by Diana Brooks, MG Class of 2013
I know that many of you Master Gardeners compost in various ways. Yard waste, for sure. Many of you probably already have worm bins. But for those of you who have not tried vermicomposting yet and might like to know more, this article is for you.
I won’t preach. You already know the benefits of composting food: keeps the methane-producing decomposing food out of the landfill; produces black-gold for your garden; saves you money; and you get to have a clear conscience when you find spoiled food in the fridge: it gets re-purposed as worm food.
Right now is a good time to experiment with your first worm bin! It’s super-easy. All you need is get started is 1) a container with a tight-fitting lid; 2) some worms; 3) some shredded newspaper or sawdust for bedding. Easy 10-step directions follow:
Composting is nature at its most efficient: organic waste decays, disintegrates, decomposes, providing food for beneficial microorganisms and insects, eventually releasing nutrients into the soil from whence it all came, allowing the process of growth to continue in a never-ending cycle of life. We gardeners can help the cycle along with careful management of the composting process – and one of the easiest ways is to compost food scraps from your kitchen.
In this primer, we’ll give you an overview of three common, no-brainer methods of kitchen scrap composting: the Worm Bin, the Digester, and The Hole in the Ground.
Now that we’ve got a little background on why green manures work, what do we do with them?
The Stewardship Gardening team at WSU Extension gives us the how-to.
How Do I Work With Green Manures?
Choose the best plants for the time of year and the situation. Growing a mixture of green manures, for example a grass and a legume, is a good idea. Sow or transplant green manures into a prepared garden soil. Green manures may be planted prior to harvest of many late season crops by undersowing. Lightly cultivate the soil under or between maturing crops and sow the green manure seeds. By the time the crop is out of the way a few weeks later, the green manure will be germinated and growing. Green manures may also be planted between rows of raspberry plants in the fall, providing irrigation is available.
In late summer and early fall — as harvest time celebrates the fruits of our labors — we begin looking ahead to next year, and planting green manures now can help improve your soil in preparation for next spring. In Part 1, the team at WSU Extension – Stewardship Gardening
gives us the rundown on green manures and how they work.
Successful gardening depends upon soil quality. Organic matter is a vital part of soil quality. Organic matter makes soil easier to work, improves water and nutrient retention for easy absorption by plants, improves soil aeration, and helps the soil warm up earlier in the spring. Since soil organisms constantly break down organic matter, gardeners need to build and regularly replenish their soil organic matter. Green manure crops are high in nutrients and are an important and inexpensive way to produce organic matter for the garden. Instead of buying and bringing home bags or truckloads of compost or manure, bring home some seeds to plant a green manure crop.
What Are Green Manures?