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Garden Goals

Well another gardening season is almost here. It's been over 60 degrees for the past week and other than the giant piles of snow that I made when I shoveled, most of the snow is melting. And with the disastrous season that I had in the garden last year becoming nothing more than just a bad memory, I'm writing down some garden goals for the new year.

Winter Sowing - I've actually been winter sowing all winter long. Through the blizzards, the snowmaggedon and the snowicanne, I was filling up empty soda bottles and apple juice containers with soil and planting seeds. I've been known to do some leaf thieving in the fall to add to my compost bins but this winter I became a bottle borrower, going through my neighbors recycling bins. My kids like to say, "Dad thinks he's a hobo and goes through people's garbage."

Worm bin - The good folks at Natures Foot Print Inc were nice enough to send me a worm bin to review. It's a Worm Factory 360 and it's pretty cool looking. I even got a DVD with some nice instructions about raising worms and it says that the best temperature for worms are between 40 & 70. And that just happens to be the temperature of the inside my garage at this time of year. So I'll be buying some Red Wiggler Worms and vermicomposting real soon.

Raised Bed Cages - Between the rabbits, the woodchucks, the chipmunks, the birds, the squirrels it was a constant battle to protect my garden. A fence by itself just can't protect those fruits and vegetables from the daily onslaught of those hungry pests. So I'm going with a new protection scheme this year. I'm going to build hinged wire boxes over the top of my raised beds. The design I'm thinking about will also protect the garden from any freak hailstorms and I'll also be able to cover them with garden fabric for quick and easy hoop houses.

Grow a lot of food - That's my goal every year but it seems that growing your own food has suddenly become in vogue.

Canning - I'd really like to start enjoying tomatoes during the winter. Supermarket tomatoes and even expensive hot house tomatoes just really taste like crap. It's time to start saving the tons of tomatoes that I grow every year and the best way to do that would be to get one of those home canning kits. It's something that I've always wanted to try.

Well those are some of my goals for now. I'll provide more details and photos of these and other projects in the weeks to come. I haven't posted in ages and I'm looking forward to it. Happy Gardening.

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Compost-Off Continues...

Round 5

Round 6

More of the Gaiam Compost-Off

I'm enjoying these Compost-Off videos by Gaiam. But both the Earthmaker Composter and the Bio-Orb Monster Compost Bin aren't doing that well. Well at least that what they're focusing on in the videos.

I'll defend these products a little bit and say that neither bin is really a "set it and forget it" type of product. You're going to have to watch your compost and tend to it's needs.

For example, if your bin is stinky (like the bio-orb is these videos) then add more dried leaves or shredded newspapers. And if it's drying out (like the Earthmaker) well then water it. Or maybe even leave the lid off when it rains.

Well that's my two cents. Enjoy the videos.

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Which Compost Bin To Buy

Have you ever wanted to see a compost bin throwdown? A real side by side blind taste test? Well the good folks at Gaiam have done just that.

Check out this video where they compare the Earthmaker Composter and the Bio-Orb Monster Compost Bin. With the video you can get a good idea what it's like making compost with these things. And there's going to be more videos in this series. I'll keep my eye out for them.

Compost Fire

United States Air Force Airmen from the 20th C...Image via Wikipedia

If you follow composting news (and who doesn't) then you probably heard about several compost fires recently.

There was one burning in Maple Valley, Seattle earlier in the week and another in Saginaw, Michigan yesterday.

Now before you get worried about your kitchen compost crock bursting into flames on your counter top, both of these fires took place at composting facilities. These are really large processing plants that compost for a whole town or city and their piles are probably larger than your house.

Can a compost fire start in a home compost bin? It's probably possible but it's rather unlikely. Some of the factors that cause compost to spontaneously combust are the following:
  • Large Well Insulated Piles
  • Limited Air Flow
  • Dry Pockets in the Pile

What happens is the biological activity in a compost pile generates heat. And if the pile isn't aerated (which is common when the compost pile is bigger than a house) decomposition will be anaerobic. One by-product of anaerobic composting is methane. Now you've got heat and fuel and all you need is for this to happen near a dry pocket of unfinished compost in huge well insulated pile and poof, you've got a compost fire.

This isn't likely to happen in your average home composting set up but it's not a bad idea to give you compost a mix now and then.

Sources: 1, 2

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Compost Tumblers

Here is a list of the most popular compost tumblers on the market:
(according to Amazon - 08/19/09)

#1 - Achla CMP-05 Spinning Horizontal Composter
I find this hard to believe actually. It's not the cheapest tumbler out there (see #2) and it's not the most well known brand either. But I guess it's the fact that it looks easy to use and it's decent price make it very popular among people shopping to compost tumblers.

#2 - Envirocycle Composter
The Envirocycle Composter being on this list makes more sense to me. It's nice looking, doesn't take up a lot of space, easy to spin and has the lowest price on this list. And I think that's why this model is a very popular choice with school gardening programs.

#3 - Tumbleweed Composter

I don't know why it's called the tumbleweed composter since it doesn't really look like a tumbleweed. It's more of a garbage can that was skewed through the middle by an axle. Well, regardless of the name this thing mixes compost ingredients well. A slow spin will cause the contents to move from the top to the bottom and back again. The legs look a little flimsy though.

#4 - Back Porch Compost Tumbler
I can see why The Back Porch Compost Tumbler belongs on the back porch. It's ugly. It looks more like something you'd see at bingo night instead of in the garden. But regardless, it has a great reputation for making fast compost.

#5 - MANTIS® ComposT-Twin

At $499, I'm surprised that this one even made the list. It's the Cadillac of compost tumblers. If you want a big tumbler, that spins easily and you want it from a brand name that you can trust then this is it. I still can't get over the price but at least they offer free shipping, a money back guarantee, free activator and a Guide to Composting. It's not in my budget but it is on my wish list.

Musa Basjoo Banana

Now here's something that you don't see every day. A banana tree with little bananas on it in New Jersey.

I'm a big fan of the hardy banana plant, the musa basjoo and I have been growing them for years now. Every fall I dig them up, wrap them in newspapers, bubble wrap or burlap and overwinter them in my garage.

But this is the first time that I've ever gotten the plant to flower and actually make tiny little bananas. How cool is that?

What's even more interesting is that because of the Crazy June Hailstorm that we had here in my area, the plants lost all of their leaves and looked really beaten down most of the summer. They really are the smallest and have the fewest leaves since I bought the original plant years ago.

But maybe that stress forced the musa basjoo survival instincts to kick in and they tried to create some seeds. Well whatever the reason, it's pretty neat to have a banana tree with bananas. We don't have a long enough summer for them to become fully grown and I don't think the musa basjoo fruit is edible but I'll be watching these plants with great interest for the rest of the summer.

Rotating Composter

Have you been searching for a rotating composter that looks like a lunar lander? Well if you are then I've found exactly what you're looking for.

How cool looking is this thing? I'm sure you've seen typical compost tumblers that look like a big cylinder on it's side. Stuff goes in the top and you spin it around. Sounds boring right? Well if you want to make your composting much more exciting then you should try out this STC Green Ecomposter. I think that aliens might come down to your garden and rotate this bin for you.

It's made from recycled plastic which is nice and it's a pretty big composter. The dimensions are 32"x32"x31". I guess it's not quite a perfect sphere but it looks like it.

It's on the expensive side, coming in at over $200 but that's still less than the Urban Compost Tumbler which in my opinion is one of the best tumblers on the market.

And if you're into modding your compost bin then may I suggest getting some black and white plastic spray paint and turning this thing into a big soccer ball. My son would get a kick out of that (oooh, that one was bad). Either that or the lunar lander that I mentioned earlier. Even when you're not composting, this rotating composter will be fun for the whole family.

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