I guess this one kinda falls into the “winter pick-me-up” category, although this is actually something I meant to write about this past summer.
While I’ve certainly come to realize that my “little” property has a lot more potential than I thought when we moved here a little over 5 years ago, there is still no getting around the fact that it is very EXPOSED! The backyard “fence” (if you can even call it that) is 4 feet tall and not even completely filled in with fence boards, and we are on a corner lot so multiple neighbors have little trouble seeing what sort of kooky things Bentley is doing in the middle of the day! lol
Last year I tried growing a row of sunflowers along the back fence-line as a sort of “living fence” (see “Growing Your Own Privacy Fence” on the CompostGuy website), but I ended up somewhat disappointed with the results. Apart from starting the plants later than I should have, I chose a seed mix called “Monet’s Palette” which is better suited for creating a beautiful show (which it did) than a wall of vegetation.
This year I decided to give it another go, but with a different variety of sunflower – appropriately named “Kong”! Most of these were planted just outside of my fence on the sidewalk side (the longest exposed stretch of my yard). This actually used to be a patch of grass, so my first task last spring was to turn it into a garden bed.
I started the sunflowers in small pots, which is a bit of a “no no” since they don’t like to have their roots disturbed. My hope was that the benefits of keeping the plants well protected while very young (a time when they seem to get mauled by all manner of creatures) would outweigh the potential harm that transplanting might cause. What’s funny, and rather ironic, is that a neighborhood chipmunk managed to find the plants on my deck and ended up munching a bunch of them (requiring me to start some more).
Chipmunk maulings aside, I am glad to took that approach since it really did seem to help the plants get off to a good start once they were in the ground! That’s certainly not to say they weren’t attacked though! In all honesty, early on, I really wasn’t all that optimistic that they were going to be successful at all. It took some time for them to get going initially, and plenty of slugs (and I think ants as well) managed to cut lots of holes in the leaves while they were small. I like to think that the scoopful of beautiful vermicompost that went into the bottom of each planting hole made a big difference, but it’s hard to say for sure.
As you can see, the Kong sunflowers ended up turning into an incredible “living fence”! The flowers ended up being quite nice once they emerged, but it was the amazing jurassic vegetation that impressed me the most. Some of the leaves were absolutely MASSIVE!
What’s interesting is that while I certainly enjoyed a LOT more privacy this past summer, I actually ended up talking to more neighbors than ever before due to their interest in the sunflowers. Kinda cool!
Am I planning to grow another row of Kongs next year?
I wrote yesterday about being in a bit of a “rut” as far as writing goes. We’re in that rather dreary transition stage between late fall and early winter, so it’s cold and gloomy but not yet really snowy and fun!
With everything that’s been going on this fall, I really haven’t getting any cool worm composting projects started, other than my “Winter Worm Windrow” (something I’ll likely bore everyone to tears with by the time we reach Christmas – haha!), so that certainly doesn’t help!
Anyway, while I was feeling all glum and bummed (haha), I happened to glance into my photo folders and it suddenly dawned on me that I have heaps of pics that have never been shown on the site.
Why not start sharing them here? Might be a fun way to start up some conversations, and to help remind all us Northern folks that there will indeed be plenty of greener days ahead!
I’ve been feeling like I’m in a bit of a rut these days as far as vermicomposting inspiration goes, so I figured I’d keep everyone SUPER-updated on my winter worm composting activities in an effort to get some new posts up!
I was supposed to meet with the “local business” (mentioned last time) person today but she ended up being busy with her pre-opening activities. Rather than keep you in suspense any longer, the business is a brand new coffee shop in town – but not just ANY coffee shop! This is a cafe with an eco-twist (or perhaps “socially responsible” might be more accurate), since all the coffee used will be what’s known as “fair trade”. I read about the new business in our small local paper on the weekend and decided to get in touch with the owner to chat about starting up some sort of fun coffee grounds vermicomposting project.
After my recent “failure” with coffee grounds, some of you might wonder why I would want to keep using them. Well, the fact of the matter is they are a GREAT material if managed properly. In my big winter bed I know they will be an awesome heat-generating material, so that is a big part of why I want to strike up some sort of arrangement with the cafe fairly soon.
Anyway, when I got back from my cafe expedition I decided to do a bit more work with the winter windrow. I’ve been REALLY slacking this fall as far as taking care of my beds goes – and my big wooden bin is certainly no exception! We are consistently below the freezing mark now, with snow on the ground, yet most of the material (and worms) are still sitting in the bin (where they are guaranteed to freeze solid at some point).
When I started digging around in the bin today I realized that there are actually a LOT of worms in there, so I’m feeling extra guilty about the whole thing.
So far I have transferred three or four big garbage cans full of wormy material over to the winter bed, and hopefully I’ll be able to move a bunch more before it’s too late. As you can probably tell, by looking at the first picture, I also added more leaves and hay today.
Apart from securing some coffee grounds, I am also hoping to get some manure – I know it would really help to warm things up in the bed. I haven’t taken any readings yet, but the fact that snow is not yet melting off the top of the tarp tells me we’re not quite there yet!
Anyway – I’ll keep everyone posted!