You Grow Girl won in the category of “Favorite Place to Learn How to Grow Your Own” in the “2004 The Morning News Editor’s Awards in Online Excellence.” Thanks Morning News!
I can’t beleive it’s mid-May already. We’ve been experiencing an unusually warm, dry May (although it is finally raining today). At times I don’t know whether to be running through the streets cheering on an early summer or frightened by how all this will translate come July/August.
One thing it has made me is hesitant. Every year I succumb to temptation and plant basil too early. I know basil hates cool, wet weather. I know how it suddenly flops over, rots at the stem and dies. I know basil. And knowing this I still insist on sacrificing at least one pack of plants every single year “just in case”. But not this year. This year I decided I wouldn’t even take a sideways glance at basil plants until the right moment. So far, so good. Only one more week to go until the frost-free date kicks in.Leave a comment
Guest post by Kelly Gilliam
Make this budget conscious compost bin for your deck or small outdoor space.
One benefit to having your own yard and garden is plenty of room. However, some of us live in tight apartments and are forced to have container gardens. Because of space, the urban dweller may conclude that composting is impossible. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
In my ongoing quest to take more control of my garden right down to the soil I use, I went on a hunt for information on how to make my own small-time composting bin. My initial inspiration was “urban EDEN” by Adam & James Caplin. Since I live in a small area, I don?t require huge amounts of compost. I decided to make my own bin from a Rubbermaid container; it was dark, portable, easy to find and — most importantly — affordable. The following is an account of how I made my bin.
Please note that this how-to is for an outdoor container. It is small enough to fit on a balcony or around the side of a house if you are in a house suite.
- Rubbermaid container (1 1/2 feet by 1 1/4 feet.)
- “Browns”: Dead leaves, brown grass clippings, wood, sticks, shredded newspaper, dead plants, rice, pine needles
- “Greens”: Fresh grass and other plant clippings, fruit and vegetable parts, coffee grounds (with or without filter), tea bags, wool, human hair
- Extra newspaper
- A good knife
- Clean the Rubbermaid container, removing all stickers and labels. Take your knife and cut holes along the edges of the bin’s lid, about 1 centimeter wide. I placed these about 3 centimeters apart. Next, cut a few holes in the middle of the lid. These holes will allow air and moisture to circulate.
- Turn your bin over and cut some drainage holes (the water has to go somewhere, right?). I placed two slits in each corner, about a half-centimeter wide and 3 centimeters long. They should be big enough for drainage, but not enough to allow your compost to spill out.
- Rip up your extra newspaper and put it in the bottom of the bin. The shreds should be no more than 1 inch thick, and should fill up the container about 5 to 6 inches.
- Gather all your “browns.” Place them on top of the newspaper. Your bin should be about one-third to one-half full.
- Gather your “greens.” Place these on top of your browns. Your compost bin should be almost full. Make sure to leave a little room at the top though.
- Place your bin outside (if it isn’t already there). If you must place it directly on a deck, a second extra lid can be placed underneath as a drip tray.
- Water. Make sure it’s damp, but not so wet that everything is floating around. If you live in a rainy climate, you can let nature take its course and wet your compost for you.
- In about 3-4 weeks, go out and give your compost a good turn. This will allow the microbes that are decomposing everything to spread around. Repeat every 3-4 weeks.
- Within 6-8 months, you should have a brown, earthy-smelling mixture. That’s your compost!
To my surprise, worms found their way into my compost. If your bin sits on the ground and not on concrete (like a balcony) or on top of the lid then worms will probably find their way into your bin as well. They’re a nice bonus, but definitely not necessary in composting.
Starbucks Coffee will hand out their organic waste if you ask them. A warning though: It comes in huge bags, and unless you have somebody to split the bounty with, there won’t be room in your bin for it.
Make sure never to place meat, bones, animal waste or dairy products into your compost. These will only attract rodents and vermin, especially in an urban setting.
Do not use your compost as a replacement for potting soil. It is too heavy for plants to live solely on and might burn them. Instead, mix about one part compost with three parts regular potting or topsoil. This will be more than enough for your plants to get their nutrients.
Add to the bin constantly to allow for good compost throughout the season.
Never add plants that are diseased, as the disease can spread through your compost and be passed on to any plants you use the compost on.
Do not use compost indoors, as it is not sterilized and could carry pests.
Kelly is an urban-dweller from Vancouver, B.C. gardening out of containers due to her city enclosure. Originally from the prairies, she moved out to Vancouver fresh out of high school and was amazed to find that you can garden three-fourths of the year. She is constantly bringing home more and more plants that she really has no more room for. Her favourites are cacti/succulents, herbs and sub-tropicals. Kelly runs Devileye.net in her spare time.
Guest post by Niki Jabbour
Weeding is one of my least favourite activities and in terms of fun I would have to rate it somewhere between getting a root canal and beating my head repeatedly against a wall. That said, there is a certain amount of satisfaction derived from yanking on a dandelion and having the entire root slip easily from the soil.
After a rain I can often be found gleefully ripping weeds from the still damp soil of the perennial gardens. The ease with which the long taproots slip from the moist soil is a heady delight. When I’ve managed to pluck a particularly large weed in its entirety, I exuberantly wave it in the air to show my husband what a prize I’ve captured. He nods patiently knowing that I’m well on my way to complete insanity.
Weeding is a necessary evil in order to promote healthy plant growth and keep a garden looking its best. We all have certain weeds that we struggle with continuously year after year and my nemeses include Queen Anne’s lace and clover, although wild mustard is steadily climbing up the list. Corn Spurry plagues the veggie garden and if left to its own devices soon runs rampant choking out the precious cucumbers and tomatoes.
Since the definition of a weed is “any unwanted plant,” I can easily categorize my very unwanted patch of curly mint as a weed. I did know better than to plant it near the perennials, so I have no idea what I was thinking the day I nestled the harmless springs of mint beneath the vigorous leaves of my beloved delphiniums.
Although this particular garden was a contained raised bed, heavily lined with three layers of landscape fabric, two short years later the mint had spread not only across, but far beyond the containment of the garden assaulting the lawn, the gravel path meandering between the garden beds and into the distant rose garden. I comfort myself with the fact that if nothing else, the mint smells incredible when trod upon by wandering feet.
Not only do weeds make our gardens appear untidy, they also compete with our treasured plants for moisture, light and nutrients. As well, many weed species shelter insects and diseases, therefore eliminating weeds can increase the general health of your garden!
Have you ever noticed that when a weed is pulled from the garden, it seems as if two more grow in its place? Most weeds are not only extremely hardy and competitive, but they also produce profuse amounts of seed that sprout up year after year. As weed seeds may remain dormant in the soil for several seasons before germinating, it is therefore vital to eliminate weeds before they are allowed to produce seeds.
Mulch is a great weed suppressor and is readily available from most garden centers in the form of wood chips, shredded bark, pea gravel or chopped leaves. Applied after weed removal (sorry, not before!), mulch will create a clean, attractive appearance and help repel encroaching weeds from your garden beds. It will also suppress further weed seed germination by blocking light from the soil.
A layer of mulch that is 2″ to 3″ is usually sufficient to suppress weed growth, but if you have particularly persistent weeds a 4″ thick layer may be required. Ensure that the mulch does not come in direct contact with the stems or trunks of the plants as slugs, moles and other small creatures that snack on plants may hide there.
Weeds in your grass can be a nuisance if you long for a putting-green perfect lawn. The key to minimizing weeds is to keep your grass healthy and to practice proper mowing techniques. Proper mowing practices include ensuring that your lawn mower blade is sharpened several times a season to prevent damage to delicate grass blades and putting the blade on its highest setting.
Grass that is kept at least 3″ high will be healthier than a short mowed lawn as taller grass will help shade out the ground, preventing weed seed germination. Taller grass will also hold more moisture, helping to prevent drought damage and encouraging your lawn to produce deep vigorous roots. Finally, be sure to leave the grass clippings on the lawn after each mowing to break down and restore nitrogen to the soil.
The best defense against persistent weeds in the garden or in the lawn is to keep your plants and grass healthy. Healthy plants will be able to outcompete weeds easier than those that have been weakened by drought, damage or disease! Be vigilant in the war against weeds by spending a few minutes each week removing any newly sprouted offenders. This will save you much future time and frustration and most importantly, your garden will thank you for it!
Niki Jabbour is an Ornamental Horticulturist and a writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fertilized by sea breezes, her gardens are comprised of a colourful mixture of perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs and flowering shrubs, with a few patches of clover and chickweed thrown in for good measure. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, Niki is also the weekly gardening columnist for the Halifax Daily News and the Chester Clipper.