2008-11-07 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

Commentary by Danielle McShane Danielle's Rockaway Florist

DANIELLE McSHANE DANIELLE McSHANE It is important to add compost to the soil in all of your house plants or flower and vegetable gardens, as it adds nutrients that help them grow healthy and strong. While renewing the nutrients in the soil, it also offers better water retention and aeration. It is important to mix compost into the soil of older plantings from time to time, as well as adding to new flowerbeds and pots. We often compost around trees, or use it as a lawn top dressing to strengthen our landscape.

It may take anywhere from one to twelve months to complete a bin of compost on your own, depending on the material used, but it will only cost you a small amount for a container and a little time and footwork. You will be doing both your garden, and the environment a favor because using the scraps from fruit and vegetables can both add life and strength to your garden, and reduce your garbage by as much as 30 percent.

The process is fairly easy and very rewarding. If you would like to give it a try, you have to first choose a container to make into a compost bin. The mix of ingredients used to make compost will have to be turned, so ultimately, it would be best to purchase a commercial bin that has a tumbler inside so that you can mix it up fairly easily. Although they suggest you turn it

every day, I do believe that some things in life should be more practical, and fit into our lifestyle. Try to turn the compost at least once a week, especially when adding more to the bin. It is most economic to turn a plastic container or pail into a compost bin by making vents for the contents

to breathe, but you will have to put special effort into turning the compost. Mixing with a shovel will be much harder on your back than just turning the handle on a commercial compost bin, but it will save you money on the initial investment. You have to weigh out the options and choose what is better for you. If you are making a large amount of compost, you may want to use several bins, as you do not want it to fill the container too deep or it will be too heavy to turn, and there may not be enough oxygen getting into the compost. It is important to make sure that there is adequate ventilation, or the matter will turn soggy and begin to smell. Place the bin where snails and worms can make their way in. They will help!

Begin filling your compost bin with a four-inch layer of twigs, brush, or hay. Another layer, also four-inch deep, should consist of leaves, shredded paper or cardboard, eggshells and wooded prunings. Next, a four-inch layer of vegetable and fruit peelings, grass cuttings, and plant or hedge trimmings. Finish with a thin layer of soil. Sparingly mist between each layer with a little water to add some moisture. It is important to mix in only raw materials. It is okay if some of the leftover vegetables are cooked, but you should never include anything that has oil, butter or any dressings at all. Never include pet waste, cheese, meat, fish or bones. It is a good idea to keep a separate pail near your kitchen to make it easy to collect these "raw" items and new scraps from coffee grinds, eggshells, tea bags, and fruit skins to add to the compost bin. After a few days, the materials will settle down and make room for new scraps. The more often you turn the bin, the faster your compost will be ready.

Start now with leftover pumpkins from Halloween decorations, or finally cut back the scraggly stems of barelythere impatiens lingering in your garden. As the winter comes around, the materials may freeze - putting a hold on the whole process. As it thaws again, it will continue to age in time to use in our spring garden. It will take a little extra work from us now, but your garden will thank you for it.

Feel free to write to us at Danielle's Rockaway Florist @ 436 Beach 129 Street with any gardening questions.

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