The Efficiency Garden

One shovel at a time can move a mountain…or a pile of soil. It took me a week but it is finally done!

Ten yards of soil – the equivalent of 90 full wheelbarrow loads – have been ferried about the property and the driveway is empty once again.

We went from this….

To this…

Back to this…

I not only filled the five new beds…

I had enough left over to top up all the other beds and (was there ever any doubt?) create several more smallish beds here and there!

I made some narrow beds along the west backyard fence for more peas and we moved the compost bin to the other side of the yard, freeing up a sunny space behind the shed for a raspberry bed.

You can’t really see it, but there is another 16 foot livestock panel for peas on the other side of the stock troughs as well. I love these panels. I have never found anything that works better for peas to climb up.

But oh, look at that pathway! What a trampled, muddy, mess. I would love to put some flagstone along there, but one thing at a time. As it were, we kept leap frogging about on our projects this week.

In the middle of moving all the soil, Darcy put a couple windows in our garden shed.

It went from this…

To this…

And finally to this!

The lines in the raised bed are vermiculite. I sprinkled it on top of the carrot seeds both to help keep them moist until they germinate and so I know where they are, since they are so slow to poke their little heads up.

Now it feels a bit more like a potting shed with the added bonus that I am no longer left groping around in the dark when the wind blows the door shut.

With Darcy having his table saw etc set up in the backyard while he installed the windows, and me weaving my way around with the wheelbarrow, the yard felt more than a tad cramped.

Notice how Darcy has his music headphones set on “spouse mode”. One ear exposed so as not to miss out on any of my helpful and welcome observations.

At one point, as I was weaving my way through the maze, my somewhat loud observation was that our yard was perhaps starting to look more than a bit ridiculous.

“You can barely move, it’s nothing but garden beds everywhere. Our yard is way too small for all of this.”

“It’s not too small,” said Darcy. “It’s an efficiency garden.”

Now I can’t get “efficiency garden” out of my head. It makes me smile. I definitely have a step saver efficiency garden.

And for better or worse, this little piece of ground is starting to grow on me.

It’s Arrived!

If there is a more exciting sound than the hiss of air brakes in one‘s driveway on a spring morning, well, I don’t know what it is.

The sound catapulted me out of the shed where I was busy organizing my tools, trellises, containers and other such things.

My truckload of soil had arrived!

It was all I could do not to hug the driver and dance around the driveway with him for a bit, but Covid 19 and, well, not wanting to scare him off from making any such deliveries in the future.

Instead I settled for politely waving from the porch like a grown up and then doing a happy walk around the pile after he left.

There is nothing like fresh soil to get one’s dreams (and wheelbarrow) rolling!

Six Uses for Eggs in the Garden

If Easter has left you walking on eggshells and you don’t know what to do with all those leftover cartons of cackle berries and shells here are half a dozen uses for eggs in the garden!

4B Eggshell Pots

Use shells for starting seedlings in. They will appreciate the boost of calcium they receive from the shell. This is especially a good idea for those seedlings that don’t like being transplanted because they can’t stand having their roots disturbed. You can also easily write on the shell so you know what you’ve planted. Be sure to poke a hole in the bottom with a pin or a thumbtack so excess water can escape. When it is time to plant your seedling outside gently crack the bottom of the “egg pot” so roots can escape and plant the seedling shell and all. The transplants won’t even know what happened.

 

hands planting tomato seedling

2. Add crushed eggshells to the hole before planting your tomatoes. Tomatoes thrive on the extra calcium the shells provide. If you have a crazy amount of eggs here is a fantastic recipe for a  concoction your tomatoes will love.

  • 3.78 Litres (1 gallon) of sun warmed water (rainwater if you have it)
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp.) of Epsom salts
  • 2 banana peels
  • 2 dozen eggshells

Mix the above ingredients in a blender and feed to your tomatoes once a week.

Crushed egg shell on white background flushed left

 

3. Crush up eggshells and pile them about a centimeter (half inch) thick on the soil surface in a ring around susceptible plants to deter slugs and cutworms. These little critters have soft bodies that do not appreciate sharp edges.

 

4. Add crushed eggshells to your potted plants for a boost of calcium. Every time you water calcium will be washed down to the roots.

 

African violet, Saintpaulia flower on window sill

5. Put 125 ml (1/2 cup) of eggshells in a 1 litre (4 cup) mason jar with a lid. Use for watering your houseplants. African Violets are extremely appreciative of eggshell water rewarding your efforts with beautiful robust blooms. Top off the jar up to half a dozen times before adding new eggshells.

 

Composting examples.

6. Simply add eggshells to your compost to enrich that magic mixture!

 

Hungry, Hungry, Red Wiggler Worms

So just how hungry ARE red wigglers? Hungry enough to consume half their weight in kitchen waste (vegetable scraps, fruit, coffee grounds, oatmeal, egg shells etc.) every single day!

Composting examples.

After consuming the waste the worms produce wonderful, rich, castings that make an awesome organic fertilizer. What are castings? Polite speak for worm poop.

Many urban dwellers are closet worm farmers. A fancy arrangement like the one shown below looks great and produces nutrient rich worm castings for your potted plants or balcony garden. This one is dubbed The Worm Factory and manufactured by Nature’s Footprint. It’s the one I keep in my apartment closet.

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How many worms do you need? Weigh out your daily kitchen waste to get an idea of how much you produce, divide by two and you have your answer. You don’t need to get them all at once, however. Start with a couple pounds of worms and they will rapidly increase (or decrease) their population to match the available food and space.

How many worm castings can one worm farm produce? A tower-type like the one shown above should produce at least one tray-worth of finished compost and castings known as “vermicompost” every three months.

If you want to save money and don’t care about fancy looks, a search on YouTube will show you lots of videos on how to make your own worm farms using Rubbermaid totes.

Fotolia_7662486_XS.jpg

How do you use your compost and castings? As a fertilizer vermicompost can replace commercial products for adding nutrients to your potted plants. Worm castings are rich but will not burn your plants. You can work a few tablespoons into your soil before potting up a plant or add a few tablespoons as a top dressing around your existing plants. When you water the nutrients will be released into the soil and make its way down to the roots. You can also add a few tablespoons to your water to make a liquid fertilizer.

Gardening

Not only do the castings provide nutrients they act as a fantastic soil conditioner. The castings increase the good microbes and stop any toxins from spreading. They also bind with any heavy metals and prevent them from being released too quickly. Worm castings act like a sponge, retaining excess water and releasing it as the plant needs it. Many pests and diseases can be prevented by the consistent application of vermicompost to your pots and garden.

Planting sage

Do you have to use red wigglers? Yes, yes you do! Dew worms and other earthworms found in many gardens will not thrive in the conditions offered by a worm farm or eat as much or produce as many castings.

Group of earthworms

It’s all about the red wiggler.

How Much Soil Do You Need?

When you order topsoil it generally comes to you by the cubic yard. How many yards do you need? Here is a simple formula to make your order easy on the mind, if not on the back!

To figure out how many square feet one yard of soil will cover simply divide 36 by how many inches of coverage you want and multiply by 9. If you are looking to add a foot of soil divide 36 by 12 inches which gives you 3 and times that by 9 for a sum of 27. This means one yard of soil will cover 27 square feet (just over a five foot by five foot patch) in one foot of soil.

Wheelbarrow full of compost dirt sitting in a backyard garden ready to help grow healthy vegetables

For those of us who think in metric the formula would be: for one cubic metre of soil divide 100 by how thick you want your soil topping in centimetres. The answer will be for square metres of garden space.

Hope that helps!