Friday, May 20, 2011

Helping Out Those Busy Bees

Conscientious gardeners know the important role bees play in our backyards and in our food system at large, and hopefully employ practices that are our kind to our buzzy friends.  Recently hive collapse disorder has been given attention in the media, and bees are in dire need of our extra assistance.  How to help?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Life in a Dormant Domain

Check out this great feature on effective winter bird feeding that was recently featured on NPR's "All Things Considered".  Their visits can bring much needed color and joy to the garden at this time of year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Success Can be Grown in a Garden Patch

Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked, "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is the true meaning of success."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pallet Compost Bin

The average American family throws away a couple hundred pounds of compostable waste in a year's time.  Unfortunately, these items do not break down easily in landfill conditions, adding to the staggering amount of waste we produce and depriving our gardens of wonderful, soil-enriching nutrients.

For those of us with backyards, a simple solution is to compost.  And for those of us with backyards and on a budget, an affordable solution is a compost bin built from shipping pallets.  There are many online resources which will guide you through these steps; here is a pretty decent one:

These pallets are given away for free at just about any large retailer.  If you have a large family, or create a lot of vegetable waste, I suggest you search out the larger-sized pallets.  Be sure to select pallets that are not cracked or missing boards.

There is a seemingly infinite amount of information about composting techniques out there on the web and at your library, so I only want to add a few tidbits of advice about this project.  The three bin system is ideal so that you can have a couple bins in the midst of the composting process while you fill the third.  You may also want to consider installing heavy-duty hinges on the front "doors" of each so you can have easy access to turn and eventually remove your compost.  As you fill the bins, keep larger items against the slats and smaller (or smellier) items in the center.

This is truly a win-win-win solution: keep waste out of landfills, reuse those ubiquitous shipping pallets, and help your garden grow.  Happy composting!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Extra Crispy

Gardens can be a source of despair at this time of year.  The lush green explosion of only a month ago has given way to bedraggled gasping.  Here in Poolesville, we have not only been enduring unusually hot and dry conditions, but also a powerful storm over the weekend.  Wind speeds of 60 miles per hour made a mess of already limping yards and gardens.  Masses of broken limbs and buffeted leaves littering lawns provided the perfect encouragement to clean up the garden.  Late July is a perfect time to tidy up the garden, cutting back plants that are finished blooming or have become straggly; pulling out annuals that have outgrown their attractiveness; and filling in spots with a planting for renewed energy.  University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension service runs a program specifically for edible gardening called Grow It, Eat It; this month, their page offers some coping tips for this hot, dry weather:  Take a look around your own garden: what can you do to give it a jolt of energy?

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Hot Mess

I had oh-so-grand plans for my hot sauce bottling this year.  I planned to experiment with "canning" it so I could send it to friends and family farther afield.  I planned on making a couple different formulations, in addition to the herbal concoction from last year.

Alas, you know what has been said about the best-laid plans.  And mine have gone very far astray, unfortunately.

Mysteriously, my pepper plants have grown very little since May, whether a starter plant, a plant from seed, or even a volunteer.  With the lack of growth has also come a lack of blossom, and therein lies the problem: no bloom, no peppers.

I may have no choice but to decamp to my area Asian grocery for my hot pepper supplies, though my glow of pride may be somewhat diminished as a result.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

100 degrees of July

With the oven-like atmosphere descended upon us, along with the unbreathable air, makes me glad I finally installed my soaker hose.  I simply cannot believe (nor wish to admit) how long it spent coiled in the garage, waiting for me to use the thing.  *Note: By "I...installed  my soaker hose," I mean my dad was kind enough to do it for me.  Before the heat wave hit, I might add, lest I be accused of attempted patricide.

On another note, now may be the time to try one of the many permutations of lemonade I have been considering, such as basil and lavender.  Hmmmmm.....