Let’s Compost!

During yesterday’s monthly work party at Cedar Grove Garden I was assigned the tasks of cleaning out the compost boxes.  This sounds way worse than it actually was and I learned a lot in the process.

Why Compost: improve soil structure, increase nutrient content, use less water, ward off plant diseases. Learn More

What to compost: Vegetable scraps (excluding tomatoes & rhubarb), tea leaves, coffee grounds. Be sure if you are using scraps from home that the vegatables or fruits are pesticide free.

What not to compost: anything too woody (it will take too long to breakdown), metal, glass, meat products, dairy, anything invassive like horsetail, morning glory and other weeds, tomatoes (there is a lot of debate about tomatoes some say no to prevent spread of diseases and to prevent tomatoe plants coming up everywhere) rhubarb, diseased plants.  

How to Compost: Here are a couple of resources to start composting in your garden. The basics are however to have a good mix of nitrogen and carbon, keep it moist but not soggy and turn it over.

Grow Compost

How to Grow Compost

Composting at Cedar Grove Organic Garden: The garden has four compost boxes for communal use by all the gardeners. Since this is used by all of us its our responsibility to ensure that it is kept free of weeds, invasive species and other composting no go’s. The two wooden boxes on the east side are good compost soil and ready to be added to your plot as needed – but dont add any new clippings to the pile! The two smaller boxes on the west side are still in the process of being broken down so if you are walking by and notice someone has dropped some weeds in be sure to remove them right away! There is a large weed pile at the back of the garden in the southwest corner near the woods for these undesirables. It is these two west side boxes where you should place your compostable items that have come from your garden.

OMG – It’s May! – Time for some serious planting

Okay it is actually May! Not sure when that happened but that means the bulk of your garden clean-up should be done and time to focus on getting some flowers, herbs, and veggies into the ground if you haven’t done so already.

This is the time of the year to plant marigolds, calendula, California poppies, cosmos, nasturtiums (both flowers and leaves can be added to salads as well), sweet peas, yarrow (great for the bees), and wildflowers to add a little splash of colour to your garden in the next few months.  For tastier treats beans, carrots, beets, collards, storage onions, peas, and swiss chard to name just a few to get put into the ground.

I listened to a recent gardening podcast (A way to Garden with Margaret Roach) and she said something that really stuck with me and that was before planting something know what the end game will be.  What she meant was before you plant anything know what you’re going to use it for: ornamental, fresh consumption or for winter storage, or just to try something new.  By knowing the answer to this it will help your choose not only the right veggies, herbs, and flowers but the right varieties that you will get the most use out of.  There is nothing worse with having an abundance of garden goodies and no idea what to do with them or they are the wrong variety for storage and now you have too much for fresh consumption.  Many herbs can be easily frozen for use during the winter months (I did this with chives & parsley this past winter with great success, I also did with Sage but still haven’t figured out what to do with the abundance and even though I already gave one sage plant away this spring i still have three in the garden – let me know if there are any takers!).  Other great advice can be found at A Way to Garden – her podcasts offer a wealth of information and interesting factoids from a lot of different knowledgeable professional gardening or gardening related experts.

May is also the time to start hardening off your seedlings for transplant (if you haven’t started already).  I’m lucky in that I get a decent amount of sunlight on my balcony and it’s covered with glass inserts with narrow openings to limit the amount of wind.  This provides a transitionary environment for my seedlings so they get exposed to the outdoors after being in the climate controls of my grow light but still protected from the rain and some of the wind as they get adjusted to new temperatures. After they have been out on the balcony for 24hr periods for about a week sometimes more I move them into the garden so it less of a full shock to their system.  Here are some tips from Gardening Know How on hardening off your seedlings.  I have also seen many gardeners successfully use row covers and plastic mini-green houses till their seedlings are strong enough to handle the environmental ups and downs that are typical of garden life.

If you are an indoor seed starter this is also a great time to plant your squash and cucumber seeds inside for June transplanting.

Let’s remember the constant in an organic garden stay on-top of those weeds before they get too established and spread all over.  If you are part of a community garden like Cedar Grove this means that being neglicant on weeding can also have an effect on your plot neighbours ability to stay ahead of weeds in their plot. The dandelions between the plots also need to come up or at least be deadheaded when you see them in the common areas.