Saturday, March 13, 2010
Compost is a nutrient booster for your plants. Pour it on the roots or spray it on the leaves.
What You Need
~5 gallon bucket
~water – preferably taken from your rain barrel – if using municipal water, let water stand overnight to reduce amount of chlorine
How to Make Compost Tea
~fill bucket with water
~fill the paint strainer with a shovel full of compost & tie it off with the string, thus creating your compost tea bag
~drop tea bag in the bucket
~let it soak for a couple of days, periodically dunking the bag
~remove tea bag & put contents of bag around your plants
~use the “tea” to water your plants at their base or dilute it & spray on the foliage
~apply once a month during growing season
The beauty of making compost is that it is so simple and easy. You use materials that you have in your home and yard. It does not have to be an exact science. Think of a forest floor – it is covered with layers of materials that have fallen there naturally, over the seasons, and they have decomposed into a fluffy, fragrant, rich soil.
To get you started, here are some basic guidelines to follow.
Start by making or buying a compost bin. This can be as simple as making an open bin, in a 3 or 4 feet in diameter circle, out of welded wire or plastic garden fencing. Or you can purchase a compost bin, which will come with a lid. Using a lid speeds up the composting process.
Put your compost bin on the ground, in an easily accessible place. It should be near a water source because you will have to keep your compost pile moist. And it should be in a semi-sunny location.
Add ingredients. Start with a 4 inch layer of chopped leaves and stemmy plants, sticks, or other coarse material on the bottom.
Then, add kitchen wastes, dead plants, and chopped leaves, as they become available.
In your kitchen, keep a small pail or some type of washable container to collect your food scraps.
Make regular trips out to your compost pile and mix your kitchen scraps into the existing pile.
Your compost pile should be a mix of carbon-rich materials, your “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, your “greens.” Aim for 2 parts browns to 1 part greens.
Your carbon or brown materials are dried leaves, sticks and dead plants.
Your nitrogen or green materials are fresh or green, such as kitchen scraps.
Good Compost Ingredients
Leaves, and other dead plant material
Grass clippings ( * NOTE – As an alternative to collecting grass clippings, leave them on your lawn after mowing. They are an excellent way to naturally feed and mulch your lawn. Grass clippings do not cause “thatch”. Clippings are 90% water and decompose very quickly) Fruit and vegetable trimmings
Fruit rinds, peels, cores, egg shells
Coffee grinds & filters, tea bags
Manure from horses, cattle, goats, poultry and rabbits (optional)
Bad Compost Ingredients DO NOT USE
Fat or butterFatty, sugary or salty foods
Chips or sawdust from treated wood
B-B-Q or charcoal ash
Wood ashClippings from herbicide-treated lawnsManure from dogs, cats or humans
Add water to your compost pile as often as needed to keep the material moist but not soggy (like a wrung-out sponge).
Turning the pile is helpful but optional.
The compost is ready to use when you can no longer recognize the original ingredients. A compost pile is an ongoing activity. You keep adding to it from the top, and you remove your compost from the bottom.
Composting is the process of recycling old plants, vegetable matter, yard waste and dead leaves and turning them into a nutrient rich, soft brown material known as compost, a gardener’s “black gold”.
Uses for Compost
Compost has many uses in your garden and lawn.
When setting out seedlings and plants, fill the planting hole with compost.
Side dress plants with compost. It will act as mulch, and every time it rains nutrients will leach into the plant roots to nourish them.
Spread an inch or two over your lawn to fertilize it.
Benefits of Using Compost
Produce healthier plants, thus reducing or eliminating the need to buy commercial fertilizers or pesticides.
Saves you money – you don’t have to buy fertilizers
Lightens heavy or clay soils
Increases the water-holding capacity of sandy soils
Encourages healthy populations of helpful soil organisms
Provides nutrients for plants and crops
Improves the soil’s moisture retention, which reduces the need to water
Improves soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants
With a rain barrel for your garden, all that rainwater can be saved. Rain water harvesting is important because it decreases the high demand for domestic water in residential irrigation. By collecting rain water and storing it a rain barrel you’ll have water for future use.
A rain barrel is a large barrel style container that is placed under downspout in an ideal location close to most gardening areas. Most rain barrels have one water inlet, and one faucet style fitting at the bottom of the barrel. The water enters through opening at the top, directly from a shortened downspout. The water remains stored and only accessed out of the barrel via the faucet at the bottom. Gravity provides a low flow and constant pressure that is suitable for soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems.
With rain water being one of the most abundant and consistently available natural resources, the conservation of it is an efficient way to cut down the cost of water usage in the household and help alleviate the burden of imposing water shortages. The placement of a rain barrel underneath the gutters of your home can provide a barrel full of rain water in a downpour, which in turn can be used in practical ways such as watering your flowers and garden or even washing your car. With enough rain water saved up throughout the year, you might rarely use the garden hose for an entire summer.
The benefits of having one does wonders for people who tend to use the garden hose on a liberal basis, saving not just a good chunk of pocket change but also provide fresher and purer natural soft water for your plants.
The Westville Environmental Commission sells rain barrels for $40. Please let us know if you are interested and we can show you how to use it.
Not only does improper watering waste valuable water, but excess irrigation water can also carry fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants to ground and surface waters.
Some key points to remember during those critical gardening months:
~Use a rain gauge to measure weekly rainfall and apply only the amount of supplemental water needed.
~Avoid frequent watering, it encourages shallow root depths and can weaken plants. One thorough watering event each week is best.
~Use low pressure/low volume watering systems such as soaker hoses and drip irrigation for gardens and beds. This reduces water losses due to evaporation, and the low flow rates minimize the potential for water leaching below the root zone or running off the surface. Water is also applied at or near the root zone where the plants need it most.
~For when it does actually rain in NJ, one of the best ways to harness that resource is to utilize a rain barrel.
Native plants are classified as plants that have been growing in our region since before European settling.
Natives are beneficial to birds and to butterflies because wildlife prefer to feed on natives. Many non-native ornamental plants have no food value to our wildlife. Also, native trees, especially evergreens, provide cover for birds. Our community garden at the Thomas West park pond is filled with native plants. We are in the process of having the habitat certified as a Monarch waystation. Waystations provide resources for Monarch butterflies throughout the breeding season and fall migration.
Some commonly found native plants are
~Black Eyed Susans
~Common Blue Violet
~New England Aster
~Lobelia (Cardinal Flower)
A full list of native plants can be found at New Jersey Native Plant Society.