Selasa, 22 Mei 2012

How To Make a Compost Bin: Homemade Compost Bins

You probably already know that composting is the process of breaking down waste into a nutrient-rich topsoil. Rich soil can cure a host of maladies in your garden. If you have a problem with pests attacking your plants, compost can make the plants healthier so that they can fight off infestations more easily. If your soil structure is very sandy, composting can give it structure. It can also improve clay soil by breaking it down into smaller particles. Adding composted mulch can replace the nutrients that have been stripped from your soil by years of gardening. So, with all of these benefits, you can't wait to start composting, right?

Here's what you'll need to know when making a compost pile:

You will need to decide what kind of compost bin you would like. There are four basic types of bins--portable, stationary, multi-bin and rotating. Here's how to make all of them.

A portable compost bin can be moved, when empty. This allows you to keep it in an inconspicuous place. The disadvantage of this type of bin is that it's usually fairly small, which means it doesn't break down waste as quickly as a larger bin would. It can also be harder to aerate your compost pile, which is vital to maintaining high temperatures.
To build a portable compost bin:

    Purchase a 12' length of galvanized chicken wire, several wire ties and four metal stakes.
    Fold back each end of the chicken wire several inches so there's no rough edge. Wrap it into a circle and stand it on the ground.
    Tie the chicken wire together with the wire ties. If you would like your bin to be more stable, space the metal stakes around the inside of the circle, secure them to the wire and pound them into the ground.
    When you need to aerate your compost, unwrap the wire from the stakes, turn the pile, then replace the wire. Alternatively, you could make two separate bins and turn the pile from one into the other.

A stationary bin is designed to stay in one spot. The main advantage to this type of system is that it can be larger, so compost breaks down much more quickly, sometimes in as little as one year.

    A stationary compost bin can be made for almost nothing by using wood pallets. These are used mostly by manufacturing facilities and are usually discarded after they've been used. Many facilities will give them away if you ask. For this bin, you will need five or six wood pallets and a package of galvanized nails.
    Stand four of the pallets on their sides in a square. The square should be about three feet by three feet. Nail the pallets together. Nail another pallet to the top (flat side in). This will form the base of your compost bin. Flip the bin over. If you're really handy, you can attach two hinges to one side of the remaining pallet. Attach the other side of the hinges to one side of your compost bin. Now, you have a lid to keep out pests.
    To turn your compost, use a pitchfork and scoop from the bottom to the top and inside to outside.

If you have a lot of waste to compost or you just don't like trying to turn the pile, you may want to build a multi-bin system.

    Start just as before, with four pallets nailed together into a square, then attach a pallet to the bottom. Next, nail three more pallets to one side of the original square, then use another pallet for the base of this bin. You can continue to expand upon this theme, creating a multi-bin system as large as you wish.
    You could also create a multi-bin system with a removable door. Nail together three of the pallets, then screw a latch into two opposite sides of the remaining pallet and the front edge of your bin. If you use a base with this type of bin, be sure to nail it to the pallets only on the back and two sides, not the front.

A rotating bin eliminates the problem of turning the pile. This type of compost bin is basically a drum mounted on a stand with a crank on the side. Just toss in your scraps and lawn waste, then turn the crank once a month and you're set. This kind of bin is quite complex to make. Most people choose to purchase one, instead.

Now, you know how to build a compost bin and you're ready to start making compost. Remember to add equal parts of dried waste, such as leaves and lawn trimmings, and fresh waste, such as kitchen scraps. Sprinkle the pile with water every few layers to keep it moist. If your compost pile is well-balanced, it should be quite hot. In fact, you may see steam rising from it. It should not have an unpleasant odor. To avoid attracting unwanted animals, do not put meat scraps in your pile. When your compost is ready to use, it will be very dark brown and crumbly, much like potting soil. Add it to your garden or pots when putting in new plants and watch them grow!

Senin, 14 Mei 2012

How To Grow and Care for Banana Trees

Banana trees aren't actually trees at all--they are very large perennial herbs. While you'd normally associate banana trees with warm, tropical climates, these plants can also be grown in other zones with success, as long as you prepare them for the cold weather.  No matter where you live though, there are a few things you'll need to know in order to keep your banana trees thriving.

    Banana plants prefer a light, well-draining soil. You can aid in the drainage quality of your planting beds by adding raised areas above heavier soil to allow the thin roots of the banana tree to spread.
    Choose the warmest location on your property for banana plants. They really need full sun; twelve hours a day is optimal. If you live in a temperate climate, your banana plants will also need protection from wind and cold. Banana trees do not like winter!
    If you plan to keep growing banana plants throughout the year and live in a zone with seasonal cold weather, choose cold tolerant varieties of banana trees such as Musa Basjoo, Saja, and Ice Cream.
    Some banana plants are strictly ornamental, while others bear fruit. Read tag descriptions carefully so you'll know what to expect. Almost all banana plants have the potential to grow very tall, except for dwarf varieties. Be prepared for this - young plants won't stay so small. If you want a short banana tree plant, you need to invest in a dwarf banana tree, like Musa Dwarf.

Keep the area surrounding the banana plants free of weeds and other plants. Adding a layer of mulch will help to prevent weeds from returning to the garden.
Water your banana trees whenever the soil feels dry. Avoid standing water, however. Mix some fertilizer with the water each time you water the area, and check the soil frequently to see how dry or moist it is.
You won't need to prune your banana plants unless you want to scale them back for esthetic purposes, or if you wish to cultivate seedlings for new plants. Remove damaged or rotted leaves and fruit periodically.
After fruiting, cut the banana plant down to the ground. The mother plant will no longer be able to produce fruit, so by cutting it down, you're essentially allowing the roots to regenerate and produce a new plant.
In cold weather, you can store cold-tolerant varieties of banana plants for the winter. Cut the plants down to the ground and cover the area with a thick layer of mulch. Top off the mulch with a layer of strong plastic to provide insulation to keep the roots and soil around them as warm as possible.
Alternatively, you can bring the entire plant or just the root system indoors for the winter. If the plants are on the smaller side, you can simply dig them up and replant them in containers. Keep them indoors near a sunny window without drafts, and tend to them as you would a houseplant.
For larger banana trees, strip back all of the leaves before digging up the roots. Gently brush off any excess soil from the root system and replant the trunk in a large container filled with slightly dampened sand. Bring the plant indoors and store in a warm area of your home. Don't water or fertilize at all; instead, allow the plant to go dormant for the winter, and replant in your garden when the weather is warmer.

Selasa, 08 Mei 2012

How To Grow Plants in the Classroom

Growing plants in the classroom is an excellent way to get students excited about science!

    Start with seeds in the classroom. For very young children, it is exciting just to see the seeds germinate. You can do this by wrapping seeds or beans in wet paper towels and placing them in a clear plastic bag. The seeds should begin germinating in a few days, which can give the students an idea of what is happening underground when plants begin to grow.
    Continue with seedlings in the classroom. At the same time as the seeds are beginning to germinate, plant the same type of seeds in dirt. Students can draw conclusions about what exactly is happening under the soil and even draw diagrams. They can also predict how long it will be before a sprout appears and is visible above the soil.
    Grow native plants in your classroom. A quick Internet search or trip to a plant nursery should let you know which plants are native to your area. This can tie the plant-growing in the classroom in with natural history and other social studies lessons. Also, after growing the plants in your classroom, you can take the students on field trips to see where the plants grow naturally.

    Try growing plants hydroponically. Can plants be grown without soil? There is actually a long history of hydroponics, or growing plants without soil -- dating back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. You can integrate history into your science lessons as you are growing plants in the classroom, hydroponically! Have your students research how plants absorb nutrients when no soil is available.
    Explore the needs of plants. What do plants need to stay alive? Are there exceptions? This can be explored quite successfully by growing plants in the classroom and making observations along the way. Which variables are necessary and which help plants grow better?
    Grow a salad. Fun for every age group: grow all the ingredients for a salad! Lettuce, radishes, and carrots can all be grown fairly easily, and tomatoes can be grown for those who want more of a challenge. The best part about growing a salad is that at the end of the unit, your class can eat what you have grown!
    Try to start an outdoor garden at your school. While this is not technically growing plants in the classroom, it can benefit the entire school to have an outdoor garden. Students and classes can take turns being responsible for watering and weeding, and a larger variety of plants can be grown.

However you decide to grow plants in the classroom, it is sure to be an exciting science lesson. Students of all ages get fulfillment from growing things - and they can let their creativity run wild with their own gardens!

Rabu, 02 Mei 2012

How To Design a Garden Path

The first and biggest decision in designing a garden path is deciding what you want your path to do.  Paths can suggest that someone did walk lightly through your garden or they can be design statements all by themselves.  Will your garden path be built for many people who wish to travel from beginning to end, or for just one or two to leisurely stroll along? Some of these design questions can be answered by taking online design courses; you can get free enrollment information for the most popular online design schools here.

Let's find out what is best for your garden.
Step 1

Decide if your garden is formal or informal. The formal garden is usually symmetrical, with hedges, concrete or masonry features and probably a concrete, paver or brick path. The formal garden path will be straight and wide, ending in a formal patio. The path will most likely be wide enough for at least two people to walk abreast. The formal garden path is part of the architecture of the garden.
Step 2

Think informal. Most of us, if we have not hired a landscape architect or contractor, have an informal garden. The informal garden path will separate two garden rooms in the informal garden. Think of your path as a way to get you and your friends through your garden. The path forces visitors to walk where you want them to go.
Step 3

Carefully decide how you want people to walk through your garden. Chances are your garden path will not be a straight line through your garden. It will wind and bend. The path will make people go at the speed you want them to go and end up where you want them to.
Step 4

Use the proper materials. If you are designing a formal path, consider concrete, pavers or bricks. Often you can build your own path, but if it demands the skill of a mason, be sure to hire one.
Step 5

Use natural materials for an informal path. If you have an informal garden with several rooms, several beds, garden art and whimsy, use flat rocks, pea gravel or even mulch for your path. Use flat rocks and plant creeping plants or steppables between them. If you use plant material that can be walked on, you can smell the thyme or pennyroyal between the rocks as you walk.
Step 6

Make a path narrow if you want one or two people abreast and want them to walk slowly.  A wide path will make people hurry on through.
A garden path adds a focal point to your garden. It defines your garden and allows people a great way to tour your garden the way you want it toured. Have fun designing your path. If you don't like your natural path with rocks or pea gravel, it is easy to change it whenever you wish.  You can learn other excellent design ideas by taking some online classes in design.

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