Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Compost Bin 2.0

Compost Bins 1.0Last year I made two home-made compost bins out of old Rubbermaid containers.  The original post about these bins can be found here.

While those  compost bins worked pretty well, they didn’t work quick enough (for my liking) or net enough of the much-needed end product.  With so many landscape beds in rough shape I can use all of the good organic matter I can get.  I prefer to make my own.

With all of the yard debris, trimmings, and kitchen scraps the capacity of the old compost bins quickly maxed out.  The also took a little fine tuning to keep them mixed, aerated and not ‘stinking’.  I still have them around, even though they haven’t made any progress since the temperatures dropped last fall.

After a lot of research and consideration of various compost bin designs and options, several weeks ago I opted to purchase a professionally manufactured compost tumbler.

Compost Bin 2.0

Compost Bin 2.0

I bought the Lifetime 60021 75-Gallon Compost Tumbler.

This thing is huge, but AWESOME!   It’s a free-standing tumbler that’s about the size of a clothes dryer tumbler.  It ‘s made of super-sturdy double walled molded plastic,  has a large removable door, good aeration build into the panels and through the metal aeration tube in the middle, and a super sturdy metal frame with locking pin to keep the tumbler steady in the filling or emptying positions.

Considering how I’ve got it loaded over 50% full, it is quite easy to turn.

I’ve had it for several weeks now and continue to add nearly every kind of compostable material around the house and landscape- coffee grounds, kitchen veggie scraps, egg shells, chipped up ornamental grasses and tree trimmings, leaves, old container soil, spring-cleanup debris from the various beds, etc.

The tumbler is making compost at record speed, especially considering it’s only been sunny and warm for the last week or so.  I can’t wait for this load to finish so I can re-fill it with the contents of Compost Bins 1.0.

A look inside the tumbler

A look inside the tumbler


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Self-Watering Seed Starter System

Self-Watering Seed Starter System

It’s a partly cloudy 34.5 degrees on this beautiful snow-covered morning.   One day after a nice 5-6 inch blanket of fresh snow the melt has begun (again). 

Even though March is just around the corner I haven’t been super-motivated to get the garden seeds started.  Besides the lengthening days, spring just doesn’t feel that near.  This all changes today!

A few weeks ago I picked up a 28-plant self watering system seed starter tray at Menards.  The tray is a Planters’ Pride Self Watering System – Cutting Pots and Water Distribution Tray.  In years past I’ve tried making my own seed starters using toilet paper roll tubes (cut in half) and reusing a variety of disposable nursery-grade high-density four-packs.  Both offered mediocre results, at best.

I’m optimistic that this new tray will work better. 

First, the containers are individual 2.5 inch plastic pots which fit into a custom molded tray.  The tray has individual spots for all of the pots.  Last year’s toilet paper rolls provided limited success.  The seeds sprouted well, but quickly became root bound due to their small size.  I think the 2.5 inch pots will provide plenty of room for good root growth.

Second, Moisture control. The new 2.5 inch plastic pots sit in a molded plastic tray with inter-connected water tracks.  this provides an easy way to water multiple containers at the same time. Each container has four 1/4 inch drainage holes in the bottom.

With the toilet paper rolls it was hard to regulate moisture content.  They quickly went from one extreme to the other.  They had a tendency to dry out and/or wick too much water into the cardboard.   This resulted in mildew problems or dried out soil. 

Third, It’s made of nice quality plastic containers which are reusable and should last for years.  The toilet paper rolls needed to be saved all year, then cut and folded individually.  The super-cheap quality nursery seed start trays I’ve reused often cracked, split or fell apart after a few handlings.

I know that once I get these seeds started the weather will break and spring will zoom right in.  As much as I love snow and winter, I will welcome spring with open arms.

If you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions… please post a comment or stop by the EnjoyTimeOutdoors.com Forum at http://enjoytimeoutdoors.com/forum .

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Here’s the weekly vlog update for 18 July 2010 …

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I finally shot a video update of the container garden and posted it on YouTube.

I’ve been adding new containers almost weekly and plan to continue through the growing season.

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It’s been a while since an update…

Strawberries and raspberries are ripening about a combined (small) handful per week.  Just enough for a nice snack every now and then.  The blueberries are growing but not producing, but I didn’t really expect anything this year.

The lettuce blend is doing great.  We’ve harvested salads for two about four times so far, and it’s ready for another two large salads.  Two rounds of hand-picking cabbage loopers, but the lettuce bounced back great.

Peppers and tomatoes are all blossoming and setting fruit like crazy!  The first sweet pepper is about the size of a baseball, this past week about five peppers and a dozen tomatoes are growing to about the size of a gobstopper.

So far so good…  More updates and photos coming soon.

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For the last month the weather here has been unseasonably warm and sunny.  This has given the berries a great running start. 

While watering the containers today, after another fine day in the mid eighties, I had a few exciting surprises waiting for me…

1.) The strawberry blossoms are starting already.  There are only four, so far, but it’s a start.

2.) Both  transplant blueberries are showing signs of life.  I don’t have high expectations for either of them this year, but maybe next year.

3.) Every branch on the cherry tree is budding!  I was wondering if it would make it.  It was in pretty rough shape when I did the spring cleanup a few weeks ago.  This was a pleasant surprise.

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With the spring cleanup of the landscape underway, I’ve realized that there is an abundance of good fire starting tinder all around.

The river birch out front drops a lot of small twigs all winter (actually year round).  It also provides an amble supply of loose birch bark which I can save for months worth of fires.

In the back, the white pine’s sappy pine cones, which dropped in the fall, are now open and dry.  In addition, there is an ample supply of small dry branches that were never pruned out.  While I’ll leave most of these in place to serve as an animal safe habitat, I can use some for kindling.  Some of the large twigs will work well for featherstick practice.

Thanks to the winter winds, there were strips of white birch bark scattered about the landscape.  While I wouldn’t remove any of the loose bark from these young trees, anything they naturally donate is much appreciated.

I’ve also saved the fluffy tops from the ornamental grasses I cut down a few weeks ago.  These wil provide a nice experiment to see how well they take a spark.

This past winter we lost one of our white pines.   I’m hoping that, since it died during the winter, most of the resin dropped to the stump.  If this is the case, there might be an opportunity to make some resin sticks from the stump.  The diameter of this tree is only between four or five inches, so I’m not sure if it’s big enough, but it’s worth a try.

However things work out with white pine, I should have plenty of tinder material to practice my fire starting  and bushcraft skills this spring and summer.  Fun times to come, right in my own backyard.

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