Gail of Green Living


What’s New in My Organic Garden?
Blueberries in December!

Blueberries in December!

What’s new in my garden?  Blueberry blooms and blueberries; that’s what!  Never mind it is December, but we have had few cool days in Houston, and I guess these bushes are really happy.  If we have a threat of freeze, you know I will take care of them!

Ripe tomatoes in December!

Ripe tomatoes in December!

The Better Bush tomato vines never died in the summer.  With blooms all over them, I didn’t have the heart to get rid of them.  And now in December, we have a few really nice tomatoes to enjoy!

Kale

Siberian Kale

This is a very tender-leafed variety and it is quite delicious steamed or stir-fried in olive oil with a little garlic.

Mustard Greens

Mustard Greens

I only planted three small plants, which grow quickly, so I can pick enough each week to enjoy.

Buttercrunch Lettuce and Black-seeded Simpson lettuce

Buttercrunch Lettuce and Black-seeded Simpson Lettuce

I have never grown lettuce before, and it is so easy, I am kicking myself for not doing it earlier!  The seeds sprout in just a few days, and the leaves are very tender and tasty.  The plants do not like our warm days; I have to cool them with water when the temperature rises in the 80’s.  But for a winter vegetable, it is a winner!

Spent Grain

Spent Grain

My son and his friend brew craft beer, and he offered a bucket of “spent grain” for my compost pile.  It’s supposed to be an excellent addition to the mix.  It is the leftover malt and adjuncts after the mash has extracted most of the sugars, proteins, and nutrients from the barley.  It certainly qualifies as a new addition to my winter garden!

 

 

 

 

 

 



Compost: A new way

My new Earth Machine Compost Bin

Thanks to my good friend, Jill, I have a new compost bin.  In the past 40 years, I have probably composted for 20 of them.  I have always just made a compost pile behind the garage.  But the City of Houston in its efforts to create a more green environment for our city, has been selling composting bins and rain-collection barrels for half the normal price, once a year.  Jill has several of each type and is expanding her efforts.  I’ll have to take a field trip to Jill’s garden and report back.

But meanwhile, I put my beast together easily.  The material is hard plastic and seems quite durable.  It appears to be the same material used for our recycling bins, which are made from recycled products.  There are long plastic screws that hold the frame in the ground.

Getting it started…

I put some unfinished compost in the bin to get it going.  Recently, a yard man put way too many grass clippings on the top of my compost pile, and it hasn’t been happy ever since.  Too much added at one time is not good.  The only grass I ever add is from sweeping the driveway or street gutters, so it’s not very much.  I use a mulching mower and never have to fertilize the yard…ever!

I am one of over 2 million users of the Earth Machine Composting Bin.  One family can divert over 500 pounds of kitchen scraps and yard waste a year.  The winners are the land fill and my garden!

This week I will share some new composting hints to inspire you to do this simple routine in your home.



Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #2

Diane Norman discussed soil, soil amendments and organic fertilizers for container gardening.  I wish I had her class years ago when I started putting my vegetables and herbs in containers, because she could have saved me a lot of water and time, I think.  The BIG AH-HAH in my class last week was …

Expanded Shale

Expanded Shale.  It has porous pockets that allow it to trap moisture and release it when the soil becomes dry.  It also aerates the clay soil we have in Houston.  This year, I had used the correct brand of soil to put in my pots, just not the correct blend that included expanded shale.  You can be sure that from now on, I will use it!

She mentioned some organic fertilizers that were new to me.  Crab meal, shrimp meal, lava sand, and dry or liquid molasses.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I had issues with my compost pile not getting hot enough, and therefore, my plants have weeds sprouting.  Dry molasses added to my compost seems to be the solution.  As soon as I can, I will add that and let everyone know how well it works for me.

Fertilizers I have used with great success are fish emulsion, blood meal, bone meal and Epsom Salts.  Diane says that Epsom Salts minimize yellowing of leaves and the increase blooming and setting blooms on vegetables.  I never had pinpointed that as the reason for my plants having dark, green leaves and lots of blooms.

Sweet Million

It’s hard to see these tiny cherry tomatoes, but there are three of them.  This variety is Sweet Million, and I’ve grown them before with great success.  I would like to expect 999,997 more on this vine, but I think someone is exaggerating!  They are the first to bloom and have the blooms set.  I fed them Epsom Salts about two weeks ago, and then again a few days ago.  It works!!

What organic fertilizers work best for you?



Pumpkin Surprise!
November 12, 2011, 10:31 am
Filed under: Gardening, Green Living | Tags: , , , , , ,

After you’ve finished celebrating Halloween, compost your jack-o-lanterns,  instead of tossing them in the garbage.  I cook mine, but I still have plenty left for the compost pile–the ends and stems and the peel after cooking.  I wash the seeds and roast them; they are very nutrituous.

Pumpkins, which of course are 100% natural, will break down quickly as  compost in your yard, providing you with valuable nutrients for your lawn or  garden. As you probably know by now, pumpkins aren’t exactly light, so they  otherwise take a considerable amount of fuel to haul to the landfill — plus  their bulky size means they take up space.

To get the best results in your compost pile, cut up the pumpkin a bit to provide more surface area. Layer with other types of  materials, like shredded leaves, green weeds or grass clippings. If you want to maximize the opportunity, add manure, or a nitrogen supplement like cottonseed meal bone meal or dried blood (you might have some of that left from Halloween, too!). Keep the pile moist and turn it over frequently.  Once a week I add a compost maker.  Some items, like pine needles, need a boost.

If all that sounds like too much work, don’t worry about it. In most areas,  you can simply toss things in a pile, and just alternate materials as you get  them. It may not make the most super-dooper compost, and it may take a little  longer to break down, but you’ll still get some nice nutrients, and you’ll be  helping the planet one little bit at a time.

And you may get a surprise in your compost:

Pumpkin Plants

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/compost-pumpkins-461008#ixzz1dVS87OXX



Be a Responsible Shopper!

When I’m shopping, I am trying to be aware of where products are made.  I am focused on buying products made in the U.S. to benefit our economy and also cut the shipping expenses and carbon footprint coming from other countries.  One area I’ve found that is easy to make a difference is in green cleaning products.  I found Seventh Generation dryer sheets on my last shopping trip, and a word on the box got my attention right away…”compostable“!  On the back side of the box is some education material that makes me feel good about deciding to buy this product.  The product is free and clear of dyes, fragrances and masking agents.

“If every household in the U.S. replaced just one box of polyester fabric softener sheets with our paper sheets, and composted after use, we could prevent 7,400 tons of solid waste from entering our landfills, equivalent to 780 garbage trucks”!

And this company dedicates 10% of their profit to organizations working for positive change.

I’ll let you know how it breaks down in the compost pile…if I can!  Let me know if you have suggestions for better household products.