Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Compost Hole Method, Part 3

Please see Compost Hole Method, Part 1. if you haven't already.

Step 11. Plant your seeds (or starts).

Step 11. Continued: cover the seeds with soil, but not too much. Many seeds need light to germinate.

Gently smooth the soil.

Step 12, optional: Plant sticks to mark the spot and to discourage cats and birds.

Step 13: Make plant labels. Many types of plastic containers lend them selves well to this task.

Label with the variety and the date.

Step 13. Water gently and make an effort to keep evenly moist, but not soggy.

And wait for your seeds to start growing.

Here are some tiny ruby red card seedlings, they will grow up to resemble the plants in Part 1.

To the right are baby giant red Japanese mustard seedlings. Mature plants are also pictured in Part 1.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in comments, or better yet, add me as a friend on facebook. I have a number of gardening photo albums there that you may find interesting.

If you have a favorite way to process your kitchen scraps, please feel free to share!

All text and photos Copyrighted, 2011, Harvest McCampbell

Compost Hole Method, Part 2

Please see Compost Hole Method, Part 1.

Step 6, on your right: Sweep your floor, or gather fall leaves or twigs, or tear up junk mail. Animal hair (as shown) or even human hair is a great addition. It tends to discourage rodents, it adds slow release nitrogen, and it helps keep the soil from compacting--which allows it to breathe and provides plenty of habitat for soil microorganisms to colonize.

Step 7: Layer dry organic matter into the top of your hole, alternating with crumbled soil. Here we see pet hair, which is a nice slow release source of nitrogen.

Step 7, continued, on the right: Fallen leaves and twigs also make good materials to layer with soil as you fill the hole. They will prevent compaction, provide pathways for roots, and food and habitat for micro-organisms. As they break down they also provide nutrients for your plants.

Step 7 continued, on the left: Layer in dry organic matter . . . here it is a torn up cellulose egg carton . . . Which will have the same effect as dry leaves. Junk mail, newspaper, cardboard, really any dry organic matter you have handy will work.

Step 8, on the right: Top off with a layer of crumbled dirt.

Step 9, on the left: Smooth the surface.

Step 10, on the right, optional: Build a mini berm to keep the seeds from washing or blowing away. The same effect can be accomplished by leaving the the hole slightly depressed, however as the organic matter decomposes the soil level will subside leaving a nice watering basin at the base of your plants.

Continued in Part 3.

All text and photos Copyrighted, 2011, Harvest McCampbell

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Compost Hole Method, Part 1

This post explores a variation of the technique originally described in this blog way back in 2006, "A Simple Garden Routine - useful for bad backs, no time, short budgets." The primary difference being that the photos show using the method with seeds planted in place, rather than starting with seedlings started inside. This little technique has come to be called "the compost hole method" by my friends, for lack of a better term.

Before we get down to the compost, I thought I would share some photos of a garden grown with this technique. Every plant you see in this picture, started out over or next to a compost hole--including the trees.

All the photos are from my garden in Hoopa, CA, where I lived for over a decade. The photo to the left is a detail from the border pictured above. At the bottom of the photos is a cross between red Russian Kale and an ornamental cabbage. At the top is ruby red chard. Both beautiful, both edible.

On the right is another detail from the same border, pictured is another crossed kale, as well as some parsnips, and violas.

On the left is another detail from the same border. Pictured is giant red Japanese mustard. All these pictures were taken on 5.17.08. Now we can move on to the compost method these plants where grown by.

Below, you see the first step in creating an incredibly productive and diverse garden. Choose a spot and dig a hole. You want your hole to be at least 12 inches deep, and no more than 18 inches. This keeps your compostables in the biologically active zone, so they will properly decompose and not leach nutrients into the ground water.

Below is step two, add between a quart and two quarts of compostables to your hole. Don't compact them, as the air spaces are important for providing oxygen and habitat for the nutrient cycling soil organisms.

Next, comes step three, below. You can add the grass or weeds that your removed when you started digging your hole. Just bury them deep enough that they can't grow, either at the bottom of the hole, or upside down right over the compost. Many beneficial organisms will be in the soil around the roots of the grass and weeds. They will help cycle the nutrients in the buried organic matter.

Step four: crumble a shallow layer of dirt loosely over the compostables, weeds, and grass. (Below)

Step five, below: sweep your floor, gather fall leaves or twigs, tear up junk mail. Animal hair for instance, or even human hair is a great addition. It tends to discourage rodents, it adds slow release nitrogen, and it helps keep the soil from compacting--which allows it to breathe and provides plenty of habitat for soil microorganisms to colonize.

Continued at the link:

All text and photos Copyrighted, 2011, Harvest McCampbell

Natural, Non-Toxic , Hound Dog Flea Control

Here is my tried and true three pronged approach: a flea comb, a homemade flea spray, and a non-toxic flea powder are put to good use.

To start, I really recommend getting a flea comb and combing them every day. You may want to bathe the dog before you start treatment, and then repeat baths once a week or so, if they are well tolerated. If the dog(s) in question have matted hair or long hair, a trip to the groomers or a grooming session including a good clipping is in order.

You can purchase a flea comb from the groomer, at a pet supply store, or from a veterinarian. Have a flat bottomed bowl of warm slightly soapy water (I recommend Dr. Bronner's or any other organic liquid soap) to drop the fleas into, and something handy to push any dog hair you also collect down into the water. If the dog is antsy--some small treats to reward them for cooperating is a good idea. Dry cat food usually works well.

Once you have collected the fleas, leave them in the water for 6 hours, and then if you have a pile of dry leaves, grass, or other organic matter, or if you compost pile needs some moisture (and you have used organic soap) you can pour the slightly soapy flea and hair ridden water on your pile. But, be sure to let them soak a good six hours--as fleas can revive if they are not well drowned. Flea combing is most effective if it can be repeated daily until the infestation is under control. After which it should be done at least once a week, or whenever the dog is showing signs of discomfort.

A good sweeping, vacuuming, and laundering of animal bedding in all areas where the dogs hang out, on at least a weekly basis is a must. Most flea eggs fall off the dogs to develop into larva and pupa on the ground, the floor, in your carpet or furniture, or in the animals bedding. Food or agricultural grade diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in the outside areas where the dogs spend time, in the bedding, in their dog houses, and, if they are outside dogs--even on the dogs themselves. Here is more information on diatomaceous earth: http://harvestsgardeningsecrets.blogspot.com/2010/10/diatomaceous-earth.html. The diatomaceous earth kills the fleas by abrading their exoskeleton—and in the process of dying they become dehydrated. Which makes them bite more, so you really need to do the flea combing and drowning first—or everyone is going to be extremely miserable.

You can use diatomaceous earth inside, if you wish, but it is dusty, some people are allergic, and it will speed the breakdown of the fabric in your furniture and carpet. However, it is the best way to control bed bugs and many other vermin. So you can make your own decisions here about the effects on bugs versus the effects on furniture and carpet.

An alternative indoor spray that you can use on your furniture and rugs is very easily made. Dissolve two heaping tablespoons of ordinary salt in a quart of warm water. Once the salt is dissolved, you can add a few drops of pennyroyal, eucalyptus, citrus, or any other essential oils you may have on hand, and then spray the dog, the dogs bedding, your furniture and carpet, etc. The salt does not have much effect on the mature fleas, but it is deadly to the flea larva. The essential oils improve the doggy odor, and the specific ones mentioned are believed to have some flea repealing affects; and they may have some small disruptive action on flea reproduction—but not enough to keep the fleas under control on their own. This can be repeated as needed. Be sure to patch test fabric to make sure the colors don’t run. And while it is not as harmful to fabric as diatomaceous earth, too much salt build up is not good for the longevity of the fibers either. Salt is not the best thing for your soil, so this is primarily an inside option.

Using the spay in the initial stage of fighting the infestation is very helpful. After which if you are handy with the flea comb, and use the diatomaceous earth in the animals outside quarters, you can keep things under control without any need to continue spraying. In the initial stages, you can give the fleas a double whammy, by spraying with the salt / essential oil solution, allowing it to dry, and then following up with a sprinkling the diatomaceous earth powder, if you are in a hurry to turn the infestation around.

I have lived with animals for most of my life, and this program works for me. It is absolutely more labor intensive than using poison, and it won’t completely eliminate all fleas. But if you stay on it, the fleas will become few and far between.

Another little trick that also seems to help a lot, is to add nutritional yeast to your dog’s food. A teaspoon is good for small breeds and a tablespoon or more for larger dogs. Start with a pinch though, so they and their digestion get used to it. Some people find that adding some garlic to their food—either raw, cooked, or powdered is also helpful. I haven’t ever given the later a good test—as my dogs were never fond of garlic; however they, and my cats also, loved the nutritional yeast.

Be aware that the salt, the essential oils, and the diatomaceous earth can dry out the dog’s skin. Only use as needed, and as the infestation tapers off, reduce the frequency of your applications. Bathing the animals with a mild hydrating shampoo (Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is perfect) and follow it up with a soothing conditioner made for dry skin will help if you find that the treatment is having an adverse affect. This was only an issue with my animals if I let the fleas have their way for too long and found myself combating a serious problem.

If any of you have other tips on controlling fleas naturally, please feel free to add them to comments.

Copyright 2011, Harvest McCampbell