Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Compost

Compost is decomposed organic matter. It is what nature does naturally. Soil in a forest is very rich in organic matter because of the plant and animal life that has returned to the soil.
Compost is fantastic for soil improvement - adding organic matter, nutrients, and microorganisms to your soil.  I know of nothing better for soil improvement whether your soil is clay, sandy, or lacking in nutrients.

Soil microorganisms help plants get the nutrients and water they need.  Another benefit to composting - Significantly reduce the amount of garbage you will need to dispose of.

A variety of items can be added to your compost pile including: spoiled vegetables and fruits and vegetable and fruit peelings, plant debris, prunings, straw, leaves, bedding from vegetarian pets, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, cotton fabric, cardboard and paper – not slick – although it may be better to recycle paper in another way. You can also add manures from rabbits, cows, horses, goats, poultry, or sheep.
Ideal proportions would be 2/3 brown or dry (dried leaves, straw, etc) to 1/3 wet or green (vegetable peelings, spoiled fruit). If you compost pile is smelly it is because the proportions are wrong, your pile is too wet, or you have added things that should not be in a compost pile.
There are some items that should not be put into a compost pile: meat, bones, fat, dairy, manures or litter from carnivores including dogs and cats. Ammonium sulfate is not needed for the composting process and I feel defeats the purpose because of the harm it can cause to microorganisms.

For more information and ideas about composting visit my website blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Perennial Herbs

Many of my perennial herbs are grown in 2 x4' Square Foot Garden boxes.  Mints are planted in their individual pots so they won't take over my garden. I also have peppermint in a larger area from which it cannot escape.  I use peppermint more and since it is next to the house it may also be a good insect/rodent repellant - although my cat is a good rodent repellant.

One of my perennial boxes contains oregano, dwarf oregano, lemon thyme, English thyme, Bronze fennel, and French tarragon.  The other box has chives, garlic chives, sorrel, anise hyssop, and lovage.  I planted lemongrass there for the summer hoping that it would increase in size.  Towards fall I will pot it and bring it back indoors.  Some herbs are perennial in warmer climates but not in my climate (zone 6).  Lemongrass is one of these.
Anyone know how to get the individual lemongrass stalks to increase in thickness?
I also grow lemon verbena, scented geraniums, and bay in pots which I bring outdoors after the temperature is over 45 F and return them to house in the fall when it is predicted to drop below 45.  In addition I have two lemon trees, a navel orange, grapefruit, and lime that also enjoy the summer outdoors.

In other parts of the yard I have golden sage, lavenders, silver thyme, catnip, creeping thymes as well as common and unusual edibles.
I look forward to increasing my collection to more than what it was a couple moves ago when I had 14 varieties of mint and several thymes and oreganos among other plants.