstrawberries well watered for good fruit the next year.

greenContinue to sow green manures

Continue to sow green manures. Sometimes called the lazy man’s compost, they are vigorous, tough, cheap, agricultural crops and need little attention once sown other than digging in at the end. They improve the soil in myriad ways while smothering weeds and protecting the ground from the adverse effects of winter weather.

The choice of green manures narrows each month as we approach the end of the season. This is the last month for sowing winter tare (or vetch). A legume, it is ideal for the bed where the cabbage family will be next year, enriching the ground with greening nitrogen when dug in. If you plan to sow seed next spring, make a note to dig the tare in a month before doing so. Tare releases a chemical that inhibits seed (though not transplants) particularly those of carrots, parsnips and spinach.

ryeFor thick cover, try mixing your green manures with rye grass

For thick cover, try mixing your green manures with Italian rye grass. Being a grass (Poaceae family) rye grass can go anywhere in the rotation and so is ideal mixed in with the particular green manure that is best suited to your soil. It has deep roots that break up clay and it will soak up any left over plant foods which will be released again when the plants are dug in next spring.

Sweet peas are a classic allotment plant and a pleasure to have and to grow. Seed sown in September will make better plants than spring sown ones. Nick the seeds with a sharp knife and germinate them at about 15°C . Once they’ve emerged, harden them off for the winter ahead. Pot them up when they are about 5cm high and keep them in the cold frame or under cloche cover through winter. They can be planted out in mid spring.

King’s Seeds has taken a great interest in sweet peas since the company was started by Ernest William King in 1888. He was never to be seen without a sweet pea in his buttonhole. Visiting them this summer at Kelvedon, Essex, I was knocked for six by the sight and scent of field upon field of sweet peas grown by them for seed. Due to popular demand, varieties include ‘Painted Lady’, introduced in 1731, and ‘Old Fashioned’, grown for scent rather than size.

King’s have offered handsome discounts for allotments for 30 years through the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners. Recently, Franchi, or Seeds of Italy – now in its seventh generation – are offering good bulk deals too.

Seeds of Italy are rather exceptional as the majority of the seed is not out-posted abroad, as with most seed companies, but 93% of it is grown in Italy regionally. Their discount condition is a first minimum order of £100 (after that no minimum) and they take bulk orders only.

The latest company to offer reductions for allotments is Marshalls Seeds. They are about to launch a new discount scheme from September 6th. This will include gardening clubs with minimum of ten members. They have got around the bulk order condition as accounts will be managed on line. Individual members will be able to log in with their own password, making it ‘hassle free’ for club secretaries to administer.

September 12, 2010

Herbs

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , , , , — dmacc502 @ 9:18 pm

#mce_temp_url#If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden . An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. Herbs can be added to any garden, and perennial herbs provide years of fresh herbs.

By planting herbs that are most often used in cooking, you can pick what you need all summer:
Basil (‘Purple Ruffles’ is a good selection if you want purple foliage with lots of texture; ‘Dani’, if you want lemon-scented basil.)
Sage (‘Tricolor’ has variegated foliage.)
Oregano
Common thyme
Sweet marjoram
Lavender
Rosemary
Parsley
Chives
Cilantro

To prepare your area for planting, loosen the soil. If the soil is compacted or consists of heavy clay, improve drainage by adding some compost, peat moss or coarse sand. Work the material into the top foot of soil before you plant.

Follow these planting guidelines for a successful herb garden:

– Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent the transplants from wilting in the midday sun.
– Dig each planting hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant .
– Space herbs about 18 inches apart to give them room to spread out and grow.
– Place taller herbs, like sage, rosemary and marjoram, towards the back of the garden. Parsley and cilantro are good for the front.
– For accents of color in your herb garden, add flowering plants like zinnias and salvia.
– Plant perennials on one side and annuals on the other for easier replanting next year.
– Give the new transplants plenty of water. Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.
– Begin harvesting from the herbs as soon as they are mature, but take only a little bit each time you harvest. If you remove more than a third of the plant at one time , it takes longer to recover and produce new foliage.
– To promote branching, keep the tops of the plants pinched back in early summer. With judicious picking, most herbs can be harvested for several months.

Fresh herbs taste best when harvested in the morning. Also, herbs are most flavorful if harvested before they bloom.

Succession Gardening: Planting Dates for Second Crops

Filed under: gardening — Tags: , , , — dmacc502 @ 6:06 pm

A second harvest can dramatically increase your yield—and allow you to enjoy fresh vegetables into fall and winter. In addition, fall gardening is often easier since there are less pests and problems in cooler weather. Finally, a fall “cover” crop can organically protect and build your soil.

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