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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Composting - Common Mistakes

It's actually difficult to go wrong with composting. However, these tips might help make composting, or breaking down of organic components, go more quickly and smoothly.

1.      Water the pile. Keep your compost pile moist, as damp as a squeezed sponge. You might have to water regularly if you keep an uncovered pile, especially in the summer. Even lidded containers can be opened to water; just use the spray of a hose now and then but be careful that you don't overwater. The final mixture should be crumbly.

2.      Remember to add brown ingredients. Sure, the green is easy; you've got lots of grass clippings and plant debris. And all those kitchen scraps, even eggshells. But what about the brown? Shred dry leaves, twigs or hay for the fastest decomposition, and consider adding sawdust or untreated wood chips. You can also add tissue paper, shredded newspaper and cartons to bolster the brown, in moderation.

3.      Now mix it thoroughly if your set-up makes it difficult to re-pile,  or otherwise swirl around the ingredients if you are making use of a tumbler bin or similar setup, settle for a longer composting cycle. The pile will break down, it just takes longer.

4.      Avoid any bones, fat, meat, oil or cooked food. Also, don't place animal manure in the pile. It attracts rodents and affects the quality of the compost.

5.      If you have a composting bin move it to a convenient place in the yard, so that you can easily carry the kitchen scraps there. If you don’t make it easier for yourself, you may never actually get into the composting habit.

Now that you’ve followed these tips, your composting should be a lot easier. Happy gardening.

You can also visit our homepage to find out more about our garden maintenance service company.

Wednesday, 08 December 2010

Fertilizer - What is it and Why do plants need it

A plant needs a number of different chemical elements in order for it to grow and thrive. The most important are:

  • Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen - Available from air and water and therefore in plentiful supply
  • Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (a.k.a. potash) - The three macronutrients and the three elements you find in most packaged fertilizers
  • Sulfur, calcium, and magnesium - Secondary nutrients
  • Boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc - Micronutrients

The most important of these (the ones that are needed in the largest quantity by a plant) are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are important because they are necessary for the basic building blocks (things like amino acids, cell membranes and ATP). For example:

  • Every amino acid contains nitrogen.
  • Every molecule making up every cell's membrane contains phosphorous (the membrane molecules are called phospholipids), and so does every molecule of ATP (the main energy source of all cells).
  • Potassium makes up 1 percent to 2 percent of the weight of any plant and, as an ion in cells, is essential to metabolism.

Without nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the plant simply cannot grow because it cannot make the pieces it needs.

If any of the macronutrients are missing or hard to obtain from the soil, this will limit the growth rate for the plant. In nature, the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium often come from the decay of plants that have died. In the case of nitrogen, the recycling of nitrogen from dead to living plants is often the only source of nitrogen in the soil.

To help make plants grow faster, you need to supply the elements that the plants need in readily available forms, and fertilizer is the easiest way to do that. Most fertilizers supply just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium because the other chemicals are needed in much lower quantities and are generally available in most soils. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium availability is the big limit to growth. The numbers on a bag of fertilizer tell you the percentages of available nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium found in the bag. So 12-8-10 fertilizer has 12-percent nitrogen, 8-percent phosphorous and 10-percent potassium. Thus in a 100 kilogram bag, 12 kg is nitrogen, 8 kg is phosphorous and 10 kg is potassium. The other 70 kg has no real value to the plants and is known as ballast.

I use fertilizers quite often while providing garden maintenance services to my clients. In my professional opinion it is a vital part of ensuring that my clients gardens always look great. For more info you can visit A and F Complex Management.

Tuesday, 07 December 2010

Composting Containers - From Pile to Bin

There are several different containers in which to make your own compost. The main ones are listed here in order of increasing complexity and generally speaking, increasing cost too.

  • Compost Pile. - The most basic method is an open heap or pile in a remote corner of the property. (Also much easier to make large quantities with this method)
  • Homemade Enclosure. - You can make your own out of stuff like chicken wire, wood, plywood, bricks, concrete blocks and so on. Make it no smaller than 1m by 1m by 1m. Make it no bigger than 5 times this volume.
  • Wire/Plastic Mesh Compost Pen. - Not really a bin at all, but more like a pen to enclose your open air heap. Cheap and easy to build. You turn the compost by hand.
  • Wooden Compost Pen. - Similar to the previous one, but normally made out of old pallets to form an open pen.
  • A Single Bin. - By far the most common setup.
  • Two Bins. - Two free-standing plastic bins with lids. Each one in turn is 'filled' and then left to compost. By the time the compost is ready to put on the garden, the other one is hopefully full.
  • Tumbler Bin. - Normally plastic, turned with a crank handle. Can be a bit heavy to operate, but makes the process of turning the compost a lot simpler
  • Worm Bins. - Only for household food scraps.
  • Rotating Orb Bin. - These are spherical or octagonal. You just roll them along the ground to turn the compost.
  • Indoor Compost Bins. - Some are computerized. Supposedly ideal for apartments. Also a way to recycle food waste instead of sending it to the landfill, even if you don't use the compost because you don't have a garden.

Having a lager garden myself, I make use of a compost pile, and always have compost spare to use in some of my clients gardens from my garden maintenance service.           

For more information visit A&F Complex Management.