Make a Composter
Composting does not have to be complicated. You can make an inexpensive weatherproof composter in minutes, by making a ring of chicken wire to contain the leaves and clippings to be composted. Set it on top of the soil, in a place that is easy to get to but hidden from view. I have several compost rings located in the back of the garden behind several thick rhododendrons.
1. Buy or find a length of chicken wire (mesh) about 2 to 3 feet high and 12 to 15 feet long. It will probably be tightly rolled. It is available at hardware stores. I recently bought some for 59 cents a foot.
2. Take the roll to the desired location. Connect the two ends by twisting pieces of the wire together. It may work best if you roll it in the opposite direction from the way it wants to go.
3. Start filling the
mesh circle with sticks, leaves, kitchen waste, weeds, and such. You can
even add some pine branches around the outside to provide camouflage. If
you put in kitchen scraps such as lettuce leaves, orange peels, bean
ends, and carrot peels, cover them up with a layer of brown leaves or
garden trash to deter animal visitors.
4. Do not add meat
or bones to the pile, so as not to attract animals.
5. The smaller the bits, the sooner you get compost. But everything biodegradeable will eventually break down into compost.
6. Add about 3 parts
of brown bits such as old leaves to 1 part of green or fresh vegetable
matter such as grass clippings, for a good, fast compost.
7. After several months or more, when the compost is finished, unhook the ends of the chickenwire ring and remove it. Set it up in another place nearby and add any unfinished compost from the top of the pile. Then you have clear access to nice, brown compost which is ready to add to garden soil or potting mixtures.
8. Don't want to buy anything? Just make a circle of upright sticks or tree branches (set a few inches apart) to use as your composter. Hide it behind a bush or something because it looks messy. Thread vines or twine around to make a rough basketlike deal out of them. Then pile the leaves and trimmings in for the compost. The organic material all degrades, including the sticks used to form the composter.
Mulching with Cardboard
Where normal efforts have
failed, you can build a barrier that will prevent persistent weeds from
returning. Designate your problem areas and lightly clean them. Then cover
them completely with a layer of flattened cardboard such as supermarket
boxes. Make sure to leave your desired plants uncovered but surrounded by
cardboard. Then cover the cardboard with a layer of wood chips or mulch
several inches thick.
After this long, oppressive winter, we all love to be outside again. Plants prefer to grow outside too. It's surprising, but plants grown outdoors from seed can sometimes catch up with or even overtake those started indoors on a windowsill. They grow fast outdoors becase the light and conditions are ideal. Some good candidates for fast outdoor growth are flowers and vegetables with larger seeds. After all danger of frost has passed in your area, you can follow package directions and grow marigolds, nasturtium (illustrated here), cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, cucumbers, beans, and squash. These all sprout and grow quickly, and need lots of space. Other plants with tiny seeds (such as impatiens, lisianthus, snapdragons, peppers, eggplants, and onions grow too slowly for a late spring outdoor start, unless you live in a warm climate with a long growing season.
Dividing and Transplanting
rainy weather is a help when you are moving plants around. Planting,
transplanting, and dividing plants adds stress because roots may be damaged
and leaves or stems may be nicked or bruised. The plants lose water more easily.
But, in cool or mild weather and with overcast skies, less water evaporates
and the plants do not have to work as hard to keep all the cells pumped up
with water and nutrients. What is the worst weather for this? A hot,sunny,
breezy day that dries the plants out too fast. Overcome it by putting a box
or cover over the plant you have transplanted for a few hours while it
adjusts to the move.
Would you like your flowers to
be more flowery? Most annual flowers and some kinds of perennials perform
better if they are pinched back. This means that the topmost growing tip is
pinched or cut off, inducing the plant to form side branches which flower. Marigolds,
zinnias, daisies, dahlias, cosmos, and chrysanthemums are some of the
plants that branch and benefit from pinching. Surprisingly, foxgloves do
too, and it is particularly effective if you pinch them back before the
first stalk is in bloom. Side shoots appear to give you a cluster of flower
stalks where otherwise there would be only one stalk. But do not pinch back
flowers that do not form new branches. Daylilies and oriental poppies don't
branch this way, so they lose their blooms if you pinch them back. However,
all garden flowers benefit from deadheading (removing the spent flower)
unless you are trying to harvest the seeds. If you have a particular plant
you are wondering about, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.