Black Gold – Garden Check

001Ya know….I just don’t want to do a food post.  I have been cooking so much, trying new recipes, enjoying company that when I get a moment of relaxation…I just don’t wanna.  So as my family sits down to their grilled cheese sandwiches…

I

wander

outside.

Yes, the air is lovely at this time of night.

I’ll stir my compost.

Talk to my starts.

Urge my tomatoes to grow faster…

…eventually I jump on our new trampoline.

It’s a lot of fun, just me.

No kids to worry about.

I jump high.

003Let’s talk starts.  Most of the vegetables that have a longer (not longest such as melons and squashes) harvesting time, I tend to start them in small pots.  Usually ones that I have reused from last summers 6-pack of annuals.

beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, jalapeno, green onions, etc….

I’ll start them late April/early May.  They tend to get a bit leggy by the time mid-May rolls around so I need to plant them in larger pots, separating the plants into their own containers.  To start the seeds I tend to plant about 3-4 seeds (depending on the type of plant) per pot.  So now I have all of my starts.  So pretty.  So healthy.  Next step is for the first week of June to come around so that I may plant them in my outdoor raised bed.  See, right now there are all snug in my greenhouse.

Every morning I stroll outside,

walk a hundred or so feet to the green house and

prop open the 4 ceiling vents as well as leave the top half of the door open for a nice cross breeze.

So bitchin’ that the door splits like that.  Keeps the hungry deer out yet allows for some fresh air.

Every evening,

I stroll back out and close it all up,

whispering sweet nothings in the nodes of my plants.

004I like my greenhouse now, although there is plenty of work to do inside.  We do not have the funds to build all the planter boxes I want, so for right now I use pots and enjoy the handy shelter it provides, as temperatures still drop into the 30s at night.  My heirloom, organic tomatoes arrived so late.  They are tiny little guys and I’m frustrated.  I ordered them because the closest plant place *ahem* Wal-Mart, surprisingly does not carry organic tomatoes….  Ah well.

My husband did have enough wood for a shorter planter box where I planted my white, yellow and red onions.  Hopefully I will grow enough to provide for most the year ahead.  We will see.  Up at this altitude, always a crap shoot.  It is only my 3rd growing season here so I am still very much an amateur although I study, take classes and listen when other growers talk, I feel I am picking up essentials that will ultimately provide life to some vegetables this year.

Once I am able to plant outside, all my quicker-growing crops will be planted.

Seeds.

Arugula, spinach, lettuce, radishes, cilantro, more carrots, and anything else I want to stuff in that 4×12′ raised bed.

I may just come down with the case of the eff-its and plant all my starts and seeds tomorrow….we will see where the sun takes me.  Until then….check out my black gold:

007

Composting at 8500 feet is rather difficult.  A bit more difficult than say, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.  The Master Gardeners who taught the first high altitude gardening class I went to even discouraged it.

I scoffed.

Quite literally.

I have been composting since grade school, since my age was a single digit.  You will not tell me it won’t work.

Oh wait.

Dare me.

I dare you to dare me!

Anyways, I think we finally got it.  And I was able to figure it out without blood worms.  Thank goodness.

A gardener who is deathly afraid of worms?  Huh?  Me?  Naaaaa…..

I look at my compost and tears nearly form.  It is beautiful.  To the umph degree.  No need for fertilizer for this girl.  No way.  I’ll remove some of the dirt from the raised bed as it is quite depleted of nutrients from last years crop and add this compost.  Mix it all together and hoe it nice.  Voila.  A lovely soil mixture eager to feed my new crop.  Life is good, says my plants as soon as I transplant them.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow.

Until then, happy growing friends.

Composting Made Simple

My Compost

If only people knew how easy composting was, and low maintenance.  Maybe more would do it?  The benefits to the environment are so vast.  I grew up composting.  I remember my Dad going into my 1st grade classroom with a wooden compost bin he had made and shared with us the basics and benefits of composting.  I also remember from early on what can and cannot go into a compost.  It is really easy stuff, but for a 5-year-old it was an accomplishment.  I don’t remember the last time I threw an egg shell away, other than when I am cooking at other peoples houses.  I was lucky my boyfriend-turned-husband was excited about composting.  We’ve made it a part of our household routine.  It works for us and I really hope that others will start adding it to their daily routine as well.

You don’t need a lot of space at all!  Above you will see my compost bin.  It’s very basic.  I need to have a closed one because of bears.  There are open ones that are great for sea level folks because you can compost year round.  Up here we freeze for several months out of the year, when you freeze the decomposing stops.  So we’ve had to get a second compost, which is a good-sized hole dug into the ground and a very thick layer of pine needles on top.  All I need to do is take my hoe and remove the needles, throw my compostable material inside and cover up with the needles.  Easy!  But a bin is even easier.  A bin should have plenty of ventilation and for me I like the opening on the bottom for easy compost shoveling.

I went to a high altitude gardening basics class up here and they said it was very difficult to compost up here.  I completely and whole heartedly disagree.  You can compost ANYWHERE!  Just do it.  Don’t over think it.

I’m not sure who Greg Hall is but I found this diagram and thought it was a good basic rundown of what you can and cannot compost:

I keep a compost pail on my kitchen counter, like the one on the front page of this blog.  It’s stainless steel so it does not hold onto smells and cleans easily.  It has a double charcoal filter top that are washable and also replaceable.  When I am cooking, especially chopping up a bunch of veggies I just open it up, put it right next to my chopping board and I just throw my scraps in as I go.  Super simple and does not take any more time than if I were throwing my scraps in the garbage.  Once the 1 gallon container is full I just mosey on over to my compost bin, open the top and dump the contents of my pail in there.  If you notice in my compost picture I have a trash bag next to my compost.  I keep that full of dead leaves, I usually just throw some leaves over the compost I just threw in to help the composting process go a bit quicker.  Up here I don’t get a lot of time to compost so I do everything I can to help it along.  You will notice in my picture that I also keep a hoe next to the bin.  Every week or so I go and mix it around.  I will also take the hose and water it down every so often.  Compost like aeration, ventilation, heat and water.  Again, when the kids are out in the yard playing I can get this done in a matter of 5 minutes. 

The reason why I compost is because I vegetable garden.  Compost acts as an organic fertilizer.  I mix a generous amount of compost into my vegetable garden bed each year to replenish the nutrients my prior crop depleted from the soil.  I will also mix in some compost in my pots, in flower beds, etc.  And if I have too much, which I don’t ever seem to have that problem, I can just throw that beautiful black soil on a dirt spot and see what grows from it.

Up where I live we don’t have a lot of dead leaves, we have mostly pines.  Pine needles take FOREVER to compost so I do not put them in my compost bins (I just make spontaneous earth bins with them).  I scramble for all my little Aspen leaves and I have to beg my friends down the mountain to save me their fallen leaves.  The compost bin needs about 3/4 brown and only 1/4 green.  But that’s okay, I make it work any way I can.  I’m determined.

Tip:  If you are having a hard time filling up your compost bin you can always go to Starbucks and ask for their coffee grounds.  They usually keep adding them into one large bag waiting for someone to take them.  If nobody does they’ll just trash them at the end of the day.

I can go on and on and you will be overwhelmed.  So I encourage you all to check out some good composting websites such as www.howtocompost.org and www.composting101.com