Sprout seeds indoors or in the greenhouse: Gardening basics The Oregonian Flats of vegetable starts cover the tables in a greenhouse maintained by Master Gardeners with the Oregon State University Extension Service in Hood River.
Garden plants need a lot of nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus for them to be able to grow healthy. Organic fertilizers help garden plants by providing them these nutrients.
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Compost is the rock star of our garden – helping to create beautiful, healthy, super-charged soil that our plants thrive on. We work generous amounts into our raised row beds each year, add to every hole at planting time – and use as a top-dressing mulch for our veggie plants. So always having enough on hand can be an issue.
We add compost to each hole when we plant our young vegetable seedlings.
The problem is that it can take forever for that “pile out back” to deteriorate into any type of usable material – in some cases a full year or more to fully decompose if left to its own natural ways. However, with just a few simple steps – you can speed up the process and turn your pile into fertile, sweet-smelling compost in just a month or two this growing season.
We always have our big slow-composting pile in our bin – but during the warmer months of spring, summer and fall – we set up smaller “hot piles” to make quick compost.
It is one of the reasons we keep extra bins – one for our main area – one for finished compost – and the final bin for setting up and making hot batches of quick compost. (See: How To Make An Inexpensive Compost Bin From Pallets)
The Proper Blend Of Materials – Getting The Right Mix To create a hot, fast composting pile – the key is in getting the right mix of brown and green ingredients – or more exactly, the right mix of carbon and nitrogen. Compost works best when there is a ratio of about 2/3 brown material (carbon) and 1/3 green (nitrogen).
Carbon materials are your dry additions like leaves, straw, wood, wood chips, ashes, corn stalks, coffee filters, paper, egg shells, dry grass, etc.
Coffee grounds are a great source to add to piles- providing nitrogen
Nitrogen materials are those that heat up the pile – like chicken, rabbit, horse or cow manures, food scraps, green lawn clippings and coffee grounds.
When you start a hot pile – you want to create a mix of 2/3 brown to 1/3 green – and mix it thoroughly. In addition – make sure your pile is at least 3’ x 3’ when starting – it allows for maximum heating of the ingredients.
Size Matters – The Importance of Shredding and Chopping
When it comes to faster composting – it all starts with the size of materials you are putting into the pile. Large pieces take longer to break down that those that are chopped or shredded. A great example – leaves. Left whole – they can take two to three years to completely break down in a pile - but shred them up and they can break down in as little as two to three weeks.
Shredding materials prior to adding to the pile speeds up the process
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