Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23, 2008

Wow, was today fun!  Dirty, but fun. It started out with taking my kids to an exotic animal farm in Arlington (Outback Xmas Tree and Kangaroo Farm).  They've got lemurs, turkeys, emus, lamas, kangaroos, wallabies, peacocks, exotic ducks and other animals.  The kids loved it, and I had fun too.

When I got home, the forecast was just as wrong today as it was yesterday. In other words, it was beautiful. 55 and partly cloudy.  So Logan and I went out and played in the garden (after I cleaned our shoes, they were muddy and manury hehe).  The garden looked good.  Things were growing and leaves were bursting out of previously unknown places.  Amazing.  Just look at how many leaves my radishes now have, and this soon after being covered by 4 inches of snow!

Look at all those leaves!  I just hope they're growing the radishes as well down below. They are root crops after all.  Also note how well the onions behind them are doing?  Funny thing about the onions. I planted some inside, then planted some more inside and transplanted them outside. Finally I direct sowed some outside.  I can't tell any of them apart at this point, and I planted them.  Seriously, I know which ones are new and which are old, but they all look the same far along.  Odd, but ok. Besides, I don't eat them anyway.  *Sinfonian's not worried about retribution, his wife doesn't read his blog*  hehe

Also note the cold frame (read window) propped up against the garage.  I'm hoping that it helps magnify the sun to warm the soil to germinate my precious cuke seeds. I've got tons of Green Slam left, but the Breeze and SMR 58s from Toasty I'm down to my last few seeds. I was hoping to save them for next year, but if these don't germinate, I'll have to learn how to harvest seeds from pickles to grow more next year, hehe.  Can you use pickle seeds to grow cukes? Doubt it.  Let's hope these still germinate.

For grins, I also took a current pic of my peas...

Gotta love all the leaves that are shooting out.  They're not growing taller, but they're very full. I hope that's good.  Also, most of the replants I did a while ago have sprouted, but I still need to fill in a blank or four.  I want to have full coverage for these peas.  Radishes I don't care if I lose some spots to germination, but trellis space is at a premium.  So I'll give them another few days and dig them up and try once again.  I guess that gives me some forced succession planting, but I hadn't planned on it for peas. /shrug  Maybe I should have germinated them inside. I'll try Toasty's coffee filter trick (no, she didn't start it, but she was the last person to suggest it to me, hehe) for any more replants.

After that we ducked under the hoop cover and surveyed my territory.  Things were growing well again, but I decided to thin my lettuce.  But I didn't want to lose those seedlings so I attempted to transplant the little seedlings that were RIGHT next to the other seedlings that were staying.  Let's just say I said what the heck and started moving them. If they survive, no problem. If not, I'll just succession plant more. I have TONS of lettuce seeds.  It was fun but my son wasn't happy that he couldn't help. It was too delicate work for a 4 year old.  He helped water though. Then we played on the swing so he was happy (I weeded a bit). I also saw the my first potato sprout break dirt!  Only one from the Butte bin, but I'm sure others will follow.

Tonight I spent time helping my wife re-image her computer (EEK!) and spent time on the boards.  We've got some new members, one of which posted here a few days ago, Hey Joe! Welcome!  We also had some vibrant discussion about composting. I'm trying desperately to start composting. I had pretty much given up after deciding that I couldn't get the proper composting materials in sufficient quantities to hot compost, and cold composting just took too darn long.  But I do have this great space in my yard for a bin if full sun isn't a prerequisite, and there's still the ton of grass clippings that I send off to Cedar Grove.

So when a co-worker's father suggested I just pile my yard waste in a corner and let it compost over the year, I decided to check it out again.  Too many people told me I should.  After several posts from many helpful folks, Joe suggested I use a cat litter bucket with the lid on for a bokashi bin-like device.  Apparently it works using a starter (like a sourdough bread mix) of wheat bran and sugar, to break down kitchen scraps into compost under your sink.  The cool part is you can use the dregs from the bottom of the box of mini-wheats as a starter. I can do that, and my brother uses that type of kitty litter, so I may do that.  The pile is still under debate, but it looks like cold composting is the best I can hope for unless I want to buy or manufacture "brown" compost waste to offset mountains of "green" grass clippings.  More to come on this for sure.  Heck, I may just bite the bullet and get a worm bin. But then what would I do with my mountain of grass clippings?

Lastly, I just wanted to say hey to my garden buddies in (on) Long Island, New York!  I've been emailing a garden buddy for a while to chat about gardening, and then I realized that she lives near Alberta, who introduced me to winter sowing.  Pretty cool!

Enjoy your garden and thanks for reading!


  1. here's a link for you on composting... 163 Things You Can Compost ;-p

  2. ...another possible idea is to call up some local stables and ask them if they give you a couple loads wood shavings / hay from their mucked stalls. They typically have to pay to have this stuff removed so if you can pick it up from them you've saving them money. These will work as great browns - although there'll already be some greens in it in the form of the manure / urine but it's all wonderful browns by-and-large. More than enough to offset your grass clippings and kitchen waste.

  3. Hi Sinfonian,

    Greetings from Brisbane Australia (we don't get too excited about seeing kangaroos here :) We are now in autumn heading towards winter, but being subtropical we can grow a lot of things all year round.

    I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now - it's the first thing I do each morning before starting work and something I really look forward to. Great work! I too am starting out with SFG (have grown veg in the past but not seriously in the last 15 years) and have been composting for a year now, so I have lots of home made compost for my Mel's mix. We also have 3 chickens that make a regular contribution. Highly recommended for eggs, manure, and especially entertainment!

    I turn most of my 'green' grass clippings 'brown' by raking them into a flattish pile and letting them dry out in the sun for a week or too (how long it takes depends on the weather). I invested in a compost tumbler to speed up the process of making compost and have ready to use 'black gold' in about 8-10 weeks. I also have a 'static' cheap plastic bin which takes closer to a year to produce compost and carries the overflow and chunkier bits... this stuff goes on my general garden. If using a tumbler (or any other method for that matter) the secret to fast compost is equal amounts of 'green' and 'brown' - too much green and it goes mushy, too much brown and it's too dry - and chop up anything larger than the diameter of your thumb - mix regularly to aerate.

    Apart from lawn clippings, kitchen and garden scraps (mostly weeds but some prunings, and lots of chopped up pumpkin vine), I also add (to my tumbler for Mel's mix compost), home made chicken manure, a bag each of cow and sheep manure (sometimes a bag of muchroom manure - we have a muchroom farm down the road and they sell it for $2 a bag when available), and a small bag of blood and bone. It really is easy, especially with a tumbler - if the mix looks too wet, I add some dry stuff, if it looks a bit dry, then I add some green - and I rotate the tumbler once a day for aeration (which takes all of 10 seconds!). I also know that my Mel's mix compost is a good fertile mix!

    About my SFG .... I have built (and still building) raised beds 400mm high (16 inches in your language) out of 8"x2" planks. We have lots of termites here so wood does not last that long in contact with soil, so I have used CCA preasure treated garden sleepers for the boxes.... oh no, the toxic chemicals, the greenies cry out! But like yours, they will never need replacing - and we can't get the less toxic preassure treated timber here where I live.

    The outside is painted in an eco friendly bitumen type paint - the container even says: non toxic if swallowed - this is supposed to seal the wood and prevent chemicals leaching. The inside of the boxes are lined with builders damp proof plastic membrane (it's heavy duty and can't be punctured of ripped). So no chemical leaching in my boxes! I know some reports say it's nothing to worry about, but I like to be sure.

    Unlike you, I haven't filled the whole depth with Mel's mix. The bottom 6-8'' is filled with my garden soil (a sandy loam which drains well), then I used a layer of cardboard (which will decompose) so that I had a nice clean separation to my top layer (minimum depth 8") of Mel's mix. I also had a hard time convincing myself that 6 inches was deep enough - at least I know my longer root veg have somewhere to go.

    Now I just can't wait to start my potato bins - I'm going to use the same method as you - but it's still a few month's before we plant potatos here.

  4. Joe, thanks for the great link! Post that link on I've got it bookmarked but others can benefit from it! And as for the stables are concnerned, the closest are 25 miles away. That'd cost tons in gas and defeats the purpose of recycling what I use to compost. I'll consider it though if I get to impatient for the cold composting.

    Barbara, Welcome! Great to see that I'm helping people not make the same mistakes I do all the way in Australia! Very cool. And that sounds like quite a compost system you've got going, and very very good for your garden. I'm impressed! I've seen those tumblers, my brother has considered getting one.

    Sounds like you've taken all precautions to keep your treated lumber from leaching. I'm betting the stuff they use here is fine. And I try not to worry about any totally green person thinks. I do what I can without completely inconveniencing my family. If everyone did what I do, this world would be a completely different place.

    Good luck with your potato bins! I know your seasons are reversed there, so build them when you have time to get ready for potato planting season. If you want to see them in action right now, check out Judy's blog. Hers are really growing! And check out Great folks there! And great info. Thanks for reading!

  5. Hi Sinfonian!! Yeah -- your seedlings are turning into plants and looking great :-) It is amazing how much everything has grown. I think that the hoop covers that you put up have made the biggest difference for your garden. Thats great because next year you'll know and you can get them up even earlier. To me, gardening is such an experiment.... Awesome photos! Thanks for sharing!

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