Saturday, March 31, 2012

Organic Lawn Care — Spring

By request, I am compiling my organic lawn care recommendations in one place and starting a WormMainea YouTube channel.

In this video I show how to core aerate with the Yard Butler*

In this video I demonstrate overspreading compost

I also took a soil sample from the yard to see whether I am getting close to my target organic matter level and whether need to do anything else (calcium, etc.). I took a composite sample from 15 areas (5 front yard, 5 side yard, and 5 back yard). These approximately equal small samples were mixed in my soil tub and then placed in the box.

Collecting a soil sample for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Soil Test

Here are links to some of my earlier blogs related to lawn care

*The Yard Butler D-6C Core Lawn Aerator is great for established lawns or lawns where a lot of activity takes place. Core aeration reduces compaction and thatch to let air, water and fertilizer down to the root zone. Core aeration also stimulates root growth by “pruning” the roots and deposits valuable micro-organisms on the lawn surface. I find this tool a lot easier to use than the gas-powered beast I rented from Home Depot a few years ago. And, because I have it available, I can use it to aerate compacted areas when someone drives on the lawn.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cold frames

Ever considered building your own cold frame?

Making and operating your cold frame is easier than you probably think and MUCH cheaper than a greenhouse.

First a tip of the hat to Elliot Colman, who showed me how to keep my cold frame going. His excellent book contains information and suggestions to build cold frames. My simple wood and polygal cover is based on his recommendations. I use the garden carts to secure the lids (from both wind and squirrels).

Here are a few photos of my cold frame

As you can see it it pretty well buried in snow.

Photo from the front-- I keep the polygal clear to prevent collapse and let the sun in

A close looks shows just a hint of the greens grown on the left side

Here is a peek under the lid. 

That's claytonia growing. I sowed this in early November when the cold frame soil was still warm. It will cut and come again a little (VERY SLOWLY). I cut the right side and it is gone.
The lid is polygal and not attached to the frame. I keep it closed this time of year and will only begin to open it if the weather really warms and soil temps get above 65F. Usually, that doesn't happen until April (but who knows this year). Come May, I switch to a lighter lid that I can handle more easily and has more ventilation (only closing when we have a clear night with frost).

When the growing season starts (typically June), I put the covers away and refresh the soil in the cold frame with compost. I try to run a summer crop of something completely different to prevent pests. This year, I may sow some wild flowers-- I just have to be careful to cut them before they go to seed.

Cold season seed recommendations for Maine:

Claytonia-- this is VERY forgiving and quite tasty in salads-- even on it's own. It is my favorite for my cold frame.

Mache (Corn salad) also works well, and I will sow this next weekend on the right (vacant) side after adding some aged vermicompost. It is as forgiving as claytonia, but because you harvest nearly the whole plant when cutting and it doesn't come again. For me, it is perfect for sowing in early March for a late April & May harvest. The last crop before turning the cold frame over for the summer planting.

Spinach works OK. I have had mixed success overwintering spinach. I mostly plant it early (before I start the claytonia)



2013 Cold Frame Update

Here is how my cold frame looked last weekend-- overfull and ready to harvest.


I've been battling a case of shingles, and my harvest was a bid delayed.

I switched to my non-insulating cover (ripple plastic instead of the polygal).

Come early May, I will remove the cover completely and clean it all out for the summer plants.