Get out and grow!

Published on Thu, May 8, 2003
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Get out and grow!

Encourage plant growth with homemade compost

By Michelle Ensinger

One of the best ways to encourage plant growth is by using homemade compost on the plants. To start your own blender compost, puree your organic kitchen scraps (egg shells which are dried, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, tea leaves).

Put these scraps in a blender and add enough water (or unused coffee and tea) and blend until finely chopped. Pour this liquid into a bucket and add another two or three mixes to it. You can use this liquid on your flats when you are planting seeds or pour the mixture in holes that you dig for seeds or transplanted seedlings.

Here are a couple of little tips that have served me well. When planting tiny seeds in your flats, add one or two teaspoons of white sand to the seed packet so that when you pour the seed onto the flat, you can see how evenly the seeds are distributed.

For larger seeds, I use paper towels. Place seeds onto a layer of damp paper towels (I add kelp liquid into the water when watering the towels) and place your seeds accordingly. Remember the seeds should not touch each other.

You can roll up the paper towel and place in a plastic bag and then into a warm location (depending if the seed likes light or shade to germinate), and check every day for the first signs of germination.

As soon as this process begins, remove from the paper towel and plant into a small pot. Cut the seed from the paper towel to ensure the root system is not damaged.

I also use this process when planting seeds directly outside � carrots, radishes, etc. � and either lay the paper towel down into the ground or cut into squares and then plant. This may seem like a lengthy process, but if you have ever outdoor sowed and had to start thinning down the plants, I find this timely and avoids waste of food.

Manure or tea compost is one of the best liquid fertilizers one can use and it is easy to make. Into a burlap bag, add a shovelful of fresh or dried manure or well-seasoned compost. Tie it closed. Put the sack into a rain barrel, plastic garbage container and fill with water. Keep covered for five to 10 days. This can be used full strength for periodic feedings especially for heavy feeders � squash, corn � or it can be diluted to water plants on a regular basis.

You can use the manure tea as a side dressing for plants, which prevents fertilizer burn to the root system, yet encourages the root development. Side dressing involves digging a trench about six to eight inches away from the root system of the plant � especially for young seedlings � and adding your fertilizer to this area then recovering the trench with soil again.

The roots absorb the fertilizer gradually � especially if you use �hot� fertilizer (fresh manure which has not aged and can burn the plants roots if applied directly to the root system).

Remember, leave the spent flowers on your daffodils, tulips, etc. until they have died back completely, before you remove the old growth.

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