Posts Tagged ‘soil’

Friend and neighbor Andrea, who never tires of this description, says my garden does not look as bad as I think. I must admit that I am beginning to believe her. But you know how you can get used to a noise to the point where you don’t even notice it anymore? I fear that is what has happened with me and the weeds. So, when I look at my garden I don’t even see them , so now I think it looks great out there!

A few bright spots…

Olivia’s sunflower

Butterfly bush + Queen Anne’s Lace (Looks better than this photo!)

Rhubarb ready to harvest!

A rainbow of chard

2012 is more than half way over and I thought I’d check up on my resolutions and see how I am doing.

Garden resolutions for 2012:

1. Get soil tested. I didn’t, but I did find out how. There is a place you can send your soil for a small fee, but I am not sure it tests for contaminants. I’ll have to keep working on this one.
2. Grow potatoes in barrels. I didn’t get to this. I wanted to find a barrel that was  not plastic and was not pressure-treated wood and just didn’t find one. But I have 10 months to find one for next spring…
3. Figure out how to get manure and straw (where to get it and how to transport it). Nope. No clue. Possible I can still do this, though.
4. Build more raised beds. We did this! I now have ten 4×4 foot beds and one 4×8 for the strawberries. I love them!
5. Try garlic. Yet to come…
6. Build cold frames. We bought one instead. It’s functional, but a bit flimsy.

Flimsy cold frame now housing eggplant and peppers.

7. Put in fruit trees – cherry, apricot, maybe apples, but they are so plentiful and cheap here… We did this, too! And they are doing well.

Sour cherry.

8. Put in small fruit shrubs –  currants, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, gooseberries. All but the grapes…I think that counts as fulfilled!

Currants and gooseberries.

9. Make a solar dehydrator. Good project for next week!
10. Put in an asparagus bed. Done. It looks like a coffin, and it seems one of the asparagus died already.

11. Grow more herbs. Yes, to parsley, chives, mint and sage, I added tarragon, lemon balm, betony, rosemary, thyme, dill, savory, oregano, basil and marjoram.

Herb bed with sage going wild!

Savory and marjoram. Or is it the oregano? (I can’t tell them apart!)

So, running total so far…6 completed, 3 in progress and 2 that will not come to pass out of the first 11. Second half of the resolutions tomorrow and the grand total…

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Part of the Urban Farm Handbook Challenge is to try worm composting. I was sure we could make a composter out of plastic bins – there are so many places to find instructions for this on the internet – but I was not so sure we could get worms.

I searched and found on-line providers, but was skeptical of mail ordering worms in winter. One of the providers, Ekodomov (Ecohome) is located nearby and I’d long wanted to visit their ecology center, so the girls and I set off on our adventure to find worms. If this didn’t work, I was ready to try hunting/fishing stores hoping they’d have the right kind of worms for sale as bait. A long shot, but I couldn’t think of anything else.

We found Ekodomov’s front gate, but it was locked. No opening hours were posted. Maybe it wouldn’t open until spring. There were signs pointing to the ecology center, but we couldn’t find it. We returned to the gate just to check and somehow daughter #2 pushed it open.  We went inside but seemed to be in someone’s back yard. I’ve lived here long enough to know

1) it’s easier to apologize than ask permission,

2) things rarely look like I would expect them to, and

3) it isn’t that unusual for two houses to share a common driveway and gate.

We went on through the garden and the next gate.  Still no sign of anything that looked like an ecology center, only homes. I even saw someone through the window, making lunch. We walked around a little but saw nothing.

I decided we should probably leave, we must be in the wrong place, and it was then that I saw the tiny little sign on the tiny little building that I at first thought was a garage. We walked up to it so see if the hours were posted and someone opened the door from inside and asked what we wanted. I kind of stuttered and smiled and he said, “You want worms, right?!”


The 3 men working there were very friendly and helpful, showing us a homemade worm composter and discussing the right kinds of bins to use. We left, promising to send photos of our finished work.

We headed triumphantly off to the hardware store to buy bins.  There was quite a selection, though all of the bins were transparent. All my internet sources say not to use transparent bins, but the guy at Ekodomov had said he’d tried it and it worked fine. So, transparent bins it is1

The girls were very excited (or perhaps just amused at their strange mother) and gleefully announced to their father that we have worms, our first farm animal! We enlisted his help in drilling holes in the bins, invited our neighbor to come watch and went to work.

Wetting shredded newspaper and putting it in as bottom layer.

Bottom layer done

Adding worms

Next a layer of compost

Another layer of shredded paper - do they REALLY eat it?!?

Finished bin in place in the entry hall.

Making dinner was especially exciting as we could feed our worms for the first time! Both girls had a turn.

Daughter #1

Daughter #2

The first thing I did this morning was peek inside – no worms in sight.

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I saw this posted on another website and thought, “What a great way for me to explore all the things I’ve been reading about. This will push me to do it!”

I signed up.

I asked my green friend/neighbor to sign up so we can do this together.

I put a little button on my blog sidebar to declare my intentions (see it over there?!).

I excitedly read the February Challenge. It’s about…


the scariest thing in my garden (why? read this).

Deep breath. I can do this!

Soil Building Challenge #1: Plan for Compost

My not perfect compost

I already do this. I already have a compost area and 2 compost bins made out of old pallets. I’m sure I don’t compost very skillfully – all the talk of aeration, green/brown ratio, moisture, etc. is intimidating to me, so I mostly ignore it. And almost everyone ends by saying that it’s okay if it’s not perfect. Whew! I can do “not perfect” really well!

Soil Building Challenge #2: Buy fertilizer in bulk or make it from scratch.

Joshua McNichols, author of the challenge, says, “Here in Seattle, I just drive out to so-and-so’s store…” to buy all the ingredients to make organic fertilizer. Mmmhmm. Well, here in Prague, I am stumped. The shopping list includes: alfalfa seed meal, agricultural lime, gypsum, Dolomitic lime, fish bone meal, cal phos and kelp meal. I’m thinking I should be able to find lime. The Dolomites are, after all, a lot closer to me than they are to him…

Luckily I am on holiday this week and maybe I can start to track some of these things down. First step: translate!

alfalfa seed meal = mletá vojtěška osivo

agricultural lime = zemědelské vápno

gypsum = sádrovec

Dolomitic lime = Dolomitský (just guessing here) vápno

fish bone meal = mleté rybí kosti

cal phos = fosforečnan vápenatý

kelp meal = mletá čepelatka

Searching the internet for “organic fertilizer” in Czech, I found:

AgroBio. It is unclear whether this is organic fertilizer, though they do say their products are as safe as they can be for the environment. There is a liberal sprinkling of expressions like “bio” which usually means organic, but in this case I’m not sure, and “organicky” which might not mean the kind of organic I want. They do sell Borax, however, which I have also been looking for!

AgroNatura. These guys really do seem to be organic and they sell fertilizer, but it is expensive! I don’t see any of the ingredients for sale, either.

Bat guano fertilizer. Guaranteed to be organic and easy on the environment, sold at a local “grow shop,” a shop for Cannabis growers (this really is leading me to new and strange places!). They do seem to have a nice assortment of other organic fertilizers, though.

Biozahrada. Translates as “organic garden.” Very promising! They have many brands of fertilizer, insecticides, mycorrhizal  mixes, compost and even organic seeds (not a huge selection). On-line shop and a store not so far from Prague.

Well, at least some place to start. Perhaps my partner in all this and I can visit a few of these places and make some fertilizer by spring.

Soil Building Challenge #3:  Build a Worm Bin

I can do this! The instructions are pretty easy and I finally found a source of worms (at Bio.cz). I think the girls and I can manage this on Monday! Look for photos soon.

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Soil scares me

I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, in fact  I like it, but the first thing you read about in most gardening books is soil. How you really need to have it tested and it’s easy to do – just send it to your nearest county agricultural extension office. Well, if those exist in the Czech Republic they are a well-kept secret! I have no idea how to get my soil tested here. And so far, no one’s been able to tell me.

And my soil is bad…real bad. My first clue that it was perhaps on the clayey side was when my daughters started making sculptures from it…

Olivia made a bowl

Sofie made a horse

Yep, it’s clay alright!

But what else may be lurking there I have no idea. It’s fill that was brought in when our house was built 3 years ago. Is it acidic? Alkaline? Laced with heavy metals? All possible but I am unable to tell.

Meanwhile, I read about all the possible additives I might have to mix in. Blood meal, gypsum, lime, rock phosphate,  bone meal, rock dust, greensand – I have no idea what these things are, how to say them in Czech and where to go to get them. When I asked for straw at the garden center, they looked at me like I was crazy and asked me what on earth one would use straw for in a garden! And I thought that would be the easiest thing to get. Hmmm.

So, I’m terrified of my soil. I heap compost and mulch on it, but I don’t really know what’s in there or what I’m going to do if I ever find out.

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