Archive for the ‘compost’ Tag

04-20-2016 Journal – Back to the Garden!   Leave a comment

It’s been a beautiful and almost warm morning today which allowed me to get busy in the garden for a couple of hours.  I’ve been doing my best to get all of the preliminary chores out of the way as soon as possible.  Today was the day.

I was worried about my old rototiller as always.  It’s been used hard for six years and I’m always concerned that it won’t start.  To my surprise the little sweetheart started right up without any hesitation. Say what you want, those Sears Craftsmen tools are hard to kill.  That was the best $150.00 I ever spent.

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It took about 45 minutes to finish and now the soil is well mixed and loose down to about 14 inches.  All of the root vegetables this year will be loving life.  Here’s the finished product.

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As you can see I finished rototilling and immediately began installing the fabric. I’m reusing most of the fabric from last year which will save me a few bucks.  Thanks to this fabric 2016 will be a weed free year.

Next on my list was installing the sprinklers.  I ran the hoses through the frames and fencing and attached the sprinklers. They should give me more than enough coverage for the entire garden.

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Right in the middle of my workday the grand kids arrived to take their grandmother on a walk.  I took a few minutes to chase the oldest one around the yard and to wrestle a little.  A short time later they left for their walk and I returned to my final task for the day.  The compost pile.

A few days ago I found a product in a garden center which when added to a compost pile promotes decomposition.  I took the rototiller to the compost pile and stirred things up a bit. I sprinkled the product liberally through the piles, mixed them in, and covered everything with a tarp.  It should make the compost I use later this year and next much richer.

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With my list for today completed I can relax for a while.  A nice hot shower will feel great and give me enough energy to get out and run a few errands. Since the better-half is working this evening my time is my own. Here’s a shot of the garden, end-to-end.

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ALL I NEED NOW IS WARM TEMPERATURES

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10-07-2015 Journal–Garden Deconstruction Continues!   Leave a comment

I’ve actually been busy this week preparing to deliver most of my once beautiful garden to the compost heap.  I posted a few days ago that I pulled most of the remaining plants to prepare for further work that was needed. That work began this week with the removal of all of the fabric from the frames and the collection of more than 100 metal clips used to anchor it in place.  I always take my time with this part of the job because missing a clip or two isn’t an option. Two years ago I was happily rototilling the garden until I hit a few clips I’d missed. It wasn’t pretty when those  few clips were twisted around the blades of the tiller which then jerked out of my hands when the motor jammed. Fortunately when the tiller hit me in the chest it wasn’t blades first. A close call and one I never intend to repeat. Who said gardening was a safe hobby?

As I pulled the sections of fabric from the frames I got another surprise. Apparently we had a few moles that somehow made their way into the frames and under the fabric.  There were a number of tunnels where they were apparently nibbling on the roots of some of my plants.  My first stop next spring will be to buy something that will discourage them from returning.  Dead or alive is my motto, it’s up to them. You can just barely make out one of the tunnels in this photo.

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‘Here are those clips I mentioned. A necessary evil.’

Removing the fabric itself is easy enough and worth every minute of my time. Never having to weed the garden all summer saves me a lot of back breaking work every year.  The fabric is a little pricy but fortunately it’s reusable for at least a couple of years.  The sprinklers I currently use are removed easily enough and I’ve been using them for five years.  A good value for the money spent.

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‘I cleared all of the fabric, clips, and sprinklers leaving just barren frames.’

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Later this week if the weather cooperates I’ll be filling the entire garden with four or five inches of dark and rich compost which has been sitting under a tarp for two years.  It’s rich with all of the necessary nutrients to give the garden a good start in the Spring. 

Id like to continue writing but I’ve got more work to accomplish before the weather turns really cold and the ground starts freezing.  More to follow soon.

10-05-2014 Journal Entry-Garden & Yard Work!   Leave a comment

With the weather slowly but surely changing from Fall to Winter the final work to harvest the last of the herbs and to compost the garden needed to be done. My better-half had the day off and we both knew we had a few hours of hard work ahead of us. It was the last of our major tasks for the Fall.

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It was hard labor for a while as we shoveled compost into our small trailer and delivered it to the garden.  Not only does the compost reenergize the soil but it also helps to refill the frames with much needed soil.

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We filled the trailer three times which allowed us to cover the entire garden with approximately three inches of compost.  We took special precautions with the rhubarb and asparagus because they require additional protection from the coming snow and cold weather.

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In a day or so I’ll add some lime to the compost as well as a general fertilizer.  Then I’ll rototill  the entire mixture thoroughly and let it sit until Spring.

I wanted to dry and store more herbs but a surprise hard frost last week killed off ninety percent of my basil plants. Fortunately I harvested some of the plants before the frost but it still irritates me to see any of them go to waste.  Mother Nature always seems to get her fair share of things whether we like it or now.

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It’s difficult here in Maine for cold-sensitive plants to survive the winter but I’ll never stop trying to find a way.  Instead of harvesting all of the Rosemary and Parsley I decided to compost the plants heavily and then later in the season cover them with a thick layer of leaves.  I’m hoping that for once I can have a Rosemary plant that survives the Winter and is able to get larger and stronger each year. Probably just wishful thinking but we shall see. 

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‘Harvested, Cleaned’

Only about fifty percent of this parsley was harvested  in the hopes that it would retain enough energy to regrow in the Spring.  I cleaned and washed the parsley, removed the stems, and placed everything into the dehydrator.  In four hours it will be dry enough to crush and place into air tight jar for later use.

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‘And Dried’

Our harvested black beans have also been dried and stored. There seems to be more than enough for a few good meals.  It was our first year growing them and we haven’t decided whether to plant them again next year.

Once all of the days labor was completed we sat down to relax, have a drink, and discuss possible improvements and repairs of the garden for next year. One of the most interesting possibilities is the construction of a much larger cold frame that will be eight feet long and two feet wide.  This would allow us to grow a variety of lettuces and radishes well into late October and even early November. Anything we can do to extend the growing season is well worth the effort.

We’re almost ready for that damn snow.  Bring it on…..

08-16-2014 Journal Entry – Fall is Beginning!   Leave a comment

My better-half has announced a day-off today so we’ve planned an outside workday at home. Believe it or not Fall is just a few weeks away and we’ll be starting the process of closing down the garden soon.  If we do a little each week then it won’t be such a challenge.

I really was in denial about Summer being over until yesterday.  We were driving around enjoying the nice day when horror of horrors I noticed a few trees whose leaves have begun to turn red. I was a little surprised but a few days before I’d also noticed a large flock of birds gathering  in a wooded area near our home.  Both signs of an impending season change.

I guess it’s time to plan the work for today. Job #1: Cut the grass.  That’ll have to wait until afternoon when the grass has dried somewhat. All the rain we’ve been receiving of late makes cutting in the morning impossible. 

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This morning will entail us working in the least favorite job we have.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Apocalypse Now, you’ll remember that famous quote of Robert Duvall’s, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."  Here in Maine during this time of the year we have a quote of our own, "We love the smell of compost in the morning." If you’ve never had the opportunity to work in compost you don’t know what you’ve been missing. There’s nothing that says Fall like standing knee deep in a large pile of decomposing vegetable matter that oddly smells like an outhouse. If on a hot, sticky and humid day you took a rotten egg, wrapped it in a smelly old sock, then wrapped it in a really nasty pair of old filthy underwear, and rubbed it under your nose, you’d understand.  That will be our morning today.

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‘Piles 1, 2 and 3”

Pile 1 will be used for the garden in 2015. Pile 2 will be used in two weeks. Pile 3 will be used 2016.

A compost pile is crucial to keeping your garden happy and healthy. It replaces many of the nutrients needed to grow vegetables and they must be replaced every year. Unfortunately there are certain things a compost piles needs.  It needs vegetable matter, water, heat, and stirring.  Stirring is just taking the pile and turning it over with a pitchfork to allow more air to get into the mix and to help grow the bacteria that accelerates the decomposition process. That being said the reality is that it smells bad, really bad.  After working in it today I’ll be smelling that smell for a day or so. It’s gross and more than a little disgusting.  A typical day in the life of most farmers and part-time gardeners like us.

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‘A big moist and steamy pile.’

I need to get to work soon but I wanted to tell you about my fun yesterday. Each year we do a large amount of canning but we always like to try new recipes we’ve found or created.  Yesterday I made for the first time a batch of hot Radish Relish. It takes  a few pounds of radishes, vinegar, habaneros, sugar, salt, and a few other spices. The result as you can see is a beautiful and savory red relish that will be great on burgers, hotdogs and can add a little zing to your tacos as well. Sometimes these experimental things fail miserably but not this one.  I look forward to making it many more times in the future.

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‘Start’

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‘Finish’

05-11-2014 Journal Entry–Red Wine and Smelly Compost   Leave a comment

I really seem to be getting readjusted to this warm Spring weather.  Yesterday was in the low seventies for the first time in almost seven months and I was loving it.  I actually wore a pair shorts for the first time and got a little tan on my legs and they were loving that. I’m still working on the garden but the yard work took precedence this week.  Being the dedicated and well trained slave that I am, I was able to make short work of the grass cutting.

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Once that was finished I took on the semi-unpleasant task of organizing my compost pile.  Some of you have little or no idea what I’m referring to so let me explain.  It’s a gigantic pile of decomposing organic material collected by me over the last few years from yard clean-ups and grass clippings.  It’s smelly and disgusting but it’s what makes the garden grow as well as it does.  Each Fall I cover the garden with it and then plow it under. That gives most of the nutrients time to leech into the soil and reinvigorate it before Spring. Each summer’s garden uses up a great deal of the existing soil nutrients and they must be replaced.

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It’s also very important to never plant the same plants in the same area two years in a row.  You’ve got to switch it up a little because individual plants requires different sets of nutrients to thrive.  In my experience that doesn’t always apply to herbs. They seem to grow well in just about any soil and require little of no fertilizer.  The only issue I’ve had with herbs is that some do poorly if planted near certain others.  Also, if you plant mints such as oregano, catnip, or spearmint too close together they cross pollinate and their specific scents become diluted.

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Once the mowing and composting was completed I decided to do something I really enjoy which is set up my first batch of wine for 2014.  I decided to make a nice semi-sweet red wine out of Concord grapes.  I mixed the grape concentrate, acid blend, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and four and a half pounds of sugar into three and a half gallons of filtered water and set it aside.  I then set up what’s called a yeast starter.  It’s two packets of brewers yeast dissolved in luke-warm water with one cup of sugar. I let the yeast activate for a couple of hours before mixing it into the the fermenter with the grape concentrate.

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Now it’s sit back for a week to let the yeast eat up all that good sugar and create the proper level of alcohol for the wine. Sometime in early August if all goes well I should have approximately sixteen bottles of a beautiful ruby red grape wine.

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I normally prefer making fruit wines because getting the ingredients is much easier that coming up with a quantity of grapes.  Grapes are expensive and the processing of them into a usable form is time consuming and annoying. Using a simple grape concentrate is much more affordable and makes a better quality wine (in my opinion).  This batch will end up costing me approximately $2.00 a bottle including the cost of the bottle and cork. Not too bad for a small amount of work and a month or two of monitoring and tweaking the batch.  I’m already planning a second batch for this year if I can find someone nearby with a Mountain Ash tree.  The orange berries from that tree make a smooth and tasty white wine that is to die for. I’ll keep you posted.

09-14-2013   Leave a comment

It’s time today for a little catch-up on my journal.  In just a few short weeks the Maine weather has gone from extreme heat and humidity to extreme cold and a couple of nights with a fear of frost.  It’s a little early for this temperature change but you have no choice but to adjust. 

I spent a few hours yesterday beginning the process of clearing plants from the garden for removal to the compost pile.  I was surprised by how many cucumbers and cherry tomatoes I was able to salvage.  I ended up with almost a dozen good sized cucumbers that were hidden amongst the plants and a at least a hundred cherry tomatoes that were still green but will ripen over the next week or so.  It’s never fun taking the garden down at the end of the season but it has to be done and can require a large time investment.

I removed the sprinkler systems and the hoses and all of the hot pepper and squash plants.  I left the beans, lettuce, and snap peas alone because they don’t mind the cold weather too much and are are still producing.  Another week or so and they’ll be gone too.

The leaves are falling from the trees already and you can’t walk through the yard without running into squirrels and chipmunks with their mouths stuffed with nuts and acorns. They aren’t even running from us anymore.  Their primary interest right now is to store away as much as they can as quickly as they can.  Funny, that’s exactly the same thing my better-half and I are doing as well.

Once all of the plant material has been removed from the frames I can begin the soil preparation for next year.  I’ll first rototill the ground and then cover the entire garden with three or four inches of compost.  Then I’ll spread a little lime into the soil with a generic fertilizer, rototill it a second time and call it a day.  I’ll let it set all winter and in the spring it should be ready to go. I’m hoping to have everything finished by the end of September so I won’t get surprised by good old Mother Nature who loves nothing more than dropping an early snow storm on us.

We spent some time the other night discussing changes to next years garden and the choice of items we plan on planting.  It’s an ever-changing process as we learn more about the plants and the amount of production we can expect.  It’s all of this prep work that makes the garden a success year after year and  it’s time well spent and worth the effort.

06-30-2013   Leave a comment

It’s been a few weeks since I slipped back into journal mode but with the summer beginning I thought I should catch up a little.  It’s been raining off and on for more than a week forcing us to be house-bound once again.  With all of this rain the garden is flourishing and beginning to look like my own personal jungle.

The summer plans are once again being readjusted due to family obligations by my better-half.  What I initially thought would be a quiet summer is slowly slipping away.   I shouldn’t be all that surprised since it happens more often than not.

I spent more than a little time yesterday attempting to get my chores in order.  If you garden you don’t need to be told just how important maintaining a compost pile is.  Unfortunately that magic doesn’t just happen.  It must be maintained just like anything else and this week I took steps to do just that.  There’s nothing as much fun as standing ankle deep in compost and turning the pile.  My compost consists primarily of grass clipping left to rot.  The smell is unforgettable and the larger the pile becomes the worse the smell.  With the over abundance of rain the amount of clippings being saved is huge.  I no longer have a compost pile but a compost mountain.  What a dirty but necessary job.

My cucumber wine is progressing nicely.  The aroma is rather nice but I haven’t tasted it yet.  It needs to progress a little further into the process because it would only taste like yeast at this stage.  My better-half finally put up a batch of blueberry wine which we’re both looking forward to drinking.  It seems that almost anything made with blueberries always tastes wonderful.  The blueberries also make almost anything they’re mixed with taste even better.  This Fall should be very productive for jams and jellies with the rain making for fat and luscious berries.

With the Fourth of July approaching we’re planning a couple of beach days. The weather looks as if it will be cooperating for a change so we’ll really be able to enjoy ourselves.  The better-half is insisting we make a short visit to our local amusement park to enjoy a few rides and a visit to a small kiosk that specializes in Chinese chicken wings.  She has a serious addiction to wings that hasn’t lessened over the years.  Just recently we made a trek to our favorite spot in Portland for outstanding chicken wings.  The Great Lost Bear is known for it’s hot wings and believe me they are unbelievable.  Their super hot version will almost certainly kill you but I guarantee you’ll die happy with a smile on your face.

Now that the heaviest rain storms are over and things are drying out I’ll be able to get into the woods for some head-clearing alone time.  My camera and lenses have been cleaned to within an inch of their lives and are ready for some heavy use.  I can’t wait.

So, we’ll celebrate the countries birthday this coming week as well as the life, death, and times of Thomas Jefferson.  I’m pretty sure if he were here he wouldn’t be celebrating all that much but that just my humble opinion. I’ll get back to my normal postings soon enough and I’m looking forward to an interesting summer.  I hope you are as well.