Hay Bale Gardening, Sounds Great, But…

A few years ago I wrote an article for passing on info about using free composted manure and issues about crop failure in gardens. Got a lot of emails about it. So here it is again, but a little further.

I had some folks, who were Horse Farm folks, trying to do the Organic thing, by using their horses manure in their beds, flowering, shrubs, veggies, and all of them had the same failures, damages. They were thinking about selling it to the public as well, which was also why I was there, to help them get started. So I was at one of the farms, and a few of the friends were their, hammering me with questions, had to wait until I had an opening to ask this…

“Where do you get your hay”. They all looked at me like I was just trying to change the subject, a few disputed my gardening knowledge, kinda got heckled a bit so I asked again… Crickets…. Then one blurted out, “We all get our hay from the same guy, what’s that got to do with our dead gardens”?

Now there was some wine drinking going on, and if any of you other writers have tried to get in a word with this type of group, then you feel my pain. Took several times of me just asking the same question.

So then I started on chemicals, how they work, what they attack, their break down times, lingering effects, and more wine was opened, then when I saw I was finally losing them, I grabbed a bottle of wine, and as I walked amongst them, refilling their glasses, now they are quiet, I stated, “These chemicals are in the hay, absorbed through the plant, and then eaten by your horses, and is eliminated through their urine and fecal matter…. It’s in the manure for up to four years, and killing your plants”. Hmm. I was looking for the door now, seemed it was all of a sudden my fault. So I suggested someone call this “Hay Guy” and ask if there were chemicals used in his crops. You can say you are “Organically Grown“, but if anyone asks specifically, by Federal Law, you have to disclose what chemicals if any. So you folks that have a lawn service, you have the right to know what the chemical is when they hang that thing on your door, “Treated for weeds…”. Also you Water Gardening people, if you use baled Barley Straw in your pond to control Algae, same thing. Ask…… I have heard of retention ponds, sterile, devoid of life a few feet up into the marginals, except for grassy weeds.

So, back to the manure, one of them called, asked, got kinda verbally abusive, hung up, looked at me and asked, “OK, so now what do we do”? “Make new Veggie gardens, the chemicals are splashing onto the leaves when it rains, killing all your Broad Leaf Veggies”. That’s when I pointed across the room, yelled out, “LOOK, something shiny!”, and left.

So you see where I’m going with the Hay Bale thing? Your plants are above the hay, so no worries about killing them from the chemicals used during the producing the hay crop, Oh, did I say chemicals in the hay crop? Your plants are absorbing these chemicals, also leaching thru to the soil they are on, contaminating your surroundings, and you are eating them. Doesn’t sound very Organic to me. Same thing with Pallet Gardening, unless it’s a heat treated pallet with an HT branded on it, well you’re eating that chemical too.

If you want more info, here is one of the articles I had already read a few years before I stepped foot on this horse farm, yes, I came packin’! Kinda knew what the outcome was from the concerns from their original complaint. When I arrived there, saw the dead gardens, I knew. I even made a small bucket of Manure Tea from the soil in the Veggie Garden, poured it on some weeds, and said wait a week, see if they die. They did. So if you are doing the Hay Bale thing, make some “Hay Tea” first, try it on some weeds, if they die, well…

Just a side note of concern, If you are doing the Organic Thing, and you use Corn Gluten to suppress weeds, you need to think about your veggies absorbing it as well. Make sure your family or guests know you use it, in case they have Celiac Disease, it can trigger health problems, they can’t ingest Corn Gluten. It’s in the plant. I know a few folks that this happened to, as they tried to be Organic. Just think about it.

Garden Center Clearance Time?

Seed Catalogs are in the mail, compost is cooking, dreams and plans for the coming seasons are dancing in gardeners heads. All consuming our thoughts and making us just a bit distant to our friends. I myself have been out to the spent paradise, overlooking it’s new abilities. It’s Winter demise is actually picturesque to me, and I still get that Horticultural Therapy. I have my phone with me, looking at the pictures from last year as I am out there, planing.

But the big picture, the leftover products at box stores. The items in the overheads and last 3 things on a shelf, prices falling because they are discontinued from the new seasons product lines. Vendors don’t want them back, most times, and the store receives no credit. They get what they can, as the price tumbles, then toss in the compactor when the price is low enough to take the hit. Where does this leave you?

If you go to a big box store, and see the clearance items that are on the, let’s say, “Pot Wall”, the yellow “was/now” stickers, maybe there is a deal, or just the thing you were looking for. Same as the Hose Aisle, Bird Seed, Tools, and bagged goods, maybe even the Hard Scape Aisle. But in any case, with a little detective work, you can find some better deals. These aisles haven’t been as high maintained since late October, because of the Christmas Crash, and most of those other spots are considered “out of season”… Are ya seein’ it yet? OK, then here’s more. Most all of the merchandise for those aisles have been consolidated to the overhead where they belong on the racks. MOST box stores have been thru an inventory lately, so all the boxed freight in the overhead is plainly marked. Write down the SKU  or item number you see on a weathered box, search for it on the shelves, if you don’t see it, find an employee with one of those fancy phones and ask what the price is for that number. Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, maybe it will do, maybe, it’s a heck of a find.

On the fertilizer aisles, either large bags or the smaller boxed, check there too. Most, again, most of those stores can’t toss hazmat items away, and if it has gone to $.01, they most likely give it to you, it costs them a huge amount to send in a hazmat truck, away… Check the Chemical Wall too, same thing. Look in the overhead for anything that says, “Promo” anything. Then find that kid with that crazy phone.

It’s Gardening Deal time at the box stores. Right now, Christmas is on final clearance, there are Storage Events happening along with Vanities, etc, so no Gardening stuff is coming in yet. They aren’t even thinking about March. So give it a try, on the down-lo, see if you find some real deal goodies. You may even find some cheap racks in Flooring, and Light Fixtures in the Light Cloud. It’s time for deals folks!!

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….

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.

Merry Christmas

My Gentle Snowflakes, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. I will.. See, this is the shortest hours of daylight this week. On Christmas Day, we gain one minute back of daylight, and that in itself, is a gift to me. We get one more per day until like the 21st of January, when it starts skipping to 2 minutes a day. On that day, it is the same as November 21st. Same hours of daylight/darkness. We are at 9hrs 34min now of daylight, the last part of June, we are at 14hrs 45mins of wonderful daylight. There are a lot of minutes in the 24 hr day, I just hate when they are mostly “dark” minutes”.

Now, there is a lot to start thinking about soon. We need to start planning when to lime our lawns in January, prune back roses and ornamental grasses in February, Put down preventers in March as well as solarize vegetable gardens. Seed starting indoors, well what else can you do? It will get busy here in my home again very soon. Yeah, I love when the days get longer. I can only clean my house but so much. I want outside!

What else is there.. Ah yes, pruning Crape Myrtles in March, forgot that. Oh, planting Bare Root Roses in February, and B&B trees and shrubs. Get that compost turned in late Winter will speed things up a bit. Seeing steam in the mornings in that pile? Congrats, you are making “dirt”. Ma Nature will be proud. When April 15th gets here, we will be off the leash in our landscapes again. Start toning up your gardening muscles before hand. Get that logbook out and review last years pics, remember the heat last year, just think in your mind, it could happen again, so plan out your irrigation early, get those soaker hoses in place before the onset of growth happens. Drip irrigation systems? A wonderful thing to have.

Yeah, it’s coming. Thanks Laurie, for making me get that mental visualization of picking a ripe Tomato the other day. I could smell it, see it, taste it. I felt the warm soil under my bare feet. I saw other yellow blooms on the vine. I got mad, because I mentally, forgot the salt shaker…. It needs to get here soon.

So, Merry Christmas folks, I hope you and yours get everything you want in the coming year.

Gardening Your Soil

OK. After Ida dumps a boatload of needed water on us, we need to think ahead to next Spring and our vegetable gardens. It is always so nice to be able to dig by hand in my plot. I “garden” my soil. Cultivate the trash, and get great, quality soil. I have already pulled out most of my exhausted plants, and have enough in my freezer to last until next Spring. I did good. I am still picking 2nd plantings on a few items, as well as getting ready to harvest my cold crops. Now, I need to start on next years soil garden.

First, I will finish leveling out with a garden rake, and try to get out as much of the fallen veggies as possible, to avoid “volunteers” for next Spring. Can’t get them all, though, but most of what I see will go. Thats what solarizing my beds in the Spring will negate for me.

Then, I will bag as much lawn debris that I can, which will mainly consist of lawn clippings and leaves. That will be spread all over my garden plot. Then a little pelletized lime in the mix, and cover with about an inch of last years compost, just enough to cover the leaf/lawn litter.

Thats pretty much it folks. Now I will wait until Spring for the solarization part. I don’t really care what grows in the beds over winter, weed or otherwise, because the plant material will keep the soil bed broken up and perking. I will easily get them out about early March. I will be anxious by then anyway, wanting to get going by April 15th, when my tomatoes go in the ground. Yeah, the dirt I gardened will be pretty again with those neatly planted rows and hilled veggies. Stakes and trellises standing tall, bare, waiting for the onslaught of vines and bunched leafy greens.

I can’t express how important it is to cultivate your planting beds to have greater success in the coming years. How much did you harvest this year from your backyard? If it was so-so, then do the simple, easy things to improve next year. It will be worth it. In just 3 short months, your seed catalogs will be in the mail, that’s not the time to start the soil garden. That time is now.