Free Mulch for Los Angeles Residents!

20140325-140225.jpg

20140325-140242.jpg

20140325-140259.jpg

City of Los Angeles residents, did you know that we are actually required by law to mulch our garden beds? I doubt it is a law that is often enforced, but mulching is so important. It cuts down on weed growth and conserves water which is so important here (even more so during a drought). I have to admit, I have not been so great about applying mulch in all of our flower beds all the time since buying mulch by the bag is a hassle and gets expensive pretty fast. Plus, natural mulch eventually breaks down, so it is a repeat expense that gets frustrating at times. I have found the perfect solution, and I am so excited that the city offers this program!

The department of sanitation in the city of Los Angeles actually offers free mulch for residents all the time! You are free to load up as much as you need. You can find more info here:
http://www.lacitysan.org/srpcd/mulch_giveaway.htm

At the location closest to us, they even have community garden plots available for $50 per year. Definitely a great option for those who would love to garden but don’t have the space at home!

20140325-140408.jpg

20140325-140424.jpg

Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Composting

I have created compost using a variety of methods over the years, and I have never struggled to create rich “black gold” until we moved into this house.  You can see my composting at our old house here.  At our new house, I made a few assumptions that ended up being disastrous lessons learned.

1.  A compost pile or compost bin needs a mix of “greens” and “browns”, freshly cut greens, and dried out “browns”.  Previously, I have created a large pile of leaves in the fall that I add in periodically with grass clippings and kitchen waste to find that right balance.  When we moved into this house, my husband thought I was crazy when I asked if we could bring a pile of leaves from the old house to the new house, and refused.

The majority of the “browns” at our new house were dried pine needles when we moved in.  I made the incorrect assumption that they would work in a similar manner as regular dried leaves.  I put them into my compost tumbler along with grass clippings and kitchen scraps.  Weeks went by and nothing decomposed at all.  I knew that something was not right, and then learned that pine needles take a really long time to decompose, making them better as mulch than compost material.  I emptied the compost tumbler out, and decided to start again.

tumblr_m4ut9zgTd81qh2ttzo1_1280

2.  I started again with an empty compost tumbler.  I still didn’t have any dried leaves, and could not locate the box where I was saving all of our used newspapers (which can be shredded and used as “browns”).  My husband stopped me from transporting the dried leaves, and my backup plan of the box of newspaper could not be located at the moment.

I tried doing an experiment of adding in only “greens” and some compost accelerator (a powdery substance purchased at garden centers).  No luck….nothing happened.

3.  I had by now trimmed back some of the ivy in our new yard, and left the clippings in a pile to dry out.  For my third attempt at making compost at this new house, I added in dried ivy leaves along with the usual grass clippings & kitchen waste.  Things started to finally show signs of breaking down, and then I added in more in the tumbler.

When the compost tumbler got too full, signs of decomposition halted.  I decided I needed to start a secondary compost bin since I obviously have a lot more green waste at this house than I had at our old house.  I am using a regular trash can with holes drilled in it for my backup compost bin.  Once the compost tumbler had room again, things have finally started to break down properly.  Hopefully I will have homemade compost again soon!

tumblr_m4ut9zgTd81qh2ttzo2_1280 tumblr_m4ut9zgTd81qh2ttzo3_1280

How To: Eliminate the Green Waste Bin

When we first moved into this house, the yard was very neglected.  I spent weeks filling up the two green waste bins and it felt like I would never catch up with getting rid of all the piles I had around the yard.  I started researching other ways that I could start reusing some of the waste from our yard instead of sending it to the city.  I have now found a use for everything I was throwing away in the green bins previously!

1.  This is something I have always done anyway, but grass clippings go into the compost bin.

tumblr_m5xw5nkFzK1qh2ttzo1_1280

2.  I have always heard that pine needles do not make good mulch for vegetable beds because they are acidic.  I spent so much time filling up those bins with pine needles.  I then read a recent study at a university testing the actual impact pine needles have on the pH of soil.  The study found that pine needles that have been sitting out for at least 3 weeks have no impact on the soil pH.  Now, instead of throwing all the pine needles out, I gather them into a pile and let them age into good mulch for my vegetable beds.  While I am waiting for them to be ready to use in the vegetable beds, I use them as mulch under the pine tree in our backyard.  Now I have enough to keep all of my vegetable beds nicely mulched!

tumblr_m5xw5nkFzK1qh2ttzo2_1280

tumblr_m5xw5nkFzK1qh2ttzo6_r1_1280

3.  Instead of throwing out branches, twigs, and some dried ivy leaves from the trees and vines I have pruned, we decided to pile it up for making more mulch.  I let it all dry out, and then I chipped it up to make more mulch.

tumblr_m5xw5nkFzK1qh2ttzo7_r1_1280

4.  Instead of tossing out the weeds from the garden beds and grass, I am using the weeds to make a type of compost tea (original post here). Everything has really been flourishing since I started feeding them with this as an added supplement!

tumblr_m5xw5nkFzK1qh2ttzo9_r1_1280

My New Plant Welcome Kit

My new plant welcome kit: organic fertilizer, organic compost, organic garden soil, and red cedar mulch.

I have been doing a lot of fruit tree/vine planting, and I have a method now.  I dig a hole twice as big around as the root ball that the plant came in, and a little deeper.  Then I add a little compost and fertilizer at the bottom of the whole before I put the plant in.  This encourages the plant’s roots to reach down for the nutrients.  Then I fill in the hole with a mix of the existing soil and some good organic gardening soil.  I top it off with more compost and fertilizer.  To finish, I add a thick layer of mulch to retain moisture, and start watering deeply to help the plant establish itself.

tumblr_m48bemc3hV1qh2ttzo1_500

Backyard Edible Garden Tour

Here is an overview of my backyard edible garden so far!  There is more yard not shown in the pictures, but that area belongs to my husband and is not for planting. 🙂  One of my goals is to get the area near the greenhouse frame prepped for planting wheat and oats.  Should be a fun experiment!

The greenhouse cover is down now since it is getting pretty warm, but I left the frame up.  I want to try to find a mesh covering for the frame to keep the neighbor’s cat out.  He is developing a bad habit of pillaging my herb garden raised bed at night, particularly the catnip I planted for our cats!

A side note…the grass does not look all that great at the moment since it has been partially covered by various items while this project was in progress.  We didn’t care too much since we were planning to get rid of all of the grass and put down mulch instead, but I am starting to have second thoughts about doing that, even though it is a great idea for saving water.  I may try to do a little work to improve the grass in the weeks to come. 🙂

tumblr_m46rqp118a1qh2ttzo1_1280

tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo10_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo9_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo8_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo7_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo6_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo5_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo4_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo3_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo2_1280 tumblr_m46suqwoYi1qh2ttzo1_1280 tumblr_m46rqp118a1qh2ttzo5_1280 tumblr_m46rqp118a1qh2ttzo4_1280 tumblr_m46rqp118a1qh2ttzo3_1280 tumblr_m46rqp118a1qh2ttzo2_1280