How to Organize a Plant Swap

February 22, 2018 at 9:10 am ·

How to Organize a Plant Swap

One of the best parts of gardening is being able to share what you know and grow with other gardeners or people you meet. Tips and tricks you have used in your own garden just might be the information another gardener needs to get their trouble plant flourishing, and a plant you noticed in a neighbors garden might be ready to divide and shared.

plant-swap-planThese are all good reasons to organize a plant swap among your friends or in your own neighborhood. At a plant swap you can share information on the plants that you have had success with or those plants that do not do well in the area with newbie gardeners. A swap takes place among gardeners who have divided up plants in their garden that have become to big for the space they are growing in or need to be transplanted.

Here is a guide to organizing your own plant swap where you can share tips and tricks to growing your favorite plants and swap extra plants and seeds from your garden.

Gather Gardening Pals

The first thing you are going to need in order to have a successful plant swap are other gardeners to swap with. Talk to your gardening pals in the neighborhood, you know, the folks that you stop and talk to on walks through the neighborhood to admire their garden. Next, talk to the gardeners in your neighborhood that you haven’t yet met but noticed that they have some plants that need dividing. Finally, stop at your local public places to see about posting flyers for a plant swap, depending on the size of the swap you want to have.

When to Swap

Deciding when to host a plant swap is not hard, the growth of your plants and when they are ready to divide pretty much dictate the schedule. The best time of year to host plant swaps are going to be in the spring and again in the fall. Spring bloomers should be divided and swapped in the fall and summer bloomers divided and swapped in the spring.

What to Swap

what-plant-to-swapPopular plants to swap include those that can always be used in the garden to create borders, fill shade and add color. Perennial favorites like Hostas, Purple Coneflowers, Asters, and Lilies are always wanted by gardeners. Other plants to include in the swap are any new varieties you have introduced to your own garden that have performed well.

Besides plants that you divide in your garden you can swap any leftover seedlings you grew for your own garden and seeds that you have collected. Make sure you include any information about planting and care that you have for all of the plants that you swap.

How to Swap

There are several ways to go about swapping your plants. You can swap using a lottery system or let members exchange among themselves. I prefer a lottery system because that way every member gets an equal chance at bringing home some of their favorites. Make sure that all gardeners involved are comfortable with whatever swap method is used before you begin.

Things to Remember

Remind all gardeners involved that the plants they bring to swap should be healthy and disease free, no one wants to introduce an unhealthy plant into their otherwise disease free garden. Include details about your plant to potential gardeners, like if you have used chemical fertilizers or if all gardening was done organically. And finally, have fun and take the time to glean as many tips and tricks from other gardeners to use in your own garden.

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Compost Magic

February 8, 2018 at 9:14 am ·

Compost Magic

Growing a greener garden is part science, part art, and part chance. There isn’t much you can do about the element of chance – the weather might be ideal one year and disastrous the next. Then there are those people who just seem to have a knack for producing the prettiest blooms and heartiest plants. But even if you weren’t blessed with a proverbial green thumb, you can have a healthier garden if you understand some of the science behind growing things.

With all the interest in green, environmentally friendly methods, composting is a great way to utilize kitchen and lawn waste to produce the perfect soil additive without chemical fertilizers. Producing your own compost just makes sense because the ingredients are free and you’ll be making the most of materials that would otherwise go down your garbage disposal or worse, become part of the mountain of trash at a landfill.

There are several different styles of compost structures, from free-standing piles that can be manually turned over, to pre-fabricated rotating bins. The size of your compost pile will depend on the size of your yard and on the amount of waste material your lawn and kitchen produce. Compost piles should not exceed around six feet in height because if the pile is too high, decomposition will not occur at the deeper layers. Also, if a compost heap is too tall or massive, it will be difficult to turn over.

compost-methodTurning over your compost is a method of mixing the layers which will be at different stages of decomposition. This is accomplished with a simple pitchfork or shovel. Pitchforks are the best tool for composting since they are not as heavy or cumbersome as shovels. Garden rakes are typically not durable enough for the job, since decomposing compost becomes quite weighty.

In order for decomposition to occur, your compost pile must include both green and brown material. Green matter refers to any fresh waste material such as green leaves, grass clippings, fresh wood chips, and vegetable, fruit or other organic scraps. Brown matter includes dead branches, dried wood chips, dried pine cones and needles, and even shredded paper scraps. A word of caution: do not add meat, fat or oil to your compost pile since this will attract vermin as well as create quite a stench!

If your compost pile includes this combination of materials and is at least a foot or more in depth, with time, the magic of decomposition will turn what would otherwise be trash into a rich soil additive. You can tell that decomposition is occurring by reaching your hand deep into the pile. If the center of the heap feels much hotter than the surface, that means the magic of decomposition has begun. In fact, the center of your compost heap should be nearly too hot to touch.

You might notice a variety of insects in and around your compost pile. Actually, at the hot center of the heap, instead of earthworms and beetles, tiny microorganisms will be doing the real work of breaking down material.

When your compost begins to resemble rich coffee grounds, it is ready to be used as a soil additive. Good compost can help turn overly alkaline soil into healthy balanced soil by adding a mildly acidic element. You can test the pH level of your soil with a simple tester device, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH of around 6 or 7 ideal. The crumbly texture of compost can turn clumpy, clay soils into workable garden dirt. Using compost also helps conserve water usage in the garden because mulch compost placed around plants holds water and inhibits evaporation. Even without rainfall, mulch will draw and hold moisture from the morning dew, releasing it throughout the day to thirsty plants.

If you have a garden, your plants are sure to reward your composting efforts with brighter blooms and tastier treats.

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