Saturday, August 16, 2014

Black Gold, at least I hope it is.

So, I've been piddling around with composting for about two years now. We've had the Tumbleweed compost tumbler for about a year and a half. I've harvested the compost approximately every six months, so we've had three harvests.

Here's the thing: I'm still not sure I'm doing it right.

I put in our vegetable-based kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc, and "brown" materials like leaves in the fall, shredded newspaper in the spring and summer. I turn the thing regularly. I'll admit I don't chop kitchen scraps or even yard scraps into tiny pieces to hasten the decomposition process--I'm just not dedicated enough to take it to that level, I guess. I don't own a compost thermometer, either.

And eventually, like today, I get some promisingly dark brown, earthy- (not nasty-) smelling stuff. It just tumbles out in balls--anywhere from little dime-sized crumbles to softball-sized or bigger clumps. I can manually chop them into smaller bits, like I was doing in this bucket, with this scoop. But I wonder whether the components have broken down sufficiently to benefit the garden where I spread them.

I'm not sure about the correct procedure for emptying the composter, either. My unscientific method is: unscrew both end caps, dump the stuff on the ground, rake it together and shovel it into a bucket, where I haul it and dump it wherever I want to spread it.

I'm sure I'm wasting at least a little bit this way. But I figure it might benefit the plants immediately surrounding the compost area.

Here's a recent new addition to my composting area--an open, wire bin. I'm layering green and brown materials here, too. The only problem with this, so far, is that it has attracted a family of mice, who are living under some railroad ties buried along the back fence. I don't so much mind these critters in my yard, but I bet my neighbors would. I don't want them in my house, though. 

I won't poison them--that seems overly cruel, and I've heard about the problems posed up the food chain to dogs and birds of prey. I'd rather not trap them, either, if I can avoid it.

I'm hoping that by starting the compost over in the tumbler, and letting the open bin rest with no new additions for a while, the mice will just find food elsewhere and decide to move. Any thoughts/suggestions are welcome!

Here's the inside of the tumbler, post-harvest. Clumped around the middle are bits of shredded newspaper.

Here's the empty veggie bed, awaiting compost.

And here's the newly added compost. Exciting, I know. 

I guess I won't know whether I'm going about this compost business the right way until I see what happens with the veggie garden this fall, after I've planted it (September) and given the plants a month or two to do their thing (October-November).

Any advice from fellow gardeners would be gratefully welcomed!

Friday, August 15, 2014

August Bloom Day

The only new blooms this month are the feathery bloom stalks of the Pampas Grass in our backyard. I think they're dramatic and pretty.

The Crape Myrtles are fading, but still blooming.

The hanging baskets of geraniums are still hanging in there. This one is in an area with mostly shade.

Crape Myrtle 'Candy Cane' still has some striking color.

Just a few red trumpets are still hanging on the Cardinal Climber, which has now climbed over the backyard neighbor's fence. I wonder what he thinks of this.

Black-Eyed Susans are still blooming in the wildflower bed. I will try re-seeding in September to see if I can get a few more things to come up.

Here's a wide view of the now-fading Rainbow Bed. We had one Crinum bloom this year, but the rest are all foliage. That's okay, I don't expect to see them bloom until next summer.

Tropical, a.k.a. Scarlet Sage, is still blooming heartily. The bumblebees like this one.

Knockout Rose is putting out a fresh round of blooms.

You might be able to see the purple stalks of Salvia 'Mystic Spires' here. I deadheaded it recently, and it responded right away with more pretty, bright bloom stalks.

Yellow Shrimp Plant is hanging in there. Both of these two plants have bushed out quite a bit since I planted them this Spring.

I've let the wild Morning Glory really go wild this year. It's climbing all over the place.


Purple Heart is still blooming.

When I pulled out an unproductive tomato plant earlier this summer, I left the tomato cage upturned near the wild Morning Glory, just to see if it would climb. Of course, it did. Vines are fun, aren't they?

Plumbago is sneaking under and through the fence to enjoy the sunny side near the currently-defunct vegetable garden.

One of my succulents is blooming, a purple Echeveria, perhaps? 

Plumbago Row is happy in this scorching, dry weather.

Autumn Sage is reblooming. It would probably look even better if I cut back the bloom stalks to encourage a more compact shape, but it's pretty anyway. 

Esperanza/Yellow Bells is thriving on complete neglect, along with Plumbago and the Texas Redbud.

Turk's Cap blooms are petering out, but there are still several, and we still see hummingbirds and Swallowtail butterflies almost daily.

Liriope is sending up pretty little lavender bloom stalks.

Seems like I have a bloom-stalk theme this month.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A small dose of garden therapy

Since Ian was born on July 13, I haven't set foot in the garden to do anything more than minor watering, until yesterday.

What started out as "Hey, honey, do you mind if I do a little trimming in the back yard?" turned into my tackling the little butterfly garden area along the back fence, shearing to the ground the weeds I could reach with the trimmer, hand-pulling or cutting the rest, and smothering them with newspaper, cardboard, and the mulch we happened to have on hand--a little Texas Native Mulch, pine straw mulch and decomposed granite.  Of course, now I'll have to buy more mulch to finish the project, but it's a start.

Elsewhere, I cleaned some overgrown perennials--Pavonia and Lantana had sprawled aggressively over their neighbors. Blanc Du Bois was happily extending its tendrils over everything.

Here's the cleaned up version.

Earlier this week, I spotted some orange rain lilies at the neighborhood park. They are smaller than the white Zephyranthes grandiflora we see in masses in the park, but quite pretty.