Easy Guide to Composting

Easy Guide to Composting

Using kitchen scraps and yard waste is a frugal way to make your own composting material.  By doing so, you are also keeping your yard, garden and flowers healthy in a natural way.  To help you get started in making your own composting, here are some easy tips:

 As with most things, it should start with the planning.  Think about how much compost you will need and how much raw material you have access to.  Knowing this, will help in deciding how large your composting bin should be.

Composting

Earth Worms: The hardest worker in the garden

A worm box can be of any size as long as it has a lid, water proof sides and bottom and you have a supply of paper of all kinds, [newspaper, computer paper or magazines] and dirt.  You can purchase a ready-made worm composting system, or you can make your own by poking holes, at the top, for air flow and at the bottom for drainage, in a see through, plastic container then set it on some type of drainage tray.  Once you have your worms, box, paper and dirt, the rest is all up to the worms.  Make a layer of dirt about 4 inches deep, introduce your worms, then wet the paper and tare it into 2-3 inch strips and place it in the box.  Place the lid on the box and let the boys go to work.  Never let your worm bin get below 55 degrees or the process will stop and your worms might die.

For those with larger outdoor areas, compost bins can be built outdoors for little money and effort. You can also compost without a bin and simply make a pile in a sheltered corner of your yard.

An outdoor bin can be built for little or no money using what you have on hand. Wooden pallets that you can find at any retail store make great composting bins. Most large retail store will give you these for just hauling them away.  You will need 4-6 of the pallets to make your bin.  They can be wired or nailed together to make a usable open top composting bin.

Composting

Wooden Pallet Composting Bin

 Except for dairy products, fish and meat, you can put most kitchen scraps into your composting bin, including egg shells, tea leaves, and coffee grounds. Any organic matter from your yard can be added, such as hay, straw, cut grass, leaves, mulch, wood chips, and small pruning from your shrubs. You can also add a layer of shredded newspapers from time to time but without worms, it will take longer to decompose that the household waste.

Chicken droppings can be added to your mixture, chicken manure makes the compost rich and full of nutrients, but do not add waste from other pets, such as dogs or cats.

Turn your compost once a month or so, stirring to aerate it and get the top layer down into the middle.  If your composting bin is in a location where rain water can reach it you should not have a need to water it.  If it is not, water it about once a month with a garden hose or better yet, collect rain water and us it, instead.


Raising Chickens: A Sustainable Idea

Raising Chickens: A Sustainable Idea

More and more people in cities, suburbs, and in the country are raising chickens. They’re relatively easy to keep and the daily fresh eggs are quite a treat. It’s becoming so common that you can probably find chicken feed at your local home store. This is of course a bigger project than composting but it’s not as huge of an undertaking as you might think.

raising chickens

Step [1]: Your Chickens and the Law

The first step is to see if you can legally keep chickens in your area. Check city and neighborhood laws and ordinances. If you live in an HOA community there may be rules that say you can’t keep animals/livestock on your property. Some cities limit the number of chickens you can keep. It’s best to know before you buy the chickens.

Step [2]: Choose Your Breed

Before you build a chicken coup or plan their area, decide what type of chickens you want to keep. Consider looking for breeds that lay a lot of eggs so you can get more bang for your cluck. Hybrid chickens tend to lay more eggs and they’re generally easier to raise, which is great for beginners. Also look for birds that are gentler in personality so you don’t have to worry about being chased out of the hen house.

Step [3]: Build or Buy Your Chicken Coop

A chicken coop serves several purposes. It keeps your chickens warm when the weather turns. It protects them from predators. It also gives them a happy place to lay their eggs. Make sure the coop is well ventilated. You’ll need nesting boxes, roosting poles, a place for food and water, and bedding material.

Step [4]: Feed Your Chicks

You can buy chicken feed at your local hardware or farm supply store. It’s a well-rounded material that provides your chickens with the nutrition they need. You might also give them some scratch and some kitchen scraps. Make sure they have fresh water and create a system to keep the water flowing. You can buy automatically waters your chickens.

Step [4]: Room to Roam

Create a fenced-in area where your chickens can roam and stretch their legs. Keep in mind that the area where they’re able to roam will get scratched up pretty quickly. If you can rotate where you let them roam, you can prevent completely destroying your yard. This also helps prevent boredom. Yep, chickens get bored. Sometimes when they get bored they will begin to peck on each other and this can cause real damage to the flock.  By having more room to roam, chickens become a natural pest control machine, they eat small bugs that harm other plants and you.

Raising chickens is an adventure. Talk to other chicken owners to learn more about the best breeds and how they’ve managed their flock. And then enjoy the daily fresh eggs you get and the fun of raising chickens.

Tips For Container Gardening

container gardening

 

Container gardening is a fun way to grow flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables in a creative and simple way. The fact is, you can grow things in just about any type of container. Let’s take a look at the wide variety of options you have and then explore some tips for container gardening.

Getting Creative and Eco Friendly

One of the reasons container gardening has become so popular is that it’s a fun way to decorate a patio, porch or yard. You can use any type of container from an old bathtub to a wooden crate. You can reuse items or head to the home goods store to find planters that fit your design tastes and needs.

Small Plants

Have an old fish bowl or aquarium? You can grow vegetables in it. Do you have a mug that you never use? It might be great for herbs like chives. Small plants like herbs and lettuce, and even root vegetables like carrots and radishes, grow well when they’re in smaller planters.

You can pack them tightly together for an ornate appearance and to maximize space. You can also add these vegetables to flower pots. For example, you might have a planter that has petunias, daisies and lettuce.

Medium Size Plants

You can find lovely plants for medium size planters too. For example, peppers – both sweet and hot – are beautiful plants. You can use the containers as a decorative element on your porch or patio and enjoy the harvest in later summer.

If you like spicy foods, try Habanero peppers. They have a bright orange color that is quite stunning.

Tomatoes are somewhere between medium and large. If you plant them in a planter, make sure to place a tomatoes cage over them so they have the support they need to grow up. Look for smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes.

Large Containers for Large Plants

Larger containers work too. You can grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini and squash in larger containers. Position a trellis in the container so the plant can grow vertically. These types of containers and plants make a great background on a porch. You can place smaller containers in front of them and create a tiered container garden.

3 Tips for Container Gardening

Container gardening is easy but there are a few tips and rules of thumb that make it even simpler.

1. Holes – If your container doesn’t have holes, then you will want to drill them. Your container needs some drainage so your plant doesn’t become waterlogged.

2. Soil – A good potting soil can make all the difference in your success. You can make your own or buy a bagged soil from your nursery.

3. Check regularly – While you don’t have to worry about too many pests eating your plants and you certainly don’t have to worry about weeds, it’s a good idea to create a habit to check, and water, your container garden on a regular basis.

Container gardening is fun and it’s an easy way to start turning your thumb green. Identify a few types of plants you’d like to grow, find the appropriate container and get started.

 

Natural Pest Control

Natural Pest Control Ideas For Your Home and Garden

Using a Natural Pest Control means you don’t have to use chemicals to get rid of pests in your home, garden or even to protect your family while camping. Using non-chemical choices is better for the environment and better for you, and they are very effective. In fact, in some cases these solutions are more effective than the more dangerous chemical solutions.

* Pull Weeds Often – The best way to get rid of weeds in your yard is simply to pull them up when you see them. The best time to do it is after you’ve watered or after a good rain. If you have a lot of weeds you can also pour hot boiling water on them. It will kill whatever it touches, though, so only do this when you have a large concentration of weeds in one condensed spot.

* Get Rid of Weak or Damaged Plants – When any plant succumbs to bugs, the best thing to do is to remove the weak plants, keeping only the stronger, more resistant plants.

* Build Soil Organically – Having healthy soil is one of your best defenses against pests in your garden. Build up your soil for the type of plants you’re growing using natural means such as manure and plant matter.

* Keep Foliage Dry – Water the soil of plants in your garden, not the leaves. A good way to do this is to build an irrigation system that allows you to water the garden without getting all the leaves of the plants wet.

* Clean Up – Keeping plants clean with a little natural soap and water mixture is also helpful to keep down mold and pests. Ensure that you look up the types of plants that work well with soap and water mixtures.

* Catnip – Believe it or not, bugs do not like catnip. What’s great is that catnip will not harm humans or pets but it will repel bugs. Wrap catnip in mesh or cloth satchels and place around your home and garden.

* Traps – Using traps especially made for the type of pest you have, catching them and discarding them is a way to help lower the breeding of pests.

* Cedar Oil – Not only can you use cedar on your wood to bring back the fresh look and smell, you can also use it to help ward off moths. Using wood chunks, covered in cedar oil, in satchels hung in your closet will keep your clothing safe.

* Garlic – Eating lots of garlic will also help ward off pests. If you don’t like to eat garlic you can take garlic supplements, as can your pets.

* Apple Cider Vinegar – Set a trap with apple cider vinegar in a dish to catch gnats. Rinse your dog’s coat with half water, half apple cider vinegar mixture to help ward off pests as well as treat bites.

* Citronella Candles – You can buy these at any store that sells outdoor supplies or camping gear. These candles give out an odor that wards off pests, especially mosquitoes.

* Garlic Juice – Mix half garlic juice with half water and spray directly on the skin to protect yourself and children from pests.

The more you learn about natural pest control to protect your home and environment from pests, the more you’ll realize that you don’t need chemicals or to put yourself in danger with harsh chemicals.

Vertical Gardening

Give Vertical Gardening A Try

If you have a small space or a wall or fence that you want to beautify, a vertical garden may be just what you’ve been looking for. Vertical gardens allow you to grow anything from flowers and herbs to larger vegetable plants. It just takes a little imagination and planning.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to grow vertically.

Using a shoe storage bag is an excellent way to try vertical gardening.

What Is a Vertical Garden?

Doing vertical gardening is pretty much what it sounds like. Rather than growing horizontally on the ground or in a raised garden bed, you grow up a wall or structure. How you create your vertical garden depends on your space and your needs.

For example, you can hang several planters vertically and plant herbs and vegetables in the space. You can also position beans and vine-like vegetables and fruits against a wall and coax them to grow up the wall instead of out into the yard.

The main difference in using vertical gardening is the medium that the plants grow in. Hydroponics for example, can be a type of vertical garden. Hydroponics are plants that grow in water.

Quadraphonic is another type of vertical gardening and it mixes raising fish with your plants. That’s a bit more complicated than we’re going to get here but it’s certainly something to investigate if you love fish and gardening. Soil-based gardens are the other option.

The Benefits of a Vertical Garden

There are an abundance of benefits of vertical gardening. In addition to allowing you to use your imagination in terms of how you plant your vegetables and herbs and what you plant them in, you can have a lot of fun. Many people try to find ways to make their vertical garden artistic.

For example, you might hang white pots on a glossy black fence in a star-shaped pattern. You could also find unique items to hold your plants like old rain gutters, or you might make a vertical garden from a closet hanging shoe holder.

The other benefits include the fact that your plants are off of the ground so they’re not vulnerable to pests. They also don’t need weeding which certainly saves time and energy. You can also bring your vertical garden indoors during the colder months which may give you a longer season.

The Downside of a Vertical Garden

Downsides might include the fact that you can be limited with the size of the plants. You don’t see too many people hanging tomato or pumpkin plants on the side of a wall or a fence. Also, because the plants are hanging and they’re more exposed to the air, you may need to water them more often.

Take a look around your space and consider what you might want to grow. If you’re interested in smaller plant and you have a wall or fence that fits the bill, consider trying a little vertical gardening.

I’m Growing What I Eat

My little garden is starting to share it’s summer bounty.  This week I was able to add cucumbers, zucchini, banana peppers, potatoes, shallots and fresh Basil to my food pantry from my little garden.

Growing what I eat, enables me to control the pesticides and other things that normally are used in commercial foods.  I use none of the products that the large corporations use to control bugs and mold.  My main bug deterrent is a little dish soap mixed in a bottle of warm water.  I also use my fingers to remove anything larger than pea size.  Thankfully those are few and far between.

I'm growing what I eat

 

It looks like I am going to have an abundance of cucumbers, as I am picking 6-8 a day now.  One of the things that has helped my, growing what I eat garden, this season, was my use of a ground cover, to keep the dreaded white moth from laying it’s eggs in the soil around my seedlings.  When those eggs hatch, the larva eat the roots of your plants and your young plants die.  This light weight covering is one of my best helpers in my road to independence of growing what I eat.

winterize your garden

The tomatoes are beginning to appear, soon they will be ripe enough for me to use in my meals or as a snack.  I planted six Cherry Tomato plants and nine assorted verities of the larger tomatoes.  It wasn’t as many as last year but I still feel it’s enough for my large family to share and still have enough to can 12- 24 quarts for the winter.

I planned my evening meal around what I got from the garden in the morning.  I had already started the BBQ chicken legs in the slow cooker so I had a head start on the meal.  I added a couple of the new potatoes, a cucumber and a sliced tomato that one of my neighbors at the garden gave me.  A simple delicious meal that cost me very little time or money.

eating what I grow

 

Why I Garden In Raised Beds

Why Garden in Raised Beds?

There’s a growing trend to garden in raised beds. These beds are usually anywhere from eight to twelve inches deep and can be any shape or size you desire. They are easy to build and can fit any size yard or patio. And with a greenhouse built to position on top, you can extend the growing season. Let’s take a look at the benefits of gardening in raised beds.

Gardening in raised beds

1. Soil control – When you build raised beds for home gardening, you have a few choices. You can position it onto the ground or you can build a bottom with holes for drainage. Either way, you’re adding soil to the bed.

You have complete control over the type of soil and can choose the mix that best fits your garden’s needs. Additionally, year after year, you can simply add more quality soil to the box. You don’t have to worry about depleting the existing soil.

2. Easier weeding – Actually, if you use a ground cover like mulch or a weed barrier then you won’t have any weeding to contend with raised beds. Weeding in a traditional garden can take hours each week. With raised beds you simply water and harvest. It’s a lot less work.

3. Works for any size space – Generally, raised beds are four feet by four feet. This is a great size because it fits nicely into a corner and because you can reach across it from any direction. However, if you have a unique sized space that you need to fit a garden into, you can make your raised bed fit your needs. You can, for example, build a long, narrow two by eight foot bed.

4. Easy to build – All you really need are a couple of nails, a hammer, and some wood. You can have the wood measured and precut at the lumber yard or hardware store. Metal brackets can ensure that you have perfect corners too.

5. Longer growing season – The growing season is extended with raised beds because you can start earlier in the season. The soil you add to the bed warms more quickly than the dirt in the ground. Additionally, you can add a greenhouse top to the bed to take your vegetables into the cooler months.

6. No problems with pests – With a raised garden bed you won’t have to worry as much about rabbits and rodents eating your plants. Additionally, you can prevent many bugs from becoming problems.

7. They’re attractive – Using raised beds for gardening can fit any design personality. You can make them out of wood, metal, and even plastic or synthetic wood. You can paint them or adorn them however you like.  Raised beds can becomes part of your outdoor living area.

Raised garden beds fit a variety of needs. They’re lovely, easy to care for, and can extend your growing season by months. Measure your space and start designing your raised bed garden today.

 

From Your Yard To Your Table

Forget about the saying “Farm to Table” and think about, growing what you eat, using the “from your yard to your table” method, as a way to eat healthier and cheaper.  Ninety-five percent of us have space to grow some of our own food items.  It could be two to three vegetables or a well thought out 6 x 10 foot space for square foot beds and a few containers.  No matter which you decide to do, it can be the beginning of a great future in supplying yourself and family with the best organic food coming from your yard to your table.

from your yard to your table

Even using a small space if you rotate the plants during your nine or ten months of the growing time span, you can decrease your food budget and increase the quality of the food you put on your dinner table.  Like with most new things you might want to start small, then branch out with each growing season.

Choose your family’s favorite three or four vegetables and start with them. Research your best growing season for these items in your area, and choose the plants or seeds for that time period.  Some veggies can be planted more than one time within that growing time span.  The seed package is your best guide when choosing those seeds or plants.

www.Growingwhatyoueat.com

If you have small children, dogs or other small animals in your area and having your garden ground level would be more fight than pleasure, think about raising your growing boxes up higher.  This is my small raised bed where I place small plants that vine. It’s 24 inches wide by four feet long. At one end I grew midget cucumbers and planted the rest in hot peppers.  I placed the hot peppers up there because I didn’t want any little fingers finding the small red peppers too charming to resist and bite into one.

The old drawer below is where I started seeds to be planted in the beds, later in the season.  The get off to a good start and when the plants are 3-4 inches in height, I can move them into a bed when my earlier plants have been harvested.

If all you have is a patio, balcony, or small yard space, you can still think about growing what you eat, and bringing it from your yard to your table.

Growing What You Eat

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

By growing what you eat, even the smallest garden can give you fresh veggies for salads or ingredients for a complete meal for a long period of time.  The onions, lettuce and young tomato plants you see here, can enrich your meals, for not only the spring and summer seasons but through out the year.

One healthy tomato plant can produce up to 100 tomatoes for you and your family.  The 30+ onions you see here can grow to 4 inches in size.  With a little knowledge on preserving and canning, you can be eating and cooking with onions you planted and grew in you small garden until it’s time to plant them again.  Growing what you eat can be healthier for you and your family plus save you a good amount of money in your food budget.

By harvesting the lettuce in the right way, it too, will be giving you salads or a topping for your best grilled burger, way into summer.  Cut the outer leaves for use instead of pulling up the whole plant and the leaves will grow back in for future picking.  As long as you keep the dirt around them moist and if possible provide a little shade, you will have lettuce until July and the heat over takes them.

Add a package of radish seeds to a small frame of good soil, and they too, will give you many meals in return, with very little effort.

www.growingwhatyoueat.com

 

Radishes are nutritious little balls of fun.  There are many types and flavors when it comes to choosing your favorite kind.  Some have a sharp bite and some are very mild in flavor.  My favorite is the French Breakfast.  It isn’t as round as most and has a sweet mild flavor.  It can be placed in salads, or cooked in a mixture of ways to fit just about any type of meal.  Check out these little healthy bundles the next time you are looking to add something new to your garden.

A small raised bed garden [4 ft by 12 ft] can provide a family of 4 with upward of 200 pounds of produce for the year.  Just think how much that would save you in your food budget.  How do I know this can happen?  Mainly because I have done it for the last two growing periods in NE Tennessee and I am on my way of doing it again, this year.  The secret is, rotating my crops and keeping my little garden full of growing veggies.  Listed here are my main vegetables for each season, in my growing what you eat garden.

Spring Cold Plants:  Onions, Radishes, Lettuce, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots

Summer Plants:, [by this time the Radishes, Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower has been harvested]: About May 1-15 planting:  Tomatoes [4], Radishes [2nd planting], Cucumbers, Squash and Green Beans.  The secret to having this many plants in a small space is, buy the climbers.  You can grow upward, using less ground space.

Fall Plants:  Radishes [3 and 4 plantings, depending on how early the cold sets in], Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Onions[red or white]  Sugar Snap Peas.

To make it a success, planning is the first key in growing what you eat.  Dream it, plan it, plant it!

Natural Pests Control

You don’t have to use chemicals to get rid of pests in your home or garden. Using natural pests control choices is better for the environment and better for you, and they can be very effective.

Growing What You Eat in Your Own Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

* Pull Weeds Often – The best and fastest natural pests control way to get rid of weeds in your yard, is simply to pull them up when you see them. The best time to do it is after you’ve watered or after a good rain. If you have a lot of weeds you can also pour hot boiling water on them. It will kill whatever it touches, though, so only do this when you have a large concentration of weeds to get rid of.

* Get Rid of Weak Plants – When any plant succumbs to bugs, the best thing to do is to remove the weak plants, keeping only the stronger, more resistant plants.

* Build Soil Organically – Having healthy soil is one of your best defenses against pests in your garden. Build up your soil for the type of plants you’re growing using natural means such as manure and plant matter.

* Keep Foliage Dry – Water the soil of plants in your garden, not the leaves. A good way to do this is to build an irrigation system that allows you to water the garden without getting all the leaves of the plants wet.  A soaker hose is a good tool for this purpose.

* Clean Up – Keeping plants clean with a little natural soap and water mixture is also helpful to keep down mold and pests. Ensure that you look up the types of plants that work well with soap and water mixtures.  Mix 4-6 drops of a dish washing soap to a gallon of water then spray your plants.

* Keep a Clean Home – Your best defense against pests in the home is truly keeping your home free of the things that pests like. Use sealed plastic and glass containers for food so that pests don’t smell the food, to keep them from being attracted to your home.

* Catnip – Believe it or not, bugs do not like catnip. What’s great is that catnip will not harm humans or pets but it will repel bugs. Wrap catnip in mesh or cloth satchels and place around the home.

* Garlic – Eating lots of garlic will also help ward off pests. If you don’t like to eat garlic you can take garlic supplements, as can your pets.

* Apple Cider Vinegar – Set a trap with apple cider vinegar in a dish to catch gnats. Rinse your dog’s coat with half water, half apple cider vinegar mixture to help ward off ticks and fleas.

* Citronella Candles – You can buy these at any store that sells outdoor supplies or camping gear. These candles give out an odor that wards off garden pests.

* Garlic Juice – Mix half garlic juice with half water and spray directly on the skin to protect yourself and children from pests.

The more you learn about natural pests control, to protect your home and garden from pests, the more you’ll realize that you don’t need harsh chemicals to get the job done.