Gardening

Gardening Season has Begun

I took advantage of the 70 degree weather this weekend and got outside to build my two new raised bed gardens.

A couple years ago I started my first raised bed garden, shortly after discovering and reading All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  I was surprised when I was able to harvest lettuce, beans, peas, and spinach out of a simple 4′ x 4′ square made from a couple 2″ x 6″ boards.

Square foot gardens can be as simple or elaborate as your imagination will allow.  I have seen pictures of waist high gardens filing a yard, as well as a few tires piled up with vegetables pouring out of them.  Keeping with the design of my first plot, I built two additional 4′ x 4′ beds.  This year I used redwood instead of doug fir.  Redwood is more durable and will remain intact a few more years than the doug fir.

Building the beds is pretty simple.  When you buy the wood, have them cut it in 4′ pieces.  Then screw the four pieces together to make a square frame.

The next step is filling the frame with soil.  The book suggests 1/3 each peat moss, vermiculite, and compost.  My first year, I used pure compost with good results.  This time I mixed in a half bag of vermiculite and a full bag of peat moss in each frame.  I will post the comparisons of the mixture vs. pure compost in the fall.

Compost

Vermiculite

Peat Moss

I found that using my hands was the easiest way to mix the soil.

Three raised beds ready for seed planting.

Annual maintenance on raised beds is easy.  Since you do not walk on the soil there is no compaction so no tilling.  Just remove any remaining plant waste from the previous year, add some compost and re-mix.  I hope to add another bed every year as I become more familiar with the types of food that grow best in my climate and more daring with different varieties.  Now that the beds are ready, I can’t wait until I can start putting those seeds into the ground.

Thanks for reading, please subscribe and/or comment

Cindy Dorfsmith

$3 Newpaper Pot Maker

I have wanted one of these newspaper pot makers since I first laid eyes on them in one of my gardening catalogs.  However, the frugal side of me decided that $13 (plus shipping) was too much to spend on a couple pieces of wood.

Today, while looking for a less expensive alternative, I stumbled across this version.  I really liked the concept.  If I was not so “frugal” I would definitely buy this pot maker over the wooden one above.   Not only does it make newspaper pots, but soil blocks too.  Looking at this design got my creative mind going.

I thought I could do something similar with PVC pipe.  I headed over to Home Depot to see what I could find to mimic the basic principles of the design.  I found the following parts on the plumbing aisle.  The total came to just under $3.

1 – 2 inch PVC Coupling $.94

2 – 1 1/2 inch PVC Dome Slip Cap $.94

3 – 1 1/2 inch PVC Bushing $.82

The assembly is super easy.  Place the bushing (#3) into the dome slip cap (#2) …that’s it!!

This is the plunger for your pot maker.

The coupling (#1) is the pot form.

Making the newspaper pot is just as simple.

Fold a single sheet of newspaper in half and make fold the open edge over about 1 inch.

Roll the newspaper around piece the form (piece #1), leaving about 1 1/2 inch overhang on one end.

Tape the seam.

Tuck the overlay inside

Pinch the sides to make a more solid bottom.

Slide the plunger inside and push firmly to make a secure base for your pot.

Pull out the form (piece #1)

And fill with dirt!

In about 1 minute and less than $3, you have a paper pot to start your seed in.  When moving your plants into the garden, you can place the entire pot into the soil, no need to transplant and risk shocking your seedlings.

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to subscribe!

Cindy Dorfsmith

Small and Simple Worm Compost Bin

I have wanted to compost for years but the idea of taking my kitchen scraps outside to the compost bin in the middle of winter has kept me from being proactive.  I had even purchased an outdoor tumbling compost bin and it sat for over a year, completely empty.  When I stumbled across the idea of worm composting I knew it was right for me!  An indoor compost bin AND free worms for my garden.  According to my research, worms will double in numbers every 3 to 5 months, so by spring I should be able to throw some into my garden.

You can make your worm bin as small as 5 gallons or as large as necessary for your kitchen scraps.  Be sure to buy a dark colored bin because worms do not like light and will stay in the center of the bin.  I wanted to keep my worm bin small, so I started with an 8 gallon bin.

Drill several 1/8″ holes into the lid

Drill holes about 5 inches apart across the bottom of the bin on all sides

Shred some newspaper to fill bin about half way and wet down with a spray bottle until very moist.  Mix and spray again until the paper has the consistency of a rung out sponge. (I recommend wearing rubber gloves to prevent newsprint stains on your hands)

Fluff the paper and separate any clumps.

Add worms.  I bought my nightcrawlers from Walmart.

Close the lid and let “rest” 1 to 2 days before adding food scraps.

Spray down with water bottle as needed to keep bin moist.

Do not keep your bin in direct sunlight or very cold areas.

What to feed your worms:

-Breads and Grains

-Cereal

-Coffee Grounds and Filters

-Tea Bags

-Fruits

-Vegetables

DO NOT feed these to your worms:

-Dairy Products

-Fats

-Meats

-Animal Waste

-Oils

After adding food, add a little bedding.  Your worm bin should not smell.  If it begins to smell, you need to add more bedding.

Here is a great troubleshooting website:

http://www.allthingsorganic.com/How_To/07.asp

The following instruction on how to harvest your castings is from this very helpful website:

http://www.composting101.com/worm-composting.html

“Once the contents of your bin have turned to worm castings — brown, earth-looking stuff — it’s time to harvest the castings and give your worms new bedding. Worm castings can be harvested anywhere form two and a half months to every six months, depending on how many worms you have and how much food you’ve been giving them.”

“There’s more than one way of harvesting worm castings, but one popular method is to move everything to one side of the bin. Then push the partially composed food to the middle and add additional food scraps. Replace the lid. The worms will head for their food. Once they’ve relocated to the food pile — it should take about two weeks — simply put on a pair of gloves and remove the worm castings without taking out any worms. Once they’ve been harvested, replace the bedding.”

I will post updates as I add food and see the results from my worm compost bin.  Thanks for reading!

Cindy Dorfsmith