EXPERIMENT: Composting Using Grass and Leaves

I’m sick and tired of paying for dirt.  I’m done with it.  I’m ready for a more cost effective way to get ‘dirt’ using materials I have around in the yard.  I’m also ready to know exactly what is in my soil instead of depending on a plastic bag to outline all of the ingredients.

DIYPalletCompostBin
DIY Pallet Compost Bin

Enter my DIY pallet composting bin.  I built the bin in about an hour with the help of my wonderful wife.  It is very similar to the DIY Raised Garden Beds using pallets that I made earlier this season.  The only add-ons are four legs and a bottom to keep the compost off of the ground.  All in all, I was very pleased with the end result.

 

DIYPalletCompostBinGrassClippings
Grass Clipping Layer in Compost Bin

 

 

Now to the experiment portion- actually making compost.  I have a couple of things that I can always depend on to compost: grass clippings and leaves.  So, I decided to lay a thin layer of grass clippings in the bin and watered the clippings.  Next, I placed a thin layer of leaves on the grass and then watered.  I repeated these steps until the bin was full.  Finally, I took my hand-tiller and mixed all of the layers together.  With everything nicely mixed, I took my shovel and scooped the edges up into the middle of the box to make a mound.  I watered the whole entire box once again.

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Leaf Layer in Compost Bin

 

Tomorrow, I plan on checking to see if the temperature is warm in the mound.  The warm temperatures and moisture helps to break down the material into compost.  On Day Three, I plan on turning the whole entire bin using my shovel.  Hopefully we will see some decomposition.  My plan is to have this material fully decomposed in about three weeks.

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Grass Clippings and Leaves Mounded in Compost Bin

Do you have a compost bin/pile?  Do you prefer to use grass and leaves or some other material?  What’s the best method you have found?  I’d love to hear from you!  Drop us a line below in the comments.

Ian

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The Discovery Of The Bonfire Peach Tree

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Bonfire Peach Tree With New Fruit

As I mentioned in the Productive Weekend post, we found many things to talk about.  One of those is a tree that has been in the yard since we purchased our home almost four years ago.  I never really researched it until this week.  I knew it was a peach tree of sorts because a couple of years ago, I was out mowing and noticed the fruit.  I stopped by and upon closer inspection, it was a peach.  After plucking it from the tree, I bit into it and I must say it was the sweetest, most delectable peach I’d ever tasted.  A year went by and I never really bothered to look at the tree, other than making sure not to hit it with the lawn mower.

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Crimson Colored Bonfire Peach Saplings Growing Under Tree

Fast forward to this past weekend.  While I was weed-eating grass near the tree, I noticed a couple of reddish-purple saplings coming up from the ground underneath the tree.  These saplings held the same leaves as the peach tree.  This sparked my interest and also my caution as I didn’t want to chop down these plants with my weed-eater.

I knew that in my area of Tennessee you can grow peaches as this county was renowned for them in the early 1900s before blight took hold and wiped out every peach tree in the county according to history.  After doing some research, I found that this type of peach tree is called a “Bonfire Peach” (Prunus Persica).  It’s also known as a “Patio Peach”, meaning you can place the tree into a container and it will still bear fruit.

This afternoon, I went outside to check on the saplings and possibly transplant one into a pot.  After closer inspection, I found two things- The ‘mother’ tree is absolutely full of small peaches and there are more than a couple of saplings underneath the tree.  Without straining my eyes, I was able to count 10!  As I’m writing this, I’m still pretty excited over this news!

BonfirePeachTreeSaplingInContainer
Bonfire Peach Sapling In Container

I decided to dig one of the saplings up and low and behold, I could see the peach seed as I uprooted the plant.  This confirmed my amateur knowledge of horticulture!  I placed the sapling into a small pot of plant and vegetable soil.  I’m sure I’ll re-pot it into a larger container in the coming months.  I just wanted to make sure the transplant will continue to root and grow before I uproot the other 10+ plants!

We may have a peach orchard on our hands before too long!

Do you have any suggestions for growing peach trees?  What are some of the hardest things to overcome while getting your tree to produce fruit?  Leave me a comment below!

Ian

Potting Soil: Why NOT To Use It For Seed Starting

As of now, if you are into gardening you’ve probably already started some seeds to grow into plants.  If you haven’t started your seeds, it’s not too late!  On this post, I want to talk about potting soil and why NOT to use it for starting seeds, especially tomatoes.

I say tomatoes because this happens to be the vegetable that I discovered this phenomenon while starting my plants.  Around the end of February, I started my tomato seeds in seed-starting box.  However, the only soil I had around at the time was potting soil.  I figured it looked the same as regular ‘dirt’ so it should be alright to use a medium to start my seeds.

It worked okay to start the seeds, but after the majority of the plants dawned their initial leaves, their growth start to slow.  They still look healthy and green, but they just didn’t shed anymore leaves or grow in general.  So, this is when I decided to grab some soil from outside.

I conducted an experiment of sorts.  I kept a third of the seedlings in the potting soil, a third was immediately planted outdoors, and the final third was planted in the soil from outside but the containers were kept inside right beside the seedlings in the potting soil.  I wanted to see if the soil conditions were hindering the plant growth in any way at all.  The results were astounding.

TomatoSeedlingsInPottingSoilAndOutsideSoil
Comparison of tomatoes in potting soil and outside soil showing the growth after the thinning stage.

As of today, the seedlings in the potting soil still look healthy, however they haven’t grown at all since the thinning took place.  The ones that I planted outside have grown marginally, mainly due to the cooler nights.  But, the seedlings that I placed in the outside soil and kept inside have grown tremendously.  Take a look for yourself!

My conclusion is this-  Potting soil will only ‘maintain’ a plant’s current growth.  There just isn’t the right amount of nutrients included in the soil.  “But how did the seeds turn into seedlings in the first place?”  During the germination process, the taproot uses the seed as energy to grow into a seedling.  It’s a compact feeding system on it’s own, however, once it reaches a stage where the seed has exhausted it’s energy it needs outside nutrients.  Potting soil doesn’t have these needed nutrients.

How is your experience with potting soil?  Have you actually been able to ‘grow’ anything in potting soil?  What’s your thoughts on the ‘matter’? 🙂

This Has Been A Productive Weekend For Outside!

First off, I’m just going to go ahead and lay this out there- I am beat.  This weekend has been a very productive weekend our piece of the outdoors.  Combined with last weekend, we have gotten quite a few things completed.  If this type of work continues throughout the summer, one of two things will happen: We will have the best looking yard in the neighborhood, or, I will be dead.

We have about an acre and a half of land.  Our home sits in the middle of three lots.  The lower and upper lots are dotted with trees here and there, but nothing thick at all.  The best way I describe it is “park-like”.  Trying to keep up with the maintenance is hard, especially when you only have the weekends to do any work outside.  Being that we just snapped out of winter and into spring, our yard looked horrendous.  Fallen limbs and branches everywhere.  The grass and weeds was creeping up to our knees.

Thankfully, with the help of my wife, we made some major progress.  We burned about 10 trailer loads of limbs, got all the yard mowed, and even got it weed-eated (which takes longer than mowing on our yard).  After I finished the yard work this morning, I looked over at the garden and it was calling for me to come spend some time with it.

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Red Mulch With Pallet Raised Garden Beds

I got three more raised beds built for the spinach, basil/cilantro, and carrots.  According to my plans, I have about three more boxes to build to complete my garden for this year, which is a huge plus!  But, before I placed the raised boxes in place, I knew the garden needed something else.  I needed a real walk-way.  Thankfully, the place down the road had a deal on mulch- $2.00 a bag.

All in all, I think it’s going to turn out pretty nice looking!  Be sure to keep an eye out on my blog throughout the week.  Over the weekend, I’ve gotten a lot of things to write about and they are sure to make for enjoyable reads!

Can You Clone A Carrot? Part One

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This was the question that I asked myself as I was looking for the cheapest, best looking bag of carrots while in the grocery store a month ago.  Can you clone a carrot?  I understand you can clone other types of plants and vegetables, but what about a root vegetable?  So genuinely, this peaked my interest and I decided to give it a shot.

I’m almost positive they spray the same type of chemical on carrots as they do on potatoes to get them to stop ‘growing’.  On potatoes, it stops growing the eyes and on carrots it’s the leafy greens on top.  So this made it even more challenging.  But, as I was putting away the freshly bought carrots, I noticed we still had a couple of older ones in the fridge.  One of these carrots had a small, and I mean very small green stem protruding from the top of the carrot!

I decided to cut the carrot in half and kept the top part with the stem.  I boiled some water for 10 minutes and let sit to get back to room temperature.  I added a teaspoon of sugar and dissolved by stirring.  Lastly, I stuck two toothpicks lightly into the carrot and placed it in a vase with the sugar water and sat it in the windowsill facing the south.

carrot3About three weeks have passed now and I have a carrot with a healthy root system starting to form. However, after reading and researching this topic, I quickly found that these roots will not grow new carrots.  From my research, I found that the carrot itself is the taproot from the seed it was sprouted from, therefore I need an “original” part of the seed/plant.  After thinking about it some more, I decided to take a cutting from the leafy part which had four stems, to try to make a ‘clone’.  After all, a cutting should take root, which may make a ‘taproot’.

carrot2I placed the cutting in the same vase as the carrot about 2 week ago.  Still no roots, however it stayed very healthy looking.  So as far as taking a cutting from the leaf system and trying to clone it that way, it doesn’t work.  At this point, it’s looking like I may have to bring this one into flowering in order to produce more carrots, which may take up to the second year to get a flowering head!  But wait!  This WOULD be the second year.  The first year of it’s life, it grew the carrot, so we may be in luck in that area!

I was wrong about my original theory, however that is the fun part about gardening- trying to see what will and will not work.  BUT! I’ve also come across another possible way to clone carrots which I’ll be trying.  I’ll give an update soon!

 

REVIEW: Kobalt 40-Volt Lithium Ion Battery Powered Chainsaw

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Kobalt 40 Volt Lithium Ion Battery Powered Chainsaw

During the last wind storm here in East Tennessee, we had a red bud tree fall next to our shed. It was way too big to chop with an axe, so I talked my wife Jamie into getting a chainsaw. I wanted to go with a battery powered type since mixing gas and oil is a pain and plus I’d have to buy another jug to store it. Luckily, they make the same brand that accepts the same battery as my weed eater that can just about rival a professional model. I was a little skeptical, but read the reviews and we decided to purchase the Kobalt 40-Volt Lithium Ion Battery Powered Chainsaw from a Lowe’s in Knoxville.

We got it home and let the battery fully charge before we started working outside. Afterwards, we took it outside and threw it through the gauntlet! It sliced through our logs with ease. I was shocked. The logs were about 10″ in diameter and the saw made quick work of it. Then we decided to chop a tree that had fell last year in a bushy area. Again, no problem. The battery lasted for about an hour’s worth of chopping, pile up, chopping and pile up. All in all, we chopped up 3 trees, and 4 large branches (small trees) off of two batteries. The battery only takes an hour to recharge fully, but I used my weed eater battery to continue working.

This model is only 12″ long, so I understand I’m not making a trip to Oregon to become a lumberjack with it. However, for my yard, it’s perfect!

My overall review: 5

Have you ever used any battery powered outdoor equipment?  What was your experience like?  What were some of the positives and negatives you found?  Drop me a comment below!

EXPERIMENT: Staggering Potato Harvest Times

About a month or so ago, I purchased some seed potatoes from the local big box hardware store.  I got two varieties, Yukon Gold and Red Norland potatoes.  I wanted these thinking we would make some awesome smashed potatoes as well as potato salad with the Reds and we use the Golds as our multipurpose, go to potato for any dish that needs a starch.  After a month of keeping the seeds in a low-light area, they eyes are going crazy on these things!

Each seed potato package contains 10 ‘seeds’ so that gives me 20 plants total.  Last year I planted all of my plants at one time.  They all grew wonderful in the natural dirt here in East Tennessee, but I was left with a minor issue- I didn’t account for their harvest times being the same time.  So, I was left with a bunch of potatoes at harvest time.  This year I am trying something different.

You remember that free and simply made raised garden bed I built using pallets?  In case you missed it, here’s the link to my DIY video on how to build it.  Well, I threw some weed block fabric in bottom and then placed a layer of dead leaves on top of the fabric.  I’ve read somewhere online that this can help with drainage and can also help with replenishing nutrients to the soil.  Next, I filled it about a 1/4 of the way full with top soil and placed two of the Reds and two of the Golds under about 2 inches of the soil.

So, that leaves me with 16 potatoes left to plant.  My thinking is that we go through about a 5lb bag of potatoes a week.  If I stagger their starting times by about a week and half to two weeks, we should be able to continually harvest for about 8-10 weeks without having a surplus.  It will definitely be a fun experiment as we count down the days to harvest.  I’ll also be trying different methods in my planting, maybe using a five gallon bucket, direct ground, etc.

I’ll keep you all posted!  Thanks for visiting our humble abode on the web!