Herb and Garden Odds and Ends - Thursday

Yesterday was blustery, but I don't mind. Blustery days always remind me of fall -- regardless of when they occur. I like the way the wind worries the eves. It sounds as though the house is breathing.

It's interesting times all around: Our dog hates storms and acts as our early warning system. Long before the satellite signal deconstructs into pixelated op art, he tries his best to hide under the bed. His not inconsiderable backside makes this impossible, but he must remember having fit under there once and keeps trying. When he eventually gives up on the plan, he makes a return to puppyhood by finding a lap to cower on. Sixty pounds of dog may look adorable sitting on an area rug by the fire, but not so much when he's cutting off your circulation and his paws are massaging your kidneys -- from the front.

Still, after a bout of blustery weather, the air smells like a benediction, and the birds are singing and generally behaving as though it's a celestial holiday.

Dogs and birds aside, here are a few fun tidbits for the day:

Composting - For "green" enthusiasts, composting is one of the hallmarks of a responsible lifestyle. It's easy to feel kinda righteous hording potato peelings and onion skins only to sally forth into the backyard with them, for all the world like they're an offering to the garden gods.

Actually, composting has gotten a bad rap for many of us over the years because it requires planning and some understanding of what makes the process work. It isn't rocket science, though. There are only a few things you really need to know to make rich, righteous, guilt-free compost. I have included a link to a post I wrote about composting a while ago. It includes some excellent and entertaining reference sites to explore, including an easy to follow pair of videos and an extensive list of items that can be composted: How to Compost in Your Backyard .

A new composting solution - The folks at Midwest Permaculture have come up with a way to compost using lengths of perforated PVC pipe buried vertically in the soil. Here's how it works:  You place scraps inside the  PVC (inserted at intervals in the garden), and worms come along and use it to enrich the surrounding soil. It's like the corner deli for worms. Neat idea. You can find more information about it here: Midwest Permaculture - Worm Tower. (Look about three quarters of the way down the page.)

Fast garden food - If you're starting to accumulate scraps (like coffee grounds) for your vegetable garden, but don't quite know what they'll actually contribute to the soil, here's a quick list that will help. It's always nice to know what you're feeding your tomatoes, often on the enthusiastic advice of others:

  • Banana peel - potassium
  • Coffee grounds - nitrogen
  • Egg shells - calcium
  • Epsom salt - magnesium
  • Wood ash - contributes calcium and lime (to make soil more alkaline). Use only ash from hardwood, not pressure treated wood or those faux fireplace logs.

You'll find numerous sources that say it's okay to throw a little of this or that in the bottom of a hole you're digging for specific plants -- like vegetables -- while other sources caution that adding un-composted material is a recipe for disaster. I have to say that I've added eggshell, ground banana peel, used coffee grounds and Epsom salt to enrich my soil without incident, although I always place a thick layer of potting soil over these ingredients to protect newly introduced plant roots. I never overdo it, either. A little tinkering goes a long way.

Here's an idea: Try one or two amendments on a few of your plans in a side-by-side test. Remember the results when planning next year's garden. Think of it as a post-high-school science project with real world applications. How many of those are you likely to find that don't require rubber gloves and a home insurance rider.

Must see clip - Since I mentioned birds in my intro, I did want to share a breathtaking video I ran across at the CBS News website. It's a slow motion clip of an eagle in flight (across a studio, apparently). The details are really spectacular.  If you've ever wished you could fly, this clip will leave you longing for wings.  It's that good.  You can find it at: Watch a Golden Eagle soar in super slow-motion 

Enjoy the video (if you click) and have a great day.


  1. The Worm Tower is just about the coolest way for rapid composting I've ever seen! Easy and perfect for my 20 x 20 city garden. Thanks for posting this, I'm off to Home Depot for PVC piping.;

  2. Sixozpatty,

    The whole idea is really neat. Come back and tell us how it goes -- and take lots of pictures.

    Good luck. I wish you lots and lots of industrious worms.



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