Composting Surprises, A Poke At The “Dirty Job” Folks

A few days ago I posted on several social sights, garden groups, and just asked folks in the street, a query. Simply put it was, “What was the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?” The results were numerous, as well as humorous. Some folks were actually wondrous of what they had found before. Some had just quit, because.. So here’s the compiled list, and I’m sure I will be adding more later. So here it is.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?

Black Soldier Fly larvae,  mushrooms, Snakes, Grubs, Peach trees, this years garden from old seeds, baby Rabbits, Mice, Rats, Raccoons, various Snakes, more snakes, Pumpkins, 6 kinds of Squashes, 9 types of Tomato, Melons, Potato, “Squashcumbers”, Zucchini, Apple tree, Avocado, Peanuts, Coyote, well, it was on the poll, Dahlias, Amaryllis, Day Lillies and other assorted bulbs, Juan Valdez’s donkey, (I guess there was a lot of grounds there), Almond tree, Cherry tree, Peach tree, Mango, Marijuana, (hmm, really? I need to check in on that soon?), Peppers, various Herbs, Praying Mantis, Hornets, Turtles, Opossums, Gourds, Toads, re-sprouting House Plants, things they thought were dead, Strawberries, several types of knives, and funny, a few said when it was missing, they knew it was in the compost, and found it, the “compost turning tool”, a t-shirt, old plant tags, supposedly “biodegradable trash items, kitchen utensils, an egg to see if it boils in 140 degree compost (bored gardener?), it did, trowels, 4 times the right glove, never the left, wedding ring (whew!!), Worms, and Lizards. Then there were 9, “nothings”. They had access to free composted horse and cow manure. Hmm. Wondering about where the livestock owner gets their hay, if there was 2-4D involved with the crop.

Funny, the one thing no one said, and I have never seen it either, was someone else, turning the pile, just me. Some said, they just quit the garden bed, and let Ma Nature grow in the compost, and had spectacular gardening pleasures just from the “grab bag” idea. Things germinate as the weather permits. My experience is if it’s growing in there, I leave it or transplant it. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a “box store”, and I know, I worked as the on site Garden Specialist at one for over 13 years. Never waited on her. Most people are ad followers, and simply over-comfort their gardens to failure. Sometimes, benevolent neglect, is the key.

This was a fun poll, especially since I had over 350 responses in 2 days from all the groups and face-to-face encounters. Most were seasoned gardeners, and knew their dirt. The beginners were wonderful in admitting their failures, and are learning, “eh, just toss it in” techniques. Wait until those folks learn “Soil Solarization”, like composting on steroids!! So thank you to all the likes and answers, obviously, this is a matter that needs to be enhanced on.

How Much $$ are YOU Saving?

Composting, Leaf Mold, and Saving Seeds

Some believe that as December hits, gardening has been well done. Not me. I’m still getting ready for late Winter. I said Late Winter, that’s March. This years garden was very late because of moving. I didn’t get the plot plowed until late July and it was in a rocky, clay, first time tilled spot. But I had “debris” that the last tenant just blew aside. I found some gold, and ate for free for the most part. Next year, all free.

My compost pile is doing very nice. My roommate and I are continuing to contribute to its mass. We have a simple coffee can on the counter, and most everything we don’t use, is in there. It’s amazing how I see my compost as “The other garden” as it grows. And, It’s free. Also, as the Summer Garden dwindled, all that green litter, went into it, again, free. Towards the end of Summer, veggies were growing in it from seed, and Celery, Parsnip, Turnip end cuts were re-growing. That, lets me know it’s good stuff when it supports itself.

Compost (1)The pic doesn’t do it justice. From just a cleared out spot in the yard in July, you can now see it from the house an acre away. And it is all garbage to some, but gold to us. Funny that some folks who have been here just look at me and say, “You’re kidding right?” Nope, just a weekly trip out with that coffee can.

 

 

 

For a lot of people leaves are such a misunderstood item. I have always used mine, no matter where I’ve lived. I recently wrote an article for Farmers Almanac about Raking vs Mulching leaves. Just makes sense to re-use them, they are free too. When I’m done with what I need, I give the rest away. They are already mulched, and ready to be amended into a garden or use as mulch. So much nutrients in those free leaves. And, you can’t buy them at a box store. Think about how a tree in the woods is fed. No one goes out there and tosses Miracle Gro at them. A tree drops its leaves all around its base for the most part and the leaves naturally compost into its feeder roots. As I mulch mine when they first start falling into my lawn, I am adding a valuable amendment into my lawn.

Leaf MoldAs they start falling harder, I start bagging with my mower, and save for my beds, especially the veggie garden. In around mid February, I will add as a top dress to the garden, and turn in about mid March, when I will “Solarize” that bed. Solarizing is cool, I have an article around here somewhere.

 

 

 

Saving seeds has always been a must for me. I don’t like buying them, especially now because of the GMO debacle. Towards the end of the seasons, I collect one or two veggies off each plant and save those seeds, herbs, I let bloom a bit, and save them, Fall crops just need to bolt, and there are seeds. I have them in individual marked zip-loc bags, and I am saving also, all my dryer lint thru the year for starting those Tomatoes and Peppers in late February indoors. Search for the dryer lint article or hit this link when I was on TV about it.

So as I wait for the coming season, I am already ahead in the wallet department. All of my efforts, just simple doings, will save me money, and I will eat free. From the size of my compost, seed allotment, leaf mold, which also has free nutrients, I will be around $200 ahead with free stuff. And, I know what is in all the materials I use. No chemicals, growth hormones, mystery stuff. I know what I am eating all the time. So can you. Truly organic is what you control. Just because the bag is labeled as such, it’s really only 85% “organic”. Read the ingredients, there is mostly another 15% missing….

Composted Leaf Mold Starts in Your Own Yard

Composting Leaf Mold

So, what happens each Fall, when we start getting leaves? We always say, or mean to, re-use them in our landscape, compost, garden beds, and what happens? Time doesn’t run out, daylight just gets shorter. In a recent article I wrote for  Farmers Almanac about raking vs mulching, I had a very good hit with emails about “Leaf Mold”. Yes, Leaf Mold is a good thing, and even better if its a free thing. I have in the past, and will again, hear from folks who got a soil analysis, and always, there is a comment from the County, to add leaf mold. “Where do we buy it”? First thing I ask about is if they have deciduous trees, most say yes. I ask where the leaves are from last year, and I find the same answer, “at the dump”.

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In the article in FA, I suggested folks seek out the leaves getting blown to the curb to be picked up, and ask if they can have a bunch. But you should scatter them in your yard and mulch them and bag up with a mower. The pieces compost faster than the whole leaves, but your garden life will change. Just make sure you aren’t picking up diseased leaves, or Black Walnut. Oak, Maple, Hickory, Poplar, Beech, are a few that I haven’t seen a lot of fungus activity. Flowering Pear, and Dogwoods, are really taking a beating the last couple of years, so, pass on them.

Generally, insects aren’t a problem, since the layering of the leaves in the beds, will freeze, and then start “cooking” later, and will kill most insects in them. If you are composting, and have been saving grass, and other greens, leaf mold is a magic kick for the ratio.

So like I said in the previous articles, and lectures, I have used all I need from my own trees, and have a surplus of already mulched leaves. Come get them, bring your own bags. There are also an abundance of Pine Tags, rake your own, I’m done. Don’t let these valuable resources hit the landfill. Just send me an email if you are in the Richmond area and are “Tree Challenged” and want some.

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Leaf litter ready to go!!

See www.Kevinsgarden.com and sign up for my newsletters. If you want the leaf litter and Pine Tags, email me at Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com

My links for the Farmers Almanac and other media are below.

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/23612768/grow-your-own-food?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9405593
http://www.nbc12.com/story/25093965/grow-a-garden-on-your-balcony?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9992677
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/08/25/putting-beds-bed/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/10/13/october-gardening-chores/
http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/11/03/rake-not-rake/

There are other articles in my blog http://www.Kevinsgarden.wordpress.com that will help you successfully have a great gardening experience.

The Farmers Almanac

My first article in the FA this month!! Kinda nice because the lecture requests are coming faster this year, and more… Already October thru March bookings and I’ve had a few who didn’t realize, now they do!

http://farmersalmanac.com/home-garden/2014/08/25/putting-beds-bed/

March in Richmond Garden Time

March In
Richmond, Va.

Here we are in March, Richmond Va. wondering… Or are
we?
Most of the “Gardeners” here know, It’s go time. Others, wait for the
media, to say “GO”.  I’m sorry if you wait, we “Dirt Folks” , are ahead of you.

For the last few weeks, we have been watching birds, plants, sky color, and
aching bones, additional 2 1/2 hours extra daylight, to see when we need to go.
It’s now. Believe us.
OK, lemme clue you in. As the sky turns more blue from
grey, we start pruning what we didn’t finish in the Fall. We always know, there
will be another snow, and we count on it. Robins showing up, and neighbors
finally taking down old Christmas decor… Garden prep time is here.
It’s
March. What needs to be done now, needs to be done ri If you haven’t pruned your
Roses, get that done. Crape Myrtles are this month as well. Last ditch effort on
those tired ornamental grasses. Lawn? Pre-Emergent, NOW!! Sorry if you don’t get
that done if you follow our Lawn Sheet.. It will cost you more in about 45 days.
Way more.
Clean out any old fruit litter you may have missed. Have Stink
Bugs? They love old decaying fruit litter, so maintenance of your beds is
important.
Let’s talk lawn tools for a second. Oil them, sharpen them, or buy
new stuff. There. That’s it. You can’t build a house with a rusty screwdriver
and half a hammer. Can’t cook, with a 2 tined fork and 3 cracked glasses. Can’t
update your Facebook without a, well, I guess you can, but you get it.

By Now, if you started seeds indoors already, you are ready to feed
those babies. In a few days, they will be ready to take out and start hardening
off. If you haven’t, it’s now. Peppers, Tomatoes, Eggplant and Onions for the
summer garden. Cold Crops? Why are you waiting. GO. NOW. They are showing up in
plant form now in nurseries, so go ahead, plant them.
Garden Prep time is
now too. Solarizing beds starts now.

Solarizing Gardens
Solarizing is
simple.First thing is to finish clearing out your old beds. Rake out old rows
and fill in furrows. Till if you must, just be careful it’s not too wet, because
you can actually cause a compaction issue.  Add more compost if you have it or
need it. Top dress with about a quarter inch of composted manure. Add a little
10-10-10 and a little lime, then water. Cover the entire bed with clear plastic
and place bricks or lumber around to hold in place. After a few weeks you will
see new gtowth from weeds and old veggie seeds, bugs will hatch as well. It’s
ok, it’s supposed to. Around early April, you should be growing and hatching the
bad stuff really good. Watch the weather and when you see the frost warnings
come out, simply take the plastic off that evening and let Ma Nature fry
everything that night. There. Done. This will give you a head start on no
chemicals for a while. That was easy.

Indoor Plants
March
is also a great time to re-pot those tired indoor tropicals. Always add new
potting mix as the old falls out when breaking up the rootballs. Go up one pot
size to get more production from them, or separate the babies sprouting out for
new pots. Time to start feeding again thru the season. Use insecticidal soap
solutions to treat for bugs. water good the first time after re-potting to help
settle the new soil.

Water Garden
Folks
I know its a hard
chore but it needs to be cleaned out too. Remove the leaf netting now and skim
out what you can. Don’t start feeding those fish until the water temp stays
above 58 degrees. If you had moved the pump closer to the water fall for Winter,
it’s time to put it back in the far end to get complete circulation now. Check
for new shoots on those plants, it’s time to propogate them as well.

In case you missed my
WWBT segment on “More bang for your buck” it’s out on their website
now.

It’s Been a Rough Summer

So far I’ve lost some veggie plants, a few small shrubs, and a few pounds from the heat this Summer. I would like to see some relief, but don’t think it’s coming. We’ve done OK as far as bagging and freezing some veggies, but not enough. Started a second round of Squash, Beans, Cantelopes. Peppers? They love this weather. We have Trinidad Scorpions and Ghost Peppers this year. They are doing great along with the rest. Fall is coming…

So with August here next week we have a few chores to do before Fall actually gets here. First, I need to finish pruning and picking up after all the storms that lit out through here. Then I can think about what to kill off weed’wise in the beds and the lawn. Lawns took a beating this year. Next month I will post a proper Richmond, Va. lawn schedule for you all. Easy and simple, it will be here and on www.Kevinsgarden.com, check it out if you haven’t been there yet.

We will have our Cold Crops ready to go as well.

3 Weeks From Transplanting…

We are almost ready to transplant, and I’m sore already!!

   In a few weeks, the seedlings will be in the garden. Then it will be up to Ma Nature to decide. I have been trying to help, but in the end, it’s all in her hands. I just hope she sees how hard I’ve tried this Winter. Today I turned in some very nice cooked compost, along with some good Winter Rye. I will apply some wood ash and 10-10-10 in a day or two. We’re heating up here already, and the babies are almost ready for real soil. The drip irrigation I will install afterwards will help out a lot, I hope. I think I did a really good job gardening my soil this past Fall/Winter.. Didn’t spend any money on it, but it looks like the stuff I could get like $50.00 per 5 gal. bucket with plenty of worms, and not the first grub…. I’m just a proud dirt farmer..

Heres some pics.

www.picasaweb.google.com/Kevinthegarden

Spring 2011 albumn.