Thursday, November 13, 2008

Which is it?




Fresh Manure and Food Gardens Don't Mix

By Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, Horticulture, Denver County

An E.coli illness caused by eating undercooked hamburger has also affected people eating vegetables amended with fresh manure. New strains of E.coli in cattle make questionable the practice of applying fresh manure to food gardens. The practice of using aged manure for ornamental and turf plantings is unaffected by this new development.

It should be emphasized that amending vegetable gardens with plant-based compost, sphagnum peat, and well composted manure continues to be recommended.

Though not all manure carries newer bacterial strains, there is no way to tell without extensive lab testing. A child's death in Maine was traced to E.coli 0157:H7 from calf manure his mother added to the family garden. The bacteria contaminated fresh vegetables harvested from the garden and affected people because the produce was poorly washed. While adults generally become ill and recover, the organism can be life threatening to children and the elderly.

Lettuce seems particularly subject to carrying bacteria because it's succulent and difficult to wash. With carrots and other vegetables, scrubbing and peeling before use considerably reduced the chances of bacterial contamination. Safe food handling practices are now more important than ever.

In home gardens, it's recommended that all manure be well composted before being added to soil where vegetables or fruit are growing. Bacteria will survive winter freezing so fall garden applications and even "aged manure" additions provide no guarantee of a garden free of potential disease organisms.

The heat produced through proper composting will kill most pathogens. The compost should heat to 130 or 140 degrees for five days or more to be more effective. Even so, research has shown that 2 to 120 percent of the pathogens survive.

Following the hot compost phase, a "curing" period of 2 to 4 months allows beneficial microbes to outcompete disease pathogens and produces an acceptable organic soil amendment. Note that compost made exclusively from plant wastes does not need a curing period, and adding leaves or other plant materials directly to the garden is safe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weekly Tips for Your Garden (Nov 2nd-16th)

November 2: Cut perennials to 4-5” above ground level. If desired, leave some seed heads or other features to add winter interest to the garden.

November 9: Visit a garden center and select your live Holiday tree. Dig the planting hole before the soil freezes. Store the soil in a garage or basement where it will not freeze. Make sure you cover the hole so no one falls in! Water the tree well before placing it in the hole, cover the root ball with soil up to where the roots flare out at the base of the trunk, and water again.

November 16: Force bulbs indoors. Pot up daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths and water them well. Store at 32-50° F for 12 to 16 weeks. Water when the soil is dry. Raise the temp. to 50-65° F for two weeks. Place them in brighter light and warmer temps, keeping them well-watered. While blooming, keep them away from heat and direct sun to prolong the blooms.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gardening Tips; The Double Dig

If you have a patch of soil that you'd like to turn into a well-draining garden bed with deep, loose soil, then you'll need to put in some elbow grease and double-dig the bed. Here's step-by-step instructions for creating a great new garden bed:

What is double-digging?
Loosening the soil more than 12 inches down creates conditions under which plants' roots thrive.

How do you double-dig: Begin at one end of the bed and dig a 1-foot-wide by 1-foot-deep trench across the bed's width, placing the excavated dirt in a wheelbarrow. Next, work a garden fork into the floor of the trench and slowly rock it back and forth to loosen the soil. Continue until the soil in the excavated area is loosened. Dig a second, similar-size trench next to the first, this time placing the excavated soil in the first trench. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the second trench with the garden fork. Dig another trench and backfill the second trench, loosen the bottom of the third trench, and continue this process until you reach the end of the bed. Fill the last trench with the soil excavated from the first.

Why you should double-dig: Carrots, potatoes, beets, and other root crops need deep, loose soil to grow well. More important, double-digging is the first step in creating the most productive garden bed possible, insists John Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables. "Double-digging adds air deep into the soil and enables roots to grow and the microbes to create good soil structure," Jeavons says. This is, no two ways about it, a labor-intensive approach. But if the soil where you want your garden is very dense or hard-packed, making the effort to do this will pay you back handsomely as your garden grows.

(by Dan Sullivan found here)

Double digging is typically done when cultivating soil in a new garden, or when deep top-soil is required. On poor or heavy soils, or for vegetable gardens, double digging might be required every 3-5 years. In other cases, double digging is only really needed on starting a new garden, or on total replanting.

For photos in the step-by-step process, visit the Royal Horticultural Society site.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekly Tip for Your Garden; I

Sunday, October 26th--
Keep lawns raked so the grass stays healthy. Once frost has killed back tender plants, begin cleaning out your garden. Discard diseased plant material and add the rest to the compost pile. Winterizing your beds minimizes disease and insect problems and makes spring clean up easier!