GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2001 show22
GardenSMART Newsletter Signup
Visit our Sponsors! encore azalea Dramm
Visit our Sponsors and win.
Past Shows:


Tropical Paradise with Tom Harvey

Tom has created a tropical paradise at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
Mixing tropical plants with common standard perennials and shrubs has
become increasingly popular. The garden will range from petite plants to large overwhelming plants to provide a lush, unique, engaging look.
Some of the plants mentioned are: Zanzibar - Hedychium Coccineum
"Disney," Cannas, Selanum, Orthosiphon Stamineus, "Cat Whiskers,"
Gardenia Jasminoides "Chinese Single," Curcuma Alata "Surprise Lily,"
Dalechampia Descorifloria "Bow Tie Vine," Rattle Bush, Hibiscus Tuionum "Simply Love Superior" and Acalypha Hispida "Chenille Plant."
Towards the end of the season some plants will die. It's natural, don't
be reluctant to replace the dead plants and fill in with healthy plants.
Make sure the plant you choose does well at the end of the season. One choice is Catharanthus Roseus "Vinca."

Composting with Wayne McLauren

Composting is not a new idea. In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and decay. In fact, every living thing will eventually die and decay and return to the soil where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposing matter. Did you know that early humans started becoming less nomadic because of composting. Some scientists speculate that these early peoples dumped food waste in piles near their camps. The waste rotted and became terrific habitat for the seeds of any of the food plants that sprouted there. These early people may not have been the sharpest tools in the shed but they recognized that the dump heaps were great places for food crops to grow and they began to put there seeds there intentionally.

Today, in many parts of the south, it is actually illegal to put organic waste in a landfill. Let's hope that this and the fact that it just makes good environmental sense will make composting as common as collecting aluminum cans. Did you know that about 30% of what goes into a landfill is compostable. Let me show you a couple of interesting ways to make use of your organic waste left over from the lawn, kitchen or the garden.

Composting fundamentals - the heart of composting is really very simple. Compost is made by billions no, trillions of microbes such as fungi and bacteria that digest the yard and kitchen wastes you provide. The reason that a compost pile heats up is because of the microbal feeding frenzy that is occurring in a healthy compost pile. Microbial needs are very simple, air, water and food. Let's quickly discuss each one.

Oxygen -Good composting microbes are aerobic, just like us they can't do their work well unless they are provided with air. Without air, anaerobic (non-air needing) microbes take over the pile and start to break it down but with one notable exception. They make it smell like putreyfying garbage. For this reason, it is critical to make sure there are plenty of air passage ways into the pile. Some materials like fresh green grass tends to mat down and and turn into slimy layers that air cannot penetrate. Turning the pile like so (show how to turn properly) works as well.

Water - Ideally, your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge to fit the needs of the compost microbes. At this level there's a thin layer of water coating every particle in the pile and this is where the microbes live and reproduce. If it is too dry, it won't be a good habitat and compost will be very slowed significantly. If your pile is a whole lot wetter, everything will tend to mat down and exclude air from the pile, again slowing things down and creating an odor problem. So if you're are adding lots of dry material such as straw or autumn leaves, you'll need to wet them as you add them. Kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetables have plenty as does green grass. If it rains a lot, put a tarp over it. If it stays dry a lot, water the pile every few days.

Food - In very broad terms, there are two kinds of food that composting microbes need:

'Browns' are dry and dead plant material such as straw, dried and weeds, autumn leaves wood chips and sawdust. They consist of long chains of sugar molecules linked together. These need to be moistened before they are put in the pile.

'Greens' are fresh plant materials such as green weeds, kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, green leaves, coffee grounds, manure. Compared to 'browns' they have much more Nitrogen in them. Nitrogen is a critical element in amino acids and proteins. Think of it as a protein source for the trillions of multiplying microbes.

A good mix of browns and greens in the best nutritional balance for your microbes. This mix also helps out with aeration and the amount of water in the pile. Browns for example, tend to be bulky and promote good aeration. Greens, on the other hand, are high in moisture and balance out the dry nature of the browns. A ratio of about 5 times as much browns as greens is a typical well-balanced combination of the two. Finally, a common misunderstanding about compost piles is that they need to be 'hot' to be successful. This just isn't so. If you have good aeration and water, your pile will decompose as long as the temperature is 50 degrees or above. If you do want your compost pile to be hot, it will do a pretty good job of killing weed seeds and compost a lot faster. You might want to increase your ratio of greens in the pile, or even throw on a little inexpensive fertilizer like 8-8-8 to provide extra nutrients for the bacteria. Also, make sure it is at least 3 feet across and about 3 feet tall. This will provide enough mass to keep the pile hot. Insulation is also a good idea. I like to use bales of hay to create the walls of my pile. Needless to say, they will eventually rot away as well.

Sheet composting or "The Lasagna Method" - Here's a great way to improve the soil especially in areas where the soil is particularly poor and compressed. The downside it that it takes a long time but it requires little or no digging and makes use of all your clippings and leaves. Start off by tilling the ground as well as you can and then lay down a layer of leaves (browns). This first layer needs to be about 6" deep. Make sure that the leaves are chopped up. The easiest way to do this is to run them over with the lawnmower or put them in a trashcan and run the weedeater through them. Next, we need a 1-2" layer of greens. You can use lawn clippings, manure or anything else that is hot. Now sprinkle the layers with a pinch of inexpensive fertilizer to further heat things up. This constitutes one layer of the lasagna. Moisten it with the hose and it is ready to go. You'll need at least two layers to get started but you can continue to add layers as you accumulate materials. This is a great way to use leaves you accumulate this fall and create a great planting bed where the soil was poor and infertile. About the only negative thing about this is approach is it doesn't kill the weed seeds.

Underground composting - If you have a lot of kitchen waste and aren't interested in a rotting pile of stinky garbage in the backyard, consider underground composting. This is where you dig a hole about 1 foot across and 1 � to 2 feet deep and use it to bury your kitchen scraps. It's particularly effective where you have pets or wildlife that get into your regular pile. Now as this hole is filled with kitchen scraps, just start another one a foot or so away and use the soil to cover it up. Move on down the garden and eventually, you'll have a very well composted garden.

Vermicomposting - There's one more approach that we might want to consider especially if you are a coffee drinker and like to fish. It's called vermicomposting which means composting with worms. We use a bucket or small trashcan. Fill it � full with potting soil and throw in a few of your favorite fishing worms . You've got the makings of a great vermicomposter. It's important to keep them indoors and you can add your coffee grounds, banana peels and apple cores. Make sure you keep the soil slightly moist, about like a moist sponge and you've got a way to get rid of your office coffee grounds, vegetable snack remains, etc. The earthworms will multiply like rabbits and you'll have a constant supply of fishing bait forever.

Dr. Rick Introduces Us To The Scarecrow

In the South it is difficult to keep critters like Deer, Raccoons,
Squirrels, etc. at bay. The Scarecrow is simply a sprinkler and a motion
detector combined. If it moves The Scarecrow will spray it with a burst
of water.

Back to Top

GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Planting annual beds of flowers, especially those that are bred to take the summer heat, thereby extending their glory into fall makes a lot of sense. Click here for an informative article that discusses an economical strategy along with design ideas that can provide color like - a living highlighter. To learn more click here.

  Click here to sign up for our monthly NEWSLETTER packed with great articles and helpful tips for your home, garden and pets!  
Copyright © 1998-2012 GSPC. All Rights Reserved.