Making Compost is Easy

We love composting. It reduces the waste we send to landfills, teaches our boys about green living, and provides nutrient rich matter for our backyard garden. Heres a simple recipe for making your own compost right in your backyard. Step 1 talks about location and container features. Step 2 covers the ingredients to add and those to avoid. Step 3 addresses mixing, watering, and time. Are you ready to get started?

The first thing youll want to do is find a good location and build or acquire a means of containing your compost. The compost needs to get hot and needs air flow for ventilation, so a sunny, open location seems right. However too much sun and too much wind can dry out the compost which will slow the decomposition process. Find a warm protected area with partial sun. If you have neighbors nearby, you may want to consider that as well!

You will need a means of containing the compost matter. This will reduce its footprint in your yard, aid the decomposition process, and limit matter being blown out of the pile and littering your yard. Size depends on how much you want to compost and how much space you have. Compost piles can be built in four foot square fenced areas with the compost getting as much as four foot high. Dont exceed six foot in height or the weight will compress the compost and hinder decomposition. An area this big can be built with wire fencing, wood pallets, or even hay bales. Most of us dont need such a large area nor do we have the back yard space to spare for it. But if you are building your own area, shoot for at least three foot by three foot. Optimal decomposition requires three cubic feet of matter. There are number of commercially available compost containment options available for those of you that dont want to build your own or for those looking to compost smaller amounts of material.

Now that you have decided on a location and acquired a means of containing your compost, you are ready to start adding material. Youll want to add about two thirds dry or brown material and one third green or moist material. Dry materials include leaves, newspaper, and wood chips or saw dust. Shred the material first to aid in decomposition. Green matter is made up of grass clippings and kitchen waste, like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells and nutshells. You can grind kitchen waste to help the composting process. Avoid materials that cause odors, attract pests, or promote disease. These include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, pet feces, weeds that have gone to seed, and diseased plants. Layer the material in your pile, starting with approximately four inches of dry matter and adding roughly two inches of green matter. Continue layering until you are out of material or the compost container is full. Once your compost pile is full, you should avoid adding new material. It is best to start a new pile for the fresh material.

The last step is proper maintenance. The organic matter will decompose naturally in about a year, but proper maintenance, including mixing frequently and managing moisture levels, will cut the processing time significantly and reduce odors. Mixing or turning the compost can be done with a pitchfork. This provides oxygen that is necessary for decomposition. You should mix our turn your compost once or twice a week for faster results. Odors indicate more frequent mixing is necessary. The pile should remain damp, about the moistness of a squeezed sponge, so occasional watering may be necessary in dry conditions. Covering the pile with black plastic or using an enclosed container will reduce moisture loss and, as an added benefit, it will reduce rainwater from leaching out valuable nutrients.

Time takes care of the rest. In one to three months, you should have a dark brown, crumbly product that has an earthy odor. Now that you know how easy composting can be, you should get started today.

Landscaping a Sloped Lot Design Ideas

While a house in a hilly area comes with a promise of stunning panoramic views of the surroundings, to their utter chagrin, homeowners quickly realize that working on a sloping backyard can be a harrowing task. However, the old adage, “More work equals to better results” certainly holds true in case of landscaping a sloping yard which presents innumerable opportunities for aesthetically pleasing inclusions that would otherwise look mundane.

When planning a landscape for a hilly yard, it is quintessential to include this topographical feature as a crucial consideration when deciding on every aspect of the landscape, from the type of plants that you intend to use to the design of the garden. Preplanning will help you to tackle the more cumbersome aspects of landscaping a slope while yielding astounding results. So, here are some tips on how you can landscape your sloping backyard to create a stunning medley of colors and textures.

Get to know the terrain

Grading the terrain: Before you draw up plans for landscaping your sloping backyard, it is imperative to study the terrain and the slope to ensure that your landscape will be able to efficaciously handle the drawback of gardening on a slope, while making the most of the natural features of the terrain.

A simple thumb rule to understand how the extent of slope will impact your gardening efforts is that the steepness of the slope will be directly proportional to the water you will need for your plants. Because steeper slopes tend to funnel moisture away from the plants, forcing the water and soil to flow downhill, it is vital to get the slope graded. As a matter of fact, most experts suggest that getting a sloping yard professionally graded can help you to save a significant amount of money on watering the steep terrain in the future.

Visual analysis: Alternatively, you could also do a visual analysis of the area. Gauge the severity of the slope and create a quick diagram labeling the steepest portions of the yard; make a note of the amount of sunlight that the different portions of the yard receive. You may also want to include comments on any drainage problems that may be encountered in specific areas.

List the various elements of the landscape: With the diagram in hand, you will be in a better position to place the various landscaping elements in the drawing such as tress, flower beds, fountains, walkways, boulders etc. It is crucial to accurately anticipate the area that the plants and shrubs will cover at maturity so that the landscape does not look too crammed.

Mark the areas for planting: Ideally the trees should be planted at the bottom half of the slope so that they can add stability to the landscape and prevent soil erosion. The steepest sections should have shrubs with deep reaching fibrous roots that will hold on to the soil while the wider plants that will cover large areas at maturity should be planted at the bottom of the slope so that they can create a neat hedge while affording you all the privacy that you need to enjoy your garden.

Food Dehydrator – Who Needs One

With todays seemingly instant availability of food and with literally every modern home having a refrigerator and freezer for food storage, you may ask “who needs a food dehydrator?” You might say, “If I can dash up to the local grocery store at a moments notice and get all of my fruits, veggies, meats etc., why would I ever need to a food dehydrator to preserve my food?” My knee jerk response to this mentality is “who wouldnt want a food dehydrator?” A modern food dehydrator can be one of the most versatile and wisest health and wellness equipment purchases you could make. But, it is a fair questionjust who does need a food dehydrator? Lest talk about that for just a bit.

Garden Family-
I absolutely believe, without a doubt that any family of two or more people who have any size of a vegetable garden should have a kitchen food dehydrator. If you have had any experience with a garden at any time of your life you know that the abundance of your harvest is always far more than your original planting. The planting of one tomato plant can reap a dozen or more tomatoes. Your familys ability to eat all of your gardens harvest abundance is probably pretty slim. With a food dehydrator you have the ability preserve this produce for your familys enjoyment over the next several months. Granted, your neighbors probably wont like you owning this dehydrator since they wont be getting near as much free goodies out of your garden.

Teacher-
Todays average American student has never before in our nations history been so far removed from the origins of our food supply. As a teaching tool, a food dehydrator in the classroom just makes so much sense. It will provide your students with visual and real time, hands-on experience with their raw food. For a child to take a strawberry that was picked from a classroom garden plot, dehydrate it and then have it explode with taste in their mouth is an absolutely priceless teachable moment. Whether it is related to history, science or home economics the practical uses of a classroom food dehydrator can be one of the most effective and versatile teaching tools in your classroom.

Outdoorsman-
A hunters best friend may be more than just his trusty hunting dog. Todays hunter needs an additional best friend in the form of an equally trusty food dehydrator. After a successful hunting excursion a hunter needs an effective and timely way to preserve the fresh meat. To turn this meat into a tasty, seasoned piece of jerky can be the gastronomical highlight of the trip. A food dehydrator at the camp site or lodge will be one of the most heavily used pieces of camping equipment. Speaking of camping, whether you are a weekend camper, hiker or hardcore survivalist, what could be more needed than an inexpensive supply of healthy, finger food and snacks to eat on the trail or at the campsite? A food dehydrator will provide you with that healthy blast of good carbohydrates and proteins that your body will crave during these physically demanding events. These dried snacks will not require any form of preparation or elaborate preservation and will be extremely light weight and easy to pack. The eating of these snacks will not require any additional food preparation. Dehydrated food can literally be a highly nutritional power snacks that can fit in your backpack or pocket.

Church-
Food engineers have said that food dehydration may be one of the most effective forms of cost efficient food preservation techniques. Churches with a theological belief system based on end times survival or feeding impoverished world populations have listened very carefully to this research. Amassing a home or community storehouse of well preserved foods with the use of a home food dehydrator is front and center in many families spiritual and family lives. Other missionary families are recognizing the efficiency of a food dehydrator and incorporating it into the feeding of their indigenous followers. These are populations who may be suffering from lack of food due to famine, natural disaster or war torn atrocities. A food dehydrator is being recognized as the catalyst that can not only meet religious requirements but allow one person to effectively feed a multitude with healthy, preserved, nutritious food.

So, here is the question. Do you see yourself in any of these examples? Are you in a family of two or more folks who have any size garden? Are you a teacher or a member of a school system that is searching for creative, cheap and effective teaching tools? Are you an outdoor lover that needs that healthy, finger food snack? Are you the member of a church that requires you to preserve at least a years worth of food? Does your church support a missionary in the field who is trying to effectively feed the surrounding people in order to spread the message? If you see yourself in any of these examples then YOU are the one who needs a food dehydrator. From about $50.00 to $250.00 your one time purchase of a modern home food dehydrator will last for years. You food dehydrator will provide you years of service and quickly become that piece of kitchen equipment that you will wonder how you

How To Build Your Own Intermittent Misting System To Propagate Plants

This article will lay out the steps and materials you need to build your own misting system to propagate plants.

How to build your own misting system

Here is a list of materials and quantities needed to build a basic misting system. This system is designed to be used outdoors, but should also work fine inside a greenhouse. Your choice of misting nozzles will determine whether your PVC pipe will be suspended above the cuttings, or lay on the ground. This list assumes you are using a digital timer. WARNING: Use extreme caution if using mechanical timers instead of the digital one. The voltage can cause injury or death. If you are not qualified to perform the required wiring, seek the help of a qualified electrician. If using a digital controller, most convert the incoming voltage to a lower voltage, so there is less of a danger, but seek advice from an electrician if needed.
Misting controller(s) (1) (2, if building the mechanically operated system)
110 volt AC to 24 volt AC transformer (1) (will not be needed if using the digital timer)
24 volt AC solenoid (1)
Wire for solenoid (length determined by system builder)
Wire for timers (only if using the mechanical timers)
3/4 PVC pipe (10′ length)
3/4 socket x 3/4 male IPS adapter (1)
3/4 male IPS x female hose adapter (1)
3/4 PVC glue on cap (1)
misting nozzles (4)
Waterproof wire-nuts (2)
9 volt batteries (for digital timers only)
PVC primer and cement
Teflon tape
Misc. electrical fittings (only if building the mechanical system)Step 1
Install the two 3/4 male adapters into the solenoid. Be sure to wrap Teflon tape around all pipe threads to reduce the likelihood of leaks. The 3/4 x female hose adapter should be installed on the inlet side, the 3/4 male IPS x 3/4 socket on the outlet side. Most solenoids have a direction of flow arrow to help you determine which end is the inlet, and which is the outlet. Be sure to not over tighten the fittings, or the solenoid may crack.
Step 2
If building the digital timer system, wire the controller to the solenoid, using the wiring directions that came with the controller. Be absolutely sure the transformer and solenoid are the same voltage. Use the waterproof wire nuts to connect the solenoid to the wire. If building the mechanical system, the timers need to be wired together, then to a transformer. The transformer then gets wired to the solenoid using the wire nuts. Seek the help of a qualified electrician to be sure your mechanically operated system is wired correctly.
Step 3
Prime and cement the 3/4 PVC cap on the end of the PVC pipe. Prime and cement the other end of the pipe into the fitting in the solenoid. Do not get any cement in the solenoid.
Step 4

Dried Flowers From Your Food Dehydrator

This article is about preserving flowers, leaves, and other foliage from your garden, yard, or bouquet, in a food dehydrator, thus extending their beauty in flower arrangements that will last to, and through, the winter months, or even beyond. Here you will find simple steps on drying flowers with a food dehydrator to produce a potpourri of color and fragrance.

The starting point is the selection of flowers. I use flowers throughout the following explanations but it includes other foliage that can be dried as supplements to a wreath, or any other dried arrangements that the imagination creates. Flowers, selected for drying, can be anywhere along the bloom but not past the point of full bloom. Do not use bloom that is damaged, by blight, insects, wind, or withered. If the flower has been subjected to pesticide, or dirt, it can be sprayed with a pump type mist sprayer, similar to one of the window cleaner sprayers, then gently shaken to remove as much water as possible. Never use detergents, or cleaner sprays.

Most food dehydrators have trays that areĀ  inch apart, that provides plenty of clearance if drying flower petals, or leaf type foliage separately, but for drying a complete floral bloom remove one or two trays, on the drawer type dehydrators, to accommodate an entire flower. The trays should be clean. I have lined the trays with parchment paper, but many food dehydrators have non-stick sheets available that fit their drying shelves. You need room when drying flowers keeping them spread out so as not to touch each other causing discoloring or distortion. A thermostat on the food dehydrator should range between 100 deg F and 140 deg F. Flower petals will dry well around 100-120 deg F for 2 to 5 hours.

A discussion about drying flowers would not be complete without mentioning Roses. Of all flowers from the garden, or florist, to me, roses and dried rose petals, produce the best aromatic fragrance, and potpourri, as any other dried flower. Their perfume seems more permeating, and is longer lasting than most blooms.

In earlier times flowers were dried by burying them in sand, as well as hanging them in a bag made out of paper, or porous cloth. These methods were time consuming, in most cases up to several weeks. It becomes clear now, why food dehydrators have come into vogue for making dried flower arrangements. The drying process is very less involved, less mess, and the drying time reduced to between the two to three hour range. This reduced time in processing contributes to a better quality of dried flower.

In summary, drying flowers, or foliage, in a food dehydrator has advantages over a microwave. Food dehydrators provide a wider drying area so items do not come in contact with each other causing spoilage of the petals during the drying process. Food dehydrators are able to provide for higher volumes of produce, not only do they have larger drying capacity, but can accommodate larger and more bulky flowers.