Thursday, January 21, 2010

Steps to Making a Compost Pile

1.       Cut the bottom out of a garbage can.
2.       Mount wire mesh across two pieces of wood to create a screen raised slightly off the ground.
3.       Upend the garbage can onto the screen.
4.       Cover the screen with a thick layer of newspaper.
5.       Spread a thin layer of kitchen waste on the newspaper.
6.       Mound a layer of dry leaves and dirt on top of that.
7.       Sprinkle with worm casings
8.       Make a second layer of kitchen waste.
9.       Cover with soil and dry leaves. You can also use dry grass cuttings from your yard.

Keep the compost loose.

Never add anything harmful to your compost. Some shrubbery is poisonous so don’t add anything except grass cuttings to your compost. Don’t use meat or meat juice. Shrimp shells are good. Eggshells are good. I do not use manure in my compost because I don’t have access.

If possible, grind up or chop up whatever you add to compost. This step creates more work for you in the beginning, but the end results are well worth it.

Instead of using animal manure in your compost, try using worm castings, a super boost. Follow directions for making worm casting tea.

Every fall I beg for leaves. I keep some of the leaves in bags to add to the compost. The rest I spread liberally in a thick layer on my garden beds. I tarp them down with landscape cloth that allows the rain to filter through. By planting time the leaves having decomposed enough to be turned into the soil.

During grass-cutting season, we let the grass on the back half of our land grow long. When it is cut, I let it lie in the sun until dried out before raking up to use in compost. Grass acts a green manure in your compost, eliminating the need to use animal wastes.

You can add a half bottle of beer per 2 bushels. The beer contains yeast which will ferment.

We have an outdoor fire pit. I dump the cold ash and charcoal directly into the compost. Be SURE you allow ample time for the ash/charcoal to cool.

Blood Meal
If you use blood meal, remember it is high in nitrogen and can burn your plants. It will speed the breakdown process in your compost. Be advised that blood meal is a slaughterhouse by product.

Herbs for the garden
Comfrey tea is a wonderful addition to compost. After making poultices and tinctures, always bless the herb and put it into the compost to go back to the earth.

Bone Meal
Adds phosphorus to the soil and can be used liberally. Sprinkle on compost.

Epsom Salts
Add magnesium to the soil.

At the end of one month, I lift the garbage can off the compost pile and cover the pile with a tarp. Once a week I uncover the heap, stir the compost, then wet it down and re-tarp. I use a tarp so that rain doesn’t wash out all the nitrogen in the pile. With care and boosting, you can produce good compost in 3 months.  Just in time for spring planting.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Biodynamic Planting

I've begun to research biodynamic gardening. I've laid out all the garden beds (8). Inside the fence where the beds are more sheltered I plan to use plastic lean-tos to cover the plants so I can get started earlier. Below is a schedule of moon phases and my planting times. You can save yourself some time by consulting the Farmer's Almanac, which shows a schedule for planting indoors and out. I'll follow their recommendations which are very similar to my own research listed below. I'm getting started earlier than usual because I am experimenting with covered beds.

Capricorn- An earth sign. Productive and dry. Good for planting potatoes and other root crops, and for encouraging strong hardy growth. Cut back plants damaged by cold. Good for grafting, and pruning to promote healing, and applying organic fertilizer. December 22 to January 19

Jan 30 – full moon
Jan 15 – new moon
Jan 16 Start petunias

Aquarius- An air sign. Barren and dry. Harvest root and fruit for storage. Cultivate, destroy weeds and pests. Good for planting onion sets. January 20 to February 18

Full moon Jan 30th
New Moon Feb 14
Feb 15 Start lettuce, cabbage, kale, spinach, basil, thyme, cilantro
Jan 31 Start carrots indoors.

Pisces- A water sign. Very productive and moist. Second best sign for planting and transplanting. Especially good for root growth and irrigation. February 20 to March 20

Full Moon Feb 28
New moon March 15
March 16 Transplant to outdoors: lettuce, spinach seedlings, plant snow peas, artichoke, broccoli
use mini greenhouses
Feb 29 - seed onions, carrots, radishes, beets in back bed. Transplant carrots. Cover with greenhouse
Start indoors: Yolo peppers, tomatoes, winter squash indoors, zucchini and cukes, more lettuce, cabbage
Start marigolds and zinnias indoors.