Starting to compost

When we started our garden we knew we were going to need compost. Mel Bartholomew (the Square Foot Gardening guy) encourages every gardener to start a compost pile. His casual invitation made the process sound easy but we still had to overcome a remarkable reluctance to get the process started. The only people we knew who had a compost bin were Ted’s aging parents, and they had stopped composting some years back. Would it be hard? Would it look bad and smell up the garden? Would our friends and neighbors think we were hippies? Ted’s parents used a wooden bin system. I knew I wanted a closed bin that we could keep close to the house. I stumbled on an Earth Day sale at They offered the Earth Machine Compost Bin at a starter price; I fell in love with this because it looks just like a Dalek (the … Continue reading

Square foot garden

When I decided to take control of my food, I naturally wanted to start a garden. A review of available gardening books turned up Mel Bartholemew’s Square Foot Gardening. Mel advocates a limited raised bed system, building six or twelve inch frames and laying them right on the ground or grass. You fill them with a mix of compost, peat and vermiculite, which he calls Mel’s Mix. Aside from the raised beds, the innovation in the system is to move away from row crops, and grow a diversified small garden. The system calls for building frames that lay over the beds and divide them into one foot squares. As I was planning the garden I found a Youtube video and a few photos on line. I’d have liked more photos for examples, or a mailing list or mentor, but I didn’t find those, so I forged ahead on my own. … Continue reading

Brussels sprouts

This is a Captain Obvious post for experienced gardeners. For me, it’s the first time I’ve ever grown brussels sprouts. I picked a good year to plant brassicas, they’ve┬ádone well this year in our cloudy cool summer, and I got four harvests from the broccoli plants and good heads from the cauliflower. Long after those stalks were on the compost heap though my four brussels sprouts plants kept growing. They’ve attracted some attention in the neighborhood – “what are those things?” So I thought I’d post a picture for others like me who might not have seen one before. The broccoli and cauliflower grew heads out of the central stalk. I was quite surprised when the brussels sprouts started forming at the juncture of the leaves and the main stalk. Most are still small, although a few are getting big enough to eat. It seems I’m going to get a … Continue reading