Cover Crops Aka Green Manure II

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As roots travel downwards, they carry water & nutrients to the soil below. As the plant dies, the roots (beneficial) rot breaks down, leaving a network of aggregated water and airways in its wake.

Hello everyone! I hope you guys have had a restful weekend.
I’ve skimmed over this topic once before and as promised, here is a more in depth look.
This summer, we planted buckwheat seeds in our pallet container garden.
No, our family is not going gluten free.
Nor will be eating them.
Then why would we “waste” space in our precious container garden for this plant?

Anybody can throw soil into a pot and grow a plant (almost).
But our focus is on building the soil.
Our goal is to increase aeration in the soil while improving water/nutrient-retention and microbiology activity in our soils right?
In this sense, cover crops like buckwheat are invaluable as it tends to the soil that it is given.
Buckwheat is known to have long tap roots that mine down deep, breaking down the soil as the microbes below take care of the rhizosphere.
However, a quick youtube search on buckwheat cover cropping show people lifting out the entire plant as they lay it back onto the garden bed.
This to me does not make sense!
Yes, I understand that the uplifted soil makes it easier for the seeds to take hold and germinate.
Yes, I do understand that the laying of the plant back onto the growing seedlings will prevent weeds from taking over.
HOWEVER,
Removing the plant from the roots completely negates the benefits that we are looking for!
Rather, when the time comes to kill off this summer crop, I will use a scythe mow the plants from the stems.
I will leave the root balls in the soil to die off and break down in the soil.
Winter cover crop seeds will have already been sown at this point so the mowed buckwheat grass will be used to either harvest the seeds or mulch the winter cover crops.
Buckwheat grows quickly and can grow from seed to mulch in about 5 weeks or so so be sure to sow frequently for increased biomass in your gardens!

Buckwheat is also a great beneficial insect attractant.
Predatory (but beneficial) wasps are said to be so attracted to a patch of buckwheat plants that those who are afraid of insects should consider not planting buckwheat.
Amy is really starting to appreciate wasps in our garden now 🙂

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Ladybugs: 477 – Aphids: 0

Well what do you know. Aphids.
I am pretty active on lots of social media communities these days and one user was explaining how she was having a difficult times with Aphids in the garden.
I’ve dealt with these buggers before and luckily, the first option to dispose of them worked like a charm – lady bugs. You can see here that aphids are sucking the life out of the new shoots of our maple bonsai

wpid-20140625_181725.jpgYou can see here that aphids are sucking the life out of the new shoots of our maple bonsai

wpid-20140625_181859.jpgHere is a closer look. Yarrgh!

wpid-20140625_183533.jpgSo I went over to the local Armstrong store to purchase a cup full of lady bugs. The whole cup of god knows how many cost me about ten bucks.

But as soon as you open that lid, the horde of lady bugs make a straight bee line to one of their favorite foods. Aphids.
I had more aphids then I could count, most of them on the Maple bonsai, and small patches of them in the herb garden.

So I just opened the lid and let them FEAST!
wpid-20140625_184847.jpgCHARRRRGEEEEEE! 😀

wpid-20140625_184608.jpgThe lady bugs were released everywhere and they cleaned up every aphid in the garden!

wpid-20140625_184721.jpgHobbes really enjoyed watching the lady bugs eat.

It was ridiculously hard trying to focus on a ladybug feasting on a line of aphids but we caught it on video.
For those of you who have had second thoughts on introducing ladybugs to an aphid infestation,
email me or leave a comment down below and I would be happy to share the video with you all 😉
It really was a blessing and a curse to find these pests in my garden and especially after last night’s debate,
I would definitely call this irony.
But either way, I was happy to be able to share this experience with the rest of you guys.
If you guys like our articles, please be sure to subscribe and leave us a like, it really does give us something to strive for.
Hope you guys have a good evening!

-Eugin

Edit:
I was curious to see if the ladybugs would attack any horn worms or caterpillars that may be present in the garden.
I have read that ladybugs will attack the eggs or small larvae of hornworms but to my dismay,
the ladybugs ignored the one hornworm Amy managed to find =\

Our Worm/Fungus Tower

The worm tower supports this entire container!

The worm tower supports this entire container!

Hello Hello everyone, Today I wanted to go a little bit more in depth in showing you guys our Worm/Fungus Tower.
If you look in the picture above, you notice that enormous pipe jutting up out of our tomato bed.
The tube is made of stainless steel and is about 4 inches in diameter.
The pipe reaches down about half way down the soil so it is in there pretty tight.
Aside from the constant fertilizing and soil aggregating I have done to this container, I attribute most of the soil’s fertility to that magical tube.

But to really appreciate this worm tower, we really need to look back at how the container started off.
When we first bought the plastic container, we filled it with lots of left over potting soil that we had on hand.
We also included a bit of our home made compost and other organic matter to feed the microbes in the soil.
We fortified the soil with seaweed kelp, fish emulsion, and a bit of rock dust just to be sure that the soil will have sufficient food for everybody to enjoy.
But no worms. We did not include earthworms to the new soil because I planned on utilizing our proposed worm tower.

Food scraps and mycorrhizal inoculant go in the tower to support the worm and fungal life inside

Food scraps and mycorrhizal inoculant go in the tower to support the worm and fungal life inside

I hope you guys don’t mind the shoddy artwork :\
But here, you can see that worms go into the tower to to gorge/sleep, and then leave the tower to aerate the soil and excrete BLACK GOLLLLDDDD!
In the same way, the mycorrhizal colony expands and seeks out nutrients as it infects/feeds the tomato plants above the surface.

Inside the belly of the beast

Inside the belly of the beast

Now I can’t dig with a tablespoon and not dismember at least two worms!
And just last, last night. A puffball arose from the container bed. Oh joy! Our container soil LIVES!

-Eugin

Edit:
Hi again guys. I am a new writer. I have so many things that I want to share with you but sometimes
it just doesn’t make it on to the pape–er… keyboard.
So please, leave your questions or comments below and we can discuss what I failed to mention -____-.
Thanks guys and be sure to like and subscribe 😉 Yay!

Compost Tea, will it benefit our container garden?

Congratulations folks, we have made it through yet another Monday.

Today I wanted to share a real milestone in our garden.
I’ve read tons of articles, plenty of books, and watched hours of videos on youtube for our little garden haven.
And as time progressed, I started to focus more and more on the microbiology of the plant.
This past weekend, Amy and I decided to brew our first batch of home made compost tea.

This is my first time utilizing compost spray so I can not really tell you what I know from experience. But from what I have read, compost tea is one of the best ways of increasing beneficial biodiversity in the soil and we take great measures to be sure that there are no anaerobic pathogens in what we introduce to the plant. We will be sure to keep you guys updated on how this affects our little garden.

We took tons of pictures of every step during the process so we hope that you guys find it useful.
It really is easier than it looks so don’t be afraid to give it a try!

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These were all the materials needed for the compost tea brewer. Total cost = $19

 

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I drilled a hole in the bucket to feed the air tube through

 

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Homemade vermicompost! Be sure to save the worms!

 

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Also tossed in some Sure Start. This will ensure that there is a diverse bunch of beneficial microbes in the tea.

 

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We used coffee filters and butcher twine to keep the bundles together and tossed them into the brewer.

 

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BLACK GOLLLLLLDDDDD from our vermicompost bin. (we will get into that later)

 

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Here we used a little bit of seaweed kelp to feed the microbes

 

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Fish emulsion, molasses, and crushed rock dust was also supplemented to the tea.

 

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Important note: Be sure to use UN CHLORINATED water. Chlorine kills microbes and that is exactly what we do not want!!!!

 

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It’s a brewin’

Lots of versions of “compost tea” say that the air stone/pump combo is unnecessary.
This is true, if you want to wait for two weeks while anaerobic microbes take over the tea.
Most pathogenic garden microbes are anaerobic (do not require oxygen to thrive.)
Using an air stone guarantees that the tea is continuously being aerated. This ensures that the anaerobic microbes will not be able to live in your precious tea.

Your tea should brew for no less than 4 hours, given your compost is fresh and of good quality.
The more time you give your tea to brew, the more time the beneficial microbes have to flourish and thrive.
Our tea was brewed for 8 hours and foliar sprayed onto our plants (this should be done early in the morning or later in the evening -Amy). We then added more water and allowed the tea to brew for another 24-30 hours or so.
By the end of the process, your tea should smell fresh, like moist and fertile soil.
You really can not over do this so be sure to get as much coverage as you can, as often as you can.

That about concludes our ventures with compost tea for the time being.
As always, we will be updating you during every step of the way.
Be sure to like and subscribe our blog as it really does encourage us to do better. Thanks!!

-Eugin

 

Our oasis on barren soil

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The view from bedroom window

Amy and I have been living in this townhouse for a little over a year now and

we have really enjoyed making this place feel like home since then. To be honest, some of the rooms are still somewhat unfurnished. Amy and I are pretty out doorsy so if we get the chance, we are normally outdoors. With that being said, all of my attention had been diverted to making our new outdoor space more.. habitable.

During our search for a good apartment, we stumbled on our two story town house. It really is quite cozy indoors HOWEVER, we had no soil in our yard.
Instead, we had a silty/clay-ish dusty soil. Not exactly best garden material.
We don’t even have a hose!
Fortunately for us, the landlord had built a wooden deck that covered up the ugly and dusty floor underneath it.
So I decided to use the deck as the foundation for our raised container garden.
I started decorating with some of our bonsai plants, utilizing the shady portion of our yard for the more sun-sensitive plants.
After being inspired by a few pinterest pins, I decided to make a large garden container out of old wooden pallets.
I filled the wooden pallets with organic material, compost and soil and now we have a fertile and lush herb garden!
We didn’t stop at just the wooden pallets though. See that giant green tree to the right of the photo?
It is actually two tomato plants!
We filled up that giant plastic tub full of soil and organic material and transferred two tomato plants into it. Look at how they have thrived 🙂
We found an old wooden book shelf, drilled some holes into it, filled it with some soil and now we have more serrano and cayenne peppers then we know what to do with!
And now our little oasis is bringing life back into this barren area.
After a year, we have definitely seen a rise in biodiversity. Birds, squirrels, lizards, bugs, and other animals are now frequent visitors in our backyard 🙂

I don’t mean to brag or anything but I am proud of our little garden. It was a barren and boring wooden deck before we got there.
Now it is a green and lively garden!
My point is, don’t get discouraged if you want a garden but feel limited for some reason.
Use your limitations as an anchor and be creative! You will surely end up with something unique but it will be your own 8)

 

-Eugin

Morning fairies in the garden

Whew, hump day has passed. We have officially made it past the middle of the work week yay!
I hope you all had a pleasant day today 🙂
Eugin here and I wanted to share our little morning surprise with you.

Amy and I work at Wholesale Warranties together and honestly, we love it!
We wake up together, get ready together and carpool to work together and I find much joy in getting to spend my time with my wife!
Well today, we woke up and found a few visitors in our azalea training pot.
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 With a little bit of research, we found out that these little guys are called Coprinopsis atramentaria, or more commonly called inky caps. How fun right??
But why are they called inky caps?
Take a look from a different angle and you may see:

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As the fruiting body of the inky cap matures, it begins to liquefy.
Sounds kind of gross but it does this in the attempt to release its spores into the wind. Pretty ingenious method of reproduction if you ask me!
So if you can see on the left side of the above image, you can see that one of the stalks grew tall against the wall of the tub and then pretty much exploded; leaving an inky imprint left behind. Artists actually used to use the stuff to write/paint with!
These inky caps are a welcome visitor to our garden as they perform an essential role in nature.
Inky caps are saprophytes. This means that they are the first organisms to arrive when matter needs to be decomposed.
When organic matter decomposes, saprophytes break down the matter so that it can be consumed by other organisms. In this way, saprophytes help to add more organic matter to the surroundings. Thanks little guys!
But other than that, Amy and I think they are kinda cute!

The inky caps have all exploded so there are none left in the tub. I hope they come back tomorrow 😉

Baby Herbs EVERYWHERE!

Happy Monday [ 😥 ] everyone!

Eugin here and I wanted to give you guys a quick update on the progress of our herb garden/ shiitake bed.

If you guys forgot, just a few weeks ago, I had built a container garden out of a few wooden pallets I had been hoarding. I filled it with a bunch of organic matter + compost and this is what it looked like when I was done:
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Nothing too exciting here just yet.

Since then, I sowed a variety of herbaceous seeds into the pallet and now this is what it looks like now!  wpid-20140616_172549.jpg
The buckwheat has been sprouting like mad and it is adding a nice flush of green to the once empty space. I am hoping that the deep tap roots will help to aggregate the soil and give the microorganisms a nice place to call home. Its actually kinda crazy, just how much water these little guys hold on to! I was watering the same soil mixture in other containers but much more frequently. These guys hold lots of it!

Here is a close up of the smaller guys, waiting to burst forth.
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Not too sure which ones are shown here in the picture because they were tossed kinda willy nilly but we will find out soon enough! I will definitely need to do some fine tuning to possibly weed out the overly sown areas. We will see what I choose to do when that happens. Any suggestions? Please feel free to leave it below!

Here is a view of our soil thus far:
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The camera does not do the image justice but the soil is alive!
The soil itself practically shifts with the movement of microorganisms! I dunno, I’m pretty proud of it! To think that it is all in an old wooden pallet from behind our business complex?

Also, we got our first tomato!
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I don’t think it was completely ripe just yet but I seriously couldnt wait.
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They say you haven’t tasted a real tomato until you’ve tasted your own.
Today I tasted my first tomato and it was incredible.
Why don’t they sell them like this in the grocery markets?

Amy wants to make fried green tomatoes with a few of the others. We will let you know how that goes 🙂
As always, feel free to leave questions, comments, or suggestions. We really love hearing from you guys 😀 😀
And also be sure to subscribe for future updates from Me and Amy

Till next time, hope you guys have a nice evening !
-Eugin

E dit:
Sorry guys, I am still pretttty new to WordPress so I have a quick question for you veterans:

How do I add a photo to be featured for the post?
Also, does anybody have tips to sync to Google Analytics?