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How to harvest your compost from your portable compost bin

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When it comes to making compost I am pretty lazy approach to this process, no turning, no tumblers, just stack up material in the compost bin and let natural decomposition process and worms do their job.

Given I use a portable SoilSaver Classic Composter with just a bit muscle I can lift this off my pile of compost.  As you can see with the composter removed you can view the various layers of composted and completely raw materials with various levels in between. 

I then take the empty composter and move to a new location where not much is growing.  What is great about having the ability to move your composter location is it will rejuvenate the soil under it so once you compost there for a year or so and move it it would be difficult for something to not grow there.

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Taking a shovel keep removing the material that still needs some time in the composter and place back into compost bin in its new location. 

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Keep taking a layer off at a time until you reach this stuff, nice finished compost. You may still have some uncomposted material mixed in there so I like to run this through my homemade soil sieve to filter out the larger material.  When I am running the material through I am not too careful to get every bit of finished compost out to leave some in the compost bin as a starter for the next batch.

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Add aeration to compost bin with irrigation pipes

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Here is a quick and easy way to add additional aeration and also provide a convenient way to deeply water your compost during dry months.

Simply cut to length of corrugated irrigation pipe with a utility knife and run them through your compost bin.

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Fill with uncomposted material being careful to not add material in the exposed tube(s).  This should allow better airflow to your compost bin without the extra effort of turning your material as often.

Planting seeds in January

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Though it is still pretty cold inside right now is the time for me to begin start planting seeds for this spring.  These include bok choy which are very cold tolerant, onions which do pretty good in the cold but could use a head start on these to get some good sized bulbs by the end of the season.  I also started some daisies which I will let mature plenty before bring them out.  Finally I planted some spinach to try to grow some greens for consumption in my grow box given how much empty space I have in here right now :)

For my seed starting mix I start with some coconut coir, though you can find this in the gardening section I typically grab a three pack at the pet store at nearly half the price.  Though looks like you can get it at a pretty good price on Amazon these days with free shipping.

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All you have to do is add 1 gallon of water and let sit for a about 10 minutes then still a bit with a trowel.

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Though this works great by itself as a seed starting medium I typically add a couple cups of vermiculite (to lighten up and moisture control) and a handful organic fertilizer to add some trace minerals to give the seedlings a head start when they emerge.

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Finally will fill the Name Your Linkplant trays with your seedling mix and add you seeds, not watering should be required since the soil should already be pretty moist.

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Complete by add some popsicle sticks with some handwritten labels or use a discarded yogurt container from your recycling container to make your own plant labels by simply cutting them into strips like shown below.

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Merry Christmas from The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

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Hope you have a happy holiday and for those looking to get started with your garden don’t fret there are seeds you can start indoors soon.  If you wondering what you can start planting in Dec/Jan in your area check out our seed starting calculator.

Tomatoes in space

Tomato in space

There appears to be a tomato flying 4.791 miles per second, 230 miles above our heads which is probably a first.  If you are wondering how it go there…

Astronaut Koichi Wakata has the answer: "One fresh tomato for dinner makes us happy in space. It came up with us on Soyuz TMA-11M two weeks ago." I wish I could have tomato salads in space too.

Given it costs $20,000 – $30,000 to send stuff up to the International Space Station sure this would be the most expensive tomato as well.

Via Gizmodo

How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for a Harsh Winter

According to Game of Thrones fans everywhere, winter is coming. And while this may mean snowmen, Christmas decorations and mulled wine for some, for the keen gardener it can mean fingernails bitten to the quick and sleepless nights worrying about cabbages.

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Image credit: vegetable garden

Well, maybe we wouldn’t go quite that far – but after all the effort you’ve put into your vegetables, you won’t want your hard work to go to waste for next year. Fear not – we’ve got a guide on how to make sure that your vegetable garden is both ready for next year and useful throughout winter. Here’s how…

Harvest

First things first, take in all of the vegetables that are ready to be harvested and make the most of them. Make sure that you cure and store your produce properly, and you might just end up with a stash that will last all winter long!

Clear out

After you’ve collected all of your delicious vegetables but before you get started on the chutney, it’s time to clear up your yard. If you’re tempted to put this job off, think of it as a treat for your future self when you’re planting more vegetables in the spring. You’ll be glad you put the groundwork in when May rolls around! While you’re there, prepare perennial vegetables for survival by removing old foliage and stems.

Make your garden useful throughout winter

Though it may seem like all plants are dead in winter, there are a few vegetables that will actually be ready for harvesting when it’s very cold outside, so with a little preparation and clever planting you can make your garden produce food until late in the season.

  • Carrots are actually sweeter when harvested after the frost. Plant them around late August or early September and cover them with straw for a little insulation.
  • Plant kale and collards in mid-August and harvest young leaves from October onwards.
  • It’s best to plant Spinach around four to six weeks before the first frost of winter – again, cover with straw, then harvest in late winter or early spring.
  • November is the ideal time to plant overwintering onions.
  • Don’t have space in the pantry for all of your produce? Don’t worry – your garden can act as a fridge. Bury cabbages, with their roots still attached and a marker in the soil above so you don’t lose them, and dig them up when you fancy bubble and squeak. Potatoes and carrots will also keep when buried in the garden, but add some straw over the top to protect them.
  • Give your vegetables lots of compost and a layer of mulch, for nutrients and protection. And, while the soil is a great protector for vegetables – especially root vegetables – it won’t hurt to give them a little water before a big freeze, when it may be difficult for your plants to reach water. However, be wary of over-watering, which can lead to cold, soggy roots and very unhappy plants.

Plant a cover crop

You may not be using your whole garden to grow overwintering vegetables, so to keep your soil ship shape and ready for spring it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or rye. These plants will suppress weed growth, feed bees and keep soil in place, then they’ll act as a ‘green manure’ for your garden by breaking down and providing your soil with lots of lovely nutrients.

About The Author

This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky is a keen gardener and loves spending time outdoors, he works at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various pond and garden supplies. Ricky also likes to travel and loves hiking and climbing.

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