What’s in the Garden? Compost

It is autumn here in southern Louisiana.  Our daytime temperatures have been in the seventies and nighttime lows have been in the forties.  Take a walk in my garden and you will soon see that my plants think it is springtime.  My green eggplants and all my pepper plants are still producing.  I had a volunteer tomato plant that came up in the garden a couple of months ago.  It is now 3 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to eat fresh tomatoes from the garden in December?  I am watching the weather and if we get a forecast for frost I have a plan to try to save the tomato plant.  I will let you know if I succeed.

I didn’t plant much in my fall garden this year.  A fall garden is planted at the end of the summer and at that time it was hot outside and I was busy doing other things so I failed to plan for much of a fall garden.  I did manage to put six cauliflower and 32 kale plants in the raised bed.

With 32 kale plants you are probably thinking we  must eat a lot of kale.  No.  We use a few kale leaves in our salads, as a wrap in place of tortilla when eating fajitas and for a snack as kale chips. Why so much kale?  It is for my workers.  My compost makers.  My chickens.  They LOVE kale and as you will see they have been helping me get my garden ready for the springtime.  Yes, springtime.  I am feeding my garden bed by adding compost and then I will lay a blanket of shredded leaves on top.  After giving my garden this little TLC (tender loving care) I hope it will yield a bountiful harvest next summer.

How did I make my compost?  Besides the daily scraps that I throw to the chickens, we removed some grass, dirt and old mulch from an area in the garden to make room for a new project.  I will share this project in a future post.  Each day I hauled a wheelbarrow full of the grass etc. into the chicken run.  The chickens would scurry to the pile scratching and pecking at the grass, bugs and worms.  Oh happy chickens.

The next day I returned with my wheelbarrow, shovel, and a frame with wire screen attached.  I used the screen to sift through the now loose and mostly grass-free soil.  What was left was my new soil for my garden beds.  After emptying the compost into the garden, I would bring the chickens another load of grass etc.

What if you don’t have chickens or piles of grass and dirt at your home?  You can still work on getting compost for your garden.  Begin by making a compost pile.  Throw all your leftover fruit and veggie scraps (don’t add meat) into the pile.  Also add your egg shells and used coffee grounds. In the summer add grass clippings and in the fall add leaves.  Turn the contents of the pile each week and then spray it with  water.  With time, and some effort, you can make compost too.

Since I have started raising chickens, not only do I get eggs but I no longer have to turn a compost pile. They  turn it for me.  I just grow more kale.

–Penny

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