Garden Blogs I Dig
One of the last chores of the fall season is to clean and store garden tools. I've learned over the years the importance of taking care of my tools and take my word for it, it's WAY easier to clean them in the fall than if you wait until spring. Save yourself some backbreaking labor and try this quick tool cleaning tip passed on to me by my father-in-law.
You probably already have all the components you'll need: a five-gallon bucket, some sand and oil. Go green by recycling the oil from your lawnmower before storing it for winter.
Start by pouring the sand into the bucket until it's about 3/4 full.
Next, carefully pour the oil into the bucket.
Use a spade or other long tool to mix the sand and oil until evenly combined.
Now you're ready to clean some dirty tools! The abrasiveness of the sand removes caked on dirt. The sand combined with the oil helps remove any rust that may have shown up (not that I've ever left my tools out in the rain - wink, wink). The oil also acts as a lubricant to help prevent any rust from forming. Some people store the metal parts of smaller tools - hand pruners, hoes, etc. - in the sand all winter.
We were lucky enough to have a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend to get our last minute chores done before winter takes over for good. Two days in the 50's at the end of November - can't beat that! We successfully cleaned and stored all of our garden tools - even these rusty garden sheers that haven't been used in years look brand new!
Lesson learned: be good to your tools and they will be good to you!
Finally after a year of piling garden scraps in a vacant corner of our back yard I have created the coveted garden gold - compost!
I tend to a cold compost: it's a simple process and perfect for the busy gardener because it requires far less work than a hot compost. One drawback of a cold compost is the materials take much longer to break down than a hot compost, sometimes up to a year. But if time is not of the essence, and it isn't for me, this technique works out very well.
I start in the fall by simply layering garden clippings, leaves and some existing compost (or soil) in a pile and let the microbes go to work. I rarely add kitchen scraps in fear of attracting unwanted neighborhood guests (raccoons, opossums, or worse). Moisture and oxygen are also necessary to break down the plant material. Living in Iowa the precipitation usually takes care of the moisture component, although I have taken the hose to it in especially dry periods. I aerate the heap maybe twice a year by turning it with a shovel or hoe. I continuously add garden waste in spring and summer, and by fall I have the rich, dark humus.
I made the mistake of adding woody cuttings to the heap, hoping they would decompose. A cold compost just doesn't get hot enough to break down thick woody stems, so leave them out. To mend the problem my oh-so-handy husband made a screen for me and I sifted the compost to get rid of the bulky stems and rocks that found their way into the pile.
Adding compost to garden beds increases the organic matter and improves soil structure. This in turn increases the soil's water-holding capacity therefore increasing productivity. Improved soil structure also enables plants to better utilize necessary nutrients in the soil. Sounds great! Added bonus: I don't have to buy as many of those expensive garden waste bags.
I had some extra help transporting the compost to the beds this year. :)
If you've hesitated starting a compost in the past, don't wait any longer! Take it from me, whose motto is casual gardening, it's really easy and worth it in the long run. All you need is a little patience and the compost will come.
Come to think of it, this is the time of year I tend to get a bit lazy – in terms of gardening. Flowers have bloomed, veggies have ripened and fall is just around the corner.
Blazing August scorchers are perfect days to stay cool inside and work on an autumn chore to-do list. I’ve been thumbing through my cherished Brent and Becky’s Bulbs catalog, jotting down a wish list for my fall order. I’ve also been taking inventory, noting plants that need to be divided or relocated.
So, I guess I’m not being completely lazy, just avoiding the heat – can’t blame me there!!