Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Archive for backyard

Compost. Managing a Natural Process

Backyard Composting is simply taking a process that’s completely natural and speeding it up so that we can reuse the yard waste from our gardens for the benefit of our gardens. If you can’t take one of my classes (see previous post) then take the time to watch these videos and feel free to ask if you have any questions!

Birding with Binoculars

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count, here’s a Quick Tip to help you find those birds using binoculars.   The GBBC is a great way to practice your birding skills while helping ornithologists track birding populations, migration patterns, etc.  The Bird Count starts Friday the 13th and goes thru Monday the 16th.  You can do it everyday or just one day.  All day, or just 15 minutes…whatever your schedule will allow.    You can count alone in your backyard or at a park with friends.  No matter what you decide, come on out and join us as we count birds across the country and practice using those binoculars!

LBJ’s

Don’t write off those Little Brown Jobs in your backyard as boring. Do a little research to see if they have a story to tell. We love to hear the white throated sparrows show up each fall. Their call of “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” makes me smile when I hear it. I thought I was seeing male and female birds, the male having a whiter strip and a “yellower” eye dot, but I was wrong! Watch this video and find out why!

Spud-O-Matic Update!

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been horrible about keeping everyone updated on the potatoes.  But here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.  First, I will say that we enjoyed wonderful organically grown Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold potatoes.  BUT, not as many as we could have enjoyed if I had not made a couple of mistakes.  Mistake #1:  Grow only one kind of potato per bin.  The varieties grew at different rates and when one would be 6″ above the leaves and therefore time to add more leaves or compost, the other was only 2-3 inches tall so I had to bury them too deep and think I killed a few of them.   Also, in July, I had to relocate my potato bin because a local TV station wanted to come and shoot a piece on composting, and I had to move the bin to make room for the cameraman to get a good shot.   And if you remember from the video, I used chicken wire instead of hardware cloth so the pile didn’t move very well.  And the last issue wasn’t really a mistake:  At some point, a volunteer Butternut Squash started growing and at first I didn’t know what it was and my curiousity dictated that I had to let it grow, and then when I realized what it was, I decided I wanted some BN squash as badly as I wanted potatoes, so I just stopped adding leaves about half way up the bin and let everything grow.  After the vines bloomed and started turning yellow, I dug up the potaotes and we ate them with dinner that evening adn they were wonderful.   Then I let the BN squash continue and we got 5-6 off of that vine (I had two more volunteer vines in the garden area, so it was a good year for BNS, especially since I did not plant any).  But don’t let any of this discourage you from using this method to grow potatoes in your garden.  I have seen this work with my very own eyes at Renfrow’s Hardware in Matthews.   And David says to start bins at separate times so you have a succession of crops throughout the summer.  He recommends (for our Zone 7B) March 15, April 15 and May 15.   But, I don’t think I have the attention span to grow vegetables.  Plants have to be able to take care of themselves in my garden because I’m too easily distracted by everything else that’s going on out there.  But, I wanted to grow something to eat and I did….just not as many potatoes as I thought…..but a banner crop of rogue Butternut Squashes!

spudomatic results

Enjoy a WILD Staycation

With the price of oil at record highs and a slumping economy, we are all looking for entertainment on the cheap! Creating a wildlife habitat will provide lots of entertainment without ever cranking up the car. We shot a video of just some of the activity in our backyard that has kept us entertained over the years. And Jason and Cari at Backyard Wild are encouraging you to get your own habitat started by offering discounts on bird seed and feeders. Mention you saw it on Smell Like Dirt and get 10% off!

Composting Season Approaches

Yes, another re-run but for good reason! Composting season is just around the corner. The very best thing you can do for your garden is to add compost. And spreading free compost that you made yourself is the most satisfying feeling you can imagine. So, we’re re-posting the compost video, Part 1 (part 2 at right in the VodPod) and if you live near Charlotte and want to take a 4-hour composting class, here’s the schedule. I’ll be teaching the classes on Oct 4 at Reedy Creek and Oct 25 at Latta Plantation.

Are you Certifiable?

Monarch Butterfly

Ok, so most of us know about getting our backyards (or schoolyards, or businesses, etc) certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, right? It’s a fun thing to do and gives you great bragging rights and a wonderful opportunity to educate friends and neighbors on providing the four elements of a habitat (food, water, shelter and places to raise young) while reducing (eliminating!) chemical usage and practicing other eco-friendly gardening methods. But why stop there? Look into getting your yard certified as a Monarch Waystation. Like a lot of wildlife, Monarchs are struggling due to loss of habitat, pesticide usage, loss of wintering grounds, etc, and need all the help we can give them. Monarchs are particularly needy because in their caterpillar stage they are incredibly picky about what kind of plant they will eat and only have one host plant—Milkweed (Asclepias)— and milkweed is becoming increasingly rare. And as with all butterflies, if you want butterflies, you have to provide the host plant for the caterpillar.

Monarch Caterpillar

Fortunately, there are over 100 species of milkweed, so no matter where you are in the country, chances are there’s a milkweed native to your area. You’ll also need to provide nectar providing plants for the migrating, so make sure you research what’s native to your area and plant nectar sources that will be blooming when the Monarchs migrate through your area, especially fall blooming Asters

Monarch on Aster

And while you are learning what you need to provide to become a Certified Waystation, go ahead and see what other certifications might be available to you. Here in North Carolina, those of us trying to incorporate as many native plants into the garden can be certified as a Native Plant Habitat by the NC Native Plant Society. In Colorado you can even take classes to become a Native Plant Master, which I think would go nicely with my Master Composter certification!

You’re doing all the hard work to provide for wildlife anyway, and your friends and neighbors already think you’re certifiable, so prove them right!