What Is Green Manuring?

Green Manure Growing In Autumn Garden
Green Manure Growing In Autumn Garden

Green manuring or growing a cover crop for the purpose of cultivating the crop under, as another source of soil humus and a common practice among home gardeners, especially, organic gardeners. Annual and Quick-growing crops, such as winter rye, buckwheat, ryegrass, and mustard, are good for this purpose. They should be cultivated into the soil just before they flower for best results and to avoid seed production.

To solve the problem of temporary nitrogen deficiency after turning these crops under add some balanced fertilizer according to the vendor instructions and or adding some composted animal manure.

Legumes, such as soybeans, vetches, cowpeas, alfalfa, and clovers, have nodules on their roots that house special nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These bacteria take free nitrogen from the air, convert it to forms usable by plants, and hold it. When legumes are used for green manure added nitrogen is not needed.

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Coffee Grounds in the Garden

Coffee Beans and Grounds
Coffee Beans and Grounds

Coffee grounds are one of the kitchen wastes and business, which can be recycled in the garden. So then, the discussion becomes how to use the coffee grounds.  Using coffee grounds in the garden, basically, come down to composting. There several approaches to composting, which can be applied to coffee grounds.

The Value Of Coffee Grounds As Fertilizer

  • The three principal nutrients by which the value of fertilizer is typically measured are; Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Measured by those nutrients, Coffee grounds do have value as a fertilizer when used as compost or applied directly as a soil

The NPK Value of Coffee Grounds

  • Nitrogen (N):28 percent
  • Phosphorus (P):06 percent
  • Potassium (K):6 percent

How Much Coffee Grounds To Use

  • When using coffee grounds as compost or when applied directly as a soil amendment, the volume of coffee grounds should be limit to more than 20 percent of the soil or mix to which it is being added. This rule applies to sheet, trench, and/or postal composting.

Coffee Grounds As Mulch

  • Coffee grounds are generally, fine ground and easily compacted so much so that they can form a barrier not allowing air and water to pass through your mulch. For this reason, coffee grounds are generally not recommended for use as mulch.

Sources of Coffee Grounds

From you Own Kitchen

  • An obvious source of coffee grounds as your own kitchen, Americans tend to drink coffee nearly every day so rather than throwing your coffee grounds in the trash toss minute compost bin and use of her garden fertilizer.

From Your Local Coffee Shop Or Restaurant

  • If you’d like to have more coffee grounds or you’re not getting enough coffee grounds for your purpose from your own kitchen, there are several local opportunities to acquire coffee grounds. In my local area, there are coffee shops like Starbucks or on the grind from which coffee grounds can be readily obtained. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen signs in the local Starbucks saying to ask the barista for coffee grounds for your garden. However, coffee shops may be an obvious choice, but there are any number of restaurants and cities and towns which can be taken advantage of with a little creative negotiation with the owner-operators.

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A Guide To Mulching in a Permaculture Garden

Raised Bed With Mulched Paths
Raised Bed With Mulched Paths

Mulch is merely the name given to the layer or layers of organic material that is laid on top of the existing topsoil in your garden. Mulching is an essential practice in a ‘no dig,’ permaculture garden. This guide to mulching in a permaculture garden will help you understand why we mulch, what materials can be used as mulch, how and where they should be applied. Read on to get a better understanding of this important permaculture gardening technique.

 Why Mulching in Important in a Permaculture Garden

An understanding of where and how we use mulches begins with an understanding of why we mulch in the first place. There are some reasons why mulching is important in organic gardens. These include:

  • Mulching protects the soil surface from erosion and disruption.
  • Mulching can add nutrients to the soil.
  • Mulching helps the soil to retain moisture.
  • Mulching can help to suppress weed growth.
  • Mulching can be beneficial to a range of wildlife.

 Natural Mulch Materials

Some different materials can be used to mulch your growing areas. These include:

  • Wood chip or bark
  • Straw or ‘Strulch’ (Composted straw)
  • Fresh leaves (from a variety of different plants)
  • Leaf mold (Rotted-down Fall leaves)
  • Grass clippings
  • Compost
  • Well-rotted manure

The benefits of using natural mulch materials are that these materials can often be found for free in your garden or the surrounding area.

Shredded Office Paper Mulch
Shredded Office Paper Mulch

Choosing the Right Mulch

When it comes to applying mulch, it is always important to consider where the growing area you are mulching is located, and the plants that are being or will be grown there. The mulch that it is best to use will depend on these factors, as well as the local availability of natural materials.

Each of the mulches mentioned above has strengths and weaknesses in a given situation. While each may be excellent for some applications, the same one can also have a detrimental effect when placed in the wrong location.

For example, wood chip or bark can be an excellent choice for mulching beneath trees or large shrubs but may be detrimental when used around younger plants or annual vegetables. As the wood decomposes, this takes a lot of nitrogen from the soil, so may be harmful to small, leafy plants that need a lot of nitrogen to grow. Grass clippings, on the other hand, are very high in nitrogen, so a mulch from your mowed lawn could be ideal for members of the cabbage family, or other nitrogen hungry plants. This mulch may be too rich in nitrogen for other crops, however, so should be used with caution.

Creating a New Planting Area With Sheet Mulching

One of the great things about the techniques used in mulching is that they can be used to create new growing areas, as well as being used in existing garden growing areas. No matter what you wish to plant, you can create a fertile, moisture retentive place to grow in by sheet mulching an area with layers of natural mulch materials. Sometimes, these sheet mulch beds are called ‘lasagna gardens’ since the layers are built up in much the same way as you might make lasagna in your garden.

Mulch wisely and you will create a thriving garden ecosystem that can serve you and your household for many years to come.

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A Permaculture Garden Guide To Composting

Aging Compost Heap
Aging Compost Heap

One of the key skills any permaculture gardener should learn is how to create good compost. Creating a good compost is key to creating abundant, productive and sustainable permaculture gardens. If you want to be able to grow your food using permaculture principles then creating compost is one of the foundations upon which your garden will be based. This guide to composting in a permaculture garden will help you make your garden the thriving, resource-rich ecosystem that it should be.

Why Composting is Important

 Composting is an important element of gardening because it allows you to adhere to the permaculture ethic of returning the surplus to the system. It allows you to eliminate waste, and make full use of the natural resources at your disposal. It enables you to care for the soil of your growing areas, and to make them rich, fertile places to grow a range of fruit trees and other edible and useful plants. When you create and use compost in your garden, you are completing the natural cycles and creating systems that can endure and sustain for many years to come.

Black Compost Bin
Black Compost Bin with two compartments, which tumbles

Composting Methods

 There are some different ways to create compost. The main methods used in a permaculture garden are:

  • Composting in Place (Sheet mulching with organic materials and allowing them to decompose on top of the soil of your growing areas.)
  • Cold Composting (Creating a heap or large bin in which compost is slowly created.)
  • Hot Composting (Creating the conditions for faster, warmer decomposition in a bin or other container.)
  • Vermiculture (Creating compost with the help of special worms.)

Mushroom growing in Forest Floor Compost
Mushroom growing in Forest Floor Compost

Creating Compost in a Permaculture Garden

 No matter which method you are using to create your compost, the principles at play remain the same. You are taking organic materials that are considered to be ‘waste’ and creating the conditions for their decomposition. Once decomposed, the compost is used to conserve or enhance the fertility of the soil.

Creating a good compost involves a basic understanding of the different sorts of material in a compost heap. The materials are grouped into two categories – carbon-rich ‘brown’ materials and nitrogen-rich ‘green’ materials. Both types are necessary to create a good-quality compost. Brown materials include cardboard, straw, twiggy material, wood chips, and bark. Green materials include green leafy matter, grass clippings, and fruit and vegetable scraps.

To get a good mix in your compost, you should add ‘brown’ and ‘green’ materials in thin layers. Adding in thin layers allows for the right conditions for aerobic decomposition and helps to ensure that your compost does not become too wet or too dry.

In addition to thinking about getting the right mix of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in your compost, creating good compost also involves thinking about getting a good balance of the main nutrients that plants need to grow: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as the various micro-nutrients needed by plant life. Adding a good mix of different ingredients to your compost will help to create compost with a good nutrient balance.

Creating compost is not rocket science. Anyone can create good, crumbly compost for use in their forest gardens or polyculture vegetable beds.

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Epsom Salt In The Garden

Bag Of Epsom Salt
Bag Of Epsom Salt

Occasionally, I hear someone recommending that gardeners use Epsom salt. I’ve even seen it on television were some supposed master gardener will come out and say you should use Epsom salt for this or that. So, having been recently asked, once again, about Epsom salt, I thought I would put down a few notes which may be helpful to fellow gardeners.

What is Epsom Salt?

  • Epsom salt is a very simple crystalline chemical mix magnesium, sulfate, and trace amounts of water.

Is Epsom Salt A Fertilizer?

  • Actually, Epsom salt would not be considered a fertilizer. It could be regarded as a nutrient as common garden plants require some magnesium, but it is not one of the three constituents of fertilizer, which are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) (NPK). Epsom salt has no measurable quantity of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)  (NPK)

Magnesium Deficiency in Plants

  • Magnesium deficiencies can occur in soils, but it’s not usually much of a problem. And the only really trustworthy way to know if your garden soil has a sufficient magnesium unit is to have a soil test performed.
  • Generally, if you have been taking reasonable care of your garden and adding some soil amendments such as compost, you shouldn’t have much of an issue with magnesium deficiencies.

Does Epsom Salt Control Pests?

  • The short answer is no, nor does it repel the usual garden pests.

Does Epsom Salt Control Plant Diseases?

  • Here, also, the short answer is no; Epsom Salt does not control or kill any common garden disease.

Does Epsom Salt Make Plants Grow Better?

  • Also, no; unless your soil has a magnesium deficiency and Dolomitic lime may actually be a better solution; especially, when combined with some fresh compost.

Preventing Blossom End Rot (BER)

  • Blossom End Rot is a calcium deficiency coupled with an improper watering regiment. Blossom End Rot (BER) is not a magnesium deficiency. Adding Epsom salt, magnesium, will not fix the problem.

Should You Use Epsom Salts?

  • I would very strongly recommend a soil test first if your soil test shows that you have a magnesium deficiency:
  • Consider using Dolomitic lime, rather than Epsom salt. However, if your soil test indicates a magnesium deficiency and your soil PH level support it.
  • If you choose to use Epsom Salt to address the magnesium deficiency, you will need to use it in moderation and perform multiple, regularly scheduled, applications throughout the growing season.

Conclusion

While some gardeners do use Epsom salts, there are other better alternatives for providing magnesium. Therefore, I find that I cannot in good conscience recommend it to a fellow gardener.  If you feel that you must use Epsom salt, then plan it carefully and remember that more is not always better.

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What To Compost

A large variety of things can be composted. Basically, if a thing can be decomposed (with a few practical exceptions) within a reasonable period of time, then they can be composted.

A Few Guidelines To Help The Process

  • smaller is better: this is true of most things relating to compost. So, chop, shred, and/or tear items into small pieces to expedite debt decomposition and the mixing of the compost heap materials.
  • mixing is good: too much density of any one material will slow the decomposition process, causing stratification, and make the mixing of the compost heap more difficult.
  • know what is done enough: Some consideration should be given to how you intend to use the compost and what is considered done enough for use. Some slowly decomposing items may only need to be aged and/or partially decomposed to be useful in the garden. For example, wood shavings can add value to the humus of the soil or as a pathway materials after only a little aging, if everything else in the compost has completely decomposed.
  • have multiple heaps: having at least two compost heaps and/or bins (even if small) is strongly recommended. So, you may have a heap for current use, while your old heap is finishing.

Compostable Household Items

Here are a few household items which can be composted:

  • office paper (shredded)
  • old newspapers (non-glossy)
  • Wood ash (cooled and out)
  • cardboard (non-glossy or coated)
  • paper towels (including center cardboard tube)
  • paper bags (shredded)
  • egg cartons (made of uncoated paper or cardboard)
  • Eggshells (crushed)
  • kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps
  • teabags and coffee grounds (including paper filters)
  • old houseplants and potting soil (if not diseased)

Compostable Yard And Barn Items

Many yard and barn wastes can be composted. A few, which come to mind are:

  • grass cutting (not treated with herbicide)
  • autumn leaves (best if mixed with other materials, especially, animal manures)
  • old straw and hay (broken up into small sections)
  • livestock manure (chicken, rabbit, cow, horse)
  • sawdust and wood shavings (smaller pieces are better)
  • tree and brush waste (chopped small)
  • old lumber (free of nails and paint; chopped small)

Items to Exclude From The Compost Heap

Certain items need to be excluded from the compost heap to ensure proper compost culture, avoid unwanted orders, avoid attracting unwanted pests and/or to keep the compost from being detrimental to the soil culture.

  • plastic, metal, and/or glass items
  • waste chemicals and paints
  • Cat litter
  • dog waste
  • disposable diapers and wipes
  • glossy magazines
  • glossy newspapers
  • glossy or plastic-coated cardboard boxes
  • meat
  • fish
  • cooking and other oils and greases
  • cook foods containing meat and/or heavy oils

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