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Gardener's Grapevine 2012.09.12

on . Posted in Gardener's Grapevine

It’s another beautiful Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting on the front porch with my feet up and a Coke, writing this with a gentle breeze blowing. Who could ask for more?

If you aren’t aware, I teach Sunday School at the Congregational church and this morning we discussed “God’s bountiful harvest.” Sunday school is interesting to say the least. I have young elementary children, the grandchildren of Larry and Sharon Bruce.

I asked them if they knew what a harvest was. Yup, “It’s when you get stuff.” True that, but I explained that it is much more than that, it is gathering all the food that God has blessed us with in our gardens and fields, and getting it ready for use in the winter when we can’t grow anything. “But Jo, we can just go to the grocery store if we need food.” My reply was, “Well, yes, we can, but the food in the grocery store comes from where?” “From big semi-trucks!”

I love the innocence of children. My point in telling you this is that we are not all children and we have to plan to feed our families. For most of you reading a gardening column I would assume one of two things: either you garden or you know me and are reading this to see what goofy stuff I’ll write. If you garden you are aware of our crazy growing season and weather this year. Apparently our tomatoes loved it as we have a “bountiful harvest” and then some.

A bountiful harvest is not just relying on God’s grace, it’s using the knowledge he has empowered us with to protect our crop and keep us fed. Farmers are all too aware of this. One thing that helps grow strong healthy plants is good soil. Soil does not stay nutrient rich without assistance. Composting is a must and using good compost in your garden protects plants with both lack of and excessive amounts of rain or sun. Like humans our plants like to eat and do not like excessively wet feet (roots). Good compost can provide this.

When compost is breaking down it is very alive with microorganisms, worms and ants, and all this aids in creating a nutrient rich soil. To start a compost pile it requires very little in the way of cost. You can purchase a compost bin at any gardening store or website, but it is unnecessary. I use an old trellis my grandmother was going to discard and bungee it into a circular shape. Some people just make a pile in a corner of their garden. As long as you turn it occasionally and keep it moist you will make good compost.

A compost pile should be damp, but not soaked. Sometimes this can’t be helped if you have an open pile or bin as a heavy rain will soak anything. Just turn it over and it will eventually dry out. Excessive moisture can slow the process and cause it to smell rotten. A damp pile will not have a stink. My trellis bin is a length of garden fencing with two two by fours attached to each end and three bungee cords to hold the ends together.

You need to layer the items you put in your compost. Green compost is your kitchen waste such as egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, vegetable cast offs, used tea bags, pasta without sauce or oils, grass clippings, flowers, flower stems and coffee filters.

Do not put meat, bones, cheese or anything with fats or oils in or on it. A brown layer is shredded paper, lint, hay, straw and tree leaves. Do not use walnut leaves as they are toxic in compost. A neutral layer is soil.

Layer all of these things and put the soil on top. A shovel full of soil dug from your garden is fine. Wet the pile every so often but don’t soak it and keep layering what you have when you get it. Turn the pile over every week. In winter the pile may freeze, preventing turning. Depending on what you use in the pile it should be ready for your garden in two months to a year. Spread it on your garden when it is well broken down and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

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