19 November 2011

Compost Bio-Reactor How-to (from Cornell)

Read the full post here.

I found this one and thought it tied right in with my other articles on composting.

Building a Two-Can Bioreactor


Two-can bioreactors are designed to be used as small-scall indoor composting units for families, and for composting as an educational tool in the classroom.
  • 32-gallon plastic garbage can
  • 20-gallon plastic garbage can
  • drill
  • brick
  • spigot (optional)
  • duct tape (optional)
  • insulation (optional)
  1. Using a drill, make 15 to 20 holes (0.5" to 1" diameter) through the bottom of the 20-gallon can. Next drill three rows of holes through the sides of this can, six to eight inches apart with four to five inches between rows, ending about two inches below where the can expands at the top.
  2. Place a brick or some other object in the bottom of the 32-gallon can. This is to separate the leachate from the compost and allow for its measurement and addition back into the compost pile. The leachate, often referred to as "compost tea," is rich in nutrients which may be in a form readily usable by plants. If not used right away on growing plants, pour the leachate back into the compost. Excessive leachate can be responsible for foul smells. If your sytem produces enough leachage to cause odor problems, your initialscompost mixture was probably too wet.
  3. Variations on the design:
    • Add insulation to the barrels (inner and outer) with duct tape.
    • Include a spigot to draw off the leachate.
    • Add a layer of old compost, wood chips, or soil inside the outer barrel. This will allow the leachate to be absorbed and may cause fewer leachate/odor issues.
Note: A system of 10-gallon plastic garbage cans that can fit inside 20-gallon cans can be substituted if space is a problem. The smaller system may operate at lower temperatures. This should not affect the final product; it will just take longer before the product can be used.
The composting process in the cans will take from three to five weeks. After this period, you can transfer the compost to other containers or an outdoor pile for several weeks of curing while starting up a new batch of compost in the 2-can system.


The Cornell Composting Website was developed by Tom Richard, Nancy Trautmann, Marianne Krasny, Sue Fredenburg and Chris Stuart.

15 November 2011

Establish Your Winter Annual Flowers

Now that your flowers are in the ground, you need to ensure they grow and root in for the winter.

If you haven't planted your flowers yet, find this flower planting task list. 
Anyhow, here is your next task list:

  • Water your flowers every other day or so for the first few weeks.
  • Thereafter, water deeply a couple of times per week.
  • When they were first installed, we put down some fertilizer, if you didn't, do it.
  • Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks, beginning two weeks out.  Any liquid dissolvable fertilizer labeled for 'Flowers' will do.  Follow label instructions.
  • Ensure flowers stay mulched until the fill in the gaps.  Thereafter mulch will be unnecessary, and also impossible to put down.
  • Weed by hand once a week.  Eventually, once flowers have filled in well, this will not be such a big chore.  Something you can do while fetching the mail.
  • I just throw the dead weeds on the driveway to shrivel and die.
  • Dead head faded and dead blooms.
That pretty much sums up the maintenance side.


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10 November 2011

Winter Flowers: Down and dirty how-to

So you're behind the power curve getting your winter seasonal flowers planted. You're not alone. Here is a down and dirty how-to punch list:

Get these:
  1. Flats of winter flowers. Check for nice root balls at the nursery
  2. Bags of mulch chips. Color and style purely a matter of taste
  3. Plenty of compost. Buy the cheap 'humus' 40 lbs. bags, or make your own
  4. Generic 10-10-10 fertilizer
Do this:
  • (Existing beds) Take out any previous flowers
  • (New beds) Spade the existing soil (dig shovel the full blade depth into the soil, and turn over the entire contents.)
  • Spread a thick layer of compost on top
  • Spade the compost into the previously spaded soil.
  • You can either chop up the soil with the side of the shovel blade, or
  • ... till with a small garden tiller.
  • Work soil until you can plant flower pots by hand
  • Sprinkle a few handfuls of the 10-10-10 fertilizer on top
  • Set out your garden flowers
  • Using your fingers or a garden trowel, plant the flowers
  • Be sure to remove from pots (you'd be surprised)
  • Cover the root balls, and gently compress around root ball into soil
  • Spread a layer of chip mulch (color and type purely a matter of taste)
  • Water in well.
Check here for steps to Grow and Establish your flowers

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