Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Unintended Garden

Sometimes the best garden are the most neglected.... in this case completely unintended. Last fall, prepping a newly planted bamboo plot for winter I used some of the "rough" compost from my bin. The same one that we put grass clippings, leaves and kitchen waste (seeds and all).

With hot weather hitting northern California over the past few weeks, new vegetables began cropping up, a squash (neither of us know what variety it is) and a tomato plant (either a big version of a cherry or maybe a Roma). These plants are thriving among the bamboo, the squash plant is even using the bamboo to climb. Since I have been using natural fertilizers, blood meal for nitrogen and bat guano for potassium and phosphorus, the bamboo and its new vegetable neighbors seem very happy, completely neglected and doing great.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

My weekend: Bamboo in the country

A few sore muscles and a couple of blisters later, my dad and I finished two raised planter boxes and planted four types of bamboo on their three acres in Grass Valley, CA. Although I do live on a larger-than-normal suburban lot, I do not grow running bamboo in the ground (I like to have neighbors that like me). So, the offer was made by my parents to use the land they have and I took them up on it. There is enough water and enough room for them to grow.

The four types are:

p. nigra "Black Bamboo": A big seller, full sun, up to 30 feet tall and can take -5 f.

p. edulis "Moso": One of the biggest in the world, the culms are furry to the touch, 75 feet tall, and 7 inch diameter culm, this is a big boy. Can take temps down to 0 f.

p. bambusoides "Castillon": Another favorite, yellow culms with green stripes, leaves are striped. Young shoots also take on a red color. 35 feet tall, can take temps down to 0 f.

p. bambusoides "Giant Japanese Timber Bamboo": Name says it all. 72 feet, 6 inch culm diameter. Full sun, can take temps down to 5 f.

We may be expanding bamboo grown at my parent house and also possibly more planters for fruit trees and more vegetables (they have a small plot now).

I'll share photo updates next year to show growth.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Green lawn experiment, naturally....

I'd love to get rid of my lawn. Less water use, more gardening opportunity and no more fertilizer to keep it green. We recently reduced the front lawn by about 60% and our back lawn by about 50%. Since I live in a family and I was the minority voice in the matter, this was a compromise.

Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned from the traditonal Scott's Weed and Feed to using nothing. Now I am exploring a couple of natural additives and practices to help keep my lawn green and lush without poisoning my local creeks and waterways downstream in the process.

Here are the practices I have incorporated recently and am seeing some early success (lawn looks surprisingly green):

1. Grasscycling - Using the "mulching" function on my lawnmower, I let the grass clippings, finally chopped, sit on my lawn. This adds nitrogen back into the lawn as the grass clippings degrade back into the soil. Surprisingly, the lawn doesn't look messy and we haven't tracked little blades of grass into the house;

2. Weeding by hand - yes, it is tedious, but it beats killing my soil with Round-Up and Scott's Weed and Feed; and surprisingly we have been fairly successful containing crabgrass, almost better since we stopped using Scott's Weed and Feed;

3. Applying a mix of blood meal (high in nitrogen) and bat guano (high in potassium and phosphorous) to the lawn - You have to be careful since these are considered "hot" and can burn your lawn if it is done carelessly. First, water your lawn for a minute. You can either use a fertilizer spreader and apply it low to the ground since it tends to be somewhat light and blows in the wind or you can use a sprayer with the mix inside. The problem with the sprayer is that the gritty bat guano tens to clog the sprayer. After I evenly apply the mixture, I then rewater the lawn for a minute or two right after application. Both bat guano and blood meal are sold at many independent nurseries under the brand name E.B. Stone.

The result of these steps is a surprisingly "green" lawn, healthy, maybe a little less weeds in the grass (especially crabgrass) and this is all done with natural products. Happy I tried it.

Question for readers of this post - Have a lawn? How do you keep it green and lush using only natural additives and practices?