Starting A Compost Pile from Scratch

Make a simple compost bin with wire fencing, or build a wooden bin with removable front doors for easy turning of the pile. A properly constructed compost pile will get hot — about 160F — hot enough to kill weed seeds and most disease organisms in addition to pasteurizing the soil.

Start your composting with garden refuse, vegetable scraps from the table, and dead leaves/grass clippings. Chop as finely as possible, keep slightly moist, and turn the pile every few days to help the process. Do not add meat scraps or fat to the mix, or you’ll attract rodents you don’t want around the garden. After each turning, add a layer of compost/soil to add the necessary micro-organisms that are essential for composting.

Garden Mulch

Garden mulch is one of nature’s best kept secrets. Have you ever walked into the woods and seen very little undergrowth? It’s not just the canopy of trees overhead causing this, it’s the dead/dried fallen leaves that have choked out the vegetation floor.

Mulching material can enhance your garden, reduce undergrowth, and hold moisture for plantings. Mulch can include straw, back/wood chips, lawn clippings, or crushed gravel/sand.

Lay at least 5cm (2”) of mulch material where possible to stop weed seeds from germinating and hold valuable moisture when the summer months are hot/dry. A 10-15cm (4-6″) layer of mulch will give added protection all season long.

Dividing Perennials

The crown of the plant is where roots/shoots meet and it is at this point where you divide the root mass for propagation. Divide multi-stemmed plants by slicing a knife through the roots, or gently pull the stems apart.

Thicker root masses may require a shovel or hatchet to break them apart. Plants that form runners can be divided by cutting off a runner and transplanting it into a small pot. Plants that produce offshoots can be propagated by removing an offshoot and replanting it.

Floating Row Covers

Get a jump-start on the season by getting your plants out to the garden early! A floating row cover, or homemade cold frame, can protect your seedlings from early frost and encourage an early harvest.

Another great idea is to use plastic bottles that might otherwise go to the recycling bin. Cut the bottom off these jugs (milk/juice containers, pop bottles) and cover individual seedlings to keep them warmer on sunny days and protect them from late spring frosts.