Simple Tips to Start Composting

Looking for a way to stop throwing out all your food scraps? How about a fun activity to do on your day off, or with the family? – You’ve come to the right place!

With the lack of garbage disposal sites becoming more prominent, composting is quickly being taken up by those young and old. What is compost exactly? – It is what happens when organic material (such as food) breaks down to become organic, nutrient rich fertilizer (great for plant growth). Composting allows vitamins and minerals from uneaten food to get recycled back through the soil and into the new food growing in our gardens.

Where Do I Start?

With so many options available, it’s important to choose a composting bin that works best for your space and lifestyle. There are many different kinds such as;

  • Tumblers
  • Open Bins
  • Closed Bins
  • Stationary Bins
  • Movable Composters
  • Multi-Bin Systems
  • Countertop Crocks
  • Bokashi Composting

If you’re like me and live in an apartment building, you can use a worm bin instead! A worm bin is great when you have limited space, and it makes for a great family activity if you have kids. See how to build your own worm bin here.

 How Do I Make the Compost?

When it comes to composting, it’s important to remember that there’s a simple equation you should follow: N + C + O2 + H2O = Compost. This ensures you don’t have too much or too little of any of the gases that must be present in order for the compost to degrade.

In order to create this equation, you can create layers in your compost by using 1 part green material, and 4 parts brown material with a sprinkle of water. Make sure to stir occasionally, using a shovel or by spinning your bin a few times, to bring the bottom layer to the top.

How long is this supposed to take? Well, it can take anywhere from 1-6 months to fully cook through it all, depending on the proportions of your ingredients and the frequency of stirring (once a week is a good start).  Daily turning can yield compost within 21 days.

A great tool to moniter the progress of the composting bacteria action is by using a compost thermometer. This tool has a long shaft that you insert into the compost and the temerature dial immediately reads how hot the compost is. Temperatures over 140F for a period of time will kill weed seeds. When the temperature starts to fall, turn the compost pile to add oxygen. The temperature will rise again. Eventually after turning the pile several times, the temperature will not increase. This means the compost is ready for harvest. Screen the compost and what ever doesn’t screen, put back in the composter for a 2nd term. The screened compost can now be applied to your garden soils.

 

Another great tool is a moisture meter.

What is Compostable?

Whichever composting method you choose, the following items are generally safe to compost.

Kitchen Waste

  • Fruits and vegetable scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves/bags
  • Dead/wilted plants or flowers
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Soiled newspaper and cardboard
  • Stale bread and crackers
  • Junk mail

Yard Waste

  • Fresh cut grass
  • Weeds (but none with seeds)
  • Dry leaves and grass
  • Straw sawdust

How Do I Best Establish a Method?

To solidify your new habit, it’s important to establish an easy way to incorporate composting into your lifestyle. It’s important to decide how you’re going to get your kitchen scraps outside. Some do it after each meal, while others store them in a small counter-top container that gets emptied every other day or so. Any method you choose will get you on your way to establishing a great habit!

 Anything Else I Should Know?

Now that you’re all set to begin composting – don’t forget to find a good place to store yard waste until it’s ready to be added to the compost. Too little or too much moisture can impede the composting process, so it’s important to protect the waste from the elements (particularly yard waste).

Don’t forget to add your finished compost to your homegrown plants to ensure they’re receiving all the wonderful benefits!

Good luck and Happy Composting!

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Pots, Soil and Seed!

Well Spring seems like it’s slowly on its way, so why not come down to Briteland and check out our fantastic Garden Center!  We’ve got all sorts of Pots, Soil and Seed for your spring planting needs.  Make sure you beat the last minute spring rush, you know what they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!

Dave_BritelandSeedsBriteland has all of your seed needs in mind, and provides a great variety for you to choose from! Here, Dave is showing  a sample of the great selection.

As there are so many types of seeds to choose from, the decision can definitely be hard. Factors such as the type of soil, climate, water supply, etc. come into play and can make the task seem daunting – but have no fear, Briteland is here!

And, just for fun, check out our store renovations, designed to serve you even better than how we did before.

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Rub-a-dub, For More Than Just Your Tub!

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Let’s talk about chores. Here’s where you may be prompted to high-tail it to searching something infinitely more interesting. Like the latest t.v. reality show – Hairy Bikers anyone? – but bear with me. I don’t know if there are household chores you put off but I have a hunch you do. One of mine is cleaning the bathrooms. Living with three fellas, one big, two teens, ought to deter ANYONE from that.

Oh the spraying, waiting, scrubbing, spraying again because the cleaning product isn’t really working, MORE elbow grease… and the smell!  Generally I find that bathroom cleaners are overpowering with chemical odors. If one cleans the shower or tub in, well, only what mother nature gifted them (it’s easier to get into the corners that way and it prevents wet socks)… being enclosed with the fumes can be a danger. And let’s be realistic, who wants to be FOUND like that; overcome by toxic gases – clothed only in skin – and a gasp where your smile used to be.

Chemac Tub & Tile Cleaner is a Canadian made, economical, eco-friendly, non-corrosive and mildly scented cleaner that REALLY works.  Spray on, wipe off. And you don’t have to use much at all. For 25 years I’ve been scrubbing at tub rings and goopy soap scum and I’ve yet to find a product such as this that requires little or no scouring or re-applying. And I hear tell that it works amazingly well on other things too. Someone in your home a little over-indulgent with hairspray? It can leave a sticky sludge on counters and light fixtures. Chemac Tub & Tile has that covered. Folks with hard water are raving that for the first time in years they’ve been able to easily clean away stubborn stains. Newer home? Maintain bathrooms with loads of glass and marble in their high quality luster.

I don’t think anyone can say that the thought of wiping down bathrooms is high on their list of favorite pastimes but this efficient product is definitely worth a try. Just think of all the time you’ll now have for laundry folding and lawn mowing. Sigh.

Visit us at http://www.briteland.com or call 250-558-3001 for more information!

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Fall Planting of your Square Foot Garden(s)

October 2013

PDPhoto.org
How to Plant Garlic
October is the best month to plant garlic. If you plant garlic in mid-October, you may harvest in summer of the following year. Most people who grow their own garlic say they will never go back to store-bought again. Garlic is very easy to grow, harvest and store, and it will keep for many months once it’s dried.
Where can I get Garlic Seed Cloves?
There are several ways to get garlic cloves to plant. First and probably easiest is to just buy it at the grocery store. Secondly, you may purchase bulbs from a local farmers market, or ask a local garlic grower to save you some seed bulbs. The advantage to this is that you will get a garlic variety that is proven to grow in your region. Next, you might order from a mail order catalog – this will give you many varieties from which to choose. Finally, save your own best garlic bulbs next year and use them as seed.
Two Major Types of Garlic: Hard Neck and Soft Neck
While there are dozens of varieties, there are only two main types of garlic. These are hard neck and soft neck. The soft neck type of garlic, as the name implies, has a soft neck or flexible stem once it dies back. This type is easy to braid and is most often grown commercially and in areas with mild winters, such as the southern USA. The hard neck type of garlic does not lend itself to braiding and prefers regions with a cold winter. However, microclimates make it possible for many people to grow both types.
Three Types of Garlic: Early, Mid-season and Late
Garlic varieties may be early, mid-season or late-maturing varieties. When you harvest depends upon which type you plant. Be sure to find this out before you plant your cloves. Write down the date you planted and the expected maturity date in your garden journal. With some garlic varieties, you may plant October 10th and harvest next August.
Garlic is easy to plant – so why not grow your own? 
Separate the bulb into individual cloves. Remember, they have a long growing period so locate them where they can grow unhindered for many months. They grow very well in Square Foot Gardens because the planting medium is so loose and rich. Plant the cloves about two inches deep, root-side down. In the Square Foot Garden, you may plant four garlic cloves per square foot.Green shoots will appear. Add straw mulch around the shoots. Once a hard frost comes, these green shoots will die off – don’t worry! That’s supposed to happen. Simply pull your straw mulch up to cover the entire plants and wait through the winter. Next spring, remove the straw mulch.

© Francesco Perito Wikimedia Commons
Harvesting, Curing and Storing Garlic
Harvest the whole plant by carefully digging around and lifting them out of the growing medium without nicking or cutting them. Lay them in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight to thoroughly dry. When they are dry, you may braid the stems or cut them off. Store your garlic in a cool, dry location that has plenty of airflow, with some light, but no direct sunlight. Do not store in plastic bags or in the refrigerator as they will rot or sprout.
Health Benefits of Garlic
Do you need some incentive to grow your own garlic? Garlic has been shown in numerous studies to prevent and reduce several types of cancer. In World War II, it was called “Russian Penicillin” because of its antibiotic properties. Many swear by it for longevity and immunity. According to Eating Well.com, however, how you prepare garlic is important to derive the life-saving benefits. They advise chopping the cloves and waiting 15 minutes before cooking them to get the full health benefits of the compounds. (Read the article here)
“Garlic’s active agents—allyl sulfide compounds—are produced when the clove is chopped or crushed.” (Eating Well.com)
Plant a Square Foot Garden in October

There are many things you can plant in October. But a little planning is in order if you want to plant in the fall. You will need to know your first expected frost date, which you can get from your local county extension website or from the almanac. Also, pay attention to the length of time required for plants to reach maturity. For most plants at this stage, you should choose transplants rather than seeds. The transplants will have a “jump start” on reaching maturity already so that will cut out part of the time required for your plants to mature. Lettuce and radishes are among the fastest to mature.

Some plants, such as collards, actually taste better after a frost. Ask anyone who has grown collards a long time (especially a southerner) and they will tell you fall collards are best, and that they taste sweeter after the first hard frost hits them.

“Now here is the real reason I like fall gardening. Remember the length of time it takes for a seed to sprout depends mostly on the temperature of the soil. The carrot seeds you plant in spring take two months to sprout, but if you plant when the soil temperature will be between 60-70 degrees, the same carrot seeds will sprout in only one week.” ~ Mel Bartholomew

So after you harvest your sweet potatoes or the last of your okra and tomatoes, and you have a big empty bed to fill, think of all these vegetables that you might want to plant in their place:

  • Beets
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn Salad (see the separate article – plant in October or November)
  • Cucumbers (see the separate article – these are more tender and will require some special planting care; plant fall varieties)
  • Garlic (see the separate article for planting instructions)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Rape
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

Fall Festival in Duluth, Georgia by Elizabeth Coetzee. [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Famous Fall Festivals & Eventsin October
Autumn means fall festivals, harvest festivals, Halloween parties, state fairs, grand foliage displays, and Oktoberfest around the United States and abroad. Here is a list of some of famous events you may want to visit this year.
Fall Foliage Festival, Bedford, Pennsylvania – First two weekends in October (Oct 5-6 and 12-13). Enjoy crafts, music, great food and covered bridges while you’re taking in the stunning fall foliage. website
Madison County, Iowa, Covered Bridge Festival – A fall festival featuring “the bridges of Madison County” as well as fall foliage, food, crafts and pumpkins. Oct 7-9, 2013
Pumpkin Festival, Keene, New Hampshire, 20,000 pumpkins and the “Colossal October Surprise” await you at this famous fall festival on October 19, 2013 (noon to 8:30pm)
Texas State Fair, Dallas, Texas (ranked #1 for 2012 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), September 27 – October 20, at the fair park in Dallas website
Arizona State Fair (ranked #12 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ, October 11-November 3 website
North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, NC (ranked #17 on Top 50 by Carnival Warehouse), October 17-27 at state fairgrounds website
Pawley’s Island Festival of Music and Art, Pawley’s Island, South Carolina September 19- October 12 website
Epcot® International Food and Wine Festival – This renowned event takes place from September through Nov. 19th at Epcot Center, FL.  Sample 1.5 million food dishes by 260 famous chefs, as well as 300 wines, with nightly spectacular firework shows website
Los Angeles Green Festival October 19-20; San Francisco Green Festival, Nov. 9-10, California website
The C-K Autumn Fest, Kenova, West Virginia – Held on the last weekend in October, annually (Oct. 25-26 in 2013), this festival draws more than 30,000 people who descend upon the “Pumpkin House” on Beech Street in Kenova. Enjoy baked goods, food vendors, arts and crafts and a lovely old house and lawn ablaze with pumpkins. website
“On the Saco” oil painting by Albert Bierstadt (Saco River, Maine)Are you ready for a fall foliage road trip? Check out the Fall Foliage Network Report to see where the best colors are, and when they are going to appear.
Corn Salad: ©Schwäbin (Wikimedia)
Corn Salad
Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta) is one of the lesser-known greens in the United States, although it has been grown for centuries in Europe. Today, it is considered a gourmet green but it was once treated as a lowly weed. It has a soft texture and dark green color. Corn Salad is a low-maintenance annual, grown as an herb or vegetable.Corn Salad is renowned for its nutty flavor. It may also be called by its common names: lamb’s lettuce, mâche, nut lettuce, field salad or Rapunzel (some say this plant was the inspiration for the character name).Corn Salad was a favorite of ancient foragers, and was often found growing wild in wheat fields. It is nutrient-rich, packing three times more vitamin C than lettuce. It also has omega 3 fatty acids, B6, B9, and vitamin E.
Corn Salad as a garnish; ©Gerard Cohen (Wikimedia)

Vit is a mild French variety of corn salad, prized for its nutty and minty taste that adds a delicate flavor to dishes. In French restaurants, where it is widely served in salads or as a garnish, it may be called Doucette or Raiponce.

According to Floridata.com, “‘Broad Leaved’ is more heat tolerant and the most common variety in the US,” ‘Grosse Graine’ is one of the largest varieties, and ‘Verte de Cambrai’ is more cold-hardy and is widely grown in Germany and France.

How to Plant Corn Salad
Direct sow corn salad seeds ¼ inch deep in direct sun. Sow seeds close to first frost. The plants need a minimum of two inches between them. How many you plant per square depends upon which variety you select; some of them grow up to one-foot across. (Quick reference: SFG guide to spacing by the seed packet.) Corn Salad grows to a height of 4-6 inches or 1-2 feet (depending upon the variety).

Harvesting Corn Salad
You can harvest micro greens before maturity. Harvest either the full rosettes or individual leaves. Harvesting individual leaves will make the plant continue to produce. It is best to harvest before flowers form. After flowering, harvest the entire plant. You may store your harvest a couple of weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

“Corn salad is coveted by fine chefs, and brings a premium when you can find it at the supermarket.” (Floridata.com)

Cold Weather Plant
Corn Salad is a cool season plant and can be grown in early spring or fall. In northern Florida, wait to plant seeds in November. It typically takes 47 days to reach maturity. Corn Salad grows in zones 2-11 and can withstand temperatures to 5°F; however, it must be covered with straw to endure lower temperatures and snow. It overwinters well and bolts quickly in warmer temperatures.

Corn Salad Drawing, USDA DatabaseReferences:
Missouri Botanical Garden
Floridata.com (lots of recipe ideas here!)

Public domain photo: A homemade cold frame

A Cold Frame

A cold frame is an enclosure with a transparent roof (glass) that is built close to the ground. It is used to protect plants from cold weather. The glass top allows sunlight in but traps the heat inside.

The cold frame functions like a miniature greenhouse and it can help you to extend your growing season. A cold frame is usually used to grow seedlings which will later be transplanted into the Square Foot Garden.

Try your hand at creating one or buy one that is ready-made. It will soon pay for itself because you will have to buy fewer transplants and you’ll get a head-start on your growing season!

How to Save Seeds

Saving your seeds is something that gardeners have done from ancient times. Only in relatively modern times have we relied exclusively on store-bought seeds. Saving seeds saves money, but not a whole lot. The true rewards of saving your own seeds are well worth the extra effort.

Why Save Seeds?

  • It’s a key survival skill
  • Take pride that you “did it yourself”
  • Preserve heirloom varieties
  • Ensure your seeds are not contaminated
  • Be prepared in the event of a disaster

How to Save Seeds
Saving seeds is fairly easy to do, especially with fruiting plants such as peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers. Simply select a few of your finest specimens, scoop out the seeds, and let them dry. This will not work with hybrids or GE seeds.

Save the Best of Your Harvest for Seeds
Selecting the “best” of your crop to use for seed stock is an important step. This way, you will be practicing an age-old tradition. As time goes on, your “best” plants will develop more of the traits you desire and adapt better to their environment. This is one of the main advantages of heritage varieties.

Video on Seed Saving
If you’d like to learn more about this homesteading, green-living skill, here’s a YouTube video showing how to save seeds.

Storing Seeds
You can store seeds in paper bags or in jars with a lid in the back of the refrigerator, or in a dry location with relatively cool temperatures.

to Grow Wheat and WheatgrassIf you have enough space and raised beds, it is possible to grow your own wheat for homemade bread. However, according to Organic Gardening, you can only “grow a bushel of wheat in a 20- by 50foot plot (1,000 squarefeet).” ¹ In other words, it takes a lot of wheat to make a bushel and a lot of space to produce it. Wheatworld.org² says one bushel of wheat will produce 60 pounds of wheat flour or 42 pounds of white flour.

When you plant in the Square Foot Garden, you will get greater yields as you know because of optimum soil and spacing. Nine seeds per square foot is the recommended spacing. I am told SFGs will yield 4-17 pounds per 100 square feet. (Get “.005-0.03 lbs per plant; 500 berries hulled per oz”, said wheat grower Ribsy Huggins in our SFGF online forum.)

If you only have one or a few small SFGs, you may certainly grow wheat because it is pretty and because you can, but bear in mind it will not yield enough to make a substantial amount of flour.

“Winter wheat is planted in fall, stays green until early winter, then goes dormant until spring.” (~Organic Gardening)

Photo: Wheatgrass ©Duk, Wikimedia Commons
Grow wheatgrass in the Square Foot Garden
Wheatgrass is wheat that is harvested while young, green and tender. It is often juiced or made into wheatgrass tea. This nutrient-rich tea is said to cure everything from cancer (“How I Conquered Cancer Naturally,” by Eydie Mae Hunsberger) to low libido. The objective of growing wheatgrass is not for the wheat to grow to maturity, but rather to harvest the tender, young sprouts. For that reason, the standard spacing does not apply. Choose winter variety seeds to grow your wheatgrass in fall. Select spring varieties to plant in spring.Hard Winter Wheat: “The classic power drink’s source plant. Easy to grow and seriously rejuvenating when ingested.” (~Sproutpeople.org)
Nutrition of Wheatgrass
Amino Acids
Calcium
Chlorophyll
Iron
Lecithin
Magnesium
Pantothenic Acid
Phosphorous
Potassium
Protein
Vitamins A, B, C, K, E
How to Grow Wheatgrass
You can grow wheatgrass in flat trays indoors on a windowsill, or grow it outside in your Square Foot Garden. Soak the seeds in water for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse. Place the bowl of seeds in a cool, dark place for another 8 hours. Repeat the drain and rinse cycle. Once seeds have sprouted, it’s time to plant. Thoroughly water your Square Foot Garden planting medium.Spread the seeds out into each square you want to plant. You sow these seeds densely; they do not need to be spaced out. Remember, you are going to harvest all of the grass; you will not be thinning the plants out later or growing them to full maturity for the grain. In less than 15 days, you may have six-inch tall sprouts. Harvest by snipping off the tops with scissors. It literally looks like grass clippings. Juice the clippings or steep in boiling water to make wheatgrass tea. You can dry wheatgrass in a food dryer and grind the dried grass to make a powdered tea.References:
¹Organic Gardening.com, Grains: A Growing Guide
²Wheatworld.org: Fast Facts
Sproutpeople.org: Wheatgrass
Livestrong.com: How to eat Wheatgrass

Copyright © 2013 Square Foot Gardening Foundation, All rights reserved.

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This Mothers Day

Another Mother’s Day is here,
Bringing joy and pleasures new,
On this special day, Mother dear,
I want to remember you.
I cannot give you costly gifts,
And I’ve told you this before,
No matter what I give to you,
You give back much, much more.
I’m giving you a pure, sweet rose,
Gathered in the early morn,
This rose you planted in my heart,
The day that I was born.
In kindly, loving thoughts of you,
And with the faith you still impart,
The rose I give to you today,
Is the love that’s in my heart

-Author unknown.

Stop by Briteland to pick up one of our new hanging baskets for your mother on Mother’s day.

Have a happy mother’s day from the staff at Briteland.

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Holy Hanna it’s Hot Out There

Well after weeks of complaining about the cold and the rain, Mother nature has finally given in to our demands.  I don’t know if you’d call this spring because it sure feels like summer out there.

With that in mind, yes the sun will make flowers bloom and grass thick and lush. It will also (unfortunately)  mean you need to water more. ( Did you just cringe? I did.) If you are like me then you are not an early riser and are fairly forgetful. So watering later in the evening when the sun begins to set and everything begins to cool off is the ideal time for you to water.

Just before or after dinner you step outside to turn on your sprinklers with the intention of giving your lawn and garden a nice little shower.

Unfortunately that show on TV, that next chapter of a new book or phone call with a friend distracted you. Just long enough that you forget what you were doing until over an hour has passed. Now, where you used to have a lawn you now have a kiddy pool. And your roses and begonias are learning the back stroke. (I’ve done this tons of times) And that is one mess the Shamwow can’t handle!

The solution? How about an irrigation system?!

Now talk about your life saver! Irrigation systems are actually easier to install then you’d think. With the proper measurements, planning a layout for your lawn and garden is a simple task.

You can also set up convenient little (or big whichever you prefer) drip systems for your flower beds, vegetable gardens, planters and hanging baskets. Drip systems can play a large part in how well your plants grow throughout the season.

Irrigation systems help take some of the stress out of your summer holiday planning. No longer having to worry “Who will water my plants when I’m gone”. Or perhaps that dreaded phone call from the 14-year-old boy down the street that you paid to water your plants calling to say that he had missed watering on the two hottest days of the summer (convenient I know) and now those hanging baskets you’ve been oh so proud of are dead.

So why not save yourself some stress, worry, time and even water! (seeing as you can set up your system to water more efficiently and effectively helping to save you some money on your water bill)

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One Weed, Two Weed, Big Weed, Tall Weed

Unless you live on a golf course, and I mean literally ON the course.

You have, have had or will have weeds in your lawn, garden, sidewalk, driveway and anywhere else they can weasel their way in.

And when left alone they can take over. They thrive in almost every climate and spread like wildfire.

Even if you go out and spend hours pulling and plucking out all the weeds you can see. In a few days or weeks there will be more sprouting out here and there. The problem? Their seeds are spread all around by the wind, animals and when you trek on through. Which unfortunately can also mean that if your neighbours don’t try to keep their own weeds under control the seeds from their weeds can blow into your yard causing you more trouble.

However, there are products to help you win the battle!

For your garden if you haven’t already gotten it all well established try laying landscape fabric down to block them from growing through.

Lawns are usually the trickiest to control the weeds in since you obviously can’t see every weed growing. Fortunately a well cared for lawn can smother out a good portion of the weeds. (Think of it like your own immune system. Take care of it and it will do the same for you.) By aerating every spring, fertilizing and watering regularly your lawn will thrive and limit the amount of space for weeds to sneak into. 

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