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Friday, June 21, 2013

TEA...To Help Your Garden Grow


- By India Kushner 

As you know, we're all about being earth-friendly here at Sip, from our ceiling made from barn wood, the VOC-free paint we used to paint our walls, or using only organic products in our food. Did you know that, as a tea drinker, you can be earth-friendly too? When you're finished using your tea leaves, instead of just throwing them in the trash, compost them!
For those who don't know, composting is a completely natural process in which brown and green vegetable matter is kept moist and turned regularly until it starts to "rot" into a dark material full of bacteria, microbes, and fungi, which is loaded with nutrients for your plants!

Not only will composting help your plants grow but it's beneficial to you too. Most of the things in your trash can actually be composted, thus greatly reducing the amount of trash you throw out. You'll also save money on fertilizer.
To get started, you need a container for your scraps. You can make your own or buy one. There are many ways to make your own.  One way that Mother Earth News suggests is to use a 3-to-4 foot wide "cage" of chicken wire, welded wire or plastic garden fencing. Put the cage in a corner of your garden, where the rainwater will carry the compost nutrients to feed your plants. If you have a small garden, put it as close as possible to the garden.  

For more ideas on building your own compost bin, you can also check out Stopwaste.

If you don't want to make your own container, contact your local garden store or search for "compost bins" online to find one that you can order. 

What exactly goes in your compost? In order to fully "rot", compost should contain a good mixture of nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen. This means a combination of green materials (nitrogen) and brown materials (hydrogen). Eartheasy has a good list of things that can go in the compost.
Examples of green materials include:
-vegetable scraps
-grass clippings
-lawn and garden weeds 
-green comfrey leaves
-flowers, cuttings
-coffee grounds
-tea leaves (and certain kinds of tea bags)

Examples of brown materials include:
-leaves
-shrub prunings
-straw or hay
-pine needles (but not evergreen tree needles)
-wood ash
-shredded up newspaper/paper
-corn cobs/stalks
-cut up cardboard
-dryer lint
-sawdust pellets
-wood chips/pellets
Other ingredients include: 
-eggshells 
-garden plants

Never add meat, oily or greasy food/paper (such as cheese), manure from meat-eating animals like dogs and cats, or herbicide-treated grass/clippings.

Some people like to use a ratio of 2 or 3 times as much browns as greens, while others prefer equal amounts of both. Whatever your formula, make sure your compost isn't too wet or too dry. If it's too wet, add more dry material like leaves. If it's too wet, water it a little with a watering can.

Put a lid on the mixture of materials and take time to turn the compost pile with a gardening fork regularly. To turn the compost, just stick the fork in and mix up the contents. It will take a couple of months to have mature compost, but turning more often will help to speed up the cycle.

It's that simple! 

To make it even easier, keep a small container in your kitchen for food scraps. Gardeners Edge has a ceramic pail with charcoal filters.  It looks nice and the filters help prevent odors in the kitchen. It also comes in stainless steel or bamboo.

To learn more about composting, also visit:
Mother Earth News (see the video for "The Perfect Compost Recipe.") 

What's that?  No room for a compost bin? Grab a friend who already has one and make a compost tea bag! No, this is not a tea that you drink.  This is a drink for your garden!  Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by soaking compost in water.  

This recipe for the perfect compost "brew" comes from "The Essential Gardening Encyclopedia" written by Bonnie Lee Appleton:

1) Put a shovelful of compost into a bag made of cheesecloth or burlap.

2)Tie the bag closed and suspend it into a garbage can, bucket, or watering can filled with water.

3) Keep it covered for a few days.

4) Once it has steeped, use the liquid to drench the soil at the base of plants you want to fertilize. It's a particularly good way to fertilize container-grown plants. Or, dilute the liquid with water until it is the color of weak tea, then spray it on plant leaves. Because the nutrients are dissolved in water, the plants can take them up immediately for a quick burst of energy.

5) Reuse the "tea bag" several times, then add the soaked compost to the garden.
Now that you have your very own compost, sit back, drink a big cup of REAL tea, and watch your garden flourish.

Enjoy!

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