Backyard Composting

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Japanese maples and snowball bushes are some of the most colorful shrubs in the fall. Plant them now and give them a head start on spring.
    • Check houseplants for insects. Spray leaves with insecticidal soap and wipe them off to leave them clean and insect-free.
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.

Backyard Composting

Composting is a process that takes place naturally on the forest floor, in your own backyard, or in your refrigerator. When you walk through a lush forest, stop and examine the forest floor. You’ll see that the top layers are recognizable as leaves, twigs and needles. But below these are last season’s leaves, which have been transformed into rich crumbly soil. This is the process of decomposition.

When we pile up vegetation so that it can decompose all in one spot, we call it composting. Leaves, grass, manures, food scraps, paper towels and other organic materials are digested by worms, insects and bacteria to create rich compost. All they need is air, water and plant materials to do their work. The end product is a natural fertilizer which will make your plants lush and healthy.

With cool autumn days and leaves filling your yard, it’s a perfect time to begin composting. Composting provides a useful and environmentally conscious alternative to bagging up your leaves and sending them away as waste.

There are as many different ways to build a compost pile as there are gardeners. And they all make usable, soil-enriching compost.

You can compost in any kind of a bin, which keeps things neat and tidy, or you can make a heap directly on the ground. Either way, the pile will start shrinking immediately, and will be about half its original size a week after you build it.

Leaves, grass, weeds, herbs and flowers are all ideal for your compost bin and will break down rapidly. Fruit and vegetable food scraps are also ideal. Leftovers from canning or making fresh juice are a great addition to your pile.

A good compost pile contains a balance between green materials and brown ones. The green ones provide nitrogen and heat up the pile, while the brown ones provide necessary carbon. Green materials include fresh plant material, grass clippings and food scraps. The browns include dry leaves and straw or wood shavings. Using up to one-half green material and the rest brown material will create a good hot pile that will decompose quickly.

You can also just make a pile out of the leaves you rake off the lawn. Your leaf pile should be four to 10 feet around and three to five feet high. A correct pile size ensures proper temperature and air flow needed for composting. Keep your pile moist and by next spring you should have some dark and crumbly, earthy-smelling compost to dig into your soil.

Composting is Nature’s way of recycling. No matter what you do, you can’t stop compost from happening.

Winterize your Garden

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Spray citrus and other tender plants with Cloud Cover to give them some protection from frosts.
    • Enjoy birds in your garden by hanging bird feeders around the yard. You’ll see many different kinds as they migrate through this fall.
    • Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.
    • Empty birdbaths and fountains and cover them for the winter, to prevent water freezing and cracking the bowls.
    • Cover vegetable plants with bird netting to keep quail and other birds away.

Winterize your Garden
Put your yard and garden to bed for a long winter’s nap.

Chilly mornings, football Friday nights, and falling leaves signal autumn’s arrival. This time of year also calls for end-of-the-season yard work. Wrap up your growing season by tending to tasks such as leaf raking, composting and bulb planting.

Begin your cleanup by clearing leaves from gutters, grass, driveways, and shrubs. To remove freshly fallen leaves, take action with your tool of choice: rake, blower/vac, or mower. You can run over leaves with your lawn mower, and let the chopped leaves lie to give your lawn a free dose of nitrogen. Or use a bag attachment to collect shredded leaves for mulch or composting. Time your leaf work before a rain; wet leaves clump and clog tools.

Start a compost pile with the chopped leaves. Begin by blending a few shovelfuls of topsoil into your leaf pile. Cover the pile with a tarp and let it sit. By spring, you’ll have a nice batch of compost.

Clip stalks on perennials to 3 inches after a hard freeze. Leave stalks with attractive seed heads for winter interest.

Autumn is a great time to dig up plants you know aren’t going to make it through the winter, like geraniums, and plant them in pots. Then bring them indoors for the winter.

This is not the time for pruning or fertilizing, which can stimulate new growth. Plants which are not particularly hardy may be damaged or die during the winter months if pruned now.

Lavenders, sages and other woody herbs will be much happier if you wait until spring. In spring, plants are actively growing and have the strength to readily replace what you trim. You can cut off dead or diseased branches now, as long as it’s not to the point of pruning.

Cover garden beds with several inches of compost before winter to help nutrients absorb into the soil. This will ready your beds for spring planting.

Fragile tubers such as dahlias and begonias should be dug up and put in a plastic bag with vermiculite or peat moss in a dark, cool, dry place. Check the bulbs monthly and if the environment around them is moist, cut slits in the bag to let air in. They’ll be ready and waiting for you to plant next spring.

Autumn is the time when spring-blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths should be planted. They need to be in the cool ground for several months, to develop roots and prepare for their spring appearance.

This is also a good time to plant trees and evergreens so they can establish their roots over the winter and be ready to take off and grow next spring.

Don’t let the nice days of fall go buy without getting some of these gardening jobs done.