with Tom Harvey
Tom has created a tropical paradise at the Atlanta
Mixing tropical plants with common standard perennials and
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,
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
be reluctant to replace the dead plants and fill in with
Make sure the plant you choose does well at the end of the
season. One choice is Catharanthus Roseus "Vinca."
Composting with Wayne McLauren
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
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
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,
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
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