Aug 8 2009



The top two political news stories last week appeared to be the Republican/Democratic opposition concerning health care and their split over the confirmation of Sonya Sotomayor.  It seems that nothing productive can be done in the name of CHANGE that doesn’t include the test of who can shout his point of view (whether it’s right–and often it’s very wrong) the loudest.

I saw this poem on The Writer’s Almanac and decided that this is the kind of patriotism I want to support.

Patriotism  by Ellie Schoenfeld

My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.

Mar 13 2009

Maryland’s Garden Writer in the NY Times


Always nice to read Anne Raver’s column to see what a fellow gardener is thinking and doing nearby.  I believe she lives in Frederick County.

In the Garden – At Last, It’s Time to Get Into the Garden –

Mar 12 2009

On Manure


Ah, manure! That glorious, odoriferous, precious shit that is both the beginning and end of the food production cycle. Securing a supply of suitable shit is a holy crusade for the organic gardening purist. And once we’re hooked up, we’re very selfish and protective of our sources. So don’t even ask!

The best option, of course, is to have your own supply handy, as I did when I had my own chickens and someone else’s cows on the farm in Taneytown (sigh). But we won’t be getting chickens here in Sykesville until next year.

I’ve used several different kinds of manure over the years, and have enjoyed stimulating conversations on the topic with fellow gardeners and farmers. Here’s what I know:

To compost or not: The safest bet is always to pile it up and let it age; that way, there is no danger of burning the plants with too much nitrogen. But this is not always a practical option. Often, you just can’t wait. You just have to spread the shit.

When to apply (uncomposted): Ideally, spread it on in the Fall, till it in lightly, and by Spring it will have broken down and the nutrients will be ready for uptake by your plants. Alternatively, as we have done (mostly) with this new garden, a lighter layer applied in the Spring and tilled in will do the trick. Not too much, though, or you’ll get burned. You can use composted manure anytime without worries.

During the season: If you have composted manure, or make up a manure tea, you can apply it in the holes before you plant, and use it as a side-dressing throughout the season. (More on in-season fertilizing in another post.)

We’ve done all with this garden so far: We manured part of it in the Fall, the rest over the past several weekends, and we have a nice pile in the back of the yard cooking for later use.

As far as types of manure go:

Horse: This is my favorite, especially when the horses are bedded in sawdust (vs. straw), as is the case with most of the manure we’ve scored. It breaks down quickly, the sawdust absorbs many times its weight in urine, and it also enhances the tilth of the soil nicely If not in sawdust, horse manure will be in straw, which is fine, but it takes longer to break down. In general, it’s rare to get burned with horse.

Cow: Good stuff but sloppy. Best when composted, but if you can handle it, a light layer of fresh can be safely worked right into the garden.

Chicken: Hot stuff! As in, high nitrogen, danger of burning the plants. It’s great, though, adding tremendous fertility for its weight (perhaps the highest ratio, though that’s just my conjecture), but by all means, compost it for a season first.

Pig: Never used it, but have heard it’s high in fertility, and probably best not used fresh.

Human: Yuck. Believe it or not, there is an “operation” on Route 407 between New Windsor and Taylorsville that I am is convinced is spreading human shit on the fields. It’s the worst thing you could ever smell. I know that landscapers use it. But keep it out of my garden…and yours!

Speaking of smell, my assessment of least-to-worst smelling manures:

5.  Horse

4.  Cow

3.  Pig

2.  Chicken

1.  Human

Feb 22 2009

Manure Toss


Manure Toss 3.jpg, originally uploaded by rebetsky.

Flinging the last of a load. Note the smooth section near the front of the truck — this ground has been broken, tilled, manured, and then lightly tilled again. The chunkier part has only been broken once, by hand. We’ll have to wait for it to thaw and dry out some before it can be tilled. Good shovel form, huh?

Feb 22 2009

Black Gold


Natalie scored another Toyota pickup-load of manure for us from her cousin.  I picked it up this morning.  It’s horse, not quite cooked yet, but enough so that when it’s turned in, it will work its miracle.

It’s late February, and Winter and Spring are doing their dance, fighting over who will lead.  Today, Saturday, was cold enough that I could drive the truck over to the garden without too much damage to the lawn.

This was the second load, and we’ve now manured about 2/3 of the ground that’s broken so far.  Maybe today we’ll walk the neighborhood and see if we can find another load for the garden, and one for the compost and stockpile, from these little horse farms around here.

Update:  And today, Sunday morning, it is snowing.