The sight of steam rising from a compost pile on a cold winter day is sure to warm the heart of every organic gardener. It’s a sign that when spring comes, you’ll have a batch of fresh compost to use for getting seeds and transplants off to a healthy start in your garden. Frigid weather outside can slow the decomposition process, but you can maintain an essential core of heat, which indicates that crucial microbial activity is occurring inside the pile. “The outside layer of the pile will be ambient temperature,” says Mark Van Horn, a researcher at the University of California-Davis, “but if things are right, the inside of the pile will be hot.” These hints from the experts we spoke to will help keep your compost cooking through winter in any region.
Homemade seed balls are a clever way to sow seeds (single species or a mix) without digging. It’s inexpensive, easy and you can cover a lot of ground. They are just scattered onto the soil surface, not buried. Then they just sit there, ensconced in their mud-and-compost ball until it rains, safe from birds, rodents, drying out, and they won’t blow away. They are especially useful in areas with unpredictable rainfall. If there’s no rain, the seeds just sit there and wait. When enough rain falls to soften the balls (usually 3-5”), the seeds sprout. The clay and compost work together, as the clay is good at
Successful organic gardeners rely on compost to improve soil’s fertility and moisture management, nourish helpful soil microbes, and inoculate against destructive ones. This three-bin system is a compost factory that efficiently pumps out heaps of finished black gold in just weeks, rather than the months you wait for the hands-off approach to work. Made from rot-resistant cedar, our ultimate compost bin features removable front planks, and a clean look that allows for good air movement. You can build it in just a few hours.
Allowing your chickens to graze on fresh grass is a good thing — not just for them, but for you as well. The nutrients in green vegetation enhances the quality of their eggs and meat. And since fresh greens can make up about 20-30% of a chicken’s diet, providing them for your chickens can save you on feed costs.
But keeping your chickens supplied with fresh greens can be a challenge. When chickens have plenty of room to roam, they will graze a little off the top, then move on. When forage space is limited, however, as in a small urban or suburban backyard, chickens will continue to graze and scratch in the same spot until the vegetation is torn down to the roots.
An easy solution? Grazing frames! But before we get to that, let’s look at some of the more common ways of greening your chickens in a small space.
Some common solutions for getting fresh greens to your chickens Continue reading
Rain barrels collect rainfall and store it, so that it can be used later. There are 3 main components – The roof, the barrel, and the hose. These are not always a roof, barrel, and hose, but those functions will be present in almost every system (collection, storage, and output). A very common setup is to place barrels under gutters and fill watering cans with the water as needed. Our system will use a small awning as our roof (our gardens and barrels are located a bit away from the house), a barrel for each garden bed, and a soaker hose that runs into each bed from the barrel. Here’s how we made the barrels.
Step 1. Procure the barrels. The most important thing about the barrels is that they hold water, and they never held anything bad. In Texas we could get 55 gallon blue plastic barrels from the Coca-cola bottling plant – they were used to transport soda syrup. Up here in North Carolina we got them from an independent farm supply store, and they were used originally to ship pickled Continue reading
If you’re a gardener you know that storing your home-grown veggies and fruits is the step that lets you enjoy your produce even in Winter. Freezing is a great way to eat fresh veggies all year but even if your freezer dies you can bury it and use it as a miniature root cellar.
Country living weblog Joyful Home did just that when they stripped out the working parts (if your freezer has freon inside do the responsible thing and dispose of the chemicals properly), cut two small holes in the sides which were attached to PVC pipes for airflow, and buried the chest freezer up to the lid. Next covers were added to the PVC to keep out rain, mice, and insects and a piece of insulation was cut and mounted to a tarp which covers the lid.
This repurposed chest freezer was packed full of potatoes which lasted from the Fall harvest well into Spring. The PVC air vents with capped tops and holes in the sides were added to circulate air to the moist potatoes to keep them from rotting. This setup should work with any of your major root vegetables (carrots, parsnips) and might also work with hearty produce such as onions and cabbages.