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Composting the Easy Way
Having an ample supply of good rich compost is the gardeners dream. It has many uses, and all of those uses will result in nicer plants. However, composting can be time consuming and hard work. I place a reasonable value on my time, so spending hours and hours turning compost piles doesn't qualify as a worthwhile exercise, at least in my book. Nonetheless, I do compost, but I do so on my terms.
I built two composting bins. Each bin is five feet wide, five feet deep, and four feet high. I built the bins by sinking 4" by 4" posts in the ground for the corners, and then nailed 2 by 4's and 1 by 4's, alternating on the sides.
I left 2" gaps between the boards for air circulation. The 2 by 4's are rigid enough to keep the sides from bowing out, and in between each 2 by 4 I used 1 by 4's to save a little money. The bins are only 3 sided, I left the front of the bins open so they can be filled and emptied easily. Photos of my compost bins are on this page: http://www.freeplants.comcomposting.htm
I started by filling just one of the bins. I put grass clippings, dried leaves, and shrub clippings in the bins. I try not to put more than 6" of each material on a layer. You don't want 24" of grass clippings in the bin and you should alternate layers of green and brown material. If necessary, keep a few bags of dry leaves around so you can alternate layers of brown waste and green waste.
When we root cuttings we use coarse sand in the flats, so when it's time to pull the rooted cuttings out of the flats, the old sand goes on the compost pile. In our little backyard nursery we also have some plants in containers that do not survive. Rather than pulling the dead plant and the weeds out of the container, and then dumping the potting soil back on the soil pile, we just dump the whole container in the compost bin. This adds more brown material to the mix, and is a lot easier than separating the soil and the weeds.
Once the bin is full, the rules of composting say that you should turn the material in the bin every few weeks. There is no way that I have time to do that, so this is what I do. I pack as much material in the bin as I can before I start filling the second bin. I pile the material as high as I possibly can, and even let it spill out in front of the bin. Then I cover all the fresh material with mulch or potting soil, whatever brown material I can find.
Then when I'm out working in the garden I set a small sprinkler on top of the pile and turn it on very low, so a small spray of water runs on the material. Since I have a good water well, this doesn't cost me anything, so I let it run for at least two hours as often as I can. This keeps the material damp, and the moisture will cause the pile to heat up, which is what makes the composting action take place.
Once I have the first bin completely full, I start using the second bin. As the material in the first bin starts to break down, it will settle and the bin is no longer heaped up, so I just keep shoveling the material that I piled in front of the bin, up on top of the pile, until all the material is either in the bin, or piled on top of the heap. Then I just leave it alone, except to water it once in a while. The watering isn't necessary, it just speeds the process.
Because I don't turn the pile, I can't expect all of the material to rot completely. The material in the center is going to break down more than the material on the edges, but most of it does break down quite well. The next step works great for me because I've got a small nursery, so I keep a pile of potting soil on hand at all times. But you can really do the same thing by just buying two or three yards of shredded mulch to get started, and piling it up near your compost bins. If you do this, you will always have a supply of good compost to work with.
Shredded bark, left in a pile will eventually break down and become great compost. The potting soil that I use is about 80% rotted bark. I make potting soil by purchasing fine textured and dark hardwood bark mulch, and I just put it in a pile and let it rot. The secret is to keep the pile low and flat, so that it does not shed the rain water away. You want the mulch to stay as wet as possible, this will cause it to break down fairly quickly.
So I keep a pile of rotted bark mulch near my compost bins. When both bins are completely full, I empty the bin containing the oldest material by piling it on top of my rotted bark mulch. I make sure the pile of rotted mulch is wide and flat on top so that when I put the material from the compost bin on top of the pile, the compost material is only 5 to 10 inches thick.
My mulch pile might be 12' wide, but it may only be 24 to 30 inches high. Once I have all the compost on top of the pile, then I go around the edge of the pile with a shovel, and take some of the material from the edges of the pile and toss it up on top of the pile, covering the compost with at least 6" of rotted bark. This will cause the compost material to decompose the rest of the way.
Once you get this system started, you never want to use all of the material in the pile. Always keep at least 2 to 3 cubic yards on hand so you've got something to mix with your compost. If you use a lot of compost material like I do, then you should buy more material and add to your pile in the late summer or fall, once you are done using it for the season.
Around here many of the supply companies sell a compost material that is already broken down quite well. This is what I buy to add to my stockpile. But I try to make sure that I have at least 3 yards of old material on hand, then I'll add another 3 yards of fresh material to that. Then in the spring I'll empty one of the compost bins and add the compost to the top of the pile.
The pile of usable compost will be layers of material, some more composted than others. Kind of like a sandwich. So what I do is chip off a section of the pile from the edge, spread it out on the ground so it's only about 8" deep, then run over it with my small rototiller. This mixes it together perfectly, and I shovel it onto the potting bench.
Having a pile of rotted compost near your compost bins is great because if you have a lot of leaves or grass clippings, you can throw some rotted compost in the bin in order to maintain that layered effect that is necessary in order for the composting process to work well.
Sure this process is a little work, but it sure is nice to have a place to get rid of organic waste anytime I like. Then down the road when I have beautiful compost to add to my potting soil, I am grateful to have done the right thing earlier, and I know that I have wasted nothing.
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Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most interesting website, http://www.freeplants.com and sign up for his excellent gardening newsletter.
Orchids Plus More Newsletter - December, 2004
Newsletter Name Change?
Durable Wooden Swing - Decorate Your Outdoors with One
There is nothing better to do on a hot, lazy afternoon than to lounge in your favorite outdoor swing while reading, napping or just watching the world pass by. And when evening approaches and the breeze gets cooler, an outdoor swing is also the perfect place to sit and unwind after a hard day while you watch the fireflies light up the ever darkening sky.
Safety On Lawn Tractors
Every gardener riding a lawn tractor should be concerned about safety. But, most homeowners don't take much time thinking on how risky can be driving lawn tractors. It is obvious the indestructible feelings that you feel when driving a large lawn tractor. You are there, sitting on top of a extremely powerful machine which responds to your orders instantly. However, there are many things, not desired, that can happen very quickly, putting you as operator and others in a terrible danger. Statistics out there say that year after year, many people experience lawn tractors accidents due to either an incorrect or unsafely use.
How To Grow Luscious Tomatoes
The tomato is the most commonly grown vegetable in the States. Here are some tips on how to grow your own bountiful crop of tomatoes.
Growing Vegetables in Containers - The Compact Solution
Container vegetable gardens are a great alternative for those that don't have access to backyards. There can be a range of reasons to grow your vegetables in containers...easy access to the kitchen, safer environments for children and the handicapped or just lack of a yard to use for gardening.
Cultivating Plants In Your Garden...What To Watch Out For
There are so many plants available for you to choose from that it's hard to know where to start. Are you looking for house plants, tropical plants or some beautiful garden plants? Green plants are not only beautiful to look at they also provide a much needed source of fresh oxygen for our breathing. Nature has a way of providing a balance for everything.
Build A Simple Planter Box
Love flowers, but don't have the space -- or the desire -- to plant a garden? You may want to try making your own flower box, which can be just about any size you wish. This planter box is built with a top and a bottom exterior frame; then you affix cedar panels to the frame and add bottom panels. After that, just add plants for a touch of spring anywhere you want to put it! Expert tip: Always draw a diagram before you build anything. Remember: If you can't draw it, you can't build it! You don't have to be Leonardo Divinci, just that YOU can read it!! Your diagram will be useful in helping you determine the size of your project and the amount of lumber you'll need. Simply take the finished diagram with you when you go shopping, and you'll be sure to get everything your project requires. Materials:
Garden Sheds: Wood Finishing and Weatherproofing Tips
To keep wood garden sheds, arbors, or trellises looking their best, consider using a wood finishing product such as sealer, stain, or outdoor paint. Wood finishing protects exposed wood from sun, water, insect, and fungal damage.
Xeriscaping is Waterwise Gardening
What is xeriscaping? You may have heard of xeriscaping as a way of landscaping in the Southwestern United States. You may picture xeriscaping as a lot of gray gravel and cactus in a hot desert yard. People call that "zero-scaping," and that is not what xeriscaping is. Xeriscaping is a method of gardening and landscaping that will reduce your water use and maintenance requirements by as much as 60 percent. Xeriscaping can be done anywhere by any gardener, and in any yard, with the result being a beautiful, even lush, landscape.
Creativity with Ponds
Here's where your creative instincts kick in. This is where you make your pond your own. Basically, it's landscaping, but with a pond it can really become an artistic endeavor.
Make The Most From Your Vegetable Garden
All your hard work has paid off, and now you are presented with a dilemma, too many vegetables! After sharing your wealth with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and anyone that happens to come to visit, there are alternative options of what you can do with your extensive supply of tomatoes, zucchini and other bountiful crops that will bring great joy to the community around you.
How to Attract Birds to Your Backyard Paradise For Less Than $100
Like many Americans, you may find bird watching to be a fascinating hobby. At the same time, perhaps you wonder how you can attract regular visitors to your yard without busting the bank by purchasing expensive foliage, feeders, and food. Here are some tips toward helping you establish a backyard paradise that is certain to welcome birds without draining your wallet.
Tips for Backyard Fish Ponds Care
Installing a backyard fish pond is an aesthetic addition to your landscaping and offers a bit of tranquility as well. However, taking care of backyard fish ponds is not as easy as one might think. And, you have to do more than simply install the fish pond and then let it go. Backyard fish ponds care is constant and consistent. Although, if you follow these tips you will be able to enjoy your backyard fish pond with as little effort possible in its maintenance.
Easter Lilies, and the Number One Gardening Question Right Now
Everybody asks about Easter lilies! Can they go outside; can I plant them in my garden? And to this I reply, "Why not?" Like other bulbs, there are two options if you plant your leftover Easter lily bulbs - either they will live and flower for many years (it is perfectly hardy into zone 4) or they will immediately die. If you don't plant the bulb, it will definitely die. So you have nothing to lose by planting.
There are several different ways to manage algae in your backyard pond. The best way however is when you have several different things all working together in harmony that will best take care of any algae problems you may have.
Flower Meanings & History of Flowers
The charming and delicate beauty of flowers has fascinated people of all nations and backgrounds for centuries. Flowers have been bred and cultivated for their decorative beauty as well as their ability to heal diseases. Flowers are the subject of poems and myths, and religious symbols are associated with flowers as well. Many girls are named after flowers. The main reason for the popularity of flowers though is their ability to bring good cheer.
Gardening - An Expression
Give the same plants to several people, you will see several arrangements. Each one distinct and different, yet, using the same plants.
Gallica roses are a case in point. While the popularity of Old Roses waxes and wanes as each new generation discovers them and then seeks something new, the best of them carry on regardless.Rosa gallica, also known as the French Rose or Provins Rose, is a species that grows wild from southern and central Europe to the Caucasus. Because it readily produces sports, has a tendency towards double flowers, and may have hybridised naturally with other species, it is likely that the earliest European garden roses were forms of Rosa gallica.
A Quick Overview of Outdoor Hot Tubs
There is nothing quite as relaxing as a leisurely evening soak in the hot tub after a long, hard day's work. Sore muscles can finally relax as the water jets massage aches and pains away. It is no wonder that hot tubs are so popular. However, how do you decide which of the many outdoor hot tubs is right for you?
A Teak Chair - Create a Livable Outdoor Space with One
When creating a comfortable, usable outdoor space, nothing could me more inviting and warm than furnishing that space with natural products such as wood. Often, though, there are problems associated with wood furnishings. Wood is susceptible to the elements and can splinter and degrade if not cared for properly. That's why many people choose teak chairs and teak furniture for their outdoor spaces.
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