Composting and gardening made easier with containers

As a matter of curiosity I referenced my March calendar to note when meetings and appointments started canceling. It was the week of March 16 that canceled tags started showing up in the date spaces. That’s when I decided to set up the grow lights and plug in the heat mats to start germinating seeds.

Sadly over the next months, many of the yearly events of the Oregon State University Master Gardeners were canceled. The annual Spring Seminar, the opening of the community gardens, the plant sale, the reformatted June Garden Fair, and the OSU Garden Tour, all the gardening events the community looked forward to have been rescheduled for 2021.

Although the disappointment was heavily felt, the positive was that many who had never tried gardening discovered how therapeutic gardening can be. Even the simple act of pulling weeds can be akin to clearing your mind as you clear the soil. You can’t help but be focused on what is in front of you. It may be an insect that you take time to watch, making its way or a quick study of botany; observations you may not have taken the time for previously.

Container gardening is a perfect answer for many with limited space or those who are frequented with deer visits. Many vegetables have been developed over the years for productive growth in containers. The point is to have something to look after, be it vegetable or flowers, something to divert your mind and allow you to take a deep breath.

You can plant many cool-season vegetables now, leaf lettuce, mesclun mixes, carrots, chard, beets and radishes. In our climate, tomatoes and peppers are more successful as transplants rather than direct seeding to the garden.

Getting started requires some pre-planning. No matter what system you have, watering bucket, hose, or automatic system, irrigate the planting area the day previous to planting. Adding compost or a soil conditioner is very beneficial to our native soil.

Many seeds are tiny and as hard as you try to carefully space the seeds the process ends up germinating a jumble of plants, one atop the other. Don’t try to pull them out, use small scissors to clip the extras out and give space and light to the remaining seedlings.

Fertilizing plants can be confusing. All fertilizers have a ratio, which is the percentage by weight of N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium). Generally, nitrogen is used by plants to produce green growth, phosphorous for roots and the potassium is for flower and fruit development. An easy way to remember it is: UP (nitrogen-green growth), Down (phosphorous-roots), All-Around (potassium-flower and fruit development). A balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 is a good choice for vegetables and other high nutrient plants. Always water in fertilizer after applying and read the instructions. Using too much can burn plants.

For years I have composted my vegetable scraps and leaves. Composting is a slow process in our climate. It can also be physically taxing to turn the piles occasionally and then sift the finished product before use in the garden.

Since I don’t have a handy, dandy truck to use for recycling, I contracted with my disposal company for a monthly yard debris container which allows for grass, leaves, tree trimming and brush removal.

Recently I took advantage of their composting service. The service provides for the disposal of meat, plate scrapings, bones, dairy, baked goods, kitchen trimmings, fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, beans and coffee grounds. These items can be added to the yard debris cart. I keep a covered compost pail and then add it to the yard debris cart.

The service has certainly filled a need in my life. No more anxiety over the compost pile.

Needless to say, it is cheaper than buying and maintaining a small truck, and when I need compost, I can go to the Deschutes Landfill and purchase bags of finished compost.

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