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PNW: Winter 2014

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PNW: Winter 2014

Post  gwennifer on 11/3/2013, 4:44 pm

Hi everyone.  Hope all my PNW'ers enjoyed as lovely as an October as we had at our place.  So many delightfully sunny days.

Things slow down so much on our forum for the winter.  Not as much growing so not as much to talk about.  I don't mind people just popping in to say hi, even if there's no new gardening news to share.  Keeps it from getting too lonely in here.

BTW, from last month's thread I noticed this from Marc:

@Marc Iverson wrote:Today, I straightened out my hoop houses and gathered up two huge bags of leaves and blended them into my very carbon-poor compost pile.  I don't have a shredder, so they'll have to take a little longer to decompose.  I suppose that's okay, as I don't intend to use the compost until next spring.
Do you have a lawn mower Marc?  That's how I shred leaves - by running over them with the mower.  Or if you have a weed whacker and an empty trash can, you can put the leaves in the trash can and lower your weed whacker in there and go to town on them.  Otherwise just be sure to aerate your pile and keep it turned every so often, and those leaves should break down by spring just fine.


Last edited by gwennifer on 1/4/2014, 2:19 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/3/2013, 4:55 pm

No lawn mower because no lawn! Using the weed wacker in a garbage can is a nifty idea. That won't rip up the garbage can?

I'm definitely turning the pile a bit every few days, if only to mix in new stuff. There's always new horse poop to be gotten from a short trip to the neighbor's, and leaves are in such abundance that they're not too hard to get either. I have to be more fanatical about getting them, though, as the horse poop shrinks down to such a tiny fraction of its size without any carbon to lock in its goodies. That's a ton of work to get just a little compost.

The "Compost Sak" I got doesn't seem to be doing much so far. My pile rarely steams when I dig into it,, but I'm hoping the extra air that gets into the sack (breathable sides just like Smart Pots and made by the same company) will make the stuff in there compost a little faster.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/3/2013, 5:59 pm

Just went out and loaded two big bags of leaves and a full tub of horse poop onto the pile. On mixing it in, I saw steam rising in several places. Oh joy! Very Happy

Saw a bag of compost starter half-price a couple months ago, and mixed in a little of that too just now for the first time, to see if it could speed things up a bit. It doesn't do me any good sitting in the bag.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  CapeCoddess on 11/3/2013, 6:24 pm

Yea on your steam spotting! What is compost starter made of, Marc?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  donnainzone5 on 11/3/2013, 6:27 pm

Could a weed-whacker handle other compostibles, such as banana peels, cornstalks, artichoke trimmings and stems, etc.?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  camprn on 11/3/2013, 7:44 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:Yea on your steam spotting!  What is compost starter made of, Marc?

CC
I use dried blood and a bit of the previous compost pile for the starter.
In the past I tried a few of the commercial starters and I would have done just as well to light my money on fire. The stuff performed poorly.Evil or Very Mad

Sounds like your pile is doing just as it should! Very Happy 

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/3/2013, 8:38 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:Yea on your steam spotting! What is compost starter made of, Marc?

CC
It's too cold to go out and check tonight. I'll tell you tomorrow, to the extent the ingredients reveal. I remember at least some of it being unexceptional, like chicken manure.

I know before I got my pile to steam a bit by peeing on it. I just tried it again a couple days ago. But today there was steam in more places than I got to.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  sanderson on 11/3/2013, 9:36 pm

Marc,  For a manure, horse manure has quite a bit of undigested hay.  The shrinkage is probably due to water evaporation??

I also bought a compost bag just to try.  Right now I'm using it to store the falling leaves and any green leaves I strip from pruning branches.  It's a 60 gallon so I don't think it has the volume for hot compost.  But, now thinking about it, maybe I could use it after the compost cage material heats up and shrinks.  Hmmmm  thinking   I've got to find a way to turn compost under my dwarf naval orange tree, ducking and bending over.  See, you have opened up another possibility for me.  thinking

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/3/2013, 11:22 pm

@sanderson wrote:Marc,  For a manure, horse manure has quite a bit of undigested hay.  The shrinkage is probably due to water evaporation??
I'm sure it does. It's not wet, but definitely moist. But it's definitely composting a bit, too, over the last few months that it's been there. In a real patchy way, though. It's natural for cold composting to lose lots of mass and nitrogen, from what I understand. Especially if there's not enough carbon there to soak it up, and I can't get carbon anywhere near as fast as I can get the more nitrogen-rich horse poop, which I can easily get 50 pounds a day of, if not more. If I wanted to, I could probably get twice that much again from another neighbor who has twice as many horses. But even my most optimistic megalomaniacal plans don't have room for 150 pounds of horse poop a day.

I also bought a compost bag just to try.  Right now I'm using it to store the falling leaves and any green leaves I strip from pruning branches.  It's a 60 gallon so I don't think it has the volume for hot compost.  
Mine is I think 100 gallons or maybe 120? 38x30 inches. How about if you leaned it against the rest of your compost? That would add to the thermal mass of both bag and pile, raising the heat of both. I got two bags, figuring I would use them to brace the compost I'm building on a hill behind our place (yes, a hill; everything is difficult here!). Between the two bags and the poop tower I'm building against them on the hill, I figure I should have enough mass. I don't think the breathable walls of the bag will stop the composting. I think I'll stick a PVC pipe or two, with holes drilled in them, in my piles/bags too.

But, now thinking about it, maybe I could use it after the compost cage material heats up and shrinks.  Hmmmm  thinking   I've got to find a way to turn compost under my dwarf naval orange tree, ducking and bending over.  See, you have opened up another possibility for me.  thinking
Is there any way you can roll or flip your bag?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  gwennifer on 11/4/2013, 12:02 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Using the weed wacker in a garbage can is a nifty idea.  That won't rip up the garbage can?
donnainzone10 wrote:Could a weed-whacker handle other compostibles, such as banana peels, cornstalks, artichoke trimmings and stems, etc.?
Well Marc, I don't really know. I imagine you're safe with a metal trash can, but plastic may eventually be gouged through. Sooner vs. later is the question - anyone out there with experience or want to be the guinea pig and report back?

Donna, I'm pretty sure weed whackers are only meant for chopping down overgrown grasses/weeds that are too tall to mow or for where the mower can't reach. If you have a corn patch, you could try cutting it down with your weed whacker once you've harvested. If it works, you'll know you could then do the garbage can method with the stalks. I don't think I'd try banana peels. Anyone else have any feedback on the softness of artichoke stems and such?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  sanderson on 11/4/2013, 12:56 pm

Marc, I send you a PM reply last night. Don't know if the others wanted to hear about my compost problems.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/5/2013, 4:05 am

Got your PM and replied, thanks. Wish I had a Bobcat!

Gwennifer, re chopping with weed wacker, it occurs to me that a person could use not just the strings, but also the stiff blades that most of them can be fitted out with. Just cuz you were being asked what all they could chop. The blades go through thicker stuff.

CapeCoddess, out all day, will check ingredients tomorrow.

Today I straightened out my row covers. They were a mess. Also shoveled a few inches out of two of my beds on top of my friend's beds. We both garden at the house of a benevolent neighbor, using his beds. The friend is going to make another raised bed or two with my scrapings.


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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  gwennifer on 11/6/2013, 11:13 am

I cleaned out all my garden beds of their summer crops a month ago and since then a squirrel or two has discovered them. They've made an absolute mess of them - Mel's Mix everywhere. I'm going to have to buy some wire mesh or row cover to keep them out. Wonder how many peanut and walnut trees will srpout in the spring?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/8/2013, 8:14 pm

A container lettuce I have under covers is growing even though we're getting down into the mid-30's lately. Not like gangbusters, but hey, it's growing! And unlike my lettuce this fall/summer, it's not bitter. Woohoo! At least there's a leaf or two to show for all this winter-gardening excitement.

Peas are still hanging in there. Some leaves got mushy where they touch the row cover. Too much liquid held to them, I guess. Got a flower, surprisingly, but no pods in a long time. Spinach are hanging in there but still pretty much frozen in time. Some tiny flies are still hanging in there under the row cover too. Not sure what they're eating, but I applied Neem a few days back. Will probably apply Neem and BT here and there at different times during the winter.

The leaves I added to the compost really helped the pile -- it's steaming plenty now! Gotta get more tomorrow.

Tonight I go to a presentation given by the local Master Gardeners called "Edible Perennials." Earlier this week I went to orientation, and got the written course material. A big binder full of lawn, tree, and garden topics. Should be fun to fantasize about spring and summer here as winter truly sets in. No snow yet, but it's been "any day now" for weeks.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  FamilyGardening on 11/10/2013, 3:39 am

HI friends Smile wanted to check in and say hello!

Not to much growing on in the gardens.....still eating some leeks, green onions and cabbages......we were hoping to have a harvest of cauli's and brocs but we left the cover off and some hungry critter decided to eat the tops off!   they were smaller heads but still worth a harvest....hubby said he couldn't believe how they just chopped of the top....clean too....no damage to the foliage.....haven't been to the back garden area...very sad ...too sad to clean out that bed!

been harvesting a few carrots from the plantings we did in the pots....they are smaller and yet so yummy!.....kale is HUGE!....almost as tall as I am....hee hee

we (hubby) was able to plant 100 cloves of garlic at the end of last month....now lets hope our neighborhood squirrels dont go and plant them in our neighbors yard...LOL

been busy taking up sewing Very Happy its not as fun as gardening and its more frustrating, but with what started as just sewing a baby blanket for each of our 2 new granddaughters....(one just turned 4 months and the other is due any day now)....its nice to have something to do while I wait for seed starting in a couple of months....

if anyone has suggestions study on how to put up an electric fence around a couple of our larger beds.....to keep out rats.....please let us know Smile that's what hubby wants to do next summer for our corn!

hugs
rose....who is up reading study her dream catalog.....ooops....I mean her 2014 seed catalog and dreaming of spring Razz

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  FamilyGardening on 11/10/2013, 3:50 am

Marc .....very cool to hear your lettuce is growing and tasting sweet!...nothing is worse then have great looking lettuce and then to bite into bitter...what kind are you growing this winter?

let us know how your meeting goes tonight with the local Master Gardeners called "Edible Perennials"....would love to here about it as we want to plant more edibles perennials our selves Smile we just found seeds for sorrel that our son loves ...it too is a perennial....he is sooo excited to sow some next year and he said no wonder the plant keeps coming up by its self at school in the school garden Razz he is becoming a very smart gardener!!

happy gardening
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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/10/2013, 7:38 pm

Thanks Rose!

The lettuce I have planted individually is Winter Bloomsdale, and also the ones really growing are from the Mezsclun mix I scattered in a pot.

The lambs quarters/corn salad/mache I sprouted indoors then planted outside is doing nothing at all. I wonder if the seeds all rotted, but they're so tiny there's little point digging for them. I don't know if I would even recognize them.

The Edible Perennials class was cool. They went over herbs, trees, and veggies. The presentation was by a married couple who traded off on topics while showing us a powerpoint and distributing a few hand-outs. The fellow said they have the most expensive blueberries in the area, and to look at the pictures of his set-up, it's no wonder. But boy is it nice! Heavily sawdusted ground in tall enclosed frames, big enough to walk around in, that are chicken-wired top and sides to keep the birds out.

Their asparagus bed was also on its fifth year. They advised not to harvest any spears the first year, to harvest very modestly the second, and only on the third to start harvesting freely. Still, they said, leave some spears to grow into ferns to help nourish the roots. They love their asparagus, recommend getting all males though the commercial standards is female, and say asparagus is great to plant because their beds will produce and produce and eventually outlive them.

All in all a fun presentation, and at five bucks, well worth it.

Got more horse poop today. At maybe 50 pounds or more a day for months, it occurs to me I must have brought in something like two tons of horse poop into the backyard pile. Wow! I gave the neighbor's horses a few apples from the trees today ... but I may have had ulterior motives!

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/15/2013, 7:39 pm

I'm taking my row cover off for a couple days. Hope it doesn't wind up being a mistake. The cover sits right on my peas, and is starting to rot too many leaves.

It has brought a snail-ravaged brussels sprout plant back to life. Only a half inch of stem was left, and I had just crossed my fingers, but figured it must be dead. Tiny little leaf is sprouting today from the stem's side.

Mixed in some rain-soaked cardboard and just a bit more leaves to my compost pile, which is happily steaming away. (Also another huge tub of horse poop.) Man, cardboard takes forever to tear into small pieces. But, I've gotta keep up with the browns if the pile isn't to get overwhelmingly green-heavy. I can already tell how useful the leaves I've been putting in are. The pile is steaming much more, but also isn't sinking so rapidly. More nutrients and mass are being retained. I'm getting much more actual compost for my effort.

Been thinking of adding some of the charred wood from our fireplace, if I can get small enough chunks.

Also, the mache is finally starting to come up! Tiny leaves, but they're all over. I probably overplanted significantly, because I thought the first ones didn't make it and replanted. Guess I'll just eat the thinnings. But that's not a bad thing.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  donnainzone5 on 11/15/2013, 7:50 pm

Marc,

A small amount of wood ashes is beneficial in your compost pile/bin. As for the cardboard, try soaking it in water first, then tearing it in small pieces before adding it. Much easier!

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/15/2013, 10:00 pm

Donna, I can get lots of ashes, but am thinking of charcoal rather than ashes. There have been really interesting posts and threads around here about charcoal holding nutrients and dramatically enriching soils, which sounds pretty ideal for our soils up here, which endure such heavy rains in spring that a lot of the nutrients get washed away. (Not to mention so much of it is composed of little else but decomposed granite anyway!)

Re soaking the cardboard, thank you for the suggestion. Someone else suggested that earlier, and I've found getting the cardboard thoroughly wet really does make a big difference.

I'm letting the rain take care of that. We rolled up the hoses for the winter, and my pile is far from the spigot. The rain does it on its own schedule pretty well in these drizzly days. It still takes a heck of a long time to tear up cardboard, though! I can spend half an hour doing it and not seem to have made much progress. I don't want the pieces to be too big. Adding leaves is sure easier! But I like the idea of variety in my compost, and I've read that worms adore the cardboard, so I'm trying to incorporate that, too. I just spread out a few more flattened boxes outdoors to soak up some rain tonight. And I may go to town and hunt about for more boxes tomorrow.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  boffer on 11/21/2013, 7:02 pm

It hit 22° at my house this morning.  Surprisingly, the lettuce and celery in my greenhouse survived OK.  In my open-ended hoop houses, my broccoli and potatoes bit the dust, but the cauliflower, bok choy, chard, scallions, kale, and collards survived.

I'm looking forward to sampling the effect of the freeze on my carrots and beets still in the ground, and the remaining brussel sprouts on the stalk.

Did it get cold at your house, and how did things fare?

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  plantoid on 11/21/2013, 7:58 pm

When you take the frozen roots crops or brassica out the ground , thaw and use as soon as possible,   I know for sure carrots do not keep long after being hard frozen and quickly thawed neither do sprouts  .

Perhaps putting some of the lifted roots / brassica  out in an unheated just above freezing point garage for a much slower thaw would be useful.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  donnainzone5 on 11/21/2013, 8:18 pm

According to my infamous indoor/outdoor thermometer, it hit 6 degrees F at 7:00 a.m. today, and finally reached the low 30s.

Although I haven't ventured out to uncover anything, I think the chard and strawberries are surviving. As of yesterday, which also was cold, some of my lettuce, spinach, and garlic were up.

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  boffer on 11/22/2013, 11:10 am

Donna, I don't miss living in a climate that gets that cold!  I've forgotten the backstory: why is your thermometer 'infamous'?

Plantoid, my MM hasn't frozen yet, just a little crusty on top.  The cold  should make the beets, carrots, and BS even sweeter.  I've had good results cutting the frozen broccoli heads and side shoots off the plant and putting them straight into the freezer.  My non-veggie-loving son thinks they taste better than fresh.  Shocked However, no more fresh broccoli for 5-6 months. Sad 

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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

Post  donnainzone5 on 11/22/2013, 11:30 am

Boffer,

That thermometer is infamous because I can't always trust it, especially for outside daytime temperatures. Sometimes it says it's in the 50s when I know that it's actually around 40-something. Still, the overnight lows seem to correspond well to the official ones.

There's a flashing time/temp sign just down the road, which gives me a good approximation of the correct temperature.


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Re: PNW: Winter 2014

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