Category Archives: Garden Tools & Tips

Composting Guidelines: Not Everything Can Go in the Compost Bin

Compost Bin

Composting food and yard wastes is easy, especially when using a purchased compost bin. Building a compost structure on your own is certainly an option, but compost bins on the market come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and often make the process of composting much simpler. No matter how you choose to compost your organic wastes, the advantages of composting are undeniable. Composting helps the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and other air pollutants that would be generated as a result of simply throwing organic wastes into the local landfill or incinerator. Composting also saves money by providing you with free fertilizer for your garden. Finally, compost puts nutrients back into the soil, making your garden soil richer and plants healthier.

What Goes In?

Once you have selected your compost bin, it’s time to begin filling it with organic matter. But can you put any kind of organic matter into a compost bin? Unfortunately, no. The general recommendation is to fill your compost bin with a mixture of 50 percent “browns,” and 50 percent “greens.”

The Browns

The “browns” add carbon to the compost bin mix and include some of the following items:

  • Dried leaves
  • Straw
  • Chopped cornstalks — Shred or chop into very small pieces first
  • Shredded paper
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Paper towels

The Greens

“Greens” add nitrogen to the compost bin mix and include some of the following items:

  • Grass clippings
  • Garden trimmings
  • Most kitchen wastes (see list below for exceptions)
  • Fresh hay
  • Poop from non-meat eating animals — Your pet bunny or bird, for example

What Can Go In After Some Preparation?

Some organic matter shouldn’t go into a compost pile as is.  Here are some examples of items that need to be prepared properly before they can become part of your compost heap:

  • Diseased plants
  • Grass clippings with chemicals
  • Hedge trimmings
  • Nut shells
  • Peat moss
  • Pine Cones
  • Pine needles
  • Sawdust
  • Sod
  • Soil
  • Weeds
  • Wood ashes
  • Wood chips

For information about how to prepare these types of organic matter for composting, visit the website of your local agricultural extension office.

Don’t Even Think About Tossing This Stuff In

Some organic matter should never find its way into compost bins. Here are the main offenders:

  • Bones
  • Cat litter
  • Charcoal and briquettes
  • Cooked food waste
  • Dairy products — (butter, cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing, milk, yogurt, sour cream)
  • Dishwater
  • Fatty, oily, greasy foods
  • Fish scraps
  • Meat
  • Glossy, colored paper
  • Peanut butter
  • Pet poop
  • Human poop
  • Sludge (biosolids)

Maintaining your compost pile depends on the type of compost bin you have chosen.  With some compost bins, you need to mix the pile periodically, but some compost bins require no mixing. Refer to the compost bin manufacturer’s instructions for details.

By purchasing or building your own compost bin that meets your specific needs, and by following a few simple guidelines, you can create your own money saving, earth friendly, plant loving compost.

Why Cedar Is the Best Choice for Garden Sheds

Cedar Garden Sheds

Outdoor storage sheds are an essential accessory for today’s homes. Whether you wish to store yard tools, gardening supplies, or pool chemicals, outdoor storage sheds (also known as garden sheds) provide additional space for your outdoor equipment, making it much easier to access and freeing up your garage for vehicles, bicycles, and the spare refrigerator.

Traditionally, though, outdoor storage sheds and garden sheds have been made of metal, vinyl, or plastic, and they are often less than attractive. As a result, sheds tend to be tucked away in some dark and hidden corner of the yard, away from direct view. Wood sheds, on the other hand, specifically cedar wood sheds, bring a natural and beautiful appearance to the backyard. Thanks to the durability and versatility that cedar wood sheds and garden sheds offer, using the shed for more than just storage is an attractive option for creative home owners.

Why cedar? Cedar is an all-weather wood that can withstand decades of harsh weather conditions, including icy winters, wet springs, and hot, sunny summers. It can be stained or painted to complement your existing home decor, and it is naturally resistant to mildew, rot, and insects, making it virtually worry-free. As an added bonus, cedar looks beautiful and smells fantastic. Because of these benefits, cedar is a natural choice for outdoor storage sheds.

Welcoming Our Feathered Friends

This Bird Needs a Birdbath

As I write this, I’m taking glances out the window in front of me, which gives me a lovely view of our backyard.  What I see are the busy activities of sparrows, cardinals, blue jays, downy woodpeckers, and other birds — eating seed, bathing in a small puddle of melted snow, burying bits of suet in the bark of our ornamental pear tree.  What I don’t see is a lasting water source for the birds.

Once the puddle of melted snow evaporates, there won’t be any consistent source of water in our yard where birds can quench their thirst and clean their feathers.  We like to pride ourselves on being a bird-friendly family, so rectifying this situation is of the utmost importance, especially as spring migration is just around the bend.

Bird Bath with Solar FountainAn outdoor birdbath with a fountain feature is the ideal addition to a backyard bird pit stop.  In fact, more birds are sure to come check out the fountain since they’re attracted to running water.  My choice would be a solar birdbath fountain.  Solar birdbaths and fountains require no special wiring and cost nothing to run because they are powered by an associated solar panel that absorbs energy from the sun.  As long as the solar panel is placed in a sunny location, the birdbath fountain is sure to accomplish its task of bubbling and gurgling for the birds.

With a consistent water source in place and a continuous supply of seed and suet, we’ll be prepared to welcome more feathered friends to our backyard this spring and beyond.

Simple Ways to Keep President’s Day Pride All Year Long

With President’s Day on the horizon, a feeling of patriotism fills the air, and a desire to demonstrate the love of country and its founders is overpowering.  You can keep that feeling all year when you bring subtle touches of patriotic pride to your outdoor spaces.

Top your garden shed, gazebo, or other outdoor structure with a charming and traditional weathervane that features an American Flag and high-quality craftsmanship.  This eye-catching embellishment can also be mounted on a garden pole or on a deck.

American Flag Weathervane

Add the durable beauty of an outdoor bench to your garden, and you’ll create an inviting focal point with a distinctly American flavor.

Outdoor American Bench

It’s easy to show your American spirit year round when you add one or two tasteful elements to your outdoor spaces.  I daresay that General Washington and Mr. Lincoln would heartily approve.

Backyard Greenhouses — Is Bigger Better?

The purpose of greenhouses is to allow gardeners to grow a wider variety of plants and flowers, no matter the growing zone, and to extend the growing season to three, and sometimes four, seasons. No matter what size the greenhouse, the interior of a greenhouse heats up because the sunlight shining through greenhouse windows warms everything inside faster than heat can escape. The greenhouse walls and roof keep the warm air inside, even when temperatures outside are chilly.  How do you know, though, what size greenhouse is ideal for your garden?  Consider the following.

Hobby greenhouses are available in many shapes and sizes. If space is limited, a practical option would be a lean-to greenhouse or an attached greenhouse. These greenhouses are generally smaller in size and are physically attached to another building, such as a house, garage, or shed. Attached greenhouses and lean-to greenhouses get less sunlight during the day simply because they are attached to another structure, so they should be placed in a location that receives the most amount of sunlight throughout the day. Lean-to greenhouses and attached greenhouses are ideal for gardeners who wish to use the greenhouse only seasonally, and who may wish only to grow a small selection of plants.

Larger hobby greenhouses are free-standing and can hold more plants, flowers, and vegetables. Larger greenhouses can also support a longer growing season. Importantly, upgrading to a larger size greenhouse can be more expensive than starting with a larger greenhouse in the first place, so thinking ahead to future gardening needs is a must.

Is bigger better when it comes to backyard greenhouses?  The answer is different for every gardener because it depends on the amount of garden space available and the amount of planting each gardener wants to do.  If space is available, and if gardening is a serious endeavor, bigger is better.