Bad news and good news about the composting workshop.

The bad news is not many people showed up and the presenters were late.  The good news is for us diehard composter wannabes who braved temperatures in the 90s, we got personalized attention from Minnie McMahon, the  intern that oversees the garden, and I was able to get one of the garden plots. 

That’s my plot right there with my name on the stick.

Here are a few pictures of the garden.  (Hover to get a description of the picture and click on image to get a larger view)

In my own little compost world, I’m going to dump the compost from my leaf bag  even though everything is not totally broken down yet.  

As you can see, the contents have shrunken down to about 30 percent of the total amount of stuff that went into it (all the growth from the trees along the side of the garage, my neighbor’s grass clippings, miscellaneous weeds and trimmings from the yard, food scraps including the rind from a watermelon and two cantaloupes, shredded newspaper and computer paper, dirt from dead plants, a sprinkling of peat moss), and everything is nice and dark.   And, yes, this little bit of compost did get up to at least 120 on multiple days.

The weather’s been so hot, I’m sure it won’t be long before it’s totally broken down.  Plus, my next batch of greens is coming.

Happy Gardening!!

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Avid Gardeners Adventurously Acquiring Amendments (or) Shoveling Sh*t

It’s funny what gets you going when you really like gardening.  My Master Gardener buddy, Gregory, swears by manure for his gardens.  I’ve never seen his gardens, but he told me that three of the pictures in the Local Food, Farms & Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy report that was presented to the Illinois General Assembly and later passed were of some of his community gardens. 

A couple of days ago he called me to remind me of a meeting that was scheduled (which I had forgot about).   It was held at one of the neighborhood arts centers.  They have free art classes for the kiddies, which is really nice.  I thought the meeting went well.  It always makes me feel good to talk garden. 

One of the ladies was giving an update on her garden.  She said they had the low tunnel all constructed and they were just waiting for the manure.  As I understand it, a low tunnel (in this case it can be called a hot bed too) is where you dig a hole in the ground where you want to plant.  You put in X amount of inches of fresh manure. I think she mentioned 18 inches.  On top of that you put a layer of soil.  Then you can plant into the soil.  The heat generated from the decomposing horse manure rises and gives bottom heat to the growing area. 

Near the end of the meeting Gregory mentioned he had a source for the manure but he needed a truck.  Another one of the ladies said she had a Suburban and she’d help, she just wanted reimbursement for gas.  Gregory jumped on the opportunity.   Networking at its finest.

Now, I’m thinking horse manure, free composting worms, free worm casts, free organic garden fertilizer.  So, I ask if I can follow them to the farm.  Between the meeting ending, changing clothes and getting to the farm the sun had gone down.  So, here we are five folks on a farm shoveling sh*t in the beam of headlights and talking garden.  It was surreal.

To justify my obsessive avid pursuit of all things gardening, manure is a useful commodity

Methane gas (which is produced as the manure decomposes) is a leading cause of global warming.  We gardeners can do our part one Bag-O-Sh*t at a time.

Happy Gardening!!!!

p.s.:  Not trying to beat anybody to the punch, but here’s a picture for you, Granny, of my borage.  It’s still pretty small.

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Happy Gardening!!!

What’s better than free seeds?

Free plants.03-21-09

The topic of the Building Urban Gardens class today was container gardening. Everybody got to choose four plants to take home. There’s about 50 people in the class and there were still some left over, so they gave those away too. Cool. Just one more class to go.

I’ve always read that you shouldn’t use the same container soil year after year, but our presenter said she never changes her soil. She’ll add some compost, but doesn’t routinely totally change out the soil. Maybe it’s the folks that sell the specialty potting mixes that put out the rumor that you should change it every year.

After the meeting, I got a chance to do a little work in the yard. I’ve got this pile of leaves that’s been “composting” since October or November…

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This was taken in December, and you can see there was enough heat in the pile to melt the snow right in the middle there. I just knew I was going to have some nice leaf mold to add to my beds. Nope. When I removed the plastic and started digging down into the leaves nothing had decomposed. It was a matted down mess. So, I ended up shoveling the leaves into black plastic garbage bags. I’ll poke a few holes in the bags and sit them to the side so it can one day become leaf mold.

Lesson to little back yard gardeners: Don’t put a huge pile of leaves where you intend to plant within the next two years. Leaves don’t break down that fast.

Once I got the bulk of the leaves out of the bed, I kind of leveled what was there and laid down some black plastic to get things warmed up.

Only a few of the garlic bulbs are coming up. I hope I didn’t plant them too early last fall. But it’s still early. Maybe they’ll come up.

I got a chance to plant spinach, radish, lettuce and a few beets in the spot I usually plant the elephant ear. The elephant ear can’t got in until it’s warm outside, and this stuff will be done or almost done by then.

And the last thing I did was pot up the blueberry, blackberry and gooseberry. I was impressed with the size of the blueberry. I had paid about $7 for a blueberry twig that died on me, and this one actually looks like a bush.

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The only thing I’m a little worried about is that the roots weren’t wrapped too well, but we’ll see what happens.

Happy Gardening!!!!

Gee, I Guess I’ve Gone a little Green

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Carbon Footprint The other day my youngest son made a special point of asking me if I knew what happened at Washington Mutual. I assured him that unless he had more than $100,000 in that one bank he didn’t have to worry because of the FDIC. Then he commented on the economy and how hard it was going to be for people. I told him that people will just have to not spend every penny they get, save for emergencies and live with spending less. Then he made the comment, “Yeah, but you get used to certain luxuries.”

I had an epiphany, not necessarily about the economy, but about the ecology and the way we live. I realized that over this past year my fundamental belief system about my personal impact on and responsibility to our environment has been altered, and it all began with compost. There’s something about the circle of growing the seed that makes the plant that makes the fruit/vegetable that makes the scrap that goes into the compost pile that makes the compost that’s used as the fertilizer that goes back into the ground to grow the seed to make the plant and so on, and so on, and so on. It gives you an appreciation for the circle of life.  I don’t ever want to go without the “luxury” of shelter, running water, electricity or gas, but some luxuries equal wastefulness which equals negative impact on the environment.

I’ve slowly made changes in the way I live to help lessen my carbon footprint on the world. While reading about composting I was better able to understand and assimilate the information about what pesticides and chemicals do to our environment , which is something that can be avoided by using organic pesticides and fertilizers. I’m very proud of the fact that except for the two applications in March, I ditched my Miracle Grow, which I have sworn by for years and used only compost and bone meal to fertilize my plants this year. I am now more cognizant of the fact that the vegetables I buy from the store come to me with a layer of poison on them if they weren’t grown organically. And that makes you think more about the animals and the hormones and antibiotics that they are fed that make their way through the food chain to us mere humans. Everything I consume now I think about the potential toxins I’m exposing myself to.

I found compact fluorescent bulbs at the dollar store and bought $50 worth (split them with my mother-in-law) and swapped out every light that I could. Now, to be honest, if I hadn’t found them for $1 I’m not sure I would have bought so many, but I feel like I’m doing my part. I can’t say I’ve actually seen a big drop in my electric bill, but that could also be due to older appliances running the bill up.

I did splurge when the washer went out and got a front loader which is supposed to use less water than top loaders and it is Energy Star compliant.

I wash dishes the old fashioned way, but I’m more aware of the wasted water. Now I don’t let the water run the entire time I’m washing the dishes so that I don’t waste so much water. 

I make a special effort to turn off lights when I leave the room to not only lower my bill, but to lower the overall power demand. If the power demand is lower, the pollutants caused to generate the power at the power company goes down.

When you grow a few of your own vegetables or buy locally grown vegetables you help lessen the carbon footprint associated with importing vegetables, such as the cost of fuel and the vehicle emissions.

Living green is a cost effective way to live. When you reuse and recycle you save dollars and cents. When you walk instead of ride you exercise your body. When you ride public transportation you stop emissions from polluting the air. If everybody did their little part the world would be a better place.

One of my future green projects is to get rid of the front lawn and plant edibles and perennials, which will lessen water usage. I just have to plan it where it’s aesthetically pleasing.

Happy Gardening!!!