It’s been a while since my last post, but I have very good reason: I’ve been setting up my new Backyard Liberty Aquaponics system. Spring is almost here and[...]
Start composting TODAY! To do list
- Recycle or buy two new plastic storage bins. The bigger the storage bin, the better, it shouldn’t be smaller than 25 inches (60 cm) tall though. The bin must have a lid.
- You need air circulating around the compost to make it decompose faster, to obtain that you have to drill some holes into the bin. Space them two inches (5 cm) apart on the bottom and the lid and make around 8 to 10 holes in each place.
- Find the place for it. If you have plenty of space, put it outside the kitchen door in the backyard so that you can compost kitchen scraps easily. Make sure it is not in full sun or it will dry out.
- Place some shredded newspaper (the normal one, not the glossy shiny magazines) and dried leaves, sawdust or straw. Don’t put grass clipping unless you are sure they weren’t chemically treated with. Fill ¼ of the bin.
- Start filling the bin with, fruit and vegetables peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags. Make sure you chop them small so they will break down quicker than in larger sizes. Instead of throwing these in the garbage bag, make them small and put them in the compost bin. Don’t add meat, dairy products, milk and bones.
- Spray compost with lukewarm water until everything is moist, be careful not to be soaking wet.
- Every two days stir it with a stick to allow oxygen to get to all the ingredients. If the contents of the bin are very wet, add some shredded leaves or newspaper to the bin. If the contents are very dry, use a spray bottle to moist them or add plenty of household waste, like fruits and vegetables from the kitchen.
- If the contents are moist, add some sawdust or shredded leaves every time you put kitchen waste. This will maintain the correct moisture level.
Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides accumulate in natural systems, water supplies, food, animals and eventually humans. By using natural organic materials we help reduce toxicity in ecosystems and human health. When I talked about making the raised beds, some of the layers contained fertilizers and compost bought from the local garden store. That was in the beginning because we did not make our own compost and we had to rely only on commercial bought ingredients for the raised bed. Now we will only add compost on our garden beds, using the household organic waste and turning it into a soil amendment that contains nutrients and helps the garden soil while improving its structure. It also suppresses diseases in plants, eliminates the need for chemical-based fertilizers and encourages higher crop yield. It’s been done for ages like this by our ancestors and everybody was happy with the amount of crops they harvested each year. Everything started to change when we begun chasing things that are produced much faster than normal, that are bigger, shinier, and those that can be on the table as soon as you can say “I want fresh vegetables”. I am telling you composting may take longer than those fertilizers, but you will have the satisfaction that you made everything possible not to put toxic stuff into your plants, garden and soil. It will come as easy as gathering autumn leaves from your lawn or throwing the trash.
Organic fertilizers contain nutrients that are released slowly into the ground, reducing the risk of over-fertilization, making them available a longer period of time into the soil with less applications. They are composed of natural ingredients from plants or animals, and rely on soil organisms to break down the ingredients. In the long term, they bust the soil health, making it more fertile. Just make sure you buy real organic fertilizers, not organic based ones because those contain more minerals than organic materials. In most garden centers you can find an all purpose fertilizer that is organic, try to find the balanced ones usually at a ratio like 10-10-10 (NPK).
The only thing to remember here is to check the soil pH every year before planting, to supply the necessary nutrients to it. And depending on what plants you want to plant, use the fertilizers according to their needs. It’s not exact science working with fertilizers, and choosing one really depends on what plants will need what nutrients from the soil. Here are some suggestions of all purpose organic fertilizers to help you get started and understanding their benefits for the plants.
How to pull weeds
- Indentify the weeds you want to remove, so you do not accidentally pull the vegetables you planted.
- Check for dangers involved in this activity:
- Wear garden gloves
- Beware of toxic plants (stinging nettles, poison ivy, oak) and plants you may be allergic to.
- Beware of insect that may inhabit your garden. Spider, bees, wasps, ants, and other potentially dangerous insects may be encountered while weeding.
- Wear sunscreen and keep hydrated while you work if you are working in bright sun.
- Choose the right time to do the weeding
- Pulling weeds is much easier if done when the ground is wet, so working after watering is a much easier job.
- Grab the weed at the base of the main stem as far down as possible.
- Grip the bottom of the weed tightly and pull it sharply out of the ground.
- Use a pointed tool to loosen the soil around the weed’s roots if necessary, to make removing it easier.
- Collect the weeds and dispose of them so their seed are not reintroduced into the raised bed
Make sure the weather has warmed enough before you transplant plants that cannot tolerate frost.
Now that we have the raised beds prepared and we hardened off our seedlings, it’s time to transplant them into the garden. It is best not to transplant them in the morning or at noon, but rather in the afternoon after the heat of the sun has passed, even though you kept them several hours in the sun the previous days hardening off. As a preparation for the transplant, water the raised beds one day before transplant to make it moist, but not too wet. Also the soil in your flats or trays, where the seedlings are, has to be moist so it will hold together around the roots when you remove the seedling from their containers.
Using a trowel, make a small hole in the raised beds for each seedling. The hole should be deep enough for the transplant to be at the same depth in the ground as it was in the pots or flats.
Turn each seedling upside down and cup the seedling with your hand, for each of the seedling, just before transplanting them. This is the way to get them out of the pots with the root mass and soil intact. If you have troubles getting the seedling out of the pot, press gently on the bottom of each cell from the flat with your fingers. Never yank out a plant by its stem, because you will damage it. The plant and the surrounding soil should be intact when you plant them in the new place.
- If you purchase transplants, look for sturdy, short, dark green plants and avoid plants that are tall, leggy, or yellowish, or have started flowering. [...]
If you buy the seedlings from the nursery you shouldn’t have problems with un-thinned seedlings, as they should already be thinned and placed in separate trays. But just to be on the safe side of things you should read this chapter even if you didn’t started creating your own seedling indoors.
For first timers I recommend you to buy direct seedlings for vegetables that are difficult to grow from seed directly into the garden (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, celery, broccoli and cabbage). Buy the ones that come in punnets, small containers that have the plants from the nurseries.
Until now when you heard somebody talk about gardens in their own backyard, I am pretty sure you thought about a lot of work, a lot of maintenance. You know that most traditional Americans have a big garden, with paths to walk in between where they previously tilled a section of earth, digging a few feet into the soil to break up soil compaction, provide aeration and improve drainage, feeding and following a strict planting schedule. It is a lot of work, only thinking of digging up all that soil it’s too much for most of us. So how can we still have the fresh vegetables and not do all those? [...]