Outdoor compost harvest

It’s been a year and a half since I started my outdoor compost bin and I wanted to see what I could collect.

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So I made a compost sifter out of materials I had on hand: a Rubbermaid lid and 1/4 in hardware cloth.

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I cut out a rectangular opening in the Rubbermaid lid, drilled a hole in each corner and secured hardware cloth (cut to size) with zip ties. Fasten this onto a Rubbermaid bin, shovel some compost and sift.

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Happy to have this new supply of homemade compost!

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Water saver challenge (day 1)

In honor of World Soil Day, I’m posting my water saver challenge:

How long can I go on watering my vegetable garden only with saved and collected water?

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That includes rain water, as well as any water saved from rinsing produce and mugs with unfinished coffee. Thanks to the rain a couple weekends ago, I was able to collect about 290 gallons of rain water (before it rained, I drained the water out my full rain barrels into whatever empty containers I had on hand — plastic storage bins, camping coolers, buckets, etc.

With one 4 ft x 8 ft square bed in a cool season, I’m guessing my water collection will last me 4 months. No calculations went into that guess, I just pulled that number out of thin air. We shall see.

I’ll also be on the lookout for more ways to collect garden water from household tasks.

Oh! I just thought of another one: save the water from boiling eggs.

Any other suggestions for ways to reuse and save water for a veggie garden?

Rain barrels

My household just upped its sustainable gardening practice with the installation of rain barrels. We had a light rain this morning that filled up two 50 gallon rain barrels! Here’s one of the barrels in our setup:

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This is a Rescue 50 gallon rain barrel with diverter propped up on four 8″ x 8″ x 16″ concrete blocks. The product came with detailed instructions to install everything. We put a second barrel next to another downspout at the opposite side of the house.

We got to test this setup thanks to a light to moderate rain today. Even just a light to moderate drizzle filled up both of these barrels within a few hours. We could even hear the excess water being diverted back into the downspouts after the barrels were full.

Now I just need some vegetable plants to water.

 

Home brewing

April has arrived! From what I recall last year, it was one (out of two) of the months in which the Tri-Cities experiences excellent weather: temperatures between the 70s-80s, calm, and sunny. I love this time of year not only because it reminds me of the weather in San Diego, but also because plant growth starts to take off under the increased warmth and sunshine.

To give the plants an increased boost, I fed them some home brewed compost tea. This stuff provides a natural high for plants, because it’s teeming with beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, especially when worm compost is used to make the tea. Numerous articles exist detailing the science and benefits behind compost tea, and here’s a good introduction by Fine Gardening to the subject. I started brewing and using compost tea in my gardens a couple years ago and have never been disappointed with the results. However, this stuff is so good that the weeds will also get a piece of the action.

I harvested the rest of the finished worm compost (~ 24 lbs total, 6 months in the making) and used around 2 lbs of it to make the tea.

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My home brew setup was modeled from this one with the following modifications:

  • used 2 lbs of vermicompost (instead of 1 gal regular compost)
  • used a 5 gal paint sifter as a “tea bag”, which eliminated the straining step
  • secured the ends of the hoses with a rubber band to an empty jar (i.e. a small glass pill bottle), and immersed the jar in water to weigh the ends of the hoses down to the bottom of the bucket
  • brewed the tea for 1 day instead of 3 (vermicompost tea only requires 1 day)

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Spring transplants and summer seed starts (part 1)

It’s easy to fall behind when tending to a big garden. Several spring starts already grew rootbound and were overdue for potting up.

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Note to self: check the bottoms of the seed trays more frequently. I was able to re-pot the rootbound plants without tearing too much of the overgrown roots in the process. Within a week the plants grew reestablished in their new containers with the help of vermicompost.

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After the spring starts were re-potted and hardened off, they were finally transplanted into the garden. The cloches have been working well for the first set of spring transplants thus far (see previous post), so I acquired bags full of two-liter soda bottles through the local Freecycle group and used these (with the bottoms cut out) to shelter the new transplants.

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I wouldn’t recommend this recycling center look for a front lawn. This setup would probably provide more visual appeal with row covers or hoop tunnels, but I’ll save that purchase for a future growing season. Anyway, I digress. Hopefully the next batch of peas will survive this time around:

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Now that I’ve cleared space in the seed trays, I sowed the first set of summer seeds (herbs, flowers, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes) to raise indoors. The fun continues!

Practice safe planting. Use protection

Sunny days are here, but the nighttime temperatures are still below the 40s. Without some protection from the elements, transplants won’t make it to the next week. Take my peas, for example:

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The trellis has withstood the winds, but these little guys didn’t. At least I learned my lesson to not leave transplants out in the open just yet. Thanks for taking one for the team, guys. May you rest in peas. On the contrary, the plants sheltered by the gatorade bottle cloches are surviving.

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These were made simply by cutting out the bottoms of 1 L gatorade bottles that I scavenged from the recycling bins. They also serve as humidity domes and as protection from slugs and such. I pressed them into the ground a bit so they wouldn’t just blow away or get knocked over by the slightest breeze. The onions transplanted fine and it seems like they’ll make it through (fingers crossed).

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Seeds of other roots crops, such as carrots, radishes, and beets, were sown outdoors under these cloches. Their sprouts have provided hope for more life in the garden at this time.

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A carrot sprout

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A radish sprout

(Note: it’s best to direct seed these plants…I once transplanted carrot sprouts after starting them inside, and the majority of them grew forked, looking like fingers on a hand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just makes peeling them less convenient.)

To end on a higher note, here’s an update on the garlic that I showed last week:

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Such a sight equals happiness!