Spring Cleaning — in the Yard and Garden

On April 17, 2012, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

David and I have been enjoying these gorgeous days of warm sunshine and counting the blessings of such a mild and early spring.  The nights are always colder and we’ve had some frost warnings, but overall, we have been able to enjoy incredibly warm temperatures for this time of year in Nebraska.  The trees have donned all their leaves and the air is often filled with the aroma of flowers from the neighbor’s trees.  We’ve had daffodils and tulips blooming for several weeks and the grape hyacinths and iris are starting to shoot up.  I started my garden seeds inside, a few weeks ago with the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds I told you about, and I’m happy to report I have had 100% germination!  I even transplanted some of the lettuce and salad greens to a container outside, on Sunday.  I’ve been having to cover them with the turn in weather overnight, but I’m anticipating that they will fair well, since they enjoy cooler temperatures, anyway.

kids

The kids enjoyed playing in the sunshine while I worked on cleaning up the garden area. This picture is taken looking down on the area from the deck, so I can show you a wider angle. Let me apologize from the outset. I didn't notice until editing pictures for this post, that there must have been a smudge on my lens, as all the pictures have that one blurry strip across the center top. This photo only shows the wide portion of the gardening area, since it runs the full length of the yard, along that back fence. The overgrown area, north of the garden box, is home to an old well that used to run the sprinkler system. It is unuseable, now, and the well is capped. I think the previous homeowner tried to camoflauge it with all the wildflowers, but they became unruly, mixing in with all the garden veggies. I don't like gardening that way. We're removing everything planted there and starting from scratch.

Though we have friends, not far away, that suffered damage in the storms over the past weekend, we were fortunate to have only heavy rain and some hail, so neither our home or plants show any long-lasting ill effects.  Please continue to pray for those around us whose homes and property were so devastatingly affected.  The clean-up and rebuilding will take weeks and months.  The loss of mature trees and other vegetation is profound and has permanently changed the landscape where they live.

In Nebraska, this erratic and quick changing pattern to the weather is a sure signal of full-fledged spring and it has filled us with a sense of urgency to get the back yard and garden area prepped.  Knowing that we will be removing pretty much everything from the old homeowner’s plantings was overwhelming enough to think about, but I also had everything that I had not cleaned out of last summer’s garden, yet, to contend with.  We dug in over the weekend and made a good dent in the work that needs to be done, before we can seed and plant the vegetables and flowers that will make it “our own” space.  Without my ComposT-Twin dual chamber compost tumbler, I would have been hard-pressed to get rid of all the waste from the clean-up process.  As it was, the clean-up was quick and easy, and I’m, so grateful to have this high-quality tool in my gardening arsenal.  Not only do I have a quick solution for yard and garden waste, it is producing nutrient-rich soil that I can put back into my garden!  I love that!

weeds

This is an old well, that is covered and no longer in use. The previous homeowner filled this area with lots of wildflowers and plants that have broken past their barriers and intermixed with the vegetable garden, choking out plants and limiting the space that can be used for productive gardening. We're clearing all of this out and starting from scratch.

I was excited that I had such a good mix of compostable material to get started.  Before the day was out, we had actually filled both sides of the ComposT-Twin and it is happily baking away, breaking down the waste and making our beautiful compost.  Seriously, it’s actually heating up.  You can feel the warmth and occasionally see steam, if you open the doors.  (Though, you really shouldn’t open the doors during the composting process, since that lets out a lot of the heat that is working to break down your compost and slows the process.)

garden clean up

This is a closeup of the well area and existing garden bed. We're hoping to expand to at least 4 double garden beds, this summer, with room to continue expanding, later. There is still an amazing amount of growing space (about 3 feet wide) along the full-length of that back fence on down from this wider area. (The rhubarb along the back fence is something I'm definitely keeping. I actually dug it, divided the root and transplanted it in a different area of the garden. I got 5 nice plants and still had 4 to give to our oldest daughter.) Although you can't see it as well in this picture, as in the first one above, the fence behind our daughter, will serve as a trellis of sorts for even more gardening. We will be tilling up a bed about two feet wide, along the full length of that fence and planting it all to tomatoes.

 

blueberry bush

All three blueberries that I planted, last summer are coming back strong and I'm hoping for a small crop this summer. Although I love the violets that are filling the are around them, I will likely clean that up and mulch around the bushes for a cleaner look, this summer.

 

Compost needs both brown and green materials to start that chemical reaction that begins to break down waste and make it into soil.  Having correct proportions of each will speed the process and ensure that your compost has a good balance of the nutrients your garden plants will need.  There are commercial products (compost activator) that can start the process for you, if you don’t have a good mix of both types of material, but ideally you will save money and time by composting an appropriate ratio of brown to green material and allowing the natural process to work.  For best results, the ratio (by weight) should be 4 parts of brown material to 1 part of green.

garden waste

This first wheel barrow was filled with garden waste and leaves, as well as some of the green plants and weeds that are already starting to invade my garden area. It's going to be perfect for starting my first batch of compost in the Mantis ComposT-Twin!

So, what’s brown and what’s green?  Here is a good reference list:

 

Compostable Brown Materials Compostable Green Materials
  • dry leaves, (the #1 best thing you can add to your compost!)
  • cornstalks
  • straw
  • sawdust (used in moderation)
  • fresh (green) grass clippings
  • kitchen scraps, like coffee grounds, vegetable peels, egg shells, fruit rinds, banana peels (no meat or bones)
  • green leaves
  • manure from a local farm
  • leftover or rotting produce from your garden

 

The other critical element for the quick breakdown of organic waste into good compost, is air.  Rotating your compost pile every day, to incorporate air, (and the moisture that forms as part of the breakdown), evenly is important.  This job is so easy with my ComposT-Twin and I’m grateful that I’m not out turning the pile with a pitchfork, every day.  A few cranks of the easy-turn handle and I’ve got the whole compost pile turned and aerated.  Fantastic!

ComposT-Twin

The first thing into the composter was some old straw and pumpkins used for decoration last fall. (Don't say it. I know I should have gotten rid of them sooner, but hey, now they're perfect fodder for compost!) After the straw, we added the contents of the wheel barrow. We continued filling both sides with dry leaves and plants, garden waste and green plants and grass clippings. I also had a container of kitchen waste to throw in. Once the composter was loaded we latched the doors shut and cranked it to aerate everything we had added. We give it at least five turns each day and from the heat that is being generated, we can definitely tell it's working. I'm so excited! I can't wait to get our first batch of compost and show you!

The garden area is finally starting to shape up and by May 1, should be fully ready to plant with no more worries about unexpected cold weather.  We have a few stubborn plants over the old well area, that are going to require some extra effort, but I can’t wait to have it all finished and share some pictures of our new garden and plants growing strong.  Stay tuned.  I’ll keep you up to date on the progress!

chasing the ball

The kids had to get in a few cranks on the composter, too, in between their kick ball games. The gears and hand crank made it simple for them to turn the large loads of compost. Even our almost three-year-old grandson had to give it a few turns. He was feeling pretty large! Then it was back to playing!

So, how is your garden prep coming?  Are you in an area of the country where it is already in the ground, or are you, like me, anxiously awaiting the assurance that the last freeze is complete?  I can’t wait to hear everything you plan to grow and how you’re getting ready!

 

9 Responses to Spring Cleaning — in the Yard and Garden

  1. Your garden looks lovely – what a nice crop you’ll have from those blueberries! As for my garden, I’m just letting nature take its course while I recover from a knee injury – I’ll worry about it later in the year, lol!

    • Oy! Hope that’s a speedy recovery, Beeb. So sorry to hear you’re off your feet.Stop back again soon and see how I’m doing with my garden. You’ll have to keep me on track while you’re waiting to get back in your own! Thanks for checking in!

  2. Cynthia says:

    I am always anxious every year to get out in the garden and finish the cleanup so I can start planting things.

    We were lucky here in Albuquerque New Mexico this year and were able to start safely putting things in the ground the second week in April. It was a good thing because my Mom and son-in-law who are both gardeners came for a family reunion April 27th and the roses and spring flowers were blooming like crazy and the grass was green and beautiful.

    I was a little worried…I have to show off a little. You know? :}

  3. I am just starting to produce my own compost rather than buy it so do appreciate the handy tips you have given me here. As for the garden, it is a mess at the moment as we have had one of the wettest summer’s in the last 20 years unfortunately :(.

  4. Luckily I live far enough south that I can “garden” all year and I don’t have big spring cleanings. I have a small green house I use during winter and because it doesn’t snow here very often I can keep my garden weeded and ready for spring. I also compost all winter long with food scrapes and all my yard waste. I also make most of my own mulch each spring. One of the best investments I ever made was buying my wood chipper!

    Looking forward to you posting again I love you blog!

  5. Beverly says:

    Thanks for these great tips on how to produce organic compost with the ComposT-Twin.

    I’m a huge fan of organic gardening. So many people miss out on the opportunity to garden organically because they are afraid of doing it wrong. But not only can organic gardening save money, it can also make you healthier as you are consuming less chemical sprays from your produce.

    Basically, organic compost is just a combination of ingredients, very much like a recipe that ‘bake’ together until done. When done well, the composing process produces a nutrient rich garden filler that will feed your plants; keep them healthy and reduce the incidence of bugs and pests in your garden.

  6. Cynthia says:

    How do I keep rabbits out of my garden?

    • Cynthia, I had heard to use rubber snakes, but didn’t have one and believe it or not one of my son’s plastic dinosaurs did the trick for us. No one was more surprised than me. :) I also plant jalpenos (any hot pepper will work) in the areas where they are bothering the garden. Another trick I have used is to dust the plants they are bothering with garlic powder (I buy it in the giant shakers at Sam’s Club.). All three of those have worked well for me.

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