Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thoughts for the Spring

Students visited the garden today to wrap up their project for the semester. Since every crop is ready for harvesting except for the brocolli, they uprooted some of the dead plants (sunflowers, winter squash, and pumpkins) and took them to the compost pile nearby. They also added onto the rabbit fence and began discussing how to redesign the beds for next semester. The new plan will not only consider how to make garden upkeep easier but will help improve the soil, since students have decided to turn the beds. Because it is too late to plant a cover crop in all of the current beds, compost will be placed on the tops of each and straw will cover the compost so that it will be less vulnerable to erosion.

Now that we're entering an "off season", what can you be doing to prepare for the next growing season? Start a compost pile! Compost is essential to organic gardening because it adds nutrients to the soil, creates better tilth, and feeds the microorganisms that are essential to plant survival. Here are some instructions for starting your own pile:

1. Think Carbon and Nitrogen. You want a pile that includes natural sources of both. Green garden debris contains high amounts of Nitrogen and brown Carbon.

2. You are looking for the best balance of both elements. Many argue what that balance is and how to achieve it. When looking for the "best" recipe, consider how much time you have before you'll need to be using your compost.

3. Toss in some soil or compost to help jumpstart your pile.

4. Moniture moisture levels. You don't want your pile to be too wet or too dry. It should be damp , but when you squeeze it, water should not drip out. If it's too dry, add water to help achieve this dampness.

5. Turn your pile in order to move material from the outside in and vice versa. If the temperature of the middle of the pile reaches 160 F, you need to turn your pile. Once the pile stops heating up after turning, you'll be done!

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