Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bamboo Control Methods

There are many methods of controlling bamboo.  To be honest, all of them sound very labor intensive.  And you know me.  I'm allergic to labor intensive.

Controlling Running Bamboo

We've read about digging trenches.  We've read about installing barriers.  There's probably a "nuclear option" out there.  But if your soil is not so rich, like ours, it appears the simplest and (most importantly) effortless (well, maybe not completely effortless) method of controlling running bamboo is to lay down manure or other rich organic material and fertilizers only on the area you want the bamboo to follow. Duh!

As you can see in this photo, the bamboo followed the line of horse manure we laid down all  last summer.  The shoots ran in both directions from the mother plant, east and west.  And get this: There were no shoots beyond the manure!

Bamboo following the manure.

Think about it.  Bamboo is pretty darn smart. Either that or it can smell.  Why put out rhizomes over there were there's little to feed upon when there's a thick, smelly run of good old horse manure up and down this way? (Other useful bamboo growing and controlling information can be found here at Bamboo Garden.

Nature's all about taking the easy way and following the path of least resistance.  If you thought running bamboo was too hard to control, maybe you need to give it another try.

If any shoots do appear out beyond our containment area, simply mowing this area should do the trick.  We left a line between the fence so we can do just that and keep the bamboo from invading our neighbor's pasture.  We also plan to dig up any stray shoots and relocate to new groves.

Bamboo Fertilizing Information

Improve the long term health of soil as well as fertilize bamboo: Pure Black Castings™ and VermaPlex®

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bamboo Plants Update


As promised, here are the bamboo plants as they look so far this summer.

Our Giant Bamboo Plants Are A-Growin'

The two  images below are  the bamboo plants from the previous post as they look to date.  You know, the ones we put down by the barn.  That's what the electric fence is about.  Horses LOVE bamboo.  If we want to see the bamboo live to a ripe old age, we'll have to keep the horses away from them.

Growing Running Plants in Florida

And another wide shot....

How to grow and fertilize bamboo plants

Remember, this is the growth from the single plant circled in red and last summer's growth shown here...

Transplanting bamboo plants
Bamboo plant as it looked last summer.

So this year,  we have about 40 canes grown out about 30 feet in both directions from the original red-circled bamboo plant.  The bamboo canes are running along the horse manure, castings and liquid fertilizer applications. No canes grow out towards the barn (and that's a good thing, they would be gobbled up!)

The image below are of the bamboo plants we planted in the other pasture as they are to date....

We put in four bamboo plants at this location last summer, so the cane growth is much thicker,  The manure and fertilizer was added to a very large, square area, so the stand is much wider.  The shorter canes shown here came up first and are about 7-8 feet tall.  The newest canes coming up are now reaching 10-11 feet tall.

The shoots emerged in very early spring (actually, in February) as soon as it warmed up.  We got a couple of frosts, but we covered up the tender young shoots to prevent damage.  Even though this bamboo variety, Moso, is cold hardy, the young shoots are susceptible to frost until they harden off.  

Because we get late frosts in the spring and early frosts in the fall, followed and preceded by warm temperatures, we must vigilantly keep these early and late shoots protected.

Next...Our Bamboo Plant Fertilizing Regime

Bamboo Plant Fertilizers

Grow Bamboo with organic worm castings fertilizer
  • Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic, OMRI listed worm castings. Slow release fertilizer for bamboo.
  • VermPlex®:  Certified Organic liquid soil inoculant made from these worm castings.  Foliar feed for instant nutrition, drench for root growth and health.

Together, they take care of your soil.

Click here for information on these results using organic bamboo fertilizers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Blueberries and Strawberries


A-ww. It looks too good to eat.  But I'll eat it anyway.

Eating Color

Eat blueberries and strawberries for health
Colors in nature are always harmonious.
Just had to share my breakfast with you.  Well, at least an image of it.  I never share my food.

Enjoy! I know I did.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Growing Running Bamboo

Well, we finally did it.  We overcame our prejudice against (cringe) "running" bamboo and  planted ourselves some.  Turns out, we live in bamboo growing heaven.

Bamboo: A Magical Plant

This country is slowly waking up to something the rest of the world has know for centuries: Bamboo is a truly magical plant. What's the magic?  Oh, only the potential to save our sorry behinds from deforestation, soil erosion and scarce, expensive building supplies.  

More on what makes bamboo so wonderful later.  For now, let me update you on our beginning bamboo grove.

Planting Running Moso Bamboo

This picture is the one of the "moso" bamboo plants (a giant timber bamboo) we planted down by the barn last spring.  The original potted plant  is circled in red. The remainder of those bamboo canes came up over the summer.

Growing Moso Bamboo
Young Moso Bamboo Plants
A good friend brought us the moso bamboo culms from North Carolina late in the summer the year before. We planted the bamboo into pots and held them over the winter on our sun porch.

We planted these potted bamboos early last spring, one by the barn and three in another pasture.  The one pictured above developed a long root in the pot.  So we stretched it out down the fence.  These culms came up from that root pretty quickly.

We prepared the planting hole and out away from the hole and down a trench for the long root by mixing several cups of Pure Black Castings™ and watered it in with VermaPlex® mixed 20:1. A foliar spray of VermaPlex® was applied throughout the summer as well as alternating drenches of VermaPlex® and VermaMax LE® (a higher nitrogen and calcium liquid available soon).

Here's a link to our Bamboo R & D (Research and Development) page describing the applications and results.

Preparation Of The Bamboo Planting Area

Throughout last summer, Kayce dumped all the manure and wet shavings from the horse stalls and paddocks around the bamboo and out, following the area where we wanted the bamboo to grow.  We read (or Ol' Bill read 'cause I don't) that bamboo roots will grow towards the nutrition and moisture. We mulched the manure with old hay and kept the whole thing moist throughout the year.

Bamboo sends up new culms in the spring-summer. After the culms come up, all the action is going on out of sight below the surface. Over winter, the root system is doing it's thing. .  Because of the winter root growing aspect, we did a final VermaPlex® drench application in the fall to benefit winter root production.

Then, this spring, the shoots started emerging.  It was a little scary.  Check back later for current pictures, if you dare.

Bamboo Growing Fertilizers

Grow Bamboo with organic worm castings fertilizer
  • Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic, OMRI listed worm castings. Slow release fertilizer for bamboo.
  • VermPlex®:  Certified Organic liquid soil inoculant made from these worm castings.  Foliar feed for instant nutrition, drench for root growth and health.
Together, they take care of your soil.

Click for more information on these organic bamboo fertilizers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blueberry Harvest Time

Blueberry harvest is late this year.  Late but abundant. After what happen last year, we were so thankful.

Certified Organic OMRI Listed Worm Castings and VermaPlex®

Here Come The Blueberries

Blueberries almost ready to harvest
Blueberries a-ripening.
Because of the cloudy weather we had this spring, our blueberries are rather late coming in.  We've been harvesting a few for the last couple of weeks, but they are just now truly starting to ripen in earnest.

A late harvest is better than no harvest at all.  Last season, because Ol' Bill got a l-i-t-t-l-e too enthusiastic with the pruning shears the previous fall, for the first time we missed a harvest. 

It took until mid season last summer before any leaves appeared.  I, an eternal pessimist,  feared the bushes were dead.  But by summer's end,  there was healthy new cane growth.

Then, this summer, after  castings/VermaPlex® applications last fall and again this spring, the bushes exploded.  Ol' Bill was so shell-shocked from his pruning debacle, he dared not touch the bushes (lest I remove several of his fingers) and let the bushes go wild.

Bountiful Blueberry Harvest

We even have fruit stems coming out of the ground!  Never had that before.  I can take care of the  "low hanging fruit" harvesting and I wont even need a bucket or anything.  I just eat them as I go.

There's going to be plenty for us, the neighbors, and the birds.  Kayce's making room in the freezer for our blueberry harvest and Ol' Bill's feverishly studying responsible blueberry pruning.  Pruning is going to get a thorough review between now and harvest's end. I'll see to that.

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

Some removal of the flower stems would have been beneficial and made for easier harvesting, but the missed harvest of last year made cowards of us all. We just wanted some blueberries.

More on blueberry bush pruning next time

Blueberry Organic Fertilizer Resources

Certified organic worm castings and VermaPlex for blueberies
  • Certified Organic Worm Castings:
    Natural, slow release - just what blueberries need. For more and bigger berries with better taste, broadcast twice a year.
  • Certified Organic Liquid Fertilizer:
    VermaPlex® is made from these worm castings.  For stunning results, apply to blueberry bushes  in Spring and Fall after applying worm castings. Adds microbes and promotes plant and soil health. 

All about worm castings and VermaPlex®:  Prepare to be amazed!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Add Worms To Your Garden and Lawn

Earthworms are good for your soil (I also like them as snacks, but that's just me). Here's how and why...

Add earthworms to your garden and build soil
Earthworms in your garden.

Build and Improve Your Soil With Earthworms

You remember Charles Darwin, don't you?  He was a very smart man who was very interested in earthworms.  In fact, he studied them until his death. Another very smart man, Aristotle, had such a high regard for the importance of theses lowly creatures, he called them "the intestines of the earth"

Now that may sound like an insult to you, but think about what that means for a moment. This description pretty much sums up the important role earthworms play in our world and these two giant thinkers of old recognized it, as well as scientists, horticulturist and soil conservationist of today.  It's time all we gardeners jumped on the "earthworms rule" bandwagon, too.  Here's why.

Earthworms Make Soil

Our esteemed Mr. Darwin said of the earthworm:
"When we behold a wide, turf-covered expanse, we should remember that its smoothness, on which so much of its beauty depends, is mainly due to all the inequalities having been slowly leveled by worms.  It is a marvelous reflection that the whole of the superficial mould (topsoil) over any such expanse has passed, and will again pass every few years through the bodies of earthworms.  It may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly creatures."
To paraphrase Mr. Darwin in Digger speech:
"Earthworms have created and are creating now, even as we speak,  the very rich topsoil from which all plants, trees, and vegetation grow."
And the earthworms aren't just processing all the organic matter they run across in their wondering's.  They leave behind valuable, highly fertile, slow release, worm "castings" (or "worm poop" if you prefer) in their wake.

But wait.  That's not all.  Earthworms, particularly night crawlers,  improve the soil in another important way. All this burrowing and crawling about improves soil drainage and aerates the soil. Hard packed soil that prevents rain water from sinking in can be improved dramatically with the addition of earthworms.

How To Add Earthworms To Your Garden And Soil

The use (and might I say, over-use) of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, has had a devastating effect on the worm population in our soils.  But you can help overcome this population reduction by introducing earthworms to your garden, lawn and pasture.  Here's how.

After making sure there's a supply of organic material (like leaves, manures, grass clippings, compost), introduce earthworms at a rate of 10-12 worms per square foot. Prevent the area from drying out, if possible, and let the worms work their magic. (Summer is the best time to add earthworms.)

Now you can say you're of a kindred spirit with the likes of Charles Darwin and Aristotle as you build top soil and improve soil drainage with the mighty earthworm.

Summary of Soil Benefits From Earthworms:

  • Break down of organic material
  • Deposit of fertile worm castings
  • Aeration of the soil and improved drainage
  • Add 8-10 worms per square foot

Earthworm Resources:

Earthworms are good for your garden.  Add some today.
European Nightcrawlers: Sensational fishing worms and spectacular soil builders. So, when you're not gardening, you can go fishin'!

Red Worms: These earthworms create a staggering amount of vermicompost.  Add them to your garden or put in a compost bin.

Earthworm Information:  Care and feeding of earthworms.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

How To Create Garden Soil

How to create gardensoil
How do you make organic garden soil right in your garden? Let me count the ways: Lasagna Gardening, Sheet Composting....

Originally posted 12-6-13

Make Garden Soil with Lasagna Gardening
 Pure Black Castings ™           VermaPlex ®            VermaMax®

Make Top Soil In Your Garden - It's Easy

It's winter time and most gardens (except here in sunny Florida and other blessed places) are lying fallow.  Why not make some top soil right in place over the winter?  Do it now and the rich compost will be ready for planting come spring time.  Here's an easy way.

Sheet Composting

There are several names to describe this type of composting: lasagna gardening, sheet composting, direct composting.  The idea is to mimic what mother nature does in the forests all the time.  Different layers of organic matter and animal manures, filled with beneficial microbes and earthworms,  build up and compost over time.

The rich "leaf mold" and forest soils your ancestors gathered for their vegetable and flower gardens can be created right in your garden patch,  saving you time and labor.

For existing gardens and beds, here is one method of sheet composting:
  • Remove all weeds from your plot.
  • Aerate the soil if it's compacted. (This will help the composting process. See Tips below.)
  • Chop up any leaves and yard waste with your mower.
  • Cover your bed with a layer of this material. (Don't forget the chopped veggie scrapes and coffee grounds.) Moisten (see Tips below for adding microbes to your water).
  • Spread a layer of fresh or composted horse manure. (If your not lucky enough to have access to horses, you can purchase composted manures from garden centers.) Moisten.
  • Add a second layer of chopped organic mulching material like straw, leaves, etc.
  • Keep moistened and leave over the winter.
During the winter, microbes and earthworms stay busy converting this mixture into rich compost.  You have "created soil" so to speak, just like the automatic process occurring on the forest floor.

Success Tips:
  1. Add VermaPlex® to the water when moistening to add microbes to the mix.  It speeds up the process and insures composting takes place.
  2. Add earthworms to the ground before adding layers.  They break down the compost, accomplish the soil aeration chore for you, and deposit rich castings that feed your plants.
Next time:  Easy way to create new fertile garden beds where grass is growing....

Gardening Resources:

Liquid garden fertilizer
Add microbes to your soil.
VermaPlex®: Certified Organic, All Natural Soil Inoculant.

Make garden soil with earthworms
Add earthworms to your soil.
Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers for your garden.

Organic Turf Care

Organic Turf Grass Care

Finally! Going back to organic methods of turf/grass management. It's better, it's cheaper....

Originally posted 11-26-13

Organic Turf Grass Management
 Pure Black Castings ™           VermaPlex ®           VermaMax®

Return to Organic Turf Grass Management

Here's an interesting bit of history: Before 1950, all school sports fields were cared for organically.  Only after World War II, when chemical companies began to push into the agricultural, consumer and municipality markets, did sports field care switch from organic to chemical. And you thought  we always got our fertilizers from a lab!

No, sadly, the switch was on until, by 1990, close to 90% of school, university, and municipal turf fields were being treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The chemical method was thought to be cheaper, easier and (strangely) better.

Of course, we know better now, don't we?  It may have been cheaper then, but not so now. And it was - by no way shape, form, nor fashion - better.  Fortunately, the tide (no reference to Alabama intended) has turned back in the other direction. What was once old is new again.  Why, you might say organic gardening methods have become mainstream. 

Many universities are offering organic turf management courses. And most chemical fertilizer companies now offer an organic alternative as the demand for organic lawn care methods has grown.  The reasons are clear.  Organic lawn care:
  • Is safer and non-toxic
  • Is cheaper, in the long run AND the short run
  • Uses less water due to deeper roots and better water retention
I mean, sports fields are played upon, rolled over, spread on our skin and up our noses.  We eat this stuff, whether we're winning the game or getting our a** beaten.  Our kids are out there, for heaven's sake.  Doesn't it make sense to think about what we're treating the grass with?  Shouldn't we be trying to limit the poison we and our kids are exposed to?  Ya think?

Fortunately, organic fertilizer is no longer relegated to the fringes - the "tree huggers" and aging hippy "back-to-the-lander's".  It's catching on with schools, organizations, and municipalities. Organic grass and turf fertilizers are easier to find, their cheaper to use, and they're good for us and our soils.   So get with it and consider a switch to organic turf care.

Organic Turf Care Resources:

Certified Organic Turf Fertilizers
Pure Black Castings and VermaPlex Combo: Certified organic, safe, non-toxic.

Fall - It's Best Time To Fertilize Grass

Fall Fertilize Grass
When is the best time to fertilize grass?  It may surprise you.....

Originally posted 11-18-13

Organic Turf Grass Fertilizer
 Pure Black Castings ™           VermaPlex ®            VermaMax®

Fertilize grass with worm castings
Digger fertilizes grass,
spring, summer,fall,winter.

It may seem counterintuitive (I love that word), but fall is the best time to fertilize your grass.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  The summer growth has stopped.  But grass isn't just about the green stuff that you see.  The roots, the parts you don't see,  are probably the most important requirement for healthy grass.  And grass needs to concentrate on root growth over the winter months.  And, just like my brain needs protein to concentrate, grass needs fertilizer.

Fertilize grass and turf with organic worm castings

Grass Fertilizer Schedule

Call it turf, lawn, pasture - it's all grass. A good dose of slow release, organic fertilizer after all that hard work of growing through the summer is just what your grass needs to recover it's strength.  Renewed, it can concentrate on expanding and deepening the root system over the winter, making your grass healthier and stronger for next summer's heat.

What's the best way to provide slow release organic fertilizer and at the same time give your grass a good dose of  nutrients right away? In a nutshell, apply Pure Black Castings™ followed by VermaPlex® in the spring.  Then apply VermaPlex® again in two weeks. In the fall, apply VermaPlex® (if you didn't do the spring worm castings application, do it now).  Here are fertilizer application instructions in a convenient chart: Turf Lawn Fertilizer Schedule.

Following this lawn-turf-grass fertilizing regime will not only produce lush, healthy grass, but vastly improve your soil's micro-biotic life and tilth.

The worm castings  provide slow release, organic fertilizer, contain microbes to keep your soil alive and healthy, and help retain moisture.  The VermaPlex® proves immediate nutrition.  And thus eliminating the one slam against organic fertilizer made by chemical fertilizer proponents: organic fertilizer, being "slow", doesn't make nutrients available to the plants fast enough.
So there...

Organic Grass Fertilizers

Certified organic worm castings for grass

Newest Gardening Trend: Vertical Gardens

Vertical vegetable gardening
Latest garden trend: Vertical Gardening.  Container gardening taken to new heights. Literally.

Originally posted 1-17-13

Certified Organic Worm Castings Fertilizer
 Pure Black Castings            VermaPlex             VermaMax

Vertical Gardening: A.K.A. Green Wall, Living Wall

The latest trend in gardening these days is Vertical Gardens.  Why? Here are a few good reasons:
  • Plants grow up, thereby taking up less space
  • Less labor due to less soil preparation and digging (so what's wrong with digging?).
  • More varieties of plants possible in much less space.
  • Can grow "bottom-up" and "bottom-down".
  • Less weeding
  • Reduced chores (yeah!)
  • Increased air circulation
  • Lower risk of plant diseases and pests
  • Easier to tend and harvest
  • Less bending, stooping, and breaking of backs.
  • Increased yields in a smaller space.
  • Vine-ing types of plants are well suited to vertical gardens. They perform better than bush types.
So, we're jumping on the Vertical Gardening trend. We're also going to do it mostly hydroponicly, using perlite as our soil-less medium and VermaPlex ® added to the water supply for the fertilizer.

Occasionally, we'll add some liquid VermaMax ® as a nitrogen booster (liquid VermaMax®  will be available soon). For our non-hydroponic plants (like beefsteak tomatoes) we'll still use organic worm castings Pure Black Castings™ in the potting soil mix.

Our vertical garden will also be self-watering. Self-watering worked wonders for us and we feel vertical gardening takes the self-watering gardening system to the next level of efficiency. Less, space, less labor, increased yields, fewer problems  means more time for other activities (like digging holes for no apparent reason.)

Vertical vegetable container gardening

Next:  Now that the shade yurt is completed, we'll be building our plant towers and watering system. 

Vertical Gardening Supplies:

Pure Black Worm Castings and Liquid Fertilizer
Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic Worm Castings created using only organic materials.

VermaMax®:  Chicken Litter organically composted using VermaPlex®. Add to potting soil mix.

VermaPlex®:  Created from Certified Organic Pure Black Castings™.  Add to your hydroponic water supply for continuous feeding.

Organic Fertilizer Information: Find use/application guides at Monroe Works.

Still More Vertical Garden Updates

Update on shade for vertical garden
Vertical garden "Shade Yurt" for our brutal Florida sun. Organic garden in the shade.

Originally posted 1-16-13

Organic worm castings for vertical garden fertilizer
Pure Black Castings            VermaPlex             VermaMax

The shade yurt for our vertical garden is coming along.  We're using Derek Fell's "Vertical Gardening, Grow Up Not Out" as our vertical garden guide and Hal Jackson's Laurel Nest Yurts as our yurt building guide.

Grow Up not Out

After getting the edgers in place underneath the yurt supports, Ol' Bill put down ground cloth and then added mulch:

Shade yurt for vertical vegetable garden

After which I promptly took up residence.

Going up with our garden

A nice big water bowl is all that's needed.  Oh yeah, and the vertical garden.

Vertical Gardening Supplies:

Certified worm castings and liquid fertilizer
Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic Worm Castings created using only organic materials.
VermaMax®:  Chicken Litter organically composted using VermaPlex®. Add to potting soil mix.
VermaPlex®:  Created from Certified Organic Pure Black Castings™.  Add to your hydroponic water supply for continuous feeding.
Organic Fertilizer Information: Find use/application guides at Monroe Works.

More Vertical Garden Updates

Yurt shade for our vertical garden
Ol' Bill's working on his vertical garden.  I'm working on my chew bone...

Originally posted 1-15-13

 Pure Black Castings            VermaPlex             VermaMax

Vertical Garden Improvements

Despite the unusual heat we're having for January, ol' Bill's been hard at work on his shade yurt for our vertical garden.  After putting up the yurt, we decided we should  add landscape edgers under the wooden legs to prevent them from rotting.

This is another project that could have been done before setting up the yurt, but we would have missed out on all that huffin' and puffin' to shove those babies underneath.  I observed it all from the shady side.

Vertical garden in the shade yurt

After loosening the tie-downs, Ol' Bill pried up the supports while Kayce shoved under the blocks.  I, as stated above, watched intently from the shade.

Finishing touches to our shade yurt
The flexibility of the yurt allowed each section to be lifted without harming the structure.  Once the blocks were in place and the supports adjusted until all were settled, the tie-downs were... well... tied down.

How we shaded our vertical garden

And, behold, all is supported, not a board out of whack.  Can't say the same for ol' Bill's back.
(No rhyme intended).

Next:  Ground cloth and mulch.

Vertical Gardening Supplies:

Certified Organic Worm Castings and Liquid
Pure Black Castings™:  Certified Organic Worm Castings created using only organic materials.

VermaMax®:  Chicken Litter organically composted using VermaPlex®. Add to potting soil mix.

VermaPlex®:  Created from Certified Organic Pure Black Castings™.  Add to your hydroponic water supply for continuous feeding.

Organic Fertilizer Information: Find use/application guides at Monroe Works.