Sunday, November 11, 2012

Feeding your garden

A lot of people add kitchen scraps to a compost pile for enriching their garden dirt.  I've always heard that it should primarily be scraps from fruits, vegetables, and grains.  That's what I've done for years, saving those things for composting and feeding the meat and dairy scraps to our dog.  Just like humans who thrive on the occasional treat or junk food, our dog thrived on the occasional variation from her diet of dog food.
The point of this isn't our dog, it's that I neglected to think about other things I could be composting or scattering on the garden.  Egg shells are one.  We dried and crunched them and mixed them with our homemade layer feed for the chickens, to give them extra calcium for good, strong egg shells.  Then I read in a gardening book that egg shells add calcium to the soil, which is good for growing potatoes in particular, but also good for other vegetables.
A lot of people probably already know that, but I didn't until a couple years ago.  We still feed some of the egg shells back to the chickens, but a big portion of them are crumbled and scattered on the garden now.  Sometimes if we're in a hurry we just dump them in with the compost pile, but if the garden isn't too muddy and I have the time, I scatter them.
Another thing that adds minerals to the dirt is tea or coffee grounds.  We dump the coffee grounds in a can until it's full, then either add it to the compost or scatter it around the garden.  I set tea bags on the window ledge behind the kitchen sink to dry, then tear them open and dump the tea grounds into an old hot chocolate can.  When it's full, I do the same thing; I add it to the compost pile or scatter it on the garden soil.

Here are a bunch of tea bags that I'm tearing open.  The empty ones are at the upper right, and the grounds are in the can.  This was back in the summer when we were making pitchers full of iced tea and used a lot of tea bags in a short time.
Coffee and tea are acidic, so be careul not to add it too thickly to one area.  The exception is acid-loving plants like blueberries, and to a lesser extent, strawberries and plum trees.  I spread coffee grounds heavily around my blueberry bushes a couple times a year, and lightly the rest of the summer.  I haven't bought commercial "blueberry food" for a few years since the coffee grounds seem to have kept the soil in balance for my bushes.  Our plum trees and strawberry plants are thriving as well.
So there's three things from your kitchen that are often thrown away that you can use to feed your soil!
From the mailbox:
November 28, 2012
    "I came across your blog this morning, much to my pleasure! I read with great interest the post on Feeding Your Garden and it brought to mind a few seemingly unconventional things I compost that I thought might be useful.

First off, I'd say you don't need to take the time to tear open all those tea bags. We don't drink much tea but when we do, we just toss the whole bag (leaves, bags, string, tag, and even the little package, if its paper) into our kitchen compost bin with all the rest of the "green" waste. I've been successfully putting my coffee grounds AND filters in my compost pile for a couple of years now. The filters seem to decompose just as fast as the rest of the typical kitchen "green" waste. I have never seen any of them in the pile without seeing the other stuff too.

As you know, egg shells are great in the pile, too. I try to crush them up but probably half of them are just cracked in half. Crushed or not doesn't seem to slow decomposition.

I also put shredded junk mail in the pile too. Nothing too shiny or heavily printed, but letters, envelopes and stuff like that. I add it when I'm turning the pile and mix it in until it "looks" like any more would be too much, if you know what I mean. :)

Peanut shells have also been no problem, but those I did see when I sifted the compost to add it to the garden this spring. I figured it just added more "fiber" to help keep the soil from clumping. By the time I harvested, the shells seemed to be gone.

We're physically doing our best in our own little "more-urban-than-suburban-but-definitely-far-from-rural" homestead. I daily long for the day when we move to our own self-sustaining, off-the-grid homestead. Being dependent on government service like water concerns me greatly. Plus all the crazy covenants, rules, laws, and other restrictions on anything that might facilitate a little independence like no chickens and restrictions on allowable garden size, plants, and location, etc is a difficult and frustrating way to live. The neighbor can have several wild pit bulls that can rip my head off but I can't have a couple of hens for "city" fresh eggs or a tomato plant in my front yard? :O

Anyway, I admire your courage and commitment to your lifestyle and appreciate sharing your experiences and knowledge.

Thanks, Randy, for your email and your ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Sea food shells, like shrimp are great for compost also