Friday, September 28, 2012


I am by no means an expert on composting, but I would like to share my methods in Zone 2 with the gardening world. These are my bins. An 8th bin has been added where you see the shovel plus two separate bins inside the chicken yard. We originally built with wood pallets, but when my husband was able to recycle these plastic pallets last summer we tore it apart and rebuilt. These are much lighter and more manageable. 

This is where they are located inside the sheep pen.

In the Fall my compost is not completely decomposed and ready, but I add it to my garden beds anyhow. Leaves and straw are still visible, but I find that in our short summer's it would take several years for it to completely break down. Personally, I think the material helps keep the soil from becoming so compact or at least that is my theory. 

It's proven to successfully enhance my soil and the only real issue was the introduction of chickweed into a couple of beds, but when mulched it isn't too much of a problem.

The material for the compost bins comes from the sheep yard where I spread out straw to catch all the "good stuff" and then rake up.

The chickens and their coop contribute to the bins.

 In the Fall I mow the grass one last time gathering the fallen leaves. During the summer some grass clippings are added, but they are mostly eaten by Daisy and the hens.

I also add all the plant material from the flower beds, vegetable beds and greenhouse. These are carnations and this is where a shredder would come in handy, but I can't justify the expense. During the winter I save the ash from the wood stove and that gets added in the Spring. Sometimes I add our kitchen scraps as well, but the truth is I go in cycles of saving it all to saving nothing as it really seems to be more effort than reward.

My "mulching" comes in the form of a tiller. I used to toss the pile once a summer with a pitch fork, but that is truly a lot of work. Now I use the tiller to pull it out, mix it up and then I shovel it back soaking layers with water. Then it's ignored until Fall when it goes into the beds. I'm not very scientific and I never test the compost or my soil, but my plants seem to thrive. One of these days I made add a testing to my routine to get even more out of what I have. Or maybe I shouldn't mess with a good thing.

Finally, three sides of the bins are held together with zip ties and the fronts are held in place by cute little bungee cords. Very easy to remove and enough to keep Daisy from eating it all. 

I would love to hear your experiences with composting especially if you live in a cooler climate, but I find all gardening interesting so please share.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rhododendron Bed Over Haul

I have not been updating my gardening blog. It's not because I don't want to as the thought is always nagging in the back of my mind. I am just busy. I would really like to try and develop a routine to include this blog in my life which will entail making posts all winter from this past summer. We'll see how it goes.

We are at the tail end of Fall in our area with low's in the 30's and high's in the 50's. We had our first hard frosts quite some time ago. On most days I can be found frantically trying to get the gardens ready for snow as well as clean the yard of snow plowing surprises left by the children. Neither task is happening fast enough. Yesterday I worked on the Rhododendron bed. I was pleasantly surprised when these plants made it through the winter. They had some growth this summer although it was not as much as I would have liked. There are six bushes with a space for a seventh that died shortly after purchase. 

I began by blowing out the leaves, pulling all the grass and weeds and removing the top row of rock.

Next I added two inches of compost from one of my eight compost bins. This particular batch was from the chicken coop.

On top of that I put down some fabric. This summer I discovered that I am unable to keep up with the amount of beds that I have and they quickly become over-grown with weeds. Next Spring I will mulch with straw or wood chips and in the permanent beds I will put down fabric.

Then became the task of piling rock which I have 10 yards of and did not even put a dent in my pile.

I washed away the dirt and there you have it.... a low maintenance, neat and tidy bed of rhododendron along side my greenhouse.