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Manure supplies missing nitrogen


If you have access to well-rotted animal manure, combine it with com- post to make your soil more fertile and provide even more good bacteria. One caution about manure though: in recent years, persistent herbicides often used by farmers in their fi elds have become a problem. These herbi- cides are able to withstand the stomach acids and bacteria of animals and will remain in their manure. Using manure with persistent herbicides will damage your plants. Know your farmer or rancher and ask what his or her animals were fed, where the hay originated and whether herbicides like picloram, clopyralid and aminopyralid were used.


Mulch encourages soil organisms


By using organic matter as mulch instead of rock or rubber mulches that don’t decay—you’re helping your garden retain moisture and moderating soil temperatures. As this mulch decays over time, it also feeds the soil. If you use wood mulch, make sure the wood isn’t green, i.e., fresh and don’t mix wood mulch into the soil. Green wood mulch can rob nitrogen from your plants. Finely chopped pine tree bark makes excellent mulch. Use pine tree bark mulch at a depth of two inches to help stop fl oating in heavy rains. If you live in a wooded area, your own natural mulch is at your fi ngertips.


There is no fi ner mulch than shredded leaves. Fibrous leaves like those from oak trees will need to be shredded before placing them on the garden. Many people mow their leaves piling them up in a corner of the yard to be used as needed. You can also use a string trimmer and a plastic trash can to shred leaves although it may be a messy process. Weed the garden fi rst and then lay mulch.


Although there is no magic bullet or formula in gardening, magic still happens beneath the soil. By using good compost and mulch, you can improve your garden one season at a time.


4. 1.


2. 3.


Make compost in five easy steps:


Alternate green materials like grass clippings and kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps with brown materials like shredded oak leaves, sticks, dead grasses, etc. Try to have a balanced ratio of nitrogen-rich green materials versus carbon-rich brown materials with a heavier emphasis on the brown matter. End with brown materials or a light layer of soil.


If you have time, chop materials fi rst. Smaller pieces decay faster.


After layering brown and green matter in a bin or a pile, water everything down to get the process going. Keep the materials moist, but not sopping wet, and decay will start. If you live in a very wet climate, you may want to cover the pile.


Turn your pile. The more often you turn the pile, the hotter the compost will be. With hotter compost, you get faster results. To make plenty of compost and make turning easier, try using more than one bin or pile. Three bins are ideal because you can move materials from one to the other. Also, compost doesn’t need to be messy. With bins, everything is tidy and stays in place. Even if you don’t water and turn your pile often, the materials will still decay, especially if they are chopped into smaller pieces.


5.


Don’t add dairy or meat products to your compost. These often smell bad and can attract wild animals to the pile. A rotting vegetable smell indicates the pile is too wet, and bad bacteria are fl ourishing. Finished compost should smell like the forest fl oor.


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 11 @ 5:30 P.M.


SEPTEMBER 2014 23


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