How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
, ga

The Garden That Love Planted

We all want someone who loves us this way.

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Choosing and Planting Fruit Trees

Fall is prime time for planting trees, shrubs, & roses.  The heat of summer has passed and the cooler weather stimulates root growth.  This root growth gives the plants a great start to the growing system and provides them with a buffer to withstand a Texas summer.

Any type of tree, not just fruit trees, should be planted in fall.  Shrubs include blueberry bushes, elderberry bushes, and other fruiting bushes.  Fall planting is also great for roses as well.

When choosing any plant, but especially fruiting trees and shrubs, you must make certain that you choose a variety that is right for this area.  Soils can change with just a distance of 30 miles and chilling hours are quite different from the Red River down to the Texas coast.  Chilling hours refers to the amount of time in the winter where temperatures stay between 32 and 45 degrees.  So, by choosing varieties that have the lowest required amount of chilling hours you can be sure that the trees will set fruit even when we have a mild winter.

You might think that if you are shopping locally that you will be finding choices that are right for this locale.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  You will need to do a little homework so you know that varieties that you need.  Many times, especially at the big box stores, the stock they carry may have been shipped from five states away or more.  Also, if you have ever tried to ask a gardening question to one of their employees, you most likely found that they did not know any more than you did.  The best place to shop is at a local nurseries that have knowledgeable staff (like The Farm On Holly’s Hill!).

Below are  lists of varieties that are well suited for this area.  There are also links to websites with really good information about varieties, planting, and maintenance of your trees and shrubs.  These selections are based on the most popular items I am asked for, but there are so many choices among fruit producing trees and shrubs.  So, don’t be boxed in try your hand at Papaws, Mayhaws, or JuJubes.  The extension websites have lots of great information on these more unusual selections.

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/peach/peach.html

Texas A&M University Fruit and Nut Resources

Texas A&M Horticulturalist Jerry Parsons Video Archive

Texas Winegrape Network

Blackberries:

Navaho

Cheyenne

Arapaho

Brazos

Apples:

Red Chief

Gala

Super Gala

Mollies

Starkrimson Red Delicious

Starkspur Golden Delicious

Plums:

Morris

Methley

Ozark Premier

Bruce

Allred

Blueberry Bushes:

Premiere

Briteblue

Climax

Tifblue

Peaches:

Varieties for Low Chill Regions
EarliGrandeSmall-medSemi-cling2004/15-4/20
FlordaCrestSmall-medSemi-cling3504/18-4/24
FlordaprinceSmallCling1004/19-4/29
ValleGrandeMediumSemi-free2004/20-4/25
TropicBeautyMediumSemi-free1504/25-4/30
TropicSweetMediumFree1754/25-5/01
FlordagloMediumSemi-free1504/29-5/7
TropicSnowMediumSemi-free1505/14-5/25
FlordaGrandeLargeSemi-Cling1005/16-5/27
Varieties for Medium Chill Regions
SpringoldSmallCling7505/15-5/20
FlordaKingLargeCling4505/15-5/20
BicentennialSmallCling7005/20-5/30
TexstarMed-largeFree6505/20-6/01
JuneprinceMed-largeSemi-free6505/20-6/01
junegoldLargeCling6505/22-6/03     

A Few of My Favorite Roses

Roses are  wonderful and everyone should have them in their gardens.  Below are pictures of roses that are great for Texas.  These Roses are easy to care for and are tolerant of our hot summers.  All of these photos are taken at my home, not in a nursery that has been controlling the environment.  All roses listed are repeat bloomers, unless specified.

Earthkind Roses

Not every rose is an Earthkind rose because not every rose can make the cut.  To get the Earthkind Rose designation roses must pass a very vigorous test.  Texas A&M does all the research and they take roses believed to be good candidates and plant them in test plots all across the state.  Then, for two years these roses are basically ignored, no extra water, pruning, spraying, etc.  If the roses do well under these circumstances then they are designated as Earthkind.

Belinda’s Dream, a large shrub rose that can reach 6 feet. This has very large blooms with a light scent.
Double Pink Knockout Rose, medium size bloom with extreme hardiness
Duchess D’Brabant, very fragrant

Foundation Plantings For Shade

For those of us with shady yards, gardening can be frustrating.  For years I beat my head against a wall planting things that might make it.  After I grew up and stopped trying to force the gardens to look like I thought they should and let the conditions dictate what should be planted, I found that there are some very nice selections for shade.  Some of these may take a little hunting, but the search is worth it. 

AZALEA-  Most found in this area are evergreen and bloom in the spring.  These shrubs range in size from 3′ to 15′ tall, so check the variety before you plant.  All Azaleas like acidic soil.  If you live in East Texas and have pines or oak trees- you have the right soil most likely.  Let the needles and leaves act as a natural mulch- these will break down and add acid to the soil, organic matter & retain moisture.  Prune if needed just after blooming in late spring/early summer.  Encore is a hybrid that will bloom more than once a year.

CAMELLIA-  These beauties bloom in winter through early spring- depending on the variety.  Being evergreen, these add a lot of color in winter and a lovely backdrop for summer flowers.  The old standards can get quite large.  Pruning will keep these to the size you need.  The C. sasanqua hybrids are smaller and bloom in fall- September through December.  Again, if you have oaks and pines you have the soil needed for these plants.  Camellias do not do well if they are dry, so keep them moist.  Letting nature do the mulching with fallen leaves and needles will take care of the moisture and acid.

MOUNTAIN LAUREL- A native woodland shrub does grow in full shade.  However, the more sun it gets the more blooms that will cover the plant in spring.  If the shrub gets too leggy, cut it back to the base branches of the shrub.  You can also pinch back the new growth just after blooming.

PARTIAL SHADE: This means some light is hitting the plants.  Full sun is defined as at least 6hrs/day.  Any less than this is partial shade.

BARBERRY- Beautiful colored leaves, tiny blossoms and small edible berries make this shrub very useful.  Heights range from 2′-6′ depending on the species.  Thorns do line the stems of this shrub, so consider where you will be planting.  The thorns and berries make this an excellent choice for wildlife planting.  If the shrub gets too leggy, just prune it.  Barberry responds well to pruning.  The more sun the more dramatic the color you will have.

NANDINA- Versatile and easy going, this shrub grows well in woodland settings.  There are many varities so pay close attention to the size of the variety you choose.  Easy to grow, most species produce red berries in the fall.  As trees shed their leaves and allow light to hit the leaves of the Nandina- the Nandina produce beautiful color on the leaves- these are evergreens.

Welcome Fall!

Fall mean different things in different regions. For the Texas Gulf Coast, it means a slight break in the heat. We rarely get freezing temperatures down here, so we may be swimming in the Gulf until November.

But, fall is a nice thought- you know?

5 Reasons Rosemary Should Grow In Your Garden

Upright Rosemary“What’s your favorite herb?”

This is probably the question I am asked most often.  I couldn’t pick a favorite herb- possibly a Top 10 list, but never a favorite.

Rosemary is an herb that would ALWAYS be on this list and very likely in the #1 spot.  The reasons are many- from ease of growing to the powerful medicinal benefits- but for sake of time, I will narrow it down to five reasons you will love Rosemary.

#1 Rosemary loves heat.

I have always gardened in Texas and it is ALWAYS hot in the summer.  Rosemary doesn’t care, in fact- it likes it!  Because Rosemary hails from hot, arid conditions in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, its DNA makes it perfect for Texas gardens and the great majority of the United States.

#2  Rosemary Protects Against Alzheimer’s

Rosemary may also become useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. Researchers have discovered that certain phytochemicals in the herb prevent the degradation of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical needed for normal neurotransmission. A deficiency of this chemical is commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients.  See full article here

I, personally, am not waiting for all the test results, I have started including rosemary in our family’s diet on a daily basis.  An easy way to use rosemary medicinally is in a tincture.

#3 Rosemary Makes A Great Hedge

Rosemary can be utilized as a shrub.  If you are feeling creative, rosemary can be shaped into topiary.  But more simply, plant as a hedge and trim like any other landscape hedge- except save the clippings and make a tincture!

Rosemary is heat and drought tolerant so it saves on water usage.  Very few pest or fungal problems exist with rosemary.

It blooms!  Very pretty light blue flowers appear in spring and continue for several weeks.  Some years, rosemary will bloom again in the fall.

#4 Bees LOVE Rosemary

Its becoming common knowledge (THANK GOD) that our bee population is in trouble and if the bees go, we go.  Two of every three bites we eat are pollinated by bees.  As we have said, Rosemary needs little care and won’t need spraying of any kind to look beautiful, so it is a great choice for feeding bees, butterflies and a whole host of beneficial insects.  So, plant some rosemary for the bees.  Don’t worry about getting stung, the bees have way too much work to do to worry over you.

#5 Rosemary Will Make You A Great Cook

Well, I may be over-selling rosemary’s abilities just a bit. However, it can’t hurt.  Rosemary can transform a dull chicken or homely sweet potato into something fantastic with very little effort.  Just sprinkle the chopped rosemary in the pot and – VIOLA!

Not only does rosemary taste great, but by adding it to your food you are taking advantage of the health benefits and those are many:

“Indigestion

Rosemary leaf is used in Europe for indigestion (dyspepsia) and is approved by the German Commission E, which examines the safety and efficacy of herbs.

Muscle and joint pain

Applied topically (to the skin), rosemary oil is sometimes used to treat muscle pain and arthritis and improve circulation. It is approved by the German Commission E for these purposes.

Alopecia

Historically, rosemary has been used to stimulate hair growth. In one study of 84 people with alopecia areata (a disease in which hair falls out, generally in patches), those who massaged their scalps with rosemary and other essential oils (including lavender, thyme, and cedarwood) every day for 7 months experienced significant hair regrowth compared to those who massaged their scalps without the essential oils. But the study was not well designed, and it is impossible to say whether rosemary caused the hair growth.

Neutralize food-borne pathogens

Several studies show that rosemary inhibits food-borne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenesB. cereus, and S. aureus.

Improve memory or concentration

Rosemary is often used in aromatherapy to increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress. One study suggests that rosemary, combined with other pleasant-smelling oils, may lower cortisol levels and help reduce anxiety. Another study found that the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test taking stress in graduate nursing students.

Cancer

Several studies suggest that rosemary extract may inhibit tumor growth by preventing cancerous cells from replicating. One study found that rosemary, on its own and in combination with curcumin, helped prevent breast cancer. A second study found similar effects of rosemary on colon cancer cells.” Article here

 

So, you see, Rosemary should really be in your garden or at least in a pot on your patio!

I am also sure that you understand that I am NOT a doctor nor have I tried to diagnose or treat any of your ailments.

Bee on the Rosemary Bloom herb

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