Thursday, May 31, 2007

Scented Garden Its Own Reward for Garden Organic

The long hot days of summer are ahead of us and after toiling in the sun we deserve the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

People garden for various reasons:

  • To put food on the table, and in the pantry for winter.

  • For cut flower bouquets to adorn their homes with color.

  • For the scent of the freshly harvested herbs and vegetables or fragrant flowers.

The scented garden is one worthy of our hard work.

Here is a list of fragrant blooms that wait til evening to reward you for your hard work:

  • Nicotianas (alata and sylvestris, which are both white, are the most fragrant)
  • Brugmansia and datura (scentless in the daytime, they turn it on after dark)
  • Moonflower (a vine that thrives in heat)
  • Trumpet and Oriental lilies (plant as many different varieties as you can justify)
  • Acidanthera (peacock orchids need to be dug like glads, but are totally worth it).
  • Night phlox or Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis is an easy annual from seed)
  • Stock (don't let the name fool you, this is a beautiful annual with a carnation-like fragrance).
  • Dianthus (not all are fragrant, but many of them are)
  • Tuberose (a tender bulb that needs to be dug and stored indoors)
  • Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius, flowers are shortlived but fabulous)
  • Alyssum (more fragrant in the sun, but still quite fragrant after dark)
  • Hostas (some varieties have very fragrant flowers in late summer)
  • Petunias (seek out fragrant varieties— use your own nose to evaluate them)
  • Heliotrope (both the purple and the white varieties have a vanilla fragrance)

The garden can become a whole new world at night, especially if you accent your beds with lighting or special features.

Do yourself a favor and create outdoor benches and seating areas where you can sit and relax and breath in the essence of your hard work.

With real glass shades and verdigris steel “stems," these Bluebell Path Lights are beautiful garden accents even in the daytime. When evening falls, they provide 6 to 8 hours of illumination.
Solar Bluebells, Set of 4

Inside each of these ornaments is a sprinkling of "fairy dust", a special phosphorescent paint that absorbs sunlight by day, and glows by night adding magic and mystery to your landscape.
Fairydust Balls with Stakes, Set of 3

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Scoop on Poop

The Scoop on Poop

Back in the days when what you ate was literally the fruit of your own labor, you knew that if you wanted your soil to produce a bounty of food that you had to first feed your soil.

Since on the farm you had a ready-made fertilizer factory it wasn’t hard to do. Between the chicken, cows, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and horses there was plenty of fertilizer to go around.

As science discovered chemicals all that began to change. More folks lived in the city and depended on the local grocer for their food. Farms became less of a family thing and more of a business thing and the advent of synthetic fertilizer, touted as better and easier, became the way of growing crops.

Today, as organic food is making a come back, manure is being rediscovered as a fertilizer and soil conditioner and for use in a composting system. It is especially good for worm bin composting.

There are however, some manure that should not be used as mulch or composting where it will be used on consumable food. Generally speaking any meat eating animal manure such as dogs and cats should not be used because of a risk of parasitical or disease organisms that can potentially be transmitted to humans.

Animal manures are great sources of organic matter and nutrients that feed the soil, however a precise analysis would be far from accurate due to different feed and bedding material. But some generalizations can be made that can act as a guideline when using the different manures.

Manure N-P-K

Chicken 1.1 .80 .50
Diary cow .25 .15 .25
Horse .70 .30 .60

Steer .70 .30 .40

Rabbit 2.4 1.4 .60

Sheep .70 .30 .90

Sources: Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, An Illustrated Guide toOrganic Gardening, by Sunset Publishing, and the Rodale Guide to Composting.

Chicken manure:

This is the richest animal manure in N-P-K. It is considered a “hot” manure and should not be applied in the garden without first composting it. It will burn any plants it is used on.

Cow manure:

Cow manure is a great soil conditioner on its own, but as bedding for worm bin composting it is a true gem. Worms love the cow manure as it is processed so completely after passing through all the cow’s stomachs and the cud chewing process.

Horse manure:

Richer in nitrogen than cow manure and considered “hot.” This manure will have a lot of seeds that will germinate if used without first composting to kill them. When using as a worm bedding the seeds will generally germinate in the worm bin and will be turned into the system.

Steer manure:

Bagged steer manure while readily available is not the best choice for gardens or worm bin. It is high in salts and in many cases has been sterilized to kill weed seeds thus destroying the beneficial bacteria as well.

Rabbit manure:

Higher in nitrogen than you might think as it is a dry manure. It also contains a large amount of phosphorus that is an important ingredient for flower production and fruit formation. It is also a good candidate for worm bin composting. As a matter of fact there are many rabbit farms that use composting worms under their rabbit hutches. A true symbiotic relationship.

Sheep manure:

This is another “hot” manure that is somewhat dry and rich. There will be a difference in manure of sheep raised on feed hay and grain as opposed to those raised on pasture.

How to use your manure

No matter what kind of manure you have available, it can be used in the worm bin. Remember that your worms will die if the bin gets too hot, so you probably want to do some pre-composting to help avoid that unfortunate event.

Think soil amendment, not mulch when using manure directly on your garden. It is best to spread the manure in the fall and let the winter deal with it, then till it into the top 6 inches of soil before spring planting. This is one of the reasons I say the gardening season begins in the fall.

The final word

Animal manure retains anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the plant nutrients the animals are fed. What better recycling system could you have to return life to the soil to feed your plants?

Trivia: The best zoo doo is elephant dung!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Organic Lawn Lush and Green...

Sometimes a beautiful lawn can mean not having so much lawn. The less lawn you have the less work taking care of it. As a bonus, a border of mixed perennials and annuals will attract birds and beneficials that will do their part to keep your yard and lawn healthy with out chemicals.

Still, in todays world, as our lives have gotten busier, even a small yard demands too much of us and often our yard and lawn requires the help of a professional.

Enter Paul Tukey. Paul Tukey is a man on a mission. He wanted to start a landscaping business and after successfully building a million dollar landscaping company he started suffering from nosebleeds and shortness of breath. His doctor told him to stop applying lawn chemicals and the problems ceased. Although Paul had stopped personally applying the chemicals to lawns, his company continued with offering chemical treatments for lawn care.

Then something happened that made him take a hard look at what he was doing advocating lawn care that he knew presented health-care issues. He entered a store having a huge sale on weed and feed intending to buy the store's entire supply. But there was a child sitting on the floor playing in the contents of a bag which had broken open. When he mentioned to the mother that she might not want to let her daughter play in these chemicals she looked at him like he didn't know what he was talking about. When the manager likewise scoffed at his concerns he made up his mind to go totally organic with his lawn care business the next spring.

Now he spends most of his time on the organic bandwagon. He has written a book and has a TV show that he has done a great deal of research for, traveling around looking for organic success stories. And he has found many.

He has learned about different grasses, soil biology, and feeding the soil to enhance biodiversity. Organic lawncare can lead to a healthy, lush, green lawn, but a change needs to happen in the way one does things.

There are 10 basic steps for a successful organic lawn:
  1. Have your soil tested. Don't do anything to treat or feed your lawn until you know what the soil needs. The soil is the basis for a great lawn and should be at least 6 inches deep.

  2. Grow the right grass for your location and conditions. The most popular grasses grown are also the most needy when it comes to water and fertilizer. There are a lot of other options that might suite your particular situation.

  3. Water properly - Watering deeply and less frequently will encourage the grass roots to grow deep for moisture. This will help the grass survive drought periods. Watering in the early morning hours will get more water to the roots by avoiding evaporation and will allow the grass to dry. This keeps the environment undesireable for disease.

  4. Your soil is alive, especially if you stop killing everything with chemicals. The soil biology needs to be fed in order for the soil to feed your lawn. Organic matter feeds the soil which in turn nurtures your lawn.

  5. Rethink your mowing habits. Leaving the lawn clippings to decompose will feed your lawn naturally and supply 50% of your lawns nitrogen requirements. Keep your blades sharp and mow higher. The length of your grass blades are directly related to the length of the grass roots.

  6. Avoid synthetic fertilizers and soil ammendments. These can burn and any excess leaches out into the ground water. Use organic matter to feed and ammend your lawn. This helps build a healthy environment for your grass to grow in.

  7. Use a top quality compost as a soil additive. Both dry and liquid, a top quality compost supports the organic life in your soil. This is especially important when making a transition from chemical to organic.

  8. Treat weeds as messengers. They are telling you that there is a problem with the soil. Fix the soil and the grass will outgrow the weeds.

  9. Likewise, pests are messengers. Pests look for the weak, much like the predator in the wild. If a lawns environment is in balance, pests will not get a foot hold.

  10. Overseed - nature reseeds itself every year, renewing itself as the old dies out. Your lawn will go through this same process, however because of mowing practices it never has a chance to renew itself by setting seed. Therefore, you need to do it during the season that is best for your location.

There are many examples of successful organic lawns. This can be done. It must be done for the health of our families, pets, and the environment.