Taking a break

P8160017.jpgWhew, it’s hot out there. I am not, however, complaining. We’ve had so much rain (almost 8 inches so far this month alone) that I haven’t been able to really do much in the garden, so I’ll take hot over hot and raining any day. We went out into the garden pretty early this morning, and I’m already tired, so I thought I’d take a break.

P8160004.jpgOne of the things I noticed when we were out there planting a couple of days ago is how behind I’ve gotten in the weeding. All that rain, I guess, has sent the weeds into overdrive, and it was very discouraging. I did some weeding, naturally, while I was putting in all of the new plants, but I knew I needed a real, probably full day, weeding session. So that’s basically what I did today.

I guess the one thing about having weeds grow big and tall is that they look awful but they come out quickly, anyway. I kept my pruners with me and cut down all of the spent day-lily stalks while I was in the area, and man were there lots of those. It looks much better having them all down, and that’s not something I usually manage to get to until deep into fall most years.

P8160001.jpgI did a lot of picking off lily beetles from my lily plants, which seem to be surviving the onslaught. One interesting thing is that I found as many beetles on the milkweed as I did on the lilies themselves. I leave the milkweed so that the monarch butterflies have a food and nesting source. But I probably pulled about 30 beetles off of them today, two or three bugs per milkweed plant, while I only usually found one bug on a lily plant, and many didn’t have any at all. Very interesting.

P8160018.jpgI counted six baby goldfish in the pond, and there are too many minnows to count. We’ve got quite the school of fish out there at this point, and they are finally over the fear of being eaten by us when we go out to feed them. They really go into a feeding frenzy when the pellets hit the water, as if they haven’t been feed in weeks. It’s really quite cute to watch the little ones, who can’t do more than nibble on the pellets, while the bigger fish eat it whole in one bite.

P8160035.jpgUp on the balcony, we got our first ripe tomato, and the plants are just absolutely covered with green ones, and all stages between green and ripe. We also harvested the first bell peppers, two purple ones and a green one. There was one small purple one that had a spot on it that we noticed a week ago, and I guess we should have picked it then, as it seems to sort of rotted in place since then. I’ve been thinking that we’ve had so much rain lately that the plants were huge and the tomatoes were all staying green because of no sun, and that it would take just a day or two of sun to change the tide, and it seems like I was right. Either that or it’s all a coincidence.

P8160027.jpgFrank built another set of three compost bins with the pallets we scrounged a couple of weeks ago. Then he turned the two bins we had going out there, and said neither one of them was doing very well. Even with all the rain we’ve had, he said they were both very dry in certain layers, and that neither had really heated up very much. (He should update this part when he comes in, actually.)

[Frank] Lisa summed it up very well. I turned two piles today. Both had spots that were bone dry. In the first pile, some of those spots were also quite hot (130F+). In neither pile were the wood chips disintegrating rapidly. The older pile did include weeds, shredded paper, and sawdust along with the wood chips and coffee, and those seemed to be composting ok. We also used the last of our purchased compost starter.

The newer pile was a total disaster. It was basically nothing but but chips and coffee. Some of the coffee had started to go, and some of the chipped rotten wood seemed to be composting, but mostly it was coffee grounds and wood chips, just sitting there. The bottom 18 inches had done absolutely nothing. I turned it too, adding more coffee, and mixing finished compost into the top half. (I didn’t get the idea immediately, but I’m hoping that maybe since I ran out of the compost-starter, that maybe it just didn’t have the right stuff to get going). Hopefully some shovel-fulls from the compost will get it going.

I think the biggest problem is that coffee grounds are pasteurize, and wood chips are pretty sterile too, coming out of the inside of stems, so there’s no bacteria to get things going. Two additional problems are:

1. Not enough coffee. I think it really needs to be equal volume of coffee and chips.

2. It’s not really a good compost mix. We need more stuff in there, but we don’t have it. What we have is coffee and wood chips.

We could, in theory, back off until those two ingredients were no more than a fourth of the pile each, but we also need about six cubic yards of compost a year for the next couple of years. We might be able to make it if we can get coffee and wood chips to work. But, we have no other materials that will give us that volume. Therefore, we need to make this work.

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