A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 46 – Thyme

Thyme

“English Thyme” – Summer 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

There is just something about Thyme that I really like… Right now I grow around 15 different varieties… Thyme reminds me of something you would see growing in the desert… Short and scrubby… Thin stems like wire… The English varieties have Sedum like leaves and white flowers… The French is identical except with pink flowers… I planted the two varieties together on accident… They flower consecutively… First the pink… And then the white…

My girlfriend is quite fond of the citrus varieties… We have a large patch of lemon thyme growing along our walkway… I learned something from this patch… Cats love Lemon Thyme… They like to paw it… Sniff it… I often catch a particular neighborhood cat sleeping in it… And normally I can scare the cats out of my garden when they are in it… But they will hold their ground when they are in this plant… The only other time I ever experienced similar behavior with the neighborhood cats was the great “catnip” incident of 2011… I don’t know what I was even thinking…

One of the rarer varieties I grow… One that I am quite proud to own as it was a gift from the Western PA herb ladies… PA Dutch Tea Thyme… A very slow grower… I have only made tea with the fresh leaves… It was refreshing… Didn’t taste like what I was expecting… One thing is for sure… It won’t be replacing my coffee anytime soon… Now if only I can get it to grow faster… I may pay more attention to it this year than I normally do…

As far as growing Thyme is concerned… Anybody can do it… It requires very little… It requires no water after the plant has been established and has resumed normal growth… The only thing I suggest is a bit of regular pruning to keep the plant looking fresh and full… Thyme grows from a center point… Over time the middle of the plant will start to be nothing more than brown stems… I have no fear when it comes to pruning Thyme… Just get right in there and tear it up… Cut branches back and be brutal… In my own personal experience… Thyme wakes up a bit after a disturbance…

And the smell of pruning an aromatic herb makes the entire process worthwhile…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thyme

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

Get your own wallet at CoinBase.com

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 43 – Garden Sage

Salvia

“Salvia State of Mind” – Late Spring 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

Salvia officinalis… Better known as Garden Sage… I’d be willing to bet that if you grow herbs… You grow sage… I do… In fact… I grow a variety of Sage… And although I use it to cook with… I mostly grow it as an ornamental… I believe the value of this plant encompasses more than just the physical taste of the leaves… Salvia raises spirits… It lifts moods… And it attracts children… It is a wonder plant that is often hidden in the back of our gardens… But not my garden… I want the Salvias right up front… I want them where everyone can see them…

Garden sage is a herbaceous perennial native to the Mediterranean region… Because of this it rarely needs watered… Honestly… Once established it can survive without human intervention indefinitely… And that is fine and dandy if you are growing it with your tomatoes… But I am not…

Salvia requires annual pruning to keep it looking presentable… Sage blooms in the spring… This bloom period lasts roughly a month… When the last of the blossoms have withered… Prune the plant hard… I will prune every branch down to a 2 or 3″ stub… (sometimes you will notice tiny leaves at the bottom of each branch… If I find them I will prune right above that leaf) The plant will look like shit when you do this… But I promise it will come back to life in just a few short days… The plant will stay tight and compact for the rest of the year… This is helpful because the plant will stay small enough to not flop over after a rain…

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The neighborhood children (seedling) like to play with my Sage plant… Not as much as the Chocolate Mint patch… But they still like it… The leaves have a soft texture they find interesting… And the smell tickles their noses… I had trouble keeping leaves on them this year because I taught the neighbors “seedling” how to crush the leaves to release the scent… Apparently… A Sage leaf only smells good for the first sniff… Then you have to get a new one… I may try to break that habit this year… On second thought… The neighborhood seedlings could destroy my garden… As long as they learned something in the process… I would chalk it up as a win… A painful win… But a win none-the-less…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_officinalis

New To writing and never had to cite sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Snowflakes and Flower Petals

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Squalls” – January 25, 2013 – Looking towards Hamnett Way – Wilkinsburg, PA
—-~—-
I have big plans for this Blog tomorrow… See you in the morning…

Snowflakes fall from the sky…
Like petals from a flower…
In the autumn breeze…
The fallen fruit turns sour…
When one day is ending…
Another prepares to start…
Dig a hole in the earth…
You’ll find it has a heart…

You see…

Gardening is like surgery…
Incision with a spade…
Compost is the bandage…
That is proudly displayed…
A seed becomes a seedling…
A seedling is the seed…
Then we grow into a tree…
And provide for others needs…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – Urban Herb Benefits

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My front yard herb garden, I like to fill all the bare spots with flowering annuals to add interest.

Whether you live in the city or the suburbs… Regardless of your space at hand or garden experience level… You can probably grow herbs…

A common misconception is that herbs are simply spices for your food, Your herbal harvest can serve many purposes depending on what your specific need is. Herbal teas blended from the dry leaves and flowers are easy to prepare, served hot or cold they can be a beneficial and relaxing beverage depending on the contents. You may also wish to research herbal remedies, of which as the name implies herbs are a mainstay.

Your home, too, can benefit from herbs. Follow traditions by fashioning wreaths from herbs that were at one time thought to ward off evil spirits. In the Victorian era people would create what was known as a tussie-mussie, in which each leaf and flower held a special meaning. potpourri is also commonly made from aromatic herbs, they make surprisingly friendly gifts.

Getting started with herbs is not only a fun activity, but an immediately gratifying one as well. Herb gardening can fill many aspects of your life with beauty and pleasure. The rewards can be summarized by an old saying among herbarians: “Herbs leave their fragrance on the hand that gathers them.”

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Another photo of my front yard herb garden. I get frustrated when I see the herbs hidden in the vegetable garden, herbs are beautiful plants and deserve to be featured in the landscape.

If you are new to growing herbs, you will be happy to learn that most are very easy to grow. Many will absolutely flourish with just regular watering, require very little special care, and not only suffer from few pests and diseases; but repels many pests and diseases. Gray-leaved herbs and those filled with aromatic oils come from the Mediterranean area, so they thrive in well-drained soil and hot sun. In fact, most herbs grow best in full sun, but some also tolerate shade. Although many herbs grow reasonably well in poor soil, most prefer average fertility and a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

A few herbs for shady places – Angelica, chervil, chives, costmary, lemon balm, lovage, mint, parsley, sweet cicely, sweet woodruff and tarragon…

When selecting a site for a herb garden, consider how you intend to use the harvest. If you wish to use the herbs for cooking, choose a location close to your kitchen so it will be convenient for snipping a few leaves or sprigs to add to your favorite dishes.

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Herbs can even be grown in close quarters with vegetables.

Herbs, like most other flowering plants, may be divided into three categories: annuals, perennials and biennials. Some herbs are woody shrubs; some are tender perennials that are treated as annuals in colder climates and grown year around in warmer climates. Tender perennials can be potted and overwinter in a cold frame, greenhouse, or cold sunny window. Some gardeners keep herbs in pots all year, growing them outdoors in the summer and bringing them indoors in the winter.

Position the herbs in your garden according to their size and growth habits. Creeping thyme, for example, never achieves any height, but spreads in a dense mat that can cover a large area. Lemon balm, reseeds profusely; mints spread via underground runners.

There are ways to contain spreading herbs to prevent them from taking over the garden. Corral herbs that spread by underground stems or runners, such as mint, bee balm, lemon balm, tansy, and tarragon, by growing them in pots. Or, plant the spreaders inside a container buried in the garden, leave the sides of the pot well above ground level to prevent the runners from simply jumping your pot.

To control herbs that self seed prolifically, such as chives, dill, catnip, and fennel, simply deadhead the flowers before they go to seed.

Mulch is invaluable in herb gardens. It slows weed growth, keeps the soil moist, and prevents soil from splashing onto edible plants. Wood chips tend to not only work well in a herb garden, they also look good. Tender herbs will often benefit from a light pea-gravel mulching when wood chips are inappropriate.

Every herb garden I have ever visited has had a special charm unique to the site. As you create your herb garden, combine plants into attractive plots or mounds as you see fit… If you read the label on your plants… And do a little research… You will know which plants are tall… And which ones are small… Now get this… Plant the small ones in front of the tall ones… That’s it people… There are no design mistakes in a herb garden… There are flaws… But as gardeners… We rearrange the damn garden every 2 years anyway… Chalk it up as a lesson learned… And fix it the next time… Easy Peezy…

It doesn’t matter where you plant them… Just plant them…

peace – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – Plants and Phytoremediation

epiPlant identification is an art in itself and honestly has to be taught by physically seeing the plant, I have been to a million lectures with someone flipping through slides and talking about different plants, and I can say without a doubt that I learn very little. I prefer my plant introductions to be in person, I like to be able to touch, smell and when applicable taste the plant. Just as with humans plants have a first and a last name, the first part of the name is the genus and the second part the species. Common names I feel are just as important due to the fact that I find when I am asked questions, they usually go something like “Ever hear of cheeseweed, if yer chickens eat it it’ll make er eggs taste like cheese” really… Learn as much as you can about each plant you come in contact with, if nothing else Wikipedia the hell out of your garden, know what makes each plant tick.

Plant selection for permaculturists is really an art form that not only encompasses, but embraces biodiversity. Plants are the multi-tool in the permaculture world completing tasks such as attracting beneficials, repelling pests, soil remediation, soil stabilization, tillage, moisture control, living trellis, and as companions to one another often just simply enhancing flavor or improving one another’s health. An entire family of plants noted for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil are the Legumes which include beans, peas, alfalfa and lupines as well as trees like locusts and redbuds.

I find that one of the most commonly mis-understood tools is the role of the legumes. Most legumes are sort of nitrogen hoarders in a way, fixing nitrogen for themselves and storing it for use inside the plant. Legumes don’t really “fix nitrogen in the soil” as much as they “fix nitrogen in the plant”, the green part of the plant is the key to nitrogen fixation. In order for the nitrogen to be fully utilized, the entire biomass of the plant needs to de-compose in place replacing the nitrogen into the soil. Another one of the commonly mis-understood ideas is that legumes fix nitrogen through out the entire life of the plant, this is simply just not true. Plants have changing nutrient needs as they progress through their life, plants use the most nitrogen during vegetative growth before flowering. Once a plant starts flowering, potassium requirements spike followed by phosphorus during fruiting. In order to maximize the nitrogen potential of legumes cut them before they go to seed and let the entire biomass of the plant break down in place.

Green manure is a cover crop grown to add organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Green manure is almost essential in a sustainable annual cropping system often being grown during the fallow period in winter and then tilled into the soil in the spring before flowering. Heres a quick list of plants used in green manure cover crops – clover, vetch, fava beans, mustard, buckwheat, lupin and alfalfa. Time energy and resources are required to grow and use these cover crops effectively, timing is everything and the window for planting is easily missed. Make sure that your planting dates allow enough time for your cover crop to get well enough established to over-winter.

Just in case you weren’t familiar with this next term I would like to introduce you to a guilty pleasure of mine called “fruit porn”. Oh you know you are into it, in fact, i’d be willing to bet your mailbox is filled with it during winter… Mine is! I sort of have a little problem with fruit porn, hoarding it, often finding old issues hidden in boxes for no good reason. All that I am going to say is be carefull, it is super easy to get “the bug” and order one of everything. I have seen this happen more than once and the end result is usually one or two absolutely perfect plants and a whole bunch of dead stuff. Instead pick one or two types of plants and get a bunch of one variety of each, this will allow you to familiarize yourself with that variety.

Urban lots are tricky in that they offer little space compared to a food forest or permaculture farm. When growing for more than just personal consumption you won’t be able to fill every square inch with every type of fruit tree, berry bush and vegetable you can get your hands on, instead pick a cultivar of apple and buy a few of them, and do the same with say blueberries and raspberries. This doesn’t mean you can’t plant a few specimen plants here and there and have a little fun with design. I am just trying to stress how nice it is to grow enough of one type of berry to be able to share or sell it.

I want to stress the importance of planting things other than food bearing plants and trees… I’m talking about bio-diversity here people, permaculturists work with EVERY facet of nature. Large trees create bird habitat and shade for the plants and people underneath them as well as something for the vines to climb on. The list of herbs that benefit other plants is absolutely enormous, common sage Salvia officinallis is one of my all time favorite herbs to use in the garden and landscape, when it blooms in early summer you can not get close to it because of the bees and is considered a companion to rosemary, cabbage, beans and carrots.

The idea of soil remediation or “phytoremediation” is nothing new, mankind has been using plants to repair soil for thousands of years. I always get a kick out of people referring to permaculture as “new” when in reality it is the cutting edge of a 10,000 year old idea… What we call organic, natural or sustainable was at one time simply called “FOOD”, it wasn’t until recent decades that we started having to specify the manner in which it was farmed. I have problems with the fact that foods are labeled organic as I feel the term is getting watered down as farmers test the limits of the rules, makes you wonder whats next… Morganic – Our veggies are morganic than the competition. Plants have been used to remove heavy metals and toxins from soil for years and a lot of research is currently being done on the subject.

Phytoremediation of leaded soils is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, out of 10 lots soil tested last year here in Wilkinsburg I found only two that were within reasonable lead levels. Under 99 ppm is acceptable for lead levels in gardens growing veggies, we had samples test as high as 1558 ppm. Lead is commonly used in water and sewer pipes, roofing, cable coverings, paints, gasoline, insecticides, gold production, hair dyes, stained glass and photography to name a few. Lead is a moderately active metal that dissolves slowly in water and most cold acids, it does not react with oxygen in the air, and does not burn. Lead causes both immediate and long-term health effects and should be avoided at all costs. Lead is commonly remediated using indian mustard, ragweed, hemp dogbane and poplar trees which sequester the lead within its own biomass. Phytoremediation works as a multi-year tool for toxin extraction requiring a little planning, every effort helps though.

Here is just a small example of hyperaccumulators…

Arsenic – Sunflower or Chinese Brake ferns both store arsenic in their leaves.

Cadmium – Willow which is also an accumulator of zinc and copper, willow has a high transport capacity of heavy metals from root to shoot coupled with a huge amount of biomass production.

Cadmium and Zinc – Alpine Pennycress is a hyperaccumulator of these metals at levels that would be toxic to other plants, although the presence of copper will often inhibit growth.

Salts/salt tolerant – Barley and Sugar Beets are used for the extraction of sodium chloride to reclaim fields flooded with sea water.

Caesium 137 and Strontium 90 – Sunflowers were and still are being successfully used in the phytoremediation of the land around Chernobyl to absorb the radiation in the soil…

It is important to mention that phytoremediation is not an overnight solution to your soil woes but with some carefull planning and consideration of time constraints, soil can almost always be remediated using plants… I could ramble on and on about plants so this may have to turn into a multi-part section of this series, we will see…

peace – chriscondello

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Practical Permaculture – Plants and Phytoremediation

epiPlant identification is an art in itself and honestly has to be taught by physically seeing the plant, I have been to a million lectures with someone flipping through slides and talking about different plants, and I can say without a doubt that I learn very little. I prefer my plant introductions to be in person, I like to be able to touch, smell and when applicable taste the plant. Just as with humans plants have a first and a last name, the first part of the name is the genus and the second part the species. Common names I feel are just as important due to the fact that I find when I am asked questions, they usually go something like “Ever hear of cheeseweed, if yer chickens eat it it’ll make er eggs taste like cheese” really… Learn as much as you can about each plant you come in contact with, if nothing else Wikipedia the hell out of your garden, know what makes each plant tick.

Plant selection for permaculturists is really an art form that not only encompasses, but embraces biodiversity. Plants are the multi-tool in the permaculture world completing tasks such as attracting beneficials, repelling pests, soil remediation, soil stabilization, tillage, moisture control, living trellis, and as companions to one another often just simply enhancing flavor or improving one another’s health. An entire family of plants noted for their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil are the Legumes which include beans, peas, alfalfa and lupines as well as trees like locusts and redbuds.

I find that one of the most commonly mis-understood tools is the role of the legumes. Most legumes are sort of nitrogen hoarders in a way, fixing nitrogen for themselves and storing it for use inside the plant. Legumes don’t really “fix nitrogen in the soil” as much as they “fix nitrogen in the plant”, the green part of the plant is the key to nitrogen fixation. In order for the nitrogen to be fully utilized, the entire biomass of the plant needs to de-compose in place replacing the nitrogen into the soil. Another one of the commonly mis-understood ideas is that legumes fix nitrogen through out the entire life of the plant, this is simply just not true. Plants have changing nutrient needs as they progress through their life, plants use the most nitrogen during vegetative growth before flowering. Once a plant starts flowering, potassium requirements spike followed by phosphorus during fruiting. In order to maximize the nitrogen potential of legumes cut them before they go to seed and let the entire biomass of the plant break down in place.

Green manure is a cover crop grown to add organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Green manure is almost essential in a sustainable annual cropping system often being grown during the fallow period in winter and then tilled into the soil in the spring before flowering. Heres a quick list of plants used in green manure cover crops – clover, vetch, fava beans, mustard, buckwheat, lupin and alfalfa. Time energy and resources are required to grow and use these cover crops effectively, timing is everything and the window for planting is easily missed. Make sure that your planting dates allow enough time for your cover crop to get well enough established to over-winter.

Just in case you weren’t familiar with this next term I would like to introduce you to a guilty pleasure of mine called “fruit porn”. Oh you know you are into it, in fact, i’d be willing to bet your mailbox is filled with it during winter… Mine is! I sort of have a little problem with fruit porn, hoarding it, often finding old issues hidden in boxes for no good reason. All that I am going to say is be carefull, it is super easy to get “the bug” and order one of everything. I have seen this happen more than once and the end result is usually one or two absolutely perfect plants and a whole bunch of dead stuff. Instead pick one or two types of plants and get a bunch of one variety of each, this will allow you to familiarize yourself with that variety.

Urban lots are tricky in that they offer little space compared to a food forest or permaculture farm. When growing for more than just personal consumption you won’t be able to fill every square inch with every type of fruit tree, berry bush and vegetable you can get your hands on, instead pick a cultivar of apple and buy a few of them, and do the same with say blueberries and raspberries. This doesn’t mean you can’t plant a few specimen plants here and there and have a little fun with design. I am just trying to stress how nice it is to grow enough of one type of berry to be able to share or sell it.

I want to stress the importance of planting things other than food bearing plants and trees… I’m talking about bio-diversity here people, permaculturists work with EVERY facet of nature. Large trees create bird habitat and shade for the plants and people underneath them as well as something for the vines to climb on. The list of herbs that benefit other plants is absolutely enormous, common sage Salvia officinallis is one of my all time favorite herbs to use in the garden and landscape, when it blooms in early summer you can not get close to it because of the bees and is considered a companion to rosemary, cabbage, beans and carrots.

The idea of soil remediation or “phytoremediation” is nothing new, mankind has been using plants to repair soil for thousands of years. I always get a kick out of people referring to permaculture as “new” when in reality it is the cutting edge of a 10,000 year old idea… What we call organic, natural or sustainable was at one time simply called “FOOD”, it wasn’t until recent decades that we started having to specify the manner in which it was farmed. I have problems with the fact that foods are labeled organic as I feel the term is getting watered down as farmers test the limits of the rules, makes you wonder whats next… Morganic – Our veggies are morganic than the competition. Plants have been used to remove heavy metals and toxins from soil for years and a lot of research is currently being done on the subject.

Phytoremediation of leaded soils is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, out of 10 lots soil tested last year here in Wilkinsburg I found only two that were within reasonable lead levels. Under 99 ppm is acceptable for lead levels in gardens growing veggies, we had samples test as high as 1558 ppm. Lead is commonly used in water and sewer pipes, roofing, cable coverings, paints, gasoline, insecticides, gold production, hair dyes, stained glass and photography to name a few. Lead is a moderately active metal that dissolves slowly in water and most cold acids, it does not react with oxygen in the air, and does not burn. Lead causes both immediate and long-term health effects and should be avoided at all costs. Lead is commonly remediated using indian mustard, ragweed, hemp dogbane and poplar trees which sequester the lead within its own biomass. Phytoremediation works as a multi-year tool for toxin extraction requiring a little planning, every effort helps though.

Here is just a small example of hyperaccumulators…

Arsenic – Sunflower or Chinese Brake ferns both store arsenic in their leaves.

Cadmium – Willow which is also an accumulator of zinc and copper, willow has a high transport capacity of heavy metals from root to shoot coupled with a huge amount of biomass production.

Cadmium and Zinc – Alpine Pennycress is a hyperaccumulator of these metals at levels that would be toxic to other plants, although the presence of copper will often inhibit growth.

Salts/salt tolerant – Barley and Sugar Beets are used for the extraction of sodium chloride to reclaim fields flooded with sea water.

Caesium 137 and Strontium 90 – Sunflowers were and still are being successfully used in the phytoremediation of the land around Chernobyl to absorb the radiation in the soil…

It is important to mention that phytoremediation is not an overnight solution to your soil woes but with some carefull planning and consideration of time constraints, soil can almost always be remediated using plants… I could ramble on and on about plants so this may have to turn into a multi-part section of this series, we will see…

peace – chriscondello

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Practical Permaculture – The Art of Weeds – Reprise

Weeds require nutrients to grow just like any plant, some of them require a massive amount of nutrients to grow as large as they do. When you remove a weed you are removing a capsule containing all of the nutrients that weed has absorbed from the soil. If you remove that biomass from your garden than you are throwing those nutrients out, eventually you will have to restore those nutrients somehow. The problem becomes chronic if the habit persists, requiring constant fertilizer applications to sustain healthy growth. Permaculturists either create, restore or sustain the natural systems at hand, while removal is sometimes necessary, it should be a last resort.

Once a weed has gone to seed there is very little you can do to kill those seeds, this is one of the times where it may be best to carefully remove them from your site. Weeds that have not gone to seed or gotten to big should be left near the garden, I like to leave them in the grass and run them over with a mulching lawnmower till they disappear. Larger weeds can take years to break down if left intact, either shred them or break them up as small as possible and compost them. One of my favorite techniques is to simply bury the weeds in your garden, I like a cleaner garden and don’t like to see piles. I once had to remove an old dead pear tree from a front yard, I dug out the root ball and dropped the tree, then burned the entire thing in the hole it came from. I was lucky to be able to burn on site in this community, most urbanites don’t have that ability.

If you don’t mind the look of the weed mulch in your garden then I would absolutely use them, it wouldn’t hurt anything. If you have a large area of concrete then I would use it to dry them out in the sun first, it only takes a day to dry them out enough to kill the roots. While on the subject if you save grass clippings, they should be dried first before applying them to your garden. Your blueberries thrive in highly acidic soil with a pH between 4 and 5, woodchips would actually be the prefered mulch in order to lower the pH.

Compost barrels bug the hell out of me, rarely do they work as intended I find them irritating and ineffective. Environmental aspects determine the rate at which an organic biomass breaks down into compost, temperature, moisture and air all play a major role. Compost barrels tend to be sealed environments, air holes are incorporated but never in the quantity required. Moisture is required for compost as well, with rain being one of the main factors in the decomposition of a pile, the lid on the compost barrel impedes this. Compost can reach internal temperatures of 160 degrees on its own, the black color of the barrel increases the internal temperature of the compost. Temperatures exceeding 185 degrees can slow the decomposition of your compost and damage bacteria and insects, compost barrels should be placed in full shade.

With that said I prefer piles when it comes to compost, three of them to be more specific. I like to build three bays out of concrete blocks, each bay should have three walls and a removable front. You start by filling the first bay for 6 months to a year, then do the same to the next bin. One compost pile is never enough, you constantly put new stuff in it and in turn it never gets a chance to fully break down. If you have three then you can fill a new one while you wait for the old ones to fully break down into a useable product.

Compost is one of the great yields we as gardeners could be harvesting, but it does require a little space and devotion of time to get it right. I am not saying urban gardeners are left out of the compost world, but consideration should be taken as most compost piles can smell pretty foul during the hot days of summer. Compost that has been fully decomposed will not have a foul smell, it will smell organic and pleasant. An ammonia smell is almost always a sign your compost pile is not ready, flip it, water it, and check on it in a week. Compost piles should be turned at a minimum of once a month, but once a week is preferred.

peace – chriscondello

Three bay compost bin built for the Hamnett Place Community Garden in Wilkinsburg, PA. This one is made out of recycled pallets and was finished with hardware cloth, assembly was simple and the entire project was completed in just one day. I believe they recently harvested the first load of compost from the bins this year

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