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Types of Eggplant

Wed, 12/06/2023 - 16:45
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Belonging to the nightshade family, eggplants are versatile summer produce due to their meaty texture and subtle flavors. They are a staple ingredient in various dishes, especially in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Technically speaking, an eggplant is not a vegetable, but a fruit that is botanically categorized as a berry. Eggplants are served as vegetables in the United States.

They have different names across the globe: “Aubergine” in Europe, “brinjal” in India, “eggfruit” in Australia, and “garden egg” in Africa.

Zen Chung//Pexels

You’re probably familiar with the bulbous, dark purple variety called the globe eggplant. This particular variety is widely grown in the US, dominating most commercial grocery stores. Eggplants are not limited to this appearance. In fact, as we round up different types of eggplant below, you’ll discover their diverse colors, flavors, shapes, and sizes.

Common Eggplant Types

Home gardeners and local farmers have access to a selection of eggplants not commonly found in supermarkets. In addition, growing your own eggplants ensures your produce is free from any unwanted herbicides and pesticides (if you opt for organic planting). 

Like any fruit and vegetable crops, eggplants can be categorized by heirloom and hybrid varieties. They can be further grouped based on shape and size as explained below. 

Heirloom and Hybrid Eggplants

Heirloom eggplant varieties come from seeds passed down from generation to generation. This seed saving practice is common in many ethnic, family, or religious units in different geographic regions. Another defining characteristic of heirloom varieties is the absence of crossbreeding for at least 40 to 50 years. They are open-pollinated, true-to-seed eggplants, carrying the same traits as the parent plant. 

However, heirloom eggplant varieties are susceptible to diseases and pests.

Dan Cristian Pădureț//unsplash

To alleviate these issues, breeders came up with hybrid eggplant cultivars through controlled and manual cross-pollination between two varieties. Ideal characteristics from each parent plant — such as larger fruit size, improved disease- or pest- resistance, and sturdier growth — instilled in the resulting hybrid eggplant variety. Due to these improvements, many large-scale agriculturists and farmers opt for hybrid eggplant types.

Esculentum, Serpentinum, and Depressum Eggplants

The Solanum melongena or eggplant can be grouped into botanical categories, based on the fruit’s shape and size.

Egg-shaped or round eggplant varieties fall under esculentum.

Lengthy, slender eggplants are considered serpentinum.

Dwarf eggplant varieties are depressum.

Continue below for an extensive list of the popular varieties under these categories.

Other Popular Eggplant Groupings

Apart from the botanical groupings mentioned earlier, eggplant can be classified by other characteristics. 

Types of Eggplant Colors

Eggplants are not exclusively purple in color. 

Eggplant ColorsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Green EggplantsGreen Fingers (True Leaf Market)
Louisiana Long Green (True Leaf Market)
Masego (True Leaf Market)
Petch Siam (True Leaf Market)
Thai Long Green (Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)Purple EggplantsLong Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Purple Comet F1 (True Leaf Market)
Purple Shine (True Leaf Market)
Traviata (Territorial Seed Company)Dark Purple/Black EggplantsBlack Beauty (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Black Egg (Eden Brothers)
Kyoto Egg (True Leaf Market)
Money Maker (True Leaf Market)
Rolandia (Territorial Seed CompanyWhite EggplantsBride F1 (True Leaf Market)
Casper White (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Gretel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Japanese White Egg (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Snowy (True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company)Orange/Red EggplantsEnsoro Ewia (Rare Seeds)
Melanzana Rossa di Rotonda (Rare Seeds)
Sweet Red (Seed Savers Exchange)
Turkish Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market) Types of Eggplant Flavors

Depending on your eggplant’s variety and maturity, it can either taste slightly bitter or sweet.

Eggplant FlavorsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Mildly BitterBlack Beauty (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Gretel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Hansel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Konasu (True Leaf Market)
Money Maker (True Leaf Market)SweetFairy Tale Hybrid (True Leaf Market
Green Fingers (True Leaf Market)
Italian Rosa Bianca (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Japanese Pickling (True Leaf Market)
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds) Types of Eggplant Skins

Some eggplant varieties have tougher skin than others. 

Eggplant SkinsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Thin-Skinned EggplantsFairy Tale Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Gretel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Listada de Gandia (Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange)
Mizuno Takumi (True Leaf Market
Money Maker (True Leaf Market)Thick-Skinned EggplantsFilipino Talong Purple No. 1 (True Leaf Market)
Finger Fruit Purple (Eden Brothers
Long Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Turkish Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market) Types of Eggplant Lifecycles

Annual plants take a whole year to finish their entire lifecycle, while perennial plants take more than two years, able to bear fruit for an extended period. 

Eggplant LifecyclesCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Annual EggplantsBlack Egg (Eden Brothers)
Masego (True Leaf Market)
Money Maker (True Leaf Market)Perennial Eggplants (also grown as annuals)Black Beauty (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Eclipse F1 (True Leaf Market)
Long Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)  Types of Geographic Origins

The specific origin of eggplants is greatly debated. In Southeast Asia, it has been grown as a perennial plant since prehistoric times. Earliest record of eggplant is found in the Chinese agricultural treatise called Qimin Yaoshu.

Geographic OriginsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)European/Mediterranean EggplantsCasper White (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Italian Rosa Bianca (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Listada de Gandia (Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange)
Prosperosa (Territorial Seed Company)
Rolandia (Territorial Seed Company)American EggplantsFlorida High Bush (Seed Savers Exchange)
Florida Market (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Gretel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Louisiana Long Green (True Leaf Market)
Patio Baby (Territorial Seed Company)Asian EggplantsJapanese Pickling (True Leaf Market)
Japanese White Egg (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Round Mauve (True Leaf Market)
Thai Round (True Leaf Market) Types of Culinary Uses

The eggplant fruit is commonly cooked, and mixed with other food ingredients. Its spongy texture absorbs sauces and other spices well.

Culinary UsesCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Eggplants for BakingAswad (Rare Seeds)
Bride F1 (True Leaf Market)
Kamo (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds
Kurume (True Leaf Market)
Thai Green (Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)Eggplants for Roasting/GrillingMitoyo (Rare Seeds)
Money Maker (True Leaf Market)
Purple Shine (True Leaf Market)
Satsuma Long (Rare Seeds)
Shiromaru (Rare Seeds)Eggplants for Stir-fryChinese String (Rare Seeds)
Choryoku (True Leaf Market)
Little Finger Purple (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Japanese White Egg (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Kyoto Egg (True Leaf Market) Types of Disease Resistance

Hybrid eggplant varieties tend to be more resistant to disease than heirloom varieties.

Disease ResistanceCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Disease Resistant EggplantsDiamond (Seed Savers Exchange)
Eclipse F1 (True Leaf Market)
Florida Market (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Thai Round (True Leaf Market)Susceptible Heirloom EggplantsBlack Beauty (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Kamo (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds
Konasu (True Leaf Market)
Masego (True Leaf Market)
Petch Siam (True Leaf Market) Types of Preferred Growing Conditions

Eggplant primarily thrives in warm conditions. You can plant them in a greenhouse if you live in a cool area. Some varieties can also be grown in containers or pot.

Preferred Growing ConditionsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Greenhouse EggplantsBlack Egg (Eden Brothers)
Eclipse F1 (True Leaf Market)
Finger Fruit Purple (Eden Brothers
Michal (Territorial Seed Company)
Turkish Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)Field EggplantsLong Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Nagasaki Long (Rare Seeds)
Ping Tung Long (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Thai Long Green (Rare Seeds)Container EggplantsFairy Tale Hybrid (True Leaf Market
Gretel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Hansel Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Italian Rosa Bianca (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Patio Baby (Territorial Seed Company) Popular Varieties of Round Eggplants Aboodi vesakaran//pexels

There are many cultivars of round eggplants (Solanum melongena var. esculentum). From Italian to Asian varieties, there’s an eggplant for you and your recipes.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyJapanese White EggThis Japanese eggplant variety produces fruit reminiscent of an egg. The White Egg variety has a hint of spice, making it a popular ingredient for stir-fry.10 to 15 days65 to 75 daysTrue Leaf Market, Rare SeedsTurkish Orange This heirloom eggplant variety has a sweeter flavor that becomes slightly bitter as it ripens.5 to 14 days70 to 90 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketItalian Rosa BiancaOriginating from Italy, the Italian Rosa Bianca yields round, creamy lavender fruits perfect for slicing. 7 to 14 days70 to 80 days True Leaf Market, Rare SeedsProsperosaThe Prosperosa is a meaty Italian eggplant with a ribbed and round shape.7 to 14 days70 to 75 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyThai RoundThis Thai eggplant is a disease-resistant variety with small, striped fruits about 2 inches in diameter. It is ideal for growing in a container or pot. 7 to 14 days55 to 60 daysTrue Leaf MarketBlack BeautyThe Black Beauty eggplant has a slightly bitter taste. The plant can yield 4 to 6 dark-purple fruits in an annual growth cycle.7 to 12 days75 to 90 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds Popular Varieties of Snake Eggplants vitalina//pexels

Commonly elongated and slim, the snake eggplant (Solanum melongena var. serpentinum) varieties might be the most familiar to you. Some varieties have a curled tip while still maintaining a cylindrical shape.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyJapanese PicklingThe Japanese Pickling can grow anywhere between 10 to 16 inches in length. They are primarily mild and sweet with elongated and slender shape.7 to 14 days65 to 75 daysTrue Leaf MarketPing Tung LongThis Chinese eggplant variety is an excellent all-round option with its mild taste and tender texture. The Ping Tung eggplant can grow as long as 12 inches.10 to 14 days65 to 75 daysTerritorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare SeedsLouisiana Long GreenThe Louisiana Long Green eggplant is a Southern variety known for its lime-green, glossy skin and sweet flavor. 7 to 14 days80 to 100 daysTrue Leaf MarketMillionaireA distinct Japanese variety, the Millionaire has an early maturity rate for a bountiful harvest. The resulting fruit can grow 8 inches long.10 to 21 days54 to 63 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyPurple Comet F1The Purple Comet F1 variety has a deep purple skin that remains until maturity. It has a firm, white flesh, and fewer seeds. 5 to 10 days55 to 70 daysTrue Leaf MarketBride F1The Bride F1 is a hybrid eggplant variety, growing anywhere between 8 to 9 inches long. The fruit has a unique gradient color of purple and white.5 to 14 days65 to 70 daysTrue Leaf Market Popular Varieties of Dwarf Eggplants Oleksandr P//pexels

If you have limited garden space, any of the dwarf eggplant varieties should be your top choice to grow. They are the right variety due to their compact size, easily fitting a typical container or pot in your patio.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyPatio BabyThe oval-shaped Patio Baby eggplant is an All-America Selections winner due to its compact plant growth, thornless structure, and mild flavor. This dark purple fruit has a teardrop shape.7 to 10 days45 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyFairy Tale HybridAnother All-America Selections winner, the Fairy Tale eggplant has white and violet stripes on its skin and sweet, white flesh. It has a thinner skin compared to different varieties. Due to its small plant size, the Fairy Tale is also a good choice for container growing.7 to 14 days49 to 51 daysTrue Leaf MarketGretel HybridWith its green calyx, the Gretel Hybrid produces clusters of white, elongated eggplants in a petite plant structure. This variety has high yielding capacity and adapts well in container planting. Additionally, the Gretel eggplant won the 2005 All-America Selection award.7 to 14 days50 to 60 daysTrue Leaf MarketHansel HybridThe Hansel Hybrid variety bagged the All-America Selection award in 2008 for its tender flesh and non-bitter taste. It grows in fingerlike clusters and thrives well in a deck or patio due to its smaller size.7 to 14 days50 to 55 daysTrue Leaf MarketKonasuThe Konasu eggplant uniquely has a black to dark purple skin and calyx. Its small size makes it ideal for stews. You can plant this variety of eggplant at home, preferably in a field.7 to 14 days60 to 65 daysTrue Leaf Market FAQ About Types of Eggplants Which eggplant type is the best for grilling?

When grilled, large slices of round eggplants hold up well without losing most of their original shape. Adding beauty to your food presentation, grill marks are most noticeable on thicker slices, especially varieties with white flesh. Brush a stroke of olive oil and add your choice of spices to elevate your grilled eggplant. 

Which is the longest eggplant variety? 

The Fengyuan eggplant is a Taiwanese heirloom considered to be the longest eggplant variety as it can grow up to a foot long.

Originally published on Types of Eggplant

© Insteading

Seasoning and Storing Firewood

Wed, 12/06/2023 - 14:45
Dmitry Makeev//Wikimedia Commons

Heating with wood is a beautiful thing. It’s hard to beat sitting next to a crackling fire on a cold winter night as the snow gently falls outside. However, that wonderful feeling comes at a price — a lot of sweat and hard work for many months prior to winter. What happens between the time you cut the wood and the time you enjoy it in your fireplace or wood stove? A lot, actually. And that is what we will be covering in today’s article: The seasoning and storing of firewood.

Also, make sure to check out my other article on the basics of firewood if you are completely new to heating with wood. It will give you a good primer on what it takes to heat with wood.

Seasoning Dmitry Makeev//Wikimedia Commons

Seasoning is the process of lowering the amount of water that is contained within the wood. Trees, being plants, contain a LOT of water.

Why Does Wood Need to Be Seasoned? Asurnipal//Wikimedia Commons

Water, as you could guess, does not burn well. As such, materials that have a large amount of water also don’t burn. If you want to see for yourself how difficult it is to burn a plant product that is fresh, all you need to do is grab a green leaf off a tree and put it over a lighter or a lit match. It won’t catch on fire. The reason for this is that water has a very high specific heat.

This is a science term used to describe how much energy is required to raise the temperature of a material. Having a high specific heat means that it takes a lot of energy to raise the temperature of the material, in this case water.

If wood has a bunch of water in it, it will need a lot of energy input in order to raise the temperature of the wood to its combustion temperature (the temperature at which it burns). In dry wood, burning kindling usually provides enough energy to get the wood itself to burn.

With wet wood, the kindling might not get the wood to burn at all, or only get it to burn for a short time before it extinguishes itself. Little is more frustrating than trying to get a fire going on a cold winter morning and not being able to do so!

How to Season Wood Mestos//Wikimedia Commons

To understand how to season wood, you need to understand wood’s makeup and how water leaves the wood. Wood is made of many long cells that run its length. In simple terms, you can imagine wood as a bunch of straws bundled together.

If you have a log, and wait for it to season, the rule of thumb is that it will dry out at a rate of about 1 inch per year. That means if you have a 12-inch diameter log, it will take about 6 years to dry (because it is drying out from all sides). Even a 4-inch diameter log will take 2 years to dry. That is a long time to wait for firewood.

Chmee2//Wikimedia Commons

Because it takes so long for wood logs to dry, you first need to split them. Splitting takes a round log covered in bark (which inhibits water loss) and turns it into many smaller pieces (usually with a triangular or rectangular cross-section) that have a single side (or no sides) covered with bark.

Both of these factors (smaller size and no bark) help it dry faster. With splitting, you can make a log that would naturally take the better part of a decade to dry, and make pieces that will dry and be ready for use in a year. And you get a nice workout to boot (unless you use a mechanical log splitter).

Once you have split the wood, you are going to stack it. Wood that is lying directly on the ground will never dry out and just rot. This is good for the soil but not good for winter warmth.

I should say that there are many different ways to stack wood, but they are not all created equal when it comes to optimal drying of wood. When stacking firewood, you want to keep three things in mind: The sun dries out wood, the wind dries out wood, and the ground keeps wood wet. Taking these three things into consideration, you want to create a stack that maximizes exposure to the sun and wind while being off the ground.

Acabashi//Wikimedia Commons

First of all, the sun dries out wood. This means that you are going to need to stack the wood in a place where the sun can reach it. It should not be under a tree or any other object that causes a shadow during the better part of the day. Also avoid stacking it directly against a building as this invites insects into the building and can shade the wood. If you must put the stack against a building, the north side is the worst, and the east side is second worst as far as sun exposure goes.

Radek Grzybowski//Unsplash

Second, the wind dries out wood. This means that you are going to want to maximize exposure to the wind. Ideally, this means that you should have a stack of firewood that is one length of firewood thick. If you stack two or three rows back-to-back, the middle row will dry out the slowest, and the outside layers won’t dry as fast as they could alone. Orient the stack so the predominant winds in your area hit the stack and blow through it. This increases the amount of air that moves through the stack and therefore, hastens drying.

Finally, the ground keeps wood wet. Stacking wood directly on the ground is not good for the bottom layer. If you do so, the bottom layer will almost certainly not be good for burning. Avoid this problem by stacking the wood on something else. I use old fence boards under my stacks, but anything that keeps the ground from touching the wood will work.

So, all that is to say the optimal stack will be a single line, out in the open, oriented so it is perpendicular to the main wind direction on your land, and isolated from the ground.

Whether or not this is feasible for you is another thing entirely. If you have little land or you require many cords of wood a year, this stacking method might be a bit difficult to do. If you can swing it, I highly recommend it as it dries wood the fastest (short of having a wood kiln).

How Long Does It Take to Season Firewood? Pietro De Grandi//Unsplash

The short answer is it depends. It depends on the type of wood, when you cut the wood, and how the wood is stacked when seasoning.

As far as I know, the only common wood that can burn while green is white ash. I have never used it myself as I don’t have any around me, but if you have it, you can try to burn it without seasoning.

How long other woods take to season depends on the type. In my area, I have shortleaf pine that I can cut in the winter and begin using the next fall. Other sorts of wood may require up to two years to be optimally seasoned.

Another significant factor is when you cut it. If you cut wood in the spring, it is going to be filled with water and take a long time to dry. Late fall and winter are the best times to cut wood as the trees are dormant and have the lowest amount of water in them. If you absolutely must cut wood during the spring or summer, make sure to leave the leaves on for a bit before you cut up the tree. The leaves will draw out some of the moisture through transpiration.

Finally, as already mentioned, how you stack the wood will influence how long it takes. If you use the method I suggested, it will dry the fastest. If you throw it in a big random pile, the stuff on the bottom and in the middle of the pile may never season well.

Storing Wood Herzi Pinki//Wikimedia Commons

Once your firewood is seasoned, it needs to be stored until it is used. Many people store wood in the same stacks that they season it. And that is certainly an option. I, myself, used that option when I first started heating with wood but have since come to change my ways, and now season and store my firewood in different locations.

As mentioned above, for seasoning wood, the optimal location is out in the open in a stack that is one piece of firewood thick. For storing wood for use, however, you have different priorities. Now proximity to the house (or wherever you will use the wood) and keeping the rain and snow off of it are the two most important factors. Because of that, an enclosed wood shed near the point of use is the best place for storing it.

In Conclusion Uumufq//Wikimedia Commons

Seasoning and storing firewood are necessities for anyone who heats with a fire. There are good ways of doing it, and there are not so good ways of doing it. Hopefully, I have helped you understand how to better season and store your firewood so that you can enjoy a winter full of warmth.

Originally published on Seasoning and Storing Firewood

© Insteading

Ocotillo Facts

Mon, 12/04/2023 - 18:25

Ocotillo, also known as coachwhip, Jacob’s staff, vine cactus, or by the scientific name of Fouquieria splendens, is a flowering spiny shrub that’s a characteristic species of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts.

Chris Hunkeler//flickr Desert Life

Though this species resembles a cactus with its long spiny branches, it is more closely related to blueberries and tea. Ocotillos are a semi-succulent species that is well adapted to living in the desert. After a rain, their leaves grow quickly, and just as quickly drop after the ground dries up.

This feature allows them to gather vital resources but not expend too much energy in the long run. Being a drought-tolerant species, they require very little water to survive, and indeed, too much water can be deadly for them.

The characteristic of dropping leaves after the soil dries up is called “drought deciduous.” The roots of this species are shallow, and this allows the plant to uptake as much water as possible after a rain. Rain in the desert is often short-lived, and does not penetrate far into the ground before the heat dries it. Having shallow roots allows surface water and shallow-penetrated water to easily taken up. 

Usually within 24 hours after a rain, ocotillos begin producing leaves. Most of the water taken up is put into growing leaves, so it makes sense that after the water is gone, the leaves quickly and fall. Depending on rainfall conditions, these plants can leaf-out 4 to 5 times every year.

Interesting fact: You can see how many growth cycles an ocotillo has had by counting the number of growth sections along the stems. Just as a tree collects rings for growth years, an ocotillo collects growth sections for every rain.

Jim Melli//flickr

After the leaves fall, the leftover leaf stems (called petioles) harden and become the hard spines left on the stem. These plants tend to look spiny and aggressive — like touching them will be painful. While this is true and they can become quite hard in winter, during their growth session they are soft, flexible, and bendy.

Though this plant appears to be an odd collection of pointy sticks coming out of the ground, it is actually a shrub. In the springtime (about March to June depending on environmental conditions) it blooms beautiful, red-pink flowers. Their Spanish name ocotillo (pronounced O-Co-T-Yo) means “little torch” because of this bright display of flowers.

During drought years, it may not leaf-out after a rain (if conditions are severe). However, regardless of the conditions present, it will flower every year. This is how ocotillos ensure long-term survival of the species.

Robert Shea//flickr

Although this is a desert species, its flowers have adapted to suit a hummingbird’s bill perfectly, and these two species co-evolved. The tube-like shape of the flowers allows a hummingbird to easily penetrate to the nectar. This shape simultaneously helps the ocotillo plants get pollinated. Hummingbirds have been found to time their migration patterns to the blooming of the ocotillos (if they are not residential hummingbirds).

If you’re not familiar with the desert, and you find yourself surprised there are hummingbirds there, don’t worry. There is a common misconception that deserts are devoid of life when in fact it is quite the contrary. They are teaming with life of all shapes and sizes, and hummingbirds are a beautiful part of this landscape.

These flowers don’t just provide food for the hummingbirds though. White-tailed deer, big-horned sheep, and even people like eating ocotillos. They have a sweet flavor and soaking them overnight in water can create a tasty juice. Traditionally, Native Americans used the seeds of this plant to create a protein rich flour.

Note: If you are harvesting these flowers in Arizona, you must get written permission to do so. They are protected under the Arizona Native Plant Law.

In general, these plants are hardy and resistant to extreme weather conditions. They have been found to grow up to 20 feet tall — though they are usually less than 10 feet. Ocotillos have also been found to grow as old as humans, reaching 100 years old! Because of these characteristics, they are excellent plants to use for live fencing if you live in the desert. Check out this live fencing article for more information on how to establish them.

Hey Skinny//flickr Medicinal Uses

Ocotillo is full of incredibly diverse medicinal uses. Here’s a list of the benefits this plant can provide with elaboration on how to use it.*

  1. Constipation relief
  2. Aids in digestion of fats
  3. Provides relief from varicose veins
  4. Treatment of hepatitis
  5. Colitis treatment
  6. Hemorrhoid relief/prevention
  7. Eczema treatment
  8. Psoriasis relief
  9. Aids in nutritional absorption
  10. Stimulates immunity
  11. Anti-inflammatory agent
  12. Relieves congestion of coughs and colds
  13. Wound care

Ocotillo is a miracle medicine in helping stimulate the lymphatic system. Lymphatic herbs in general help provide movement in areas of the body that have been devoid of movement. Our lymphatic system is a key factor in maintaining our health, and many (if not all) of the above illnesses and conditions that this plant helps to ward off and prevent are directly tied to our lymphatic systems. 

In general, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle (i.e., an office job, inability to use limbs of the body, wheelchair bound, or healing from a broken bone, etc.), ocotillo can be important for helping regulate and maintain the flow of our lymphatic systems.

Movement is crucial to helping our lymphatic systems remain healthy — if you’re unable to move in any capacity, consider adding ocotillo tinctures or extracts to your diet.

Because ocotillo directly stimulates movement in our lymphatic systems. It helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, colitis, and various inflammations. Stimulating movement in our lymphatic systems means that these areas are being regularly cleared out and cleaned. This process helps reduce toxic or unclean cells that can lead to eczema outbreaks, psoriasis, fat buildup, and infections.

It is extremely important to have a healthy, regulated lymphatic system. If you find yourself experiencing any of these health issues, ocotillo may be a good treatment for you to try.

* As with most herbal remedies, many of these medicinal uses are not approved by the CDC. It is always recommended to use herbal medicines with caution, especially when first trying them. Use a very small amount to ensure you are not allergic.

Joe Grossinger//Flickr Harvesting Ocotillo

Harvesting ocotillo is straightforward and easy, if it is readily available in your area. Wait until ocotillo’s growth season. Once fresh growth has added a new segment, and before it has hardened over and is still soft, you may harvest the freshly grown section. This is usually 1 or 2 inches in total length. You may also harvest the flowers in springtime. 

Always practice ethical harvesting. Try to harvest less than half of what is available on any ocotillo plant. If there is only one ocotillo bush in your area, do not harvest from it. Only in abundance should you harvest. Again, if you are harvesting in Arizona, ensure you check in with local law enforcement or forest conservancy first. 

After harvest, you may create tinctures or steep to create tea. I have read that tinctures are the best way to absorb the medicinal benefits. There are many helpful resources available to show you how to create tinctures if this is something of interest to you. Good luck and happy harvesting!

Featured image courtesy of Shepard4711 on Flickr.

Originally published on Ocotillo Facts

© Insteading

Types of Kale

Sat, 12/02/2023 - 18:50

Considered a cruciferous vegetable, kale belongs to a group of cabbage cultivars originally grown in the eastern Mediterranean. Under the plant species of Brassica Oleracea, it grows in cold temperatures, making this leafy vegetable the star of many fall and winter recipes. Different types of kale come in unique colors and forms, all with distinct flavor profiles. However, commercially bought kale is among the top produce with the most pesticides

Growing kale at home reduces exposure to these chemicals, ensuring organic harvest.

Take a deep-dive on these hearty greens and learn more about their heirloom and hybrid varieties below.

Common Kale Types

Before we classify kale plants based on color, texture, and other characteristics, these leafy vegetables can be separated into two categories.

Heirloom and Hybrid Kales

Heirloom varieties are essentially free from cross-breeding for at least 40 to 50 years. These types of kale are true to seed, carrying the same traits as the parent plant. Some heirloom kale plants are more vulnerable to disease and pest problems.

Krisztina papp//pexels

Out of human innovation came hybrid kale varieties. Intentional and manual crossbreeding is involved in creating hybrid kale varieties. Producing a permanent seed line isn’t the objective of crossbreeding two varieties as most hybrid seeds are sterile. Rather, it aims to improve the resulting hybrid with ideal traits from each parent, such as better resistance to cold, disease, or pests. 

Other Popular Kale Groupings

Let’s take a look at the common kale varieties, classified according to their unique characteristics.

Types of Kale Colors ColorsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Green KalesArun (Territorial Seed Company)
Ethiopian (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market)
Portuguese (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)Blue/Green KalesDazzling Blue (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Ebony (Territorial Seed Company
Winterbor (Territorial Seed Company)Red/Purple KalesRedbor (Territorial Seed Company)
Scarlet (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)
Kamome Series Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market) Types of Kale Textures Kale TextureCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Firm TextureDazzling Blue (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Red Russian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)
Dwarf Siberian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)Soft TextureLacinato or Nero di Toscana (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee
Sea (Territorial Seed Company
Premier (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee) Types of Kale Leaves Kale LeavesCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Curly LeavesBlue Curled Scotch or Vates (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Darkibor (Territorial Seed Company)
Winterbor (Territorial Seed Company)Feathery LeavesRed Russian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)
Premier (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)
White Russian (True Leaf Market)Bumpy/Flat LeavesBlack Magic (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Dazzling Blue (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Lacinato or Nero di Toscana (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)  Types of Kale Flavors Kale FlavorsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Sweet FlavorDwarf Siberian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Ethiopian (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market)
Siber Frills (Territorial Seed Company)Mild FlavorAutumn Star Kalettes® (Territorial Seed Company)
Kale Microgreens (True Leaf Market)
Redbor Kale (Territorial Seed Company)Earthy/Bitter FlavorBlack Magic (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Chinese Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Blue Curled Scotch or Vates (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market) Types of Kale Lifecycles LifecycleCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Annual KalesPortuguese (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Red (True Leaf Market)
Starbor (Territorial Seed Company)Biennial KalesBlue Curled Scotch or Vates (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Marrowstem (Seed Savers Exchange)Perennial KalesKosmic (Territorial Seed Company)
Sea (Territorial Seed Company)
Walking Stick (Rare Seeds) Types of Geographic Origins Geographic OriginCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Mediterranean KalesLacinato or Nero di Toscana (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee
Scarlet (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)
Thousandhead (Rare SeedsAmerican KalesDazzling Blue (Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Georgia Southern or Creole (Rare Seeds)
Premier (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)Asian KalesChinese Kale Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Japanese Flowering (Rare Seeds)
White Russian (True Leaf Market)  Types of Culinary Uses Culinary UseCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Kales for SaladsBlue Curled Scotch or Vates (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Redbor (Territorial Seed Company)
Winterbor (Territorial Seed Company)Kales for Pestos/DipsDarkibor (Territorial Seed Company)
Lacinato or Nero di Toscana (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Winterbor (Territorial Seed Company)Kales for SoupsImproved Dwarf Siberian (Territorial Seed Company)
Red Russian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)
Scarlet (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)Kales for JuicingDwarf Siberian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Kale Microgreens (True Leaf Market)
Redbor (Territorial Seed Company) Types of Preferred Growing Conditions Growing ConditionsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Greenhouse KalesDwarf Siberian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Lacinato or Nero di Toscana (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Red Russian (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers Exchange)Field KalesMarrowstem (Seed Savers Exchange)
Thousandhead (Rare Seeds
Walking Stick (Rare Seeds)Container KalesBlack Magic (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Blue Curled Scotch or Vates (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Prizm (Territorial Seed Company, BurpeePopular Varieties of Curly Kales Alexis lozano//pexels

The curly kale is the most common type found in farmers markets or grocery stores. It is usually used in salad and stir-fry and topped on other dishes as decoration. Curly kales are characterized by the wavy or frizzy edges of the leaves and sturdy stems. To enjoy curly kale raw, you can massage it with citrus and olive oil, softening its fibrous stems.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyWinterbor KaleWinner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM), the Winterbor kale is one of the most frost-hardy kale varieties. It is highly productive in yielding blue-green leaves ideal for salads.7 to 10 days60 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyHalbhoher Gruner Krauser KaleThis curly kale variety is ideal for container and greenhouse planting. At best, the Halbhoher Gruner Krauser grows 18 inches tall.3 to 10 days60 daysSeed Savers ExchangeBlue Curled Scotch or Vates KaleThe Blue Curled Scotch kale produces curly and tender leaves in a low-compact plant structure.7 to 14 days30 to 60 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketWhite Russian KaleThe White Russian gradually becomes sweeter after frost. This type of kale can tolerate both cold and hot temperatures.3 to 10 days50 daysTrue Leaf Market Popular Varieties of Italian Kales Cleo stracuzza//unsplash

Italian kales are the close relatives of the curly kale variety. They are a palmifolia variant, which has distinctly bumpy, flat leaves. Cooking them will reduce Italian kales’ rich flavor. 

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyLacinato or Nero di Toscana KaleAlso called Cavolo Nero in Italian (or black cabbage), the Lacinato kale is a famous heirloom variety. You can sow them in early spring or late fall. It has wider and bigger flat leaves than other varieties. Other names of this variety include Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, or flat back kale.7 to 10 days30 to 60 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, BurpeeThousandhead KaleThe Thousandhead is a multi-branching kale type, growing leaves as long as three feet. Cabbage worms and other caterpillars are easier to exterminate because the leaves are minimally curled.6 to 9 days50 to 60 daysRare SeedsBlack Magic KaleAn improved variety of the Black Tuscan kale, the Black Magic has deep-shaded green leaves with uniform size and elongated shape.7 to 10 days30 to 60 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, BurpeeEbony KaleEbony is a bolt-resistant lacinato type that grows as tall as 22 inches. Its leaves are slate-shaped with dark blue-green color.6 to 12 days62 daysTerritorial Seed Company Popular Varieties of Russian Kales Shaharyar choudary//unsplash

Most Russian kales have arugula- and oak-like leaves with shades of dark green, gray, magenta, and purple. They can survive in intensely cold weather, even under minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyRed Russian KaleAlso known as Buda or Ragged Jack kale, the Red Russian is a resilient red variant of the popular Russian kale. Famous horticulturist Frank Morton cultivated this variety first in his home in Oregon. 3 to 10 days50 to 70 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Burpee, Seed Savers ExchangeDwarf Siberian KaleThe Dwarf Siberian kale is ideal for salad and stir-fry. Growing anywhere between 12 to 15 inches tall, this cold-tolerant variety is a great option for container planting.3 to 10 days50 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare SeedsUrsa KaleMature leaves from Ursa kale are excellent additions to your slow-cooked stew or soup. It has wide, green to purple leaves and a magenta stem. 7 to 10 days65 to 80 daysBurpeeImproved Dwarf Siberian KaleThe Improved Dwarf Siberian has larger frilled leaves full of flavor. It is a multipurpose kale type that goes well in salads, sandwiches, or soups.5 to 17 days50 daysTerritorial Seed Company Popular Varieties of Baby and Microgreen Kales  Artelle Creative//unsplash

Baby and microgreens are leaves harvested before maturity. Early culling suits some kale varieties better than others, and kale breeders have developed some varieties specifically for immediate consumption. If you’re curious about kale, try its baby or microgreen counterparts to gradually introduce it to your diet.

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyVates Blue Scotch Curled MicrogreensElevate your next baby salad by adding Vates Blue Scotch Curled microgreens. These leafy greens add a spinach-like flavor and thrive during cold seasons. 2 to 3 days8 to 12 days (as baby or microgreen)True Leaf MarketEthiopian KaleOriginating from East Africa, the Ethiopian kale has sweet and mild flavor when harvested as baby greens. It has many names, including African kale, and Highland kale. 5 to 15 days25 to 30 days (as baby or microgreen)Territorial Seed Company, True Leaf MarketKale MicrogreensThe kale microgreens variety is famous for its fast germination rate. It offers a mild flavor with cabbage-like, sweet notes.1 to 2 days8 to 12 daysTrue Leaf MarketRed KaleRed kale is an excellent option to grow as microgreen due to tender, and durable growth. When harvested, the young leaves can be tossed into your salad and eaten raw. The leaves come in a deep purple or red color from a compound called anthocyanins. 7 to 10 days8 to 12 days (as microgreen)
20 to 25 days (as baby kale)True Leaf Market  Other Varieties of Kale

Some kale varieties are bred for their stunning foliage colors. 

Popular Varieties of Ornamental Kales Siegfried poepperl//pexels

You can beautify your garden with these vibrant kale varieties. Although they are edible, some people might find their flavor is not as appetizing. 

VarietyDescriptionDays to GerminationDays to MaturityWhere to BuyJapanese Flowering KaleThe Japanese Flowering or Habotan kale features bright, colorful ruffles with hints of sweetness. Apart from its culinary purpose, this variety can be used for landscaping under cold climates.6 to 9 days85 daysRare SeedsKamome SeriesThe Kamome Series variety grows “headless” dwarfed flowering kale. This ornamental plant comes in various colors, such as pink, red, white, or mixed.5 to 14 days91 to 98 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market FAQ About Types of Kale Which kale type is the best for juicing?

Any of the mild-tasting kale varieties are great for juicing. For example, Red Russian kale can be blended with avocado, citrus, and milk for a healthy, tropical smoothie.

Which kale type is the best for soups?

Among the varieties of kale, the Lacinato’s durable structure makes it the best option for soups. It has a chewy texture that softens when overcooked. The large leaves of this variety can soak up much of your soup for an enjoyable, tasty meal.

Originally published on Types of Kale

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Types of Tomatoes

Fri, 12/01/2023 - 15:30
Table of Contents

With more than 10,000 varieties, fresh tomatoes are one of the most varied fruits in the world. It’s a common misconception that these juicy summer favorites only come in red colors and plump shapes. In fact, as we go down the rabbit hole, you’ll discover other varieties — from the chartreuse Green Zebra tomatoes to the purplish Black Cherry tomatoes — that all offer distinct flavors.

Let’s talk through some common tomato categories and then, we’ll share a list of common tomato varieties.

Common Tomato Types

There are many ways to categorize tomatoes aside from specific varieties. Two of the more common categories are heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, and determinate and indeterminate.

Heirloom and Hybrid Tomatoes

On the surface, heirloom tomatoes tend to have strange appearances compared to the uniformity you typically see in the grocery store. The irregular shapes of heirloom tomatoes can put off shoppers who prefer the plump, red kind. These commercially attractive qualities are found in many hybrid tomatoes.

Home gardeners growing their own tomatoes have many options with heirloom and hybrid varieties that you usually can’t find in the market.

Differences in Growth

Heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds free from cross-breeding for at least 40 to 50 years. They are true to seed passed down across generations of a family, ethnic, or religious unit in a certain geographic region. Some heirloom tomatoes are less resistant to diseases and pests. 

Due to these problems, agriculturists intentionally crossbred two tomato varieties, resulting in hybrid offspring. Hybrid tomatoes are bred to have ideal characteristics from each parent, such as better growth, larger fruit size, or improved disease- and pest-resistance. These improvements make hybrid tomatoes suitable for commercial mass production and easy transport.

Differences in Pollination

Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated. Apart from innate self-pollination, natural pollinators — such as bees, birds, butterflies, moths, and wind — pollinate heirloom tomato plants without human intervention. You can save the heirloom seeds and expect the same traits as the parent plant to grow during the next season.

Hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, undergo controlled and manual cross-pollination wherein pollen from one variety fertilizes a flower of another variety. Agriculturists do not aim to produce a permanent seed line because hybrid seeds are mostly sterile. Some may germinate under special conditions, but the same cultivar won’t sprout, resulting in either one of the hybrid tomato parent plants. 

Differences in Flavor

Which is the tastier of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes is a hotly debated question. Commercially, hybrid tomatoes are picked once they turn green and forced to mature with the use of ethylene gas. Research from the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science suggests early harvesting prevents hybrid tomatoes from developing flavor. A more recent study in 2017 supports this claim as modern commercial tomatoes lack volatile compounds necessary for flavors.

Some gardeners would argue that heirloom tomatoes are tastier. Heirloom tomatoes have significantly more locules; organic cavities packed with flavor-boosting compounds. Moreover, these homegrown heirloom tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine.

Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

Determinate and indeterminate tomatoes are two types of growth patterns you’ll encounter in tomato plants. 

In terms of structure, determinate tomato plants are bush-like, reaching about 5 feet or less in height. Artificial supports like cages or trellises are beneficial to the vining structure of indeterminate tomato plants, which can be up to 15 feet long.

Determinate types have a short fruit-bearing period of about 4 to 5 weeks until they progressively wilt. Gardeners with indeterminate types can enjoy fruit throughout the growing season until frost. For better tomato production, prune the suckers of indeterminate plants.

Another difference between the two categories: Determinate tomatoes hang on the end of the branches while indeterminate tomatoes blossom along the stems.

Other Popular Tomato Groupings

Apart from technical distinctions, tomatoes can be grouped according to more obvious differences in color, texture, and more.

Types of Tomato Colors ColorCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Red TomatoesAbraham Lincoln (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Ace 55 (Eden Brothers)
Beefmaster (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Cal Ace (True Leaf Market)
Roma VF (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, BurpeeGreen TomatoesAunt Ruby’s Green German (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange
Cherokee Green (Eden Brothers)
Evergreen (True Leaf Market)
Green Grape (True Leaf Market)
Green Zebra (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed CompanyYellow TomatoesGold Medal (True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange)
Lemon Boy (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Lemon Drop (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Plum Lemon (True Leaf Market)
Yellow Pear (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, BurpeePurple/Black TomatoesBlack Cherry (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Black Krim (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Black Brandywine (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds)
Indigo Rose (True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company)
Purple Zebra (Territorial Seed Company, Eden Brothers)Orange TomatoesAmana Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Chef’s Choice Orange Hybrid F1 (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Cherry Orange (True Leaf Market, Burpee
Mandarin Cross (True Leaf Market)
Sungold (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee) Types of Tomato Textures TextureCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Meaty TomatoesBeefsteak Determinate (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Big Beef (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Burpee Big Boy Hybrid (True Leaf Market, Burpee
Great White (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds
Valencia (True Leaf Market)Juicy TomatoesBrandywine Red (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Brandywine Black (Eden Brothers, Rare Seeds)
Fox Cherry (True Leaf Market)
Roma VF (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Sweetie (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee) Types of Tomato Flavors FlavorsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Sweet TomatoesCurrant Red (True Leaf Market, Burpee
Isis Candy (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds)
Sweet Aperitif (Territorial Seed Company)
Sunsugar Hybrid (True Leaf Market
Sweet Pea (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange)Tart TomatoesGreen Grape (True Leaf Market)
Green Zebra (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company
Kellogg’s Breakfast (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds
Monarch (True Leaf Market)
Rutgers (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)Mild TomatoesLemon Boy (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Great White (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds
Stuffer Red (True Leaf Market)
Orange Queen (True Leaf Market) Types of Tomato Skins Tomato SkinsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Thin-Skinned TomatoesBlack Cherry (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Black Krim (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Damsel (Territorial Seed Company, Burpee
Riesenstraube (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds
Tangerine (True Leaf Market, Burpee)Thick-Skinned TomatoesAmish Paste (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Bonny Best (Eden Brothers, Rare Seeds)
Jubilee (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Roma VF (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
San Marzano (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee) Types of Tomato Growing Seasons Growing SeasonCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Early-Season TomatoesBush Beefsteak (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Early Girl Hybrid (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Juliet Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
La Roma III (True Leaf Market
Sungold (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)Mid-Season TomatoesCelebrity Hybrid (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)
Green Zebra (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company
Lemon Boy (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Mandarin Cross (True Leaf Market)
Phoenix Hybrid (True Leaf Market)Late-Season TomatoesAmana Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Big Rainbow (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee, Rare Seeds)
Cherokee Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee, Rare Seeds
Hillbilly (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Burpee)
Mortgage Lifter (Eden Brothers, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds) Types of Geographic Origin Geographic OriginCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Mediterranean TomatoesAndiamo Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Principe Borghese (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Rosso Sicilian (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
San Marzano (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)
Thessaloniki (True Leaf Market)American HeirloomsAmana Orange (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Kellogg’s Breakfast (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds
Marglobe (Eden Brothers, True Leaf MarketAsian VarietiesAzoychka (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Japanese Trifele Black (Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange)
Katana (True Leaf Market
Mandarin Cross (True Leaf Market)
Momotaro (True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company) Types of Culinary Uses Culinary UsesCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Tomatoes for SauceBetter Boy (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Burpee Big Boy Hybrid (True Leaf Market, Burpee)
Hungarian Paste (True Leaf Market)
Husky Red Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Roma VF (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, BurpeeTomatoes for SaladsGreat White (True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds
Green Peach (True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange)
Green Zebra (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company)
Juliet Hybrid (True Leaf Market)
Yellow Pear (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, BurpeeTomatoes for CanningAtkinson (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Bonny Best (Eden Brothers, Rare Seeds
Bradley (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Giant Garden Paste (True Leaf Market
Homestead (True Leaf Market, Eden Brothers) Types of Disease Resistance Disease ResistanceCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Disease-Resistant VarietiesBig Beef (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market)
Burbank (True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company)
Chef’s Choice Orange Hybrid F1 (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
Marglobe (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market
New Yorker (True Leaf Market)Susceptible VarietiesBlack Krim (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
German Johnson (Eden Brothers, Burpee) Types of Preferred Growing Conditions Growing ConditionsCommon Examples (Where to Buy)Greenhouse TomatoesCobra (Territorial Seed Company)
Long Keeper (True Leaf Market, Burpee
Sunsugar Hybrid (True Leaf Market
Supersweet 100 (Eden Brothers, Burpee)
Sweetie (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)Field TomatoesGrandma’s Pick (Territorial Seed Company)
Sungold (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee)Container TomatoesBlack Krim (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Rare Seeds, Burpee)
Celebrity Hybrid (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee
Cherokee Purple (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee, Rare Seeds
Early Girl Hybrid (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee)
San Marzano (Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee) Popular Varieties of Cherry and Grape Tomatoes Pixabay//Pexels

Firm and juicy, cherry and grape tomatoes grow in bundles. Kane (here at Insteading) likes them in the Pacific Northwest because they tend to have shorter growing seasons, making it easy to grow when you have a late start to warmer weather. These bite-sized tomatoes are perfect for appetizers, or enjoy them right off the vine as refreshing summer snacks. 

VarietyDescriptionDays to HarvestWhere to BuySun Gold Cherry TomatoSuitable for container planting, the Sun Gold Cherry tomatoes offer sweetness to your salads and stews. Indeterminate.65 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, BurpeeRuby Crush TomatoSuitable for container planting, Ruby Crush has high yielding capacity with sweet, small fruits. Determinate.65 to 70 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyGreen Grape TomatoAn offshoot variety of the Green Zebra tomatoes, the Green Grape tomatoes have sour and sweet flavor and turn to green-gold color once ripe. Indeterminate.70 to 80 daysTrue Leaf Market, Seed Savers ExchangeSweet 100 TomatoAlso called “vine candy,” the Sweet 100 tomatoes grow in clusters, providing a huge volume of harvest. However, these are prone to cracking. Indeterminate.60 to 65 daysEden BrothersNapa Grape Hybrid TomatoThe Napa Grape tomato has one of the highest sugar contents among all cherry types. Indeterminate.65 daysBurpeeLarge Cherry TomatoEnjoy the sweet, slightly acidic flavor of cherry tomatoes in bigger sizes. Indeterminate.75 to 80 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market Chocolate Sprinkles TomatoThe Chocolate Sprinkles plant grows 5 to 7 clusters of chocolate-like cherry-sized fruits. Indeterminate.50 to 55 daysEden Brothers Popular Varieties of Standard Globe Tomatoes Dmitry demidov//pexels

Grown primarily for commercial sale and use, standard globe tomatoes have thick skins and meat suitable for transport. These are the classic tomatoes you’re familiar with, as they are popular in many recipes. From salsas to sandwiches, standard globe tomatoes bode well as juicy slicers.

VarietyDescriptionDays to HarvestGrowthWhere to BuyChef’s Choice Orange Hybrid F1This hybrid variety has been derived from the Amana Orange, improved for disease resistance and faster harvest. Chef’s Choice Orange Hybrid F1 is an All-America Selections (AAS) winner. Indeterminate.80 to 85 daysIndeterminateEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketCaribe TomatoThe Caribe tomato plant thrives in both dry and humid climates. Determinate.85 daysDeterminateTrue Leaf MarketBonny Best TomatoBred in 1908, Bonny Best offers fruit with uniform shape and size, making them ideal for canning and slicing. Indeterminate.60 to 90 daysIndeterminateEden Brothers, Rare SeedsAtkinson TomatoYielding globe tomatoes with a familiar tomato flavor, the Atkinson tomato can withstand hot and humid temperatures. Indeterminate.60 to 90 daysIndeterminateEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketValencia TomatoThe Valencia tomato plants are disease-resistant and high yielding capacity. Once ripe, the Valencia tomatoes turn orange in color. Indeterminate.55 to 60 daysIndeterminateTrue Leaf MarketMoneymaker TomatoRequiring minimal maintenance, the Moneymaker tomato can tolerate cold temperatures and yield about 10 fruits per vine. Indeterminate.77 to 80 daysIndeterminateEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketEarly Girl TomatoSuitable for container planting, Early Girl is an early-season tomato plant, known for its quick growth. Indeterminate.50 to 62 daysIndeterminateEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Burpee Popular Varieties of Beefsteak Tomatoes Tamara malaniy//unsplash

Beefsteak tomatoes are slicer tomatoes with a mild flavor. Known for their meatier texture and juicier insides, they are more common in local farms or gardens than in commercial farms. Apart from their thin skin, Beefsteak tomatoes take longer to yield and are more prone to blossom end rot than other tomato varieties.

VarietyDescriptionDays to HarvestWhere to BuyBig Beef TomatoIn 1994, the Big Beef tomato variety won the All-America Selections for its disease-resistance, large size, and unique flavor. Indeterminate.73 to 80 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketGerman Johnson TomatoThis late- to mid-season heirloom German Johnson tomato plant is popular in the southern United States. Indeterminate.75 daysEden Brothers, BurpeeCherokee Purple TomatoCharacterized by its unique dusky, deep rose color, the Cherokee Purple tomato was named one of the top ten heirloom varieties by the Seed Savers Exchange. Indeterminate.80 to 90 days Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed Company, Burpee, Rare SeedsOrange Wellington Hybrid TomatoThe Orange Wellington Hybrid tomato grows with minimal seeds inside plump, orange (to yellow) flesh. Indeterminate.75 daysBurpeeCostoluto Fiorentino TomatoOriginating from Florence, Italy, the Costoluto Fiorentino has a uniquely ribbed fruit structure — a good choice for slow roasting. Indeterminate.80 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyBush Beefsteak Tomato A great alternative for indeterminate varieties, the Bush Beefsteak tomato plant grows in a manageable, bush-like structure — perfect if you can’t build a cage or trellis. Determinate. 60 to 90 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, BurpeeAunt Ruby’s Green German TomatoThe tomato from the Aunt Ruby’s Green German plant has a sweet and spicy flavor. This hybrid was bred in Greenville, Tennessee by Ruby Arnold. Indeterminate.80 to 95 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Rare Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange Popular Varieties of Roma Tomatoes gary fultz//unsplash

Also referred to as paste or plum tomatoes, Roma tomatoes are commonly used in making tomato paste and sauces. Due to their meaty texture and easy-to-omit seeds, these tomato varieties are suitable for canning and preserving. Roma have significantly lower moisture content than other varieties of tomatoes. 

VarietyDescriptionDays to HarvestWhere to BuyRoma VF TomatoBred by the United States Department of Agriculture in the 1950s, this Roma variety was bred to resist common disease on tomato plants such as Fusarium and Verticillium wilt. Determinate.75 to 80 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, BurpeeNapoli TomatoWith fruits weighing about 3 ounces, the Napoli tomato plant is resistant to Alternaria stem canker among others. Determinate.75 to 90 daysTrue Leaf MarketAmish Paste TomatoThe Amish Paste tomato usually has a shape similar to an acorn or strawberry. Indeterminate.80 to 85 daysTrue Leaf Market, Seed Savers Exchange, Burpee, Rare Seeds Better Boy TomatoThe Better Boy tomato plant holds the Guinness World Record for the highest yielding tomato plant. Indeterminate.70 to 75 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, BurpeeLa Roma III TomatoThe La Roma III hybrid is resistant to worms like the root-knot nematode. Determinate.76 daysTrue Leaf MarketSan Marzano Indeterminate Tomato An Italian cuisine staple, this variety of San Marzano tomato grows in tall vines with plum-like yield. Indeterminate.85 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Territorial Seed CompanyHungarian Paste TomatoThe Hungarian Paste plant produces 3 to 4 clusters of pear-shaped tomatoes, excellent for pastes, sauces, and stews. Indeterminate.75 to 85 daysTrue Leaf Market Other Varieties of Tomato

Some tomato varieties take special conditions and extra care to yield fruit.

Popular Varieties of Oxheart Tomatoes Julien G//Unsplash

Similar to Beefsteak tomatoes, the Oxheart variety has a pointed tip, giving the fruits an appearance like a heart. Due to their meaty structure, Oxheart tomatoes are suitable for stuffing.

VarietyDescriptionDays to HarvestWhere to BuyCuore Di Bue TomatoOriginating from an Italian heirloom, the name “Cuore Di Bue” literally means “ox heart” in English. Indeterminate.75 daysTerritorial Seed CompanyHungarian Heart TomatoThe Hungarian Heart tomato is crack resistant with firm flesh and minimal seeds. Indeterminate.80 to 85 daysBurpee, Rare Seeds, and Seed Savers ExchangeOxheart Pink TomatoIntroduced in the 1920s, the Oxheart Pink tomato yields a heart- or pear-shaped fruit, weighing between 1 to 2 pounds. Indeterminate.80 daysEden Brothers, True Leaf MarketOxheart Bi Color Striped TomatoThis Oxheart variety has flesh with red and yellow stripes. Indeterminate.55 to 80 daysTrue Leaf MarketRugby F1 TomatoRugby is resistant to bacterial speck, Fusarium rot and wilt, leaf mold, and tomato mosaic virus. Indeterminate.60 to 70 daysEden Brothers FAQ About Types of Tomatoes Which tomato type is the best for sauces and pastes?

Roma tomato varieties are ideal for sauces and pastes due to their meaty flesh, and lower water content. When cooking tomato sauces or pastes, it’s best to choose the variety with the least moisture content to save yourself precious cooking time. Roma tomatoes eventually break down into a concentrated, flavorful sauce or paste when heated. In addition, Roma varieties have fewer seeds. 

Which tomato type is the most popular?

Globe standard tomatoes are widespread in countless supermarkets due to consumer desirability.

Originally published on Types of Tomatoes

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All About the Dragon Flower

Thu, 11/30/2023 - 17:35

“How many names does it need?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” admitted my gardening friend (who loved all manner of trivia). “But this plant has quite a few — dragon flower, snapdragon, toadflax, dog flower — not sure about the last two, but I have to agree the face of the flower looks something like a dragon.”

“I prefer Snapdragon, its more common name. I used to love squeezing the flower to open and close its mouth.”

Antirrhinum derived from the Greek. It means calf snout” (always in the know).

Like I said, I prefer the name snapdragon. They make a wonderful addition to my ornamental garden, where we were admiring their profuse growth.

Too bad they’re mostly annuals — though they sometimes come back a few years in a row, making them somewhat perennial. And they seed themselves. When I lived in British Columbia, I had a huge display of snapdragons that grew for years without dying out in winter. The plants grew almost as tall as me and were so full of flowers, they almost appeared like a shrub. Of course, the climate was more temperate, and we never really had winter there. At least, not when I lived in Victoria.

Snapdragons are perhaps, one of the most popular garden flowers. They’re easy to grow and even though they’re considered annuals, they do manage to reproduce and spread over the garden area.

Description

Antirrhinum majus are also known as dragon flowers, and come in a wide range of colors. The colors range from pale to deep pinks, coral, blood red, yellow, orange, purple, white and even bicolor. An added bonus is the smell: Dragon flowers have a slightly sweet smell that attracts the bumblebees.

The stems are usually short (11 inches in height), but in some growing areas where the temperature is warmer most of the year, the plants can grow quite tall (up to 3 feet) and bushy. The leaves are small, short, narrow, and cover the entire length of the stem. Clusters of flowers grace the tops.

The flowers, also small (though again, in some climates, the flowers can be large), tubular, and somewhat symmetrical.

Cristina Anne Costello//Unsplash

There are even double flower varieties. Their shape resembles a closed mouth with protruding lips, almost like the mouth of a dragon (hence the popular names). If you gently squeeze either end of the ‘lips’ the mouth will open. This is a protective feature for the plant, as it prevents destructive insects from invading the blooms. However, bumblebees, the main pollinator of dragon flowers, are strong enough to force the lips open to extract the pollen.

It is not unusual for dragon flowers to change colors from one year to the next. The natural resowing of dragon flower seeds can also change the overall appearance.

Symbolism

Dragon flowers have different meanings. By concealing the flower, it apparently makes a person appear fascinating and cordial. So the flower symbolizes both deception and graciousness.

Natural Habitat

Dragon flowers are native to rocky terrain in parts of Europe, North America, and North Africa, including the Mediterranean. They don’t survive frost and die out when temperatures drop below minus 4 degrees Celsius, making it primarily an annual plant in most of its growing areas.

Growing Conditions

This is a low maintenance plant. In hot weather, it’s a good idea to water the dragon flowers during the cooler evening hours, and deadheading dying or faded flowers will promote the growth of new blooms. The plant does well over mild winters. To protect it from harsher climates, including hot summers, cover the entire plant with a thick layer of dried leaves (the best and cheapest type of mulch).

Fertilizer can be added during the flowering season, but I’ve never found it necessary. If you’re planning to start a new patch of dragon flowers, it’s safe to start early in the season, as this plant can tolerate light frost.

Dragon flowers do well in full sun with well-drained soil. To encourage a bushier plant, clip the top stems and any long side shoots. The plant will then produce more flowers and add to its attraction.

Gaia//unsplash

Tall varieties of dragon flowers may require some staking to keep the stems straight, and support the weight of the flowers. Cut back the plant by a third once the flowers start to fade in the intense summer heat. Cutting will ensure more flowers as the cooler temperatures of autumn prevail.

Water regularly, about an inch of water every week during periods of little rain. Water from above the plant and more directly at the crown. Allow the plant to dry out between waterings and mulch (dried leaves always make a great mulch).

One thing to note is that dragon flowers are short-lived, but with time and proper care, you will find a beautiful plant with infinite uses.

Companion Plants

Dragon flowers complement just about any garden space. They’re even good for vegetable patches as the scent attracts bees and other pollinators. For a showy display, intermingle with Angelonia, a similar heat-loving genus.

Pests and Diseases

For a sun-loving plant that thrives in an area where deer love to nibble, dragon flowers are remarkably deer resistant. Planting these flowers in areas frequented by deer helps deter deer from companion plants in the general vicinity.

Like many other flowers, dragon flowers are prone to various sap-sucking insects that can do considerable damage to the both plant as a whole and the flowers. Among these bugs are aphids, mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies. They can disfigure both leaves and flowers, as they often feed on the buds. In addition, spider mites pose a problem, as they like to make their home on the undersides of plant leaves and puncture the plant cells to feed.

Treat the problem as you would with any other plant similarly infected. Insecticidal soaps are usually the best option available, although I can remember my grandmother dumping the used dishwater on her plants to rid them of nasty bug infestations (of course, this was long before the dishwasher).

There are fungal infections, such as rust fungus, that also cause considerable damage to dragon flowers. Sometimes, these infections will kill off the plant. Antirrhinum rust is the worst. When infected, you will notice dark brown spore pustules on the undersides of the leaves. If untreated, these brown spores will start growing on the stems of the plants, making them droop and, eventually, die. The only treatment for this is an anti-fungal spray.

There is also a gray mold that infects dragon flowers, turning the flowers into a papery brown before they’re covered with gray, fuzzy masses.

Culinary Uses

I never realized the dragon flowers were edible. In fact, some high scale restaurants use the flowers as a garnish for specific dishes, to decorate cakes and desserts, and even float them in drinks. There is a slight chicory flavor to dragon flowers, though some might call it bitter or spicy. They go well with salads and canapés. Stuff the flowers with cream cheese or guacamole to make a unique hors d’oeuvre.

Toxicity

Dragon flowers are not poisonous to either humans or animals. As mentioned, the flowers are edible. That being said, like anything else, if you eat too much, you may end up with an upset stomach.

Dragon flowers, snapdragons, or whatever unique name you want to call these charming flowers of the summer, are a mainstay of classic flower gardens and certainly have some added benefits for pollinators and edible arrangements. These flowers are definitely top of the list for my annual gardens.

Originally published on All About the Dragon Flower

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10 Bizarre Tomatoes You Can Grow

Wed, 11/29/2023 - 18:03

Tomatoes have come a long way through their agricultural history. From their domestication by the Aztecs to their first transatlantic adventure to Spain; from their bizarre stint as a deadly poison in Great Britain and early America to their present state of eminence in every seed catalogue and garden, human relationships with tomatoes have gone from “good” to “complicated” to an all out obsessive love affair.

Now, most folks laugh and shake their head over salads, pizza, and pasta sauce as we recall how tomatoes were once considered toxic. But even with our modern acceptance of Solanum lycopersicum, the average person would only accept a red, ripe circular-thing as a tomato.

However, as tomato guru Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms put it (in all caps, of course), “TOMATOES HAVE CHANGED MORE IN THE LAST 10 YEARS THAN THEY HAVE IN THEIR ENTIRE EXISTENCE.” The jaw-dropping number of varieties, flavors, and colors to be found in both modern and heirloom tomatoes are the stuff of psychedelic daydreams. This delicious fruit is so much more than simple tomato sauce or the red slice on your salad and sandwiches.

If you have ever wanted to grow something truly bizarre in your garden, forget exotic flowers or expensive topiary, and grow a tomato. Peruse this list of strange and wonderful nightshades, and just see if you don’t get surprised by this seemingly everyday garden fruit.

Finally, if you’re finding yourself unable to resist the allure of growing unusual tomato varieties in your own vegetable garden, I’ve listed seed companies currently selling various types of tomatoes (as of Fall 2023) in every section. Let’s delve deeper and meet the bizarre and beautiful varieties of this plant.

1. Mushroom Basket Image from rareseeds

These large fruits are deeply ribbed, watermelon-pink, and resemble a flower when sliced in half. What’s not to love? In Russia, where this tomato was recently developed, it’s known as Gribnoe Lukoshko. In your own garden, these huge, pumpkin-like monsters might be one of your favorite things to grow (with ample support).

Renaissance Farms

Totally Tomatoes

Tim’s Tomatoes

Baker Creek Seeds

2. Reisetomate

Sometimes referred to in English as the Travelers Tomato, this amazing and bizarre German cultivar is what would happen if you crossed the fruit with a pull-apart loaf of monkey bread. Rather than being a single, round fruit, the Riesetomate is a huge handful of barely-attached lobes. Pull off one delicious morsel and pocket the rest for later without worrying about juice getting everywhere.

Heritage Harvest Seed

Annapolis Seeds

Bounty Hunter Seed

Garden Hoard — offers both a red and a yellow variety.

3. Striped Stuffer image from gardening know how

With a shape like a bell pepper and an almost empty cavity hiding inside, these tomatoes hardly fit the mental image of tomato. In fact, these old heirloom varieties break the tomato mold and are excellent for stuffing with all sorts of tasty fillings. They’ve been traditionally stuffed with tuna salad when eaten raw, but they apparently hold up decently well when cooked.

Reimer Seeds

Totally Tomatoes

Snake River Seed Cooperative

4. Brad’s Atomic Grape image from Wild boar farms

The first time I saw these dazzling beauties was at my farmers market, and I can confirm — the photos of their kaleidoscope colors are accurate. Unable to resist, I bought a pint, brought them home, and made sure to save the seeds so I could grow them myself. They produce wispy, scant foliage, but that makes the jewel tones stand out more.

Wild Boar Farms (Direct from Brad himself)

Victory Seeds

Baker Creek Seeds

5. Garden Peach

This tomato was once called a Wolf Peach (that’s actually what part of its scientific name (Lycopersicon) translates to, so this seemingly strange title for a tomato isn’t all that odd. Bright golden-yellow with a touch of pink blush and fuzzy to the touch, this beautiful variety is mild and sweet, adding fruity charm to your nightshade patch.

Tomato Growers Supply Company

Fedco Seeds

Victory Seeds

Totally Tomatoes

6. Spoon Tomato Image from rareseeds

This tomato is officially the smallest you can grow, producing bunches upon bunches of bright, sweet bitty bits on sprawling vines. True to their name, you can probably fit about a dozen tomatoes in a single spoon. Kids will delight in snacking on these tiny treats, and adults will have little trouble finding a use for them in salads, soups, and garnishes. The biggest problem will probably be getting them into the kitchen. They may get eaten before they ever make it.

Baker Creek

Reimer Seeds

7. Kellogg’s Breakfast image from rareseeds

Now that you’ve met one of the smallest tomatoes, meet one of the biggest. With a cheery, glowing orange color, sweet flavor, and penchant for tipping the scales at up to 2 pounds, this is a tomato that is sure to weigh down your basket and fill up your plate.

With a fried egg and a piece of whole wheat sourdough, a few slices of this fresh tomato would make a far better breakfast than a box of the puffed sugar (that may also be designated a Kellogg’s Breakfast), making it the perfect choice for those who want to live a healthier lifestyle.

Park Seed

Seed Savers Exchange

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek

8. Indigo Gold Berries

What can I say? I’m a sucker for pretty colors, and when it comes to the Indigo series of tomatoes, it’s impossible to choose which one is the prettiest. That said, the Gold Berries are particularly eye-catching with rich golden bellies crested with wine shoulders.

Tomato Growers Supply Company

Tim’s Tomatoes

9. White Queen

This huge, beefsteak-type tomato is a pearly, greenish-white with a kiss of pink on the blossom end. What it lacks in color, it makes up for in flavor. Several seed companies report it is among the tastiest of the white tomatoes they’ve ever tried.

Tomato Growers Supply Company

TrueLove Seeds

TomatoFest

Bounty Hunter Seeds

10. Tim’s Taste of Paradise image from wild boar farms

Tomatoes like these are not just a delight to the eye and palate, they come with an interesting story as well. After the eponymous Tim closed his seed business, his sunny little experimental tomato, originally called Fruity Mix, was nearly lost to gardeners. Seeds for this bright yellow, clusteriffic, intensely fruity variety were salvaged from a 17-year-old seed packet and have since been resurrected by Wild Boar Farms.

Wild Boar Farms

Owl Creek Nursery

Meraki Seeds (European Seller)

This list merely scratches the tippy-tip of an enormous, overwhelming, and gorgeous iceberg of my favorite varieties. If you’re fascinated by the thought of growing something different from the same-ol’-round-and-red tomato offered by the garden section at your local megamart, I highly recommend picking up your own seeds, and delving into the unique varieties of tomatoes available with small seed companies. At local seed swaps, on the Seed Savers Exchange (where there’s more than 10,000 tomato variety listings), or with the farmers at the market, when it comes to tomatoes, if you can imagine it … it probably exists.

Originally published on 10 Bizarre Tomatoes You Can Grow

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Top 10 Alternative Building Books

Tue, 11/21/2023 - 18:00

For those of us who use alternative building methods in construction, it can be difficult to find a mentor. Trade schools generally teach stick framing, so you will be hard-pressed to find an official school in which to learn. And if you can’t find an architect who is a natural builder to apprentice under, your only option for learning is first through books, and then trial and error as you put the methods into practice.

So in case that is the route you need to take, here are some books I would recommend that you add to your library. They provide a complete guide for alternative building methods.

1. “Building Green” by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

The first book on the list is “Building Green.” Clarke and Tim document their unique house building process from start to finish in minute detail. Their house is truly one-of-a-kind as they use several different alternative building methods in a single structure. One wall is made from cob, another uses cordwood, a third is constructed of straw bales, and the final wall is stick framed. They use earth plaster to cover the walls, and they cap off the dwelling with a gently-sloping living roof. All of these methods are clearly described and shown in myriad pictures.

2. “Earthbag Building” by Kaki Hunter and Donald Kiffmeyer

One of the newest alternative methods is building with earth bags. You basically fill many woven polypropylene bags (or burlap bags could work) with dirt, and stack them on top of one another to form a structure. Of course, it is more complicated, but that is what this book is for! It provides detailed information on earthbag building, and best practices and advanced techniques like building arches and domes.

3. “Earthship Volume I, II, III” by Michael Reynolds

The Earthship, introduced to the world by Michael Reynolds in 1990 in the first volume of his series, is a structure that uses old automobile tires as one of the main building materials. The dirt that you cram into the tires with a sledgehammer is the main component by both weight and volume. Once finished, you end up with a dwelling that has 2-foot-thick walls with a ton of thermal mass. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of work so it is not for the faint-of-heart, but Reynolds provides clear instructions that will enable the above-average DIYer to build a comfortable home out of a waste resource.

4. “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander has written quite a few books and all of them are worth a read, but if I had to choose a single book of his to recommend, it would be “A Pattern Language.” It explains why some buildings just feel right while others don’t. You probably wouldn’t be able to explain why one feels comfortable and welcoming to you while the other doesn’t. This difference is exactly what Mr. Alexander grapples with in his book. He identifies several dozen different “patterns” in architecture that resonates with the human spirit and explains them in detail. It is one of those rare books that can fundamentally change your outlook on something, in this case architecture.

5. “Earth-Sheltered Houses” by Rob Roy

Have you ever noticed how wonderful it feels to step into a basement on a hot summer day? Sure, the rest of the house may be sweltering, but down in the basement it is much cooler. That cooler temperature is the basic idea behind earth-sheltered homes. However, instead of having a single room feel that way, the whole house is designed to reap this benefit. The book is packed with detailed diagrams and photos to help you design your own earth-sheltered home. It also helps you overcome a few of the challenges that building somewhat underground raises (humidity and condensation on walls are two of the big ones). If you can overcome these challenges, the benefits of building completely or partially underground are huge.

6. “The Book of Masonry Stoves: Rediscovering an Old Way of Warming” by David Lyle

Most homes that use an alternative building method for construction generally use alternative methods for heating them as well. Rarely will you find a grid-tied furnace in these homes. Most often, they will use wood fuel for heat as it is a fuel that has the longest history of use. It also has the largest number of ways to extract and use this heat. The simplest is probably an open firepit in the center of your house with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape. Humans, however, have come up with all sorts of different designs that are far more efficient. Usually, a stove of some sort that is surrounded by a great amount of thermal mass in the form of earth (such as mud, brick, and tile). The mass stores the heat and releases it over the course of hours or days — depending on how much mass is there. This book covers the history of these designs and gives many detailed schematics so that a determined DIYer should be able to make one of their own.

7. “Serious Straw Bale” by Paul Lacinski and Michel Bergerson

One of the more modern alternative building methods, constructing homes of straw bales, has gained a lot of interest in recent times. This book is a deep, detailed guide about techniques for constructing one of these homes on your own — if you have enough building experience. There are two main schools with straw bale construction: One in which the straw bales serve as load-bearing members, and one where they are used as infill between the load-bearing members (usually timber). Both schools of thought are presented, and the pros and cons are given for each. Regardless of which you choose, straw bale is probably the fastest to build among any of the alternative building methods.

8. “The Hand-Sculpted House” by Ianto Evans, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley

As far as I am concerned, this is the best book I have read on building with cob. Cob is an age-old material used for building. It has proven its worth over millennia, and it should be given serious thought by anyone considering a cob home today. In this book, the trio of authors cover everything you need to know about this fascinating building material. They start with the basics: Analyzing soil types and finding the right soil for making cob. From there, they go into everything you need (in great detail, I might add) to build a cob house of your own. Filled with abundant photographs and diagrams, you should have no trouble envisioning yourself in a beautiful cob home and bringing that dream to life.

9. “The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide” by Erica Wisner and Ernie Wisner

If a full-sized masonry stove is not your cup of tea, or if your home is too small for such a large heating appliance, a rocket mass heater might be just the ticket for you. It is a wood-burning heater that is perfect for a small cabin, a tiny home, or a specific area within a larger house. In this book, the Wisners lay out everything you need to know about how to build one of these very efficient heaters. As with a masonry stove, this heater still uses the principles of thermal mass to store the produced heat, but this storage doubles as either a seat or a bed with this device. If you have a home that is on the smaller side of things, you might want to give this a try.

10. “Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds” by Art Ludwig

Many of us who live off-grid get much of our water from a well. Pumps can be finicky and unreliable (and usually at the worst times), and there are places where ground water is too deep underground to be feasibly obtained. That is where the time-tested cistern comes into play. In this book, Art show you how to construct a water-holding cistern of any size you could need. Anything from a couple hundred gallons to many thousands is possible. Once built, all you need to do is hook it up to a water source which is usually a large roof. This will fill up the tank during a wet season (often spring for much of the United States), and then be available for use through the drier summer months.

So there you go. Hopefully, these 10 books will give you a good start in your alternative building journey. It can be a long and difficult road, but it is certainly more rewarding than wasting your life away in an average 9-to-5 job. My advice for most people is to start small and work your way up. All these techniques can be used in other structures before actually undertaking something as large as a house.

Originally published on Top 10 Alternative Building Books

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Top 12 Homesteading Books

Wed, 11/15/2023 - 16:30

If you are like many of us modern homesteaders, you weren’t raised in this life. You probably come from the city or suburbs and worked a typical 9 to 5 job. As you soon find out, that sort of life doesn’t really prepare you well for living on a homestead. So how do you fill that knowledge gap? Well, you will probably scavenge information from many places. Websites, country neighbors, and good ol’ trial and error are a few ways, but nothing beats a book if you are looking for some specific knowledge or a comprehensive guide on a topic.

So here I give you a list of some of the best homesteading books, in no particular order, that have helped me out the most living an off-grid homestead life.

1. “Keeping Warm With an Ax: A Woodcutter’s Manual” by D. Cook

The first book on the list is a must for anyone who needs to learn how to use wood to heat a home. It covers everything you need to know (and then some). It’s a complete guide that goes over how to choose and take care of your axes and saws, how to fell a tree, how to cut up said tree into firewood, how to best stack and season the wood, and a whole bunch of other useful information on burning wood. Knowing how to heat your home without reliance on an energy grid is a vital skill for all homesteaders, and this book will show you how to do it.

2. “Complete Do-it-yourself Manual” by Reader’s Digest

As a homesteader, you will need to be a jack-of-all-trades. There is always something that needs fixing, and there is always another project that needs doing. This book will help you learn how to do pretty much anything in the realm of DIY projects and handyman jobs. It covers a wide range of topics, from the basics to many more advanced guides, and all of it is easy to understand. It starts with an introduction to all the different tools out there. Then it goes into the many repairs that you will need to know how to do on the homestead from foundations, to siding, to roofing. And of course, it covers how to repair all the systems of your home from plumbing to electrical.

3. Samuel Thayer’s Foraging Books: “Forager’s Harvest,” “Nature’s Garden,” and “Incredible Wild Edibles

These books are a must-have for any homesteader in the continental United States. As far as I am concerned, they are the best books on foraging and contain so much information. I respect Mr. Thayer for ensuring that he has personally consumed each edible mentioned in the books (the same can’t be said of all foraging authors). Every plant has a detailed written description and an impressive number of photographs. If you have any amount of land, these books will teach you how to get the most out of what grows there naturally.

4. “Four-Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman

To many people there is only one growing season during the year. You plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. However, this is hardly the whole story on gardening. And if you want to get any measure of self-sufficiency from your land, you will need to know how to raise as much food as possible on it. Eliot will show you how to do just that by explaining how to harvest food from your garden year-round. If he can do it in Maine, you can almost certainly do it where you live.

5. “Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables” by Mike and Nancy Bubel

Well what good is growing all this food if you have no way of actually keeping it through the year? And let me tell you, you can’t fit a year’s worth of produce in the freezer or fridge. That is where a root cellar comes into play. A part of every home of the past, a root cellar gives you food storage to keep homegrown vegetables through the whole winter and into the spring.

Problem is, most of us didn’t grow up with one, and our current houses don’t have them. That is where this book comes to the rescue. It tells you how to construct a root cellar and how to use it for food preservation.

6. “Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game” by John J. Mettler Jr.

Most of us who are starting a homestead are going to raise animals like chickens and goats. And let’s face it, the vast majority of us aren’t raising these animals just to look at them. Eventually we are going to eat them. In order to eat them, you have to kill and butcher said animal. Most of us raised in the city or suburbs have never killed an animal let alone cut it up in nice pieces of meat like those found under plastic wrap at the grocery store. This book is a must-read because it helps bridge that gap in your knowledge by explaining all those steps in great detail.

7. “Permaculture” by Bill Mollison

This is the original book on permaculture. Many other authors have borrowed ideas from this book, but this is the OG. Permaculture, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, is a word Mollison coined to basically describe permanent agriculture as opposed to the dominant form of agriculture in this country that relies on planting annuals. Permaculture establishes perennial plants and builds up the soil to help improve the land over time instead of razing it like typical agricultural practices do. Get this book early in your homesteading career as perennials take a good bit of time to grow and begin producing. Once they do, you will have food for years or decades to come.

8. “A Modern Herbal” by M. Grieve

If you are going back to the land, chances are you prefer a more natural way to keep yourself in good health. Many of us eschew the ways of allopathic medicine and go back to what humans used for millennia to provide healing: plants. To do that, you need a good reference book on all the plants that are out there and what potential effects they have on the body. That is exactly what this book is, and as far as I am concerned, it is the best of the best.

9. “The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable” by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

It is pretty easy to get a good book on medicinal plants for yourself (see “A Modern Herbal” above), but what about your animals? Thankfully, Juliette has written an exhaustive book on the topic of treating common ailments in animals naturally. She gives an in-depth description of these diseases and conditions while providing you with the symptoms to watch for.

10. Foxfire Series edited by Eliot Wigginton

This series of books is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge. A teacher, Eliot Wigginton, came up with an assignment for his students: Interview their grandparents about the way of life in Appalachia. Originally meant as a way to connect these students with their past, it blossomed into so much more. It has become a time capsule for a self-sufficient way of life that is pretty much nonexistent in modern times. The series is full of personal anecdotes, while also being an instructional guide on how to do many different things. Equally great as a personal reference library or a way to pass a winter’s evening next to a cozy fire.

11. “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal” by Joel Salatin Cover Image from amazon

This one is less of a how-to style book and more of a heads-up on some of the obstacles that will be placed in your way when on your homestead. The author, Joel Salatin, has had more than his fair share of run-ins with bureaucracy and government overreach making it a great book for those who plan to start their homesteading life.

To put it bluntly, the deck is stacked against you if you want to sell anything produced on your homestead. In this country, Big Ag is favored over all others, and purposely make it difficult for you to compete (even at the small scale that most of us operate).

12. “Building Green” by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan

This comprehensive book is the documentation for building a house from start to finish. What makes it unique is that they use several different alternative building styles in a single small house. As such, this book is a great primer on getting started with alternative building techniques. It covers step-by-step instructions on building with cordwood, cob, and straw bales. It also talks about making earth plasters and covering everything with a living roof. If you are new to the alternative building scene, I highly recommend this book to get a look at what it takes.

So there you have it – my top 12 books to help get you started with your homesteading lifestyle. Again, they are in no particular order, and all of them deserve a place in your library. Happy reading!

Originally published on Top 12 Homesteading Books

© Insteading

Exploring the Pigsqueak Plant

Thu, 11/09/2023 - 18:21

“What was that plant you gave me last year? I can never remember the name.”

My friend, Susan, pointed to a plant in her garden.

“The Bergenia?”

I nodded. “Yes. It’s sprouting a stem — I didn’t think it flowered.”

“It does, but only briefly. Like a pig’s squeak,” she explained. “Which just happens to be its common name.”

I laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. Pigsqueak.”

“Now there’s a name I can remember. But that can’t be the reason behind its name, can it?”

“Try rubbing one of the leaves between your thumb and forefinger.”

I followed her instructions and the leaf let out a squeak. “It sounds like a pig!”

“Exactly.”

Description

With its large, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves, pigsqueak, heartleaf bergenia, elephant’s ears, or Bergenia cordifolia makes a great ground cover for any garden. It’s a hardy, ever green perennial with deep green leaves that can grow up to 10 inches in length. The leaves turn to red and purple in the autumn and winter. In warmer climates, the leafy foliage often continues to grow through the winter months.

tero karppinen//flickr

The tall stalks of this plant (up to 20 inches) support clusters of early spring flowers, either purplish-pink or white. The flowers bloom briefly and are sometimes hidden by the leaves. There are different varieties and amazing uses for this unique plant that actually squeaks like a pig.

Spiritual Meaning

This hardy, versatile plant can withstand just about anything Mother Nature dishes out. Perhaps that’s partly why pigsqueak is a symbol of hope, strength, and remembrance.

Natural Habitat

Pigsqueak’s origin is Asia, particularly Russia. Its popularity as a durable, resilient ground cover has made it a popular plant for garden borders in many parts of the world.

Growing Conditions

This hardy perennial grows well in either full sun or partial shade. It tolerates most soils, especially if moist and loamy. If the soil is clay, add some compost on top. When planting pigsqueak, make sure the top of the root ball is above ground, and space multiple plants at least 12 inches apart to allow the leaves to spread.

The nice thing about this plant is that it doesn’t wither in a drought, though it prefers a shadier location in a drought-prone area, and it doesn’t rot in an overly damp growing season. It’s a vigorous growing plant, noninvasive, spreading slowly with underground rhizomes.

cultivar413//flickr

It is an easy plant, though some minimal maintenance will assure they continue to grow and provide the desired ground cover. All it takes is a little deadheading when the flowers are spent, and the removal of dead leaves every spring, allowing the plant to have a fresh start to a new growing season. Another bonus with this plant is the large leaves that suppress weed growth.

The plant is easy to divide, but the best time to do it is in the spring after it has grown to full maturity (about 2 to 5 years).

The plants can be grown from seed, though like so many others, it requires a lot of patience. Press the seeds lightly into sterile potting soil and place in a sunny location. Keep the soil moist and warm. Germination takes from 4 to 6 weeks.

Like geraniums and other flowering plants, pigsqueak grows well in large pots. Plant it in a deep pot that is at least 12 inches in diameter, and again, make sure the top of the root ball is above ground. The best time to repot is in the spring after it has finished flowering. Also, repot as needed to prevent overcrowding.

The plants, both in pots and in the ground, overwinter well. Cover with mulched leaves to protect the roots.

Companion Plants

Pigsqueak makes a great garden border, and it grows well with other flowering plants, especially geraniums, lungwort, brunnera, and of course, all kinds of flowering wildflowers. It complements coral bells and decorative ferns.

Pollinator

Pigsqueak is a good pollinator when in flower. It attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. I know when my pigsqueak is in bloom, the hummingbirds are frequently hovering around the flowers.

All pollinator plants are beneficial for supporting the ecosystem and providing biodiversity in the garden.

Pests and Diseases

Like all plants, the pigsqueak does have some issues with pests and diseases, though my plants have weathered well in all kinds of conditions without noticeable and destructive infestations.

Some plants, depending on their location, are prone to invasions of slugs, snails (particularly in shady locations), black vine weevils, and caterpillars — which can devour the leaves.

Dealing with these pests is the same as with other, similar infestations. You can use beer bait traps, cardboard traps, or copper foil surrounding the base of the plant. Pesticides like diatomaceous earth are effective, but perhaps not the Earth-friendly best option.

Although resistant to many plant diseases, pigsqueak can get fungal leaf spot. This condition is evident when the leaves show spots. The best, and only way, to deal with this issue is to remove the infected leaves, and treat the remaining plant with a fungicide.

Pigsqueak can also be affected by crown rot disease. The best treatment begins with careful planting and mulching, making sure to leave the crown of the plant slightly uncovered.

It is wildlife resistant (deer and rabbits aren’t attracted to this plant). There’s no concern of animals devouring it.

Perhaps the biggest threat is harsh winters that cause significant die back. To recover the plant in the spring, remove all dead foliage.

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally used for its medicinal qualities, the Nepalese in the Himalayas use pigsqueak for its antibacterial properties when treating earaches, urinary problems, and kidney stones.

The leaves, roots, and rhizomes have good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which make it beneficial for treating digestive, respiratory, and skin disorders, and boosting the immune system.

Toxicity

There’s conflicting information on the dangers of consuming pigsqueak. It’s not considered poisonous to either cats or dogs, but digestion of the plant can be painful and cause swelling and irritation in the mouth and throat.

Varieties of Pigsqueak

The different varieties of pigsqueak are identified primarily by their coloring, particularly the flowers, and the size.

  • Winter Glow – With red stems and pink flowers, this variety grows up to 16 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
  • Bressingham White – Sports a cluster of white blooms. Like Winter Glow, it can grow up to 16 inches in height and 24 inches in width, though it’s usually a bit shorter in stature.
  • Angel Kiss – A shorter variety, growing up to 10 inches in height and 12 inches in width. The flowers can be white or light pink.
  • Ballawley – Perhaps the largest variety of Bergenia, growing up to 24 inches in height and 18 inches in width. This plant has red stems and deep rose-red flowers.
  • Solar Flare – Variegated leaves, green-edged with yellow. It’s a mid-sized Bergenia, growing up to 16 inches in height and 18 inches in width. The flowers are magenta to purple.

A versatile, hardy plant, this easy-to-grow perennial makes a great addition to any garden. The fact that it’s a good pollinator with medicinal qualities is a bonus.

Featured image courtesy of rosipaw on Flickr.

Originally published on Exploring the Pigsqueak Plant

© Insteading

Debunking Compost Misconceptions

Wed, 11/08/2023 - 17:30

For some, composting is a stinky mess that half-reformed hippies insist on building in “decent” neighborhoods. For others, it’s a mysterious, alchemical process that master gardeners alone comprehend.

Still others may think composting is a grand idea but are intimidated by the initial setup and assumed learning curve. And finally, some can admit composting is a nice thought, but unnecessary if a garden store’s prepackaged compost is available.

Photo from wikimedia commons

I’m here to tell you all that these ideas are wrong. Composting is easy, necessary, and will become second nature if you give it a chance. Let’s break down these myths and misconceptions once and for all.

Composting Is Hard The forest floor already composts perfectly … without Humans! photo from wikimedia commons

I don’t know how this idea sprang up or gained traction. Composting is an entirely natural process that happens — without human intervention — in every forest and field the world over. At its most basic level, composting is when fungi and bacteria break down formerly living material to its basic elements, allowing the nutrients and minerals to be recycled back to the environment. It’s a beautiful, economical process that literally keeps the world alive.

Composting in your backyard is, basically, creating a sped-up version of a forest floor that not only recycles garden and yard waste, but also reintegrates your food waste with the nutrient cycle rather than getting shuttled off to landfill oblivion. In other words, you don’t have to do much — the processes are already in place, naturally. Your job is to let things break down like they already want to do, but in a controlled environment (where you’re the referee).

Composting Is Stinky This pile is primed for stink with so much wet, rich material on the surface. Mix it with some dry leaves for best results! photo from wikimedia commons

The smell is probably one of the main reasons people don’t attempt to compost — the prevailing idea that a compost pile is a stinky, maggot-riddled, raccoon magnet. This can be true to a degree … if the compost is poorly managed. Slop together too many rich food scraps, too much moisture, and too little care, and your compost bin will end up with an odoriferous pile of rot that absolutely confirms every stereotype.

This description is absolutely NOT true of a well-managed compost system, however. The easiest way to avoid the stink is to turn the pile often enough to keep it from getting compacted, make sure you mix in plenty of dry, leafy material to compensate for any excess moisture, and you’ll see that compost can be easy on the nose indeed! If a compost pile becomes rancid, there’s a chance the unpleasant smell is just the reek of neglect and ignorance.

Composting Is Complicated Photo from wikimedia commons

Some folks need numbers, measurements, and ratios in order to make sense of a composting process. As such, there are many gardening books that contain information on how to balance your “greens” and “browns.” Also, innovative ways to ensure a pile is aerated, and various inclusions you can mix in the potent pile to speed up or otherwise affect decomposition. There are some really neat methods to use composting with keyhole gardens or hügelkultur mounds, integrating natural resource reclamation with permaculture gardening.

If you’re a composting neophyte, it can seem like a complicated ordeal, which leads to the concern that it’s easy to mess up.

But it’s not, thankfully. Those formulas for compost are excellent guidelines, not absolute requirements. All you really need to get started is a place to put your composting materials (here are some DIY ideas), organic matter to compost, and a pitchfork for turning the pile. Keep an ample supply of dry straw, leaves, or shredded paper on hand if ever the pile looks too wet, and you’re already on your way.

Composting Is Only for Tree Huggers, Hippies, Liberals (People With Gardens)

Why is it that caring about your environment and being less wasteful is relegated to a stereotype for a certain demographic? Honestly, composting knows no lifestyle, political bent, or socioeconomic group. You can cite whatever excuse you want for why you are exempt from responsible land stewardship, but 98% of the time, they’re going to be invalid.

Whether you’re in the country, city, a high rise, or homestead, you eat food and you produce waste. Composting is a natural part of being human, though our ancestors didn’t need a ready-made, store-bought bin to do it. And once plastic and landfills became part of our human landscape, we started to disconnect from our place in the natural order of the world. We entombed food waste and other organic matter in bags, shipped it to elsewhere, shook our head at reports of pollution, then promptly forgot about it and bought fertilizer from the garden store. Composting is a step toward remembering how connected we used to be to the movement of energy from the sun, to plants, to us, and back to the soil.

Does that cast composting in too great a light? I don’t think so. Give it a try, return nutrition back to the soil, and see if you don’t end up agreeing.

And even if you don’t have a garden space of your own, there are services available that are willing to pick up food waste and convert it to compost at their facilities. While I dislike turning something that should be a home-based endeavor into a business that outsources personal responsibility — I recognize its relevance and benefit to those who don’t have a bit of land to call their own. When I worked in catering, we used a service like this to keep our inevitable organic waste out of the dumpster.

Composting Is Optional

This is my strong opinion: If you’re a gardener, you must compost. It’s simple as that. Because of the design in our natural world, processes are already in place to ensure soil is replenished with the nutrients required for growing more plants. Humans can be agents of cooperation with those systems; composting our plant waste, food waste, and even personal waste to improve the land. Humans can also be disruptors of those systems, throwing away their food waste, bagging up and curbing lawn waste, buying chemical fertilizers, flushing away fertility, and generally depleting the natural goodness of the land. There really is no middle ground in that equation.

Excuses are easy to make, and you’ll find plenty of support for lazy decisions from others who seek to exonerate their choices. But to make an active choice to improve your land and your lifestyle — that takes effort, and it’s how we create change. So if you want better soil, less waste, and more responsible living, get a compost heap cooking, and start making your own garden fertilizer.

If you’re not sure where to start, we have lots more articles on soil building here on Insteading — plenty to keep you reading through the long winter months and get you ready for a vibrant, growth-filled spring. Check them out!

Originally published on Debunking Compost Misconceptions

© Insteading

Can I Compost Pasta?

Tue, 11/07/2023 - 22:10
Table of Contents

Pasta can be composted, but it requires correct preparation and ideal pile conditions to avoid major composting issues. Cooked pastas, especially with sauces or other food ingredients, are prone to pest issues and putrid odors. Due to these potential problems, most composters exclude pasta scraps from traditional home compost piles.

Bokashi composting is a suitable technique to transform food items into nutritious compost. A Bokashi bucket is sealed during the fermentation period, keeping potential smells inside and protecting your compost from animals. 

If composting isn’t for you, consider cooking tasty recipes that make use of leftover pasta. Industrial composting is also a great alternative to home composting.

Find out more about the process of converting your pasta scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendment below.

How to Compost Pasta

Apart from bread and rice, pasta is one of the staple food products in the United States. In fact, more than 5 billion pounds of pasta are consumed annually in the U.S. so leftover pasta is inevitable.

Whether you’re a private household or a business establishment, composting is a sustainable way to turn pasta into a nutrient-rich soil amendment for your garden. Being an unconventional compost material, pasta presents some possible issues — pests and unpleasant smells.

Preparing Cooked Pasta for Composting

Composting cooked food can cause issues in your compost bin or pile if not properly managed and prepared.

Plain, cooked pasta is fine to compost. If you’re dealing with larger pasta types like lasagna, pappardelle or spaghetti, cut them in small pieces. This step will significantly accelerate their decomposition. Treat your plain pasta as carbon-rich material and incorporate it in moderation at the bottom center of your bin or pile.

Pasta cooked with other food ingredients like dairy, eggs, meat, oils, and spices can be challenging to process in traditional home compost piles. Anaerobic decomposition, bacterial spread, and uninvited critters are associated with these types of pastas. Composters and gardeners should consider using a Bokashi compost system for these types. This method can safely process food scraps, including pieces of cheese, meat scraps, and pasta sauces.

Preparing Uncooked Pasta for Composting

Composting raw pasta is easier because it isn’t mixed with other food ingredients, making it less attractive to pests.

Do be aware of weevils. They consume many dry grain products: flour, cereal, pasta, and rice. If your pasta is infested with weevils, prepare it separately and store it in the fridge for at least three days. This preventative step will kill the bugs and keep them from spreading in your compost. 

Crush or pulverize your uncooked pasta to speed up the decomposition process. Do this with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Once combined and moistened with other compost materials, these bits of uncooked pasta will eventually break down.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Pasta

When composting pasta, aim for the ratio of 25 to 30 parts carbon to every 1 part nitrogen. Cooked and raw pasta are high in carbon, acting as an energy source for composting microorganisms.

Kitchen wastes like crushed shrimp shells, used coffee grounds, and other fruit trimmings, and vegetable scraps are excellent nitrogen-rich green ingredients for compost. Yard wastes like dead leaves, fallen twigs, and fresh grass clippings can be incorporated as additional sources of carbon.

Keep your compost wet, but not flooded. Moisture is crucial in the composting process. Excess fluids in your compost bin or pile, however, lead to anaerobic decomposition and trigger unpleasant smells. Minimize this issue by adding more brown, carbon materials like cardboard, egg carton, newspaper, and untreated sawdust or wood chips. Aerate the pile regularly to improve air circulation.

When hot composting, aim for a temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures will efficiently “cook” your pasta and break it down to nutritious compost. You can monitor the hot pile’s internal temperature by using a long-stemmed backyard thermometer.

Bury your pasta scraps deep in the compost bin or pile’s center where pests cannot reach. This area has the hottest internal temperature. You can further safeguard your compost from pests by covering or sealing your bin or pile with a sheet of wood or metal.

Maintain these optimal pile conditions to successfully turn pasta into compost.

How Long Does Pasta Take to Compost?

Pasta takes anywhere between 2 and 4 months to fully decompose. The rate at which organic materials decompose heavily depends on the availability of heat, moisture, oxygen, and other factors, including the ratio of the organic matter.

How Pasta Affects the Composting Process

Being an unconventional compost material, pasta greatly impacts the composting process. Mismanagement and incorrect preparation can lead to more challenges than benefits during compost activity.

Impact on Decomposition

In a well-manage compost heap, pasta decomposes. Chopping, or pulverizing pasta into smaller pieces will accelerate decomposition. As a general composting rule, smaller pieces of organic matter are faster to break down. Cutting your pasta will definitely save you precious time.

Avoid overloading your compost bin or pile with too much cooked pasta. Starch from such food items can cause anaerobic decomposition and clumping problems.

Microbial Activity

The carbon in pasta scraps energizes the composting microorganisms, enhancing the efficiency of the pile in compost production, but cooked pasta contaminated with sauces or oils can hinder the development and growth of these beneficial microbes. Therefore, it’s best to avoid these types of pasta dishes and consider other disposal options.

Temperature and Moisture

Although pasta has no direct impact on the pile’s temperature, sustained microbial activity heats up your compost. Healthy microbial activity leads to high temperatures, breaking down your compost faster. 

Wet pastas can contribute to the pile’s moisture levels. Carefully integrate them and be mindful not to flood your compost heap.

In contrast, dry, uncooked pastas need moisture to decompose. You can balance and dampen them by adding nitrogen-rich materials.

Potential Issues With Composting Pasta

Possible pest problems, and putrid odors in the compost pile are the primary reasons why composters and gardeners opt to omit pasta.

Will Composting Pasta Attract Pests?

Cooked pasta can lure pests: cockroaches, flies, raccoons, and rats. Smells from cooked pasta decomposition attract these pests. Sauces and other food ingredients further contribute to these smells, inviting more pests to your compost pile.

To lessen this risk, use small amounts of cooked pasta. Make sure to bury the scraps deep in the center of your compost bin or pile where pests can’t reach them. As previously mentioned, covering your compost pile with a wooden or metal sheet can help keep unwanted visitors away.

Will Composting Pasta Cause Odors?

Pasta can trigger unpleasant odors in your bin or pile. Composting pasta makes the pile prone to anaerobic conditions, particularly inadequate air circulation and excess fluids. These conditions will lead to foul smells that can attract bugs and rodents. To minimize this risk, maintain balanced moisture levels and turn your compost regularly to improve its air circulation.

If you notice excess fluids leaking out of your compost bin or pile, add more carbon-rich brown materials. 

Methods for Composting Pasta

Some methods are more effective in transforming pasta to compost. For instance, the Bokashi method is designed specifically to process food waste, including pasta dishes cooked with dairy products and meat.

Hot Composting

You can hot compost both cooked and raw pasta.

A hot pile generates high temperatures due to its continuous microbial activity. This temperature range “cooks” organic matter, efficiently breaking it down. Hot composting is not for everyone as it requires laborious efforts to maintain.

To successfully hot compost using pasta scraps, you need to conduct regular temperature checks and frequently turn the compost. If managed well, hot composting delivers compost more rapidly than other methods.

To start hot composting your pasta scraps, prepare them as recommended above, and incorporate them at the bottom center of your compost bin or pile. Only minimal amounts of pasta should be used for composting, balanced with other organic matter. Aim for the temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cold Composting

Raw, pulverized pasta scraps are fine to cold compost.

Cold composting is a more relaxed approach as it relies primarily on naturally occurring microbes, insects, and other environmental elements. Little to no human intervention is needed during the decomposition of organic matter in cold compost systems. 

Still, be cautious when adding cooked pasta to a cold pile. Since cold composting takes a significant amount of time to change pasta to compost, the pile becomes more vulnerable to problematic pests and unpleasant smells.

Moreover, cold composting lacks hot temperatures needed to avoid potential bacterial growth from cooked pasta.

Vermicomposting

Moderate amounts of plainly cooked pasta can be added to your worm bin. Avoid pasta heavily contaminated with dairy products, meats, oils, and spices. Your precious red wigglers will find these types of pasta difficult to digest. Furthermore, excessive dairy, oils, salt, or spices can harm your worm bin.

Worms are not particularly attracted to starchy foods like pasta. Gradually introduce your pasta scraps to your worm farm’s diet, while providing other food sources. See how they react, and add more as needed.

You’ll know you’ve added too much pasta if you notice pot worms in your worm bin. These white worms are different from the beneficial red wigglers involved in vermicomposting. Pot worms love acidic and anaerobic environments that red wigglers dislike. You can mitigate these conditions by omitting excess food from your wormery, and applying a neutralizer such as crushed eggshells or hydrated white lime.

If you have cooked pasta drenched in sauces, you can wash it before adding to your worm bin. 

Raw, pulverized pasta is fine for vermicomposting. Sprinkle small amounts on your worm bin and the resulting worm castings can be applied as additional nourishment to your flower bed or vegetable garden.

Bokashi Composting

Originating from Japan and Korea, the Bokashi method ferments organic food scraps into nutrient-rich compost. This method involves a specialized Bokashi bran inoculant in a sealed Bokashi bucket. Fermenting microbes thrive on the carbohydrates and proteins found in your pasta scraps — cooked or raw.

You can add pasta contaminated with other food ingredients to your Bokashi bucket without concern, but when it comes to pasta sauces, be cautious. The fermenting microbes in the bucket have difficulty thriving in flooded environments. 

Bokashi composting can efficiently break down dairy and meat products from your pasta dish.

Alternatives to Composting Pasta

The landfill should be the last place your pasta scraps end up. Consider other sustainable options below to make use of your disposable pasta.

Industrial Composting of Pasta

Industrial composting is a great alternative to home composting. Operating at high temperatures, commercial centers can transform pasta scraps into nutrient-rich compost. The resulting compost is typically used for agricultural and industrial purposes.

Contact your nearest composting facility to learn more on how they accept pasta scraps. These facilities have varying guidelines on waste management. Many of these facilities provide pick-up services or have drop-off locations for collecting household waste.

Upcycling Pasta

You can freeze plainly cooked pasta for future use. To start freezing, drain any excess liquids from your pasta. Cover your pasta with butter or olive oil, which will prevent them from sticking. Once cool, lay the pasta on a baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour. Transfer the frozen pasta in a separate freezer bag and keep (in the freezer) until your next meal. For more thawing tips for frozen pasta, head over to Eating on a Dime.

Don’t be wasteful and consider countless delicious recipes for leftovers.

A perfect breakfast staple, spaghetti frittata is an easy-to-make recipe. Cook your leftover pasta in oil and add beaten eggs. Once the egg solidifies, top it with cheese and sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste. Flip the frittata to cook both sides. You can add other favorite ingredients such as additional meats or veggies. 

Find out other mouthwatering leftover pasta recipes on Shelf Cooking.

Feeding Pasta to Chickens and Livestock

Small amounts of cooked pasta (ideally plain pasta) can be served as treats to your chicken. Be cautious with pasta sauces high in salt as they can negatively impact your chicken’s health. Provide other food sources to your chicken’s health as pasta cannot provide the protein needed by your chickens.

Same rule applies to pigs. Feeding them plain pasta is fine, but large quantities of it may not be beneficial in the long run. Some researchers also encourage the use of pasta (including its dry by-products) as an alternative to a typical corn formula. 

Crushed dry pasta can also be fed to goats

When feeding your livestock, pasta should not be the only food source. Give them other edible feeds to boost their health and growth. 

Disposal Options for Pasta

If home composting and other sustainable alternatives are not feasible, collect your pasta and throw it in an appropriate waste bin. You can seal your pasta in a bag or cover your bin to keep out vermin.

What Pasta Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Pasta contaminated with dairy, eggs, meat, oils, and spices can trigger composting issues in a traditional home compost. Uninvited pests and putrid smells are linked to composting these types of cooked pasta. Additionally, these food substances can impede proper microbial action in your compost bin.

If you’re new to composting or don’t have enough experience, avoid adding pasta cooked with other ingredients.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Pasta

When composting pasta, always aim for optimal compost conditions. Best management practices are crucial to the success of your composting activity.

You can seal your compost bin or pile to keep out pests.

After composting activity, wash your hands with soap and running water.

FAQ Can I compost moldy pasta?

Moldy pasta is fine to compost, as mold is one of the first signs of decomposition in organic matter — but handle moldy pasta with care. If you have immunity or respiratory problems, wear a face mask and a pair of gloves. Some mold releases mycotoxins that can potentially harm your health.

Can I compost macaroni and cheese?

Mac and cheese is technically biodegradable. However, adding them into your compost bin or pile can cause major composting issues. Without proper preparation and pile management, macaroni and cheese can do more harm than good in a traditional home compost. Try Bokashi composting your leftover macaroni and cheese to safely and effectively transform them into compost.

Can I compost dry pasta?

Dry pasta can be added to your compost pile. You can crush or pulverize it into small pieces first to accelerate decomposition.

Originally published on Can I Compost Pasta?

© Insteading

Can I Compost Hair?

Mon, 11/06/2023 - 16:45
Table of Contents

Hair is fine to compost as long as it is not treated with synthetic chemicals or infested with disease or parasites. Healthy hair’s nitrogen content supports the growth of composting microorganisms. Overapplication of hair, however, can cause issues in your compost pile.

In addition to traditional hot and cold composting techniques, hair is suitable for Bokashi, and vermicompost methods. If you cannot compost, consider sending your hair clippings to recycling facilities or charitable organizations.

Have an in-depth look at the process of composting hair into nutrient-rich compost below.

How to Compost Hair

You can incorporate both animal and human hair in your compost pile. They are rich in nitrogen, and by maintaining optimal pile conditions and closely managing your compost, you can efficiently convert hair waste into nutrient-rich compost.

Preparing Hair for Composting

Untreated hair requires minimal preparation before composting. As a general composting rule, small pieces of organic waste decompose faster. Chop untreated hair and sprinkle it as you layer your compost ingredients.

Ensure that your hair clippings are free from nonbiodegradable components like metal hair clips or rubber bands.

Avoid dumping hair waste all at once. Doing so can trigger clumping issues within your compost bin or pile.

There isn’t enough research on the negative effects of hair products — such as synthetic creams, dyes, oils, and sprays — on the composting process, soil health, and plant growth. It’s safe to assume they have synthetic chemicals that can interfere with your composting process. So best to omit treated hair from the pile or bin, especially if you’re aiming for an entirely organic compost.

Synthetic hair extensions or wigs are not suitable for home composting.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Hair

When layering your compost materials, stick to the ideal ratio of 25 to 30 parts of carbon materials to every 1 part of nitrogen materials. Aside from human and pet hair, used coffee grounds, and other common kitchen waste, like fruit trimmings and vegetable scraps, are excellent nitrogen green ingredients, boosting the pile’s microbial development and growth.

Carbon from cardboard, egg carton, grass clippings, newspaper, and untreated sawdust or wood chips serves as an energy source for these composting microorganisms. A good balance of such materials will increase the efficiency of your compost bin or pile in breaking down organic materials.

Moisture is crucial in the decomposition process. Your compost pile should be wet, but not soggy. Excess fluids — together with inadequate oxygen — are primary conditions for anaerobic decomposition. Under these conditions, your compost pile will emit unpleasant odors.

To minimize this problem, incorporate more carbon ingredients. For instance, dried grass clippings or shredded newspaper will absorb the excess fluids.

Hot compost with hair waste should have a temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Turning your compost pile regularly will tremendously improve its air circulation.

Again, do not overload your compost pile with large amounts of hair to avoid clumping. Bundles of hair can clog your compost and hinder proper air flow.

Sustain these conditions to successfully convert hair into compost.

How Long Does Hair Take to Compost?

In a well-managed compost pile, hair quickly decomposes (in about a month). Factors that affect decomposition include oxygen, heat, and moisture in your compost pile.

How Hair Affects the Composting Process

Inclusion of hair in moderate amounts is beneficial to the composting process. Too much of it can negatively inhibit the proper decomposition of your compostable materials. Overloading your compost pile with heaps of hair will impede proper decomposition and hinder adequate air circulation. Bundles of hair can clog the pile.

Impact on Decomposition

Due to the thin structure, hair decomposes easily under optimal pile conditions. Chopping it in small pieces will further accelerate your composting process.

When using hair waste for composting, apply in moderation.

Microbial Activity

Hair is rich in nitrogen — an element crucial to the decomposition process of organic wastes. Nitrogen boosts microbial development and growth within your compost heap. Keeping a healthy community of microorganisms will increase the pile’s efficiency in transforming organic matter to finished compost.

Our pro-tip: Offset hair’s nitrogen content with carbon-rich materials such as dead leaves and shredded cardboard. 

Temperature and Moisture

Hair has no direct effect on the pile’s temperature. However, continuous microbial action within your compost bin or pile will raise its internal temperature. In hot piles especially, this intense heat “cooks” organic matter, breaking it down significantly quicker. 

Also, hair does not contribute moisture, unless you use wet hair for composting. Dry hair should be paired with nitrogen-rich green materials.

Be cautious when incorporating drenched or washed hair. The water can throw off the pile’s moisture level. If you notice excess liquids leaking out of your compost, add more carbon materials.

Potential Issues With Composting Hair

Apart from potential clumping issues, hair does not usually cause trouble when composting.

Will Composting Hair Attract Pests?

Hair does not typically attract problematic pests. You can safely include it in your compost pile without worry. Always adhere to the optimum compost pile conditions to efficiently convert hair waste to nutrient-rich compost.

Will Composting Hair Cause Odors?

When processed in a well-managed pile, hair does not emit foul odors. Be cautious with anaerobic decomposition, however. Lack of oxygen and excess fluids triggers such conditions, primarily linked to a smelly compost. Adding too much hair at once can make your compost heap prone to this issue.

To prevent anaerobic decomposition, turn the pile regularly and keep its moisture balanced. 

Methods for Composting Hair

Several composting techniques are suitable in handling animal and human hair waste.

Hot Composting

You can definitely use hair for hot composting.

This method involves sustained microbial activity that heats up the compost pile. Under high temperatures, organic material breaks down more quickly, but hot composting systems are not for everyone. First-time composters may find it difficult to maintain.

For best results, regularly check the pile’s temperature and aerate it by turning. These steps will ensure high-quality composting of hair and other organic matter.

Start by sprinkling minimal amounts of chopped or cut hair between layers of brown, and green materials. Aim for the ideal temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cold Composting

Cold composting is the complete opposite of hot composting. This method relies on nature and its innate power to break down organic matter such as hair.

Naturally occurring bacteria, microbes, and other external elements like air, sunlight, and water, are the primary agents of decomposition in cold piles. The only caveat with a cold system is that it takes longer to produce compost.

Chopping or cutting your hair waste will help accelerate the decomposition in cold compost piles. Apply in moderation to prevent problems within the pile. Being a great source of nitrogen, hair should be combined with carbon-rich brown ingredients.

Vermicomposting

Healthy hair free from chemicals or diseases can be fed to your worm farm.

In vermicomposting, worms consume organic material, and break it down through digestion, resulting in nutritious worm castings. Due to its keratin content, hair provides protein to your worm farm’s diet. Simply introduce small amounts of hair and offer other food sources that will keep your worm farm healthy.

Safeguard your worm farm from disease- and pest-infested hair from animals and humans. Omit these types of hair as they can harm your worm farm.

Chemically treated hair should be excluded from your worm bin also. Worms are highly sensitive and chemical traces from synthetic creams, dyes, oils, and sprays can either harm or irritate them.

Bokashi Composting

For composters with limited garden or outdoor space, consider Bokashi composting your hair clippings and fallen pet fur.

Unlike other methods, Bokashi encourages anaerobic decomposition, sealing the organic matter in a specialized Bokashi bucket. Fermentation of your materials will depend greatly on the activity of fermenting microbes found in the Bokashi bran inoculant. These microbes thrive on proteins found in hair and food scraps. Bokashi is known to process primarily food waste, including unconventional materials like dairy and meat.

Correct preparation and minimal quantity of hair will lead to a successful Bokashi compost.

Alternatives to Composting Hair

If you cannot compost hair at home, you can send it to sustainable facilities where they are transformed for greater use.

Industrial Composting of Hair

Large-scale commercial composting facilities accept animal and human waste like hair. The finished compost from these facilities is usually used for agriculture and industrial purposes

States have varying guidelines on waste management. Some facilities offer curbside pick-up services and drop-off options. 

Reach out to your nearest compost facility to learn how they accept hair waste.

Recycling Hair

Significant amounts of hair waste can be sent to recycling centers.

For instance, Terracycle® offers SalonCycle to barbershops and salons. This commercial service collects various hair salon waste products and materials such as aerosol cans, gloves, hair clippings, and synthetic hair trimmings. For more information, head on SalonCycle’s product page.

Matter of Trust accepts fleece, fur, and hair waste for their Clean Wave program. These materials are repurposed into oil absorbers used in sea spills and other oil contamination incidents.

If you have hair that’s at least 10 inches in length, you can donate it to Locks of Love. This charitable organization produces recycled hairpieces for children with hair problems.

Upcycling Hair

You can directly apply thin layers of healthy hair on your garden soil as mulch.

According to researchers, hair’s nitrogen content boosts plant growth, but hair decomposes and releases essential nutrients slowly when left alone in the open. Pair your hair waste with other fast-acting fertilizers as sources of nourishment for your garden.

Disposal Options for Hair

Dispose of your hair waste in an appropriate garbage bin when all options are unavailable.

What Hair Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Made of synthetic fibers, loose hair from inorganic wigs or extensions should never go to your compost. These strands will not decompose like the rest of the organic wastes and contaminate your compost with toxic chemicals.

Steer clear of hair heavily treated with synthetic bleach, creams, dyes, oils, and sprays. These hair products may impede proper decomposition and harm composting microorganisms.

Be cautious with disease- and pest-infested hair. Pathogens and parasites can survive the composting process, especially if you’re unable to attain optimal pile temperatures. When composting, ensure cat and dog hair come from healthy pets.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Hair

Avoid stuffing your compost bin or pile with too much hair as it can cause clumping. Ensure optimal pile conditions by sticking to the best pile management practices.

After composting, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water.

FAQ Can I put hair in my garden soil?

Hair can be applied as mulch on your garden soil. It aids with plant growth due to its nitrogen content. However, hair takes a longer time to decompose and won’t release nitrogen instantly.

Can I add hair to my worm composting bin?

Small amounts of hair that is free from chemicals, disease, and pests are fine to vermicompost. Hair clippings provide protein essential for your worm farm’s health.

How much hair can I add to my compost pile?

Inclusion of hair should be done in moderation. Too much hair can cause clumping within your compost pile, slowing down decomposition and impede air circulation.

Originally published on Can I Compost Hair?

© Insteading

Can I Compost Wine Corks?

Sun, 11/05/2023 - 17:17
Table of Contents

Not all corks are suitable for composting. Although natural corks are fine to go in the pile, synthetic cork varieties should be excluded and considered for other sustainable disposal — such as sending to recycling centers or upcycling into art.

Natural wine corks take time to decompose. As they break down, these corks release carbon into your compost bin or pile, fueling microbial activity. Both cold and hot piles will benefit from natural wine cork’s carbon content and fibrous nature. Cork can also be used as worm bedding for vermicompost bins.

Explore other options to make use of wine corks and find composting tips below.

How to Compost Wine Corks

Composting corks requires minimal preparation, but determining if the cork is natural can be tricky. Natural wine corks typically come from the bark of cork oak trees, which means they are fully biodegradable and compostable.

Historically, wine producers preferred using natural or “real” corks as liquid stoppers to age and store wine in bottles. 

As times changed and technology advanced, more affordable wine stoppers like screw caps and composite or synthetic corks became popular. These types are made from nonbiodegradable materials and should not be added to your home compost. 

Synthetic corks mimic the appearance of natural cork, but are made of foamy materials. They feature a smooth surface and a uniform interior when cut open. Conversely, natural corks are lighter and display a fibrous, wood-like interior. 

You should exclude synthetic wine corks. Natural wine corks can be prepped for composting.

Preparing Wine Corks for Composting

To start composting, remove any nonbiodegradable packaging attached to your natural wine cork. Omit foil, plastic and wax seals, and stickers or tags. These components contain chemicals that can hinder your composting activity, and harm beneficial microorganisms.

Using a kitchen knife, chop your wine cork waste in small pieces. Due to their woody nature, whole wine corks take a longer time to decompose. Cutting them will speed up their decomposition, saving you precious time. 

Alternatively, consider shredding your natural wine corks on a kitchen grater prior to composting.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Wine Corks

Treat natural wine corks as carbon-rich brown materials.

Maintaining a good balance of organic materials encourages microbial action in the pile. Kitchen wastes like coffee grounds, fruit scraps, and vegetable trimmings, contain nitrogen that helps with the microbial growth in your compost bin or pile. On the one hand, other carbon materials — including dried grass clippings, shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg carton, untreated sawdust, and wood chips — energize composting microorganisms. 

Layer your green materials with brown ingredients, following a ratio of 25 to 30 parts carbon to every 1 part nitrogen.

Wine corks decompose better in wet conditions. However, overflooding the pile can lead to mold growth on corks. Combined with lack of proper air circulation, overly soaked compost triggers anaerobic decomposition, linked to unpleasant smells. To minimize this issue, incorporate more dry carbon ingredients capable of absorbing excess fluids.

When hot composting wine corks, aim for the ideal temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This range indicates microbial activity within the pile, boosting its efficiency in processing organic items further. Use a long-stemmed thermometer to monitor the hot pile’s internal temperature.

Frequent turning improves air circulation in your compost heap. Oxygen is also a crucial element to help the pile heat. You can turn the pile using a backyard pitchfork or shovel.

By aiming for these optimum conditions, you can produce high-quality compost from natural wine corks. 

How Long Do Wine Corks Take to Compost?

Whole wine corks can take up to three years to fully decompose, even in ideal conditions. But you can significantly speed up this process by shredding or cutting them in smaller pieces. The speed of the decomposition also depends on conditions within the compost pile, including moisture, oxygen levels, and temperature.

How Wine Corks Affect the Composting Process

As mentioned, wine corks take a long time to decompose, releasing carbon in your compost pile or bin.

Impact on Decomposition

Incorrect preparation of natural wine corks will slow down your composting process. Due to their density, wine corks can remain in your finished compost if you do not chop or shred them. As a general composting rule, smaller organic wastes are faster to decompose because microorganisms can access and consume them easily. Wine corks are no exception to this rule.

The carbon released from broken down wine corks bolsters the microbial action in your compost pile, making it more efficient.

Microbial Activity

Being a brown ingredient, natural wine corks supply the pile with carbon. Without such an element, microorganisms will have no source of energy in effectively breaking down organic waste. 

Avoid synthetic wine corks to protect the pile’s community of microorganisms from harmful toxins. Make sure to remove nonbiodegradable labels, stickers, or tags, too. In addition, be careful with natural corks used on chemicals or toxins as residues from these liquids can contaminate your compost and disrupt the pile’s microbial action.

Temperature and Moisture

Persistent microbial activity heats up the interior of your compost pile. Wine corks support such beneficial activity, particularly in hot compost piles.

Note that wine corks don’t contribute moisture. Therefore, you should balance them with nitrogen-rich materials that dampen your compost.

Potential Issues With Composting Wine Corks

When prepared correctly, wine corks do not normally present problems in a well-maintained compost bin or pile.

Will Composting Wine Corks Attract Pests?

Most of the time, wine corks do not attract pests. Even with wine residues, natural corks can be incorporated in your compost heap without worry of inviting problematic critters.

Will Composting Wine Corks Cause Odors?

Wine corks don’t produce foul smells as they decompose but can create unpleasant odors in your compost pile under anaerobic conditions. Maintain balanced moisture levels and keep the pile well-aerated.

If you spot excess fluids in your compost, introduce more brown materials to counter the development of anaerobic conditions.

Methods for Composting Wine Corks

Most composting techniques can handle wine corks.

Hot Composting

You can safely add chopped or shredded wine corks to hot compost piles.

The activity of composting microorganisms generates heat, which “cooks” organic waste and speeds up decomposition. Compared to other methods, hot compost systems yield finished compost faster. Maintaining the high temperatures of such piles can be labor-intensive, however. Some composters and gardeners find it challenging because it requires regular temperature checks and frequent turning.

The internal temperature of hot piles should range between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintaining these temperatures ensures that organic waste, including natural wine corks, transforms to nutrient-rich compost.

Cold Composting

Another suitable method for wine corks is cold composting.

This might entice first-time composters because little to no effort is needed during the decomposition of your organic items. Cold piles rely on naturally occurring bacteria, microbes, insects, and environmental elements. Due to lack of heat, cold piles take longer to produce compost.

Our pro-tip for a successful cold compost — strictly follow the ratio of 25 to 30 parts carbon to every 1 part nitrogen. Chopping or shredding your natural wine corks is a great way to accelerate their decomposition, especially for cold piles. 

Vermicomposting

You can repurpose natural wine corks as bedding for your worm farm.

Prepare your wine corks as you would for traditional composting. Avoid using composite wine corks and any corks that could be contaminated with chemicals or toxins, as these can disrupt and harm your worm bin.

Vermicomposting involves various species of red wigglers consuming organic matter. These worms break down the matter in their digestive system until they release nutritious castings, which you can use in your garden.

To start vermicomposting wine corks, shred or cut them into manageable pieces. Combine them with other worm bedding materials, like coconut coir, shredded cardboard, or untreated wood chips. Gradually apply the pieces to your worm bin, and provide different sources to your worm farm to keep it healthy.

Bokashi Composting

Typically, wine corks aren’t included in Bokashi bins, because they don’t provide the necessary nutrients for fermenting microbes.

The Bokashi method uniquely encourages anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. A Bokashi kit includes a specialized Bokashi bucket and a Bokashi bran inoculant. These fermenting microbes feed on carbohydrates and proteins (usually found in food waste), which wine corks cannot provide.

Instead of wine corks, consider adding other nontraditional compost ingredients (like dairy and meat scraps) to your Bokashi bucket.

Alternatives to Composting Wine Corks

When a home compost is impossible, you can send your wine corks to various composting and recycling programs. If you’re feeling creative, explore exciting craft projects that repurpose disposable wine corks.

Industrial Composting of Wine Corks

Wine corks can be sent to large-scale industrial composting facilities. The resulting compost from these centers are commonly used for agriculture and other industries. You have the option to drop off your wine corks at certain locations or have them picked-up curbside.

It’s best to contact your local facility, because these services tend to have varying guidelines on how they accept household waste.

Recycling Wine Corks

Various companies accept natural cork for recycling.

Being a durable organic material, natural cork is an excellent alternative to petroleum-based foams and plastic. Furthermore, the resulting cork products can be re-recycled into new products.

One of the largest cork recycling services in North America is ReCork with over 131 million corks collected (and counting)! They are partnering with wine producers and other business establishments, such as bars and restaurants, to minimize natural corks as landfill waste. Unfortunately, ReCork is yet to offer collections to the general public.

If you have a business producing natural cork waste, learn more about their drop-off locations.

For synthetic beverage corks, you can purchase a Zero Waste Box from Terracycle®. This can be done as a one-time purchase or subscription. They only accept composite corks, which are collected once the waste box is full. Aluminum twists, bottle caps, natural corks, and screw tops are not suitable for Terracycle® service.

Upcycling Wine Corks

Clean your old wine corks before upcycling them. Boil the corks in water for at least 90 minutes to remove fluid residues or smells. Allow the corks to dry completely and start getting creative.

Natural Wine Corks as Mulch

To improve soil’s moisture retention, apply shredded pieces of natural wine corks on top of your garden or planters. Natural corks are made of organic plant materials that would break down over time.

Wine Corks as Box Fillers

Wine corks are an excellent substitute to foam-based peanuts, which are less environmentally friendly. Simply fill your box with clean wine corks and pack your gifts or packages accordingly. Due to their dense structure, wine corks can effectively protect fragile objects.

Wine Corks for Art Projects

From hand-carved cork figurines to detailed cork portraits, substantial amounts of wine corks can be turned into upcycled art. Cork art offers vast artistic possibilities that are sustainable and durable. 

Disposal Options for Wine Corks

If all options are impossible, collect your wine corks and dispose of them in an appropriate trash bin. 

What Wine Corks Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Avoid composite or synthetic wine corks as these won’t decompose like other natural materials. They can leak chemicals into your compost pile or bin, harming beneficial microorganisms.

Discard corks used to store chemicals or toxic substances and dispose of them elsewhere. Chemical residues from such corks can contaminate your compost bin or pile.

Be cautious with wine corks heavily painted with synthetic colors or treated with fire-resistant chemicals. Exclude them if you’re aiming for an entirely organic compost.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Wine Corks

When composting, always aim for the ideal compost conditions, and follow best management practices to correctly prepare your natural wine corks.

Moldy corks should be handled with care. Wear a face mask and use a pair of gloves when handling them to minimize health risks.

Keep your wine bottles away from the pile. Glass is not suitable for composting.

After composting activity, wash your hand with soap and running water.

FAQ Can synthetic wine corks be composted?

Synthetic wine corks do not break down and should never go in your compost pile. Explore other disposal options for synthetic wine corks, such as sending them to a suitable recycling facility.

What are the nutritional benefits wine corks contribute to compost?

Wine corks supply your compost pile with carbon, energizing the community of microorganisms. When shredded, the fibrous pieces of natural wine corks also improve the pile’s moisture retention. 

Are corks biodegradable?

Not all corks are biodegradable. Natural corks derived from the cork oak tree will break down naturally, but synthetic cork will not. The latter are made of synthetic materials: foam, plastic, or silicone.

Originally published on Can I Compost Wine Corks?

© Insteading

How to Fix Stinky Compost

Thu, 11/02/2023 - 23:45

When I was fresh out of college, I worked as a guide at a wilderness retreat center. We hosted weekend retreat groups, encouraged participants to compost food waste in our big compost bins, and provided a pamphlet to help them do it correctly when one of the staff wasn’t present.

One hot fall afternoon, I drove to work for my usual cleanup after a weekend group. But as soon as I headed toward the two huge bins behind the kitchen, I knew there was trouble. I could smell it from 60 feet away. I could hear the flies at 20 feet, and as I tried to suppress a gag, I think it was safe to assume the group in question had lost their helpful pamphlet.

The huge compost piles were, to put it mildly, wretchedly malodorous. The group had just chucked everything into the bin indiscriminately — shellfish bits, barbecued meat bones, tinfoil, wrappers, huge mounds of leftover potato salad, and more. Left uncovered in the hot autumn sun, entropy had a field day (and so had the raccoons). The well-balanced compost that I’d left them four days prior had been converted to a stinking mound of maggot-infested mush that confirmed every HOA’s stereotypical conception of compost piles: Smelly garbage pits carelessly built.

Within a week or so, and with much enduring, we calmed the compost pile back to quietly odor-free balance.

Stinky compost is not fun, and if you find yourself faced with a pile of rotting stench rather than a mound of future garden fertility, I hope this article can point you in a sweeter-smelling direction. If I could get that post-barbecue pile back into copacetic equilibrium, so can you. Here’s how to fix stinky compost.

The Nose Knows Good Compost Doesn’t Stink from wikimedia Commons

A healthy compost pile doesn’t smell — or, rather, it smells good. Balanced compost smells like forest soil. Earthy, leafy, somewhat like the woods after all the leaves have fallen in the fall. It’s dark, crumbly, and most of all, balanced. Not too wet, not too dry, not dominated by any one material.

Too Many Greens Makes For Nasty, Slimy Grossness

So when a compost pile goes bad, there’s nothing subtle about the problem. But the type of stink that you detect — though you don’t want to be marinating in the stench — is a blessing in disguise. As nasty as the air around the pile may be, it is silently screaming out its problem. Use your nose to diagnose the type of putrid odor, so that you can set about correcting it. Here’s a guide on how to identify your issue.

Sewage Smell (a Dirty Toilet)

Does the compost give you flashbacks of that horrid gas station toilet you had to use when there were no other exits for the next 100 miles? Is the pile soggy and slimy? Sounds like you’ve got a nitrogen imbalance. Nitrogen is an important element of soil fertility, but you can accumulate too much of it quickly when you’ve added tons of “greens” to your compost pile and not enough “browns.”

Greens, as compost warriors already know, are materials full of moisture and able to rot quickly. Think grass clippings, vegetable and fruit peels and cores, or other food waste. Pile too much of those rich materials together, especially when it’s a moist time of year, and the stink won’t be far behind.

Ammonia Smell (Litter Box)

Your greens-overloaded compost pile can reveal its malaise by releasing an eye-watering ammonia smell. If you’re unfamiliar with using ammonia as a cleaner, and don’t exactly know the smell offhand, it can be described as an unpleasant, distinctly chemical smell with a strong accent of stale urine. Think of the smell in a home with 10 cats and one litter box.

Sulfur Smell (Rotting Eggs) It can be easy for a deeply layered pile to get compacted … and stinky from wikimedia commons

Let’s say you went out to turn your compost, but as soon as you broke the crust on the top, a reek of rotting eggs assaulted your nasal passages.

The sulfur smell is a result of anaerobic bacteria doing their thing. If you remember your middle school science vocabulary list (alongside the “mitochondrion is the powerhouse of a cell”), you should have a clue that any anerobic activity in the pile is a sign that your compost can’t breathe. It’s too tightly compacted, and the result is the not-so-sweet smell detected at the back of a school bus on bean burrito Monday.

Rotting Meat (Roadkill)

There are many things that should go into a backyard compost pile. There are also many things that should not — as my introductory story shares. While there’s nothing wrong or unnatural with allowing animal products to decompose — dead animals rot away outdoors all the time, after all — the fact is, they stink.

That’s by design, I’m convinced. Many animals are scavengers, filling their role as nature’s garbage crew. They extract energy from the dead bodies of former furry neighbors, ensuring nothing in the forest goes to waste. Scavengers can only do their job if they know where dead stuff is, however, which is where that high-heaven stink is necessary, advertising the free-for-all.

So when it comes to your compost, bones, scraps, oils, fats, and dairy products can be a dicey addition. If you have a traditional compost setup — an open box– it’s unlikely they’ll get the chance to actually rot enough to add nutrition to the pile. They’re far, far more likely to attract opossums, raccoons, and stray dogs before then. And before the nighttime bandits make off with their prizes, your yard might smell like a 1900s abattoir.

Weirdly Sweet

It’s hard to describe, isn’t it? The pile smells sweet … but it’s a bad sweet. This is a common side-effect of adding too many fresh grass clippings to the pile. A case of too many greens strikes again.

Treatment Options

All right, so we’ve got a sick compost pile, and you’re sick of smelling it, which is probably why you’ve looked up this article in the first place. Let’s get into how to get the stink gone and return an olfactory balance to your backyard.

Administer Browns

Most of the problems in this list can be addressed by adding more brown material — dry, slow-to-decompose organic matter such as straw, dry autumn leaves, sawdust from untreated wood, shredded newspaper, or cardboard. If you live in a rural area, finding browns should be a piece of cake. You can probably rake up a pile of last year’s leaves from your land without issue, or grab a bale of straw from the feed store. Add it to the stinky compost, mix it in, and I can almost guarantee your problem will resolve within a few days.

Those in urban and suburban areas, however, probably have issues finding browns. When you have a postage stamp of a backyard, there’s just not enough dead, dry organic material available to compensate for all the greens in the pile.

Thankfully, with a little planning and persistence, you can remedy this easily. Here’s some ideas on how to gather browns.

  • In the late fall, gather as many dry, dead, brown leaves as you can. Ask your neighbors for theirs (they may give you “weirdo eyebrows” but won’t mind you cleaning up their yard). Store the browns, tightly packed, in heavy-duty garbage bags, and keep them in a shed or garage for when you need them.
  • If you work in an office, consider asking for their shredded paper waste. This is often available in embarrassingly huge amounts. Make sure it’s not shiny (magazine-like) paper — only newsprint or copy paper.
  • Even if you don’t drink alcohol, check out your local liquor store and ask for their surplus cardboard boxes. They are guaranteed to have more than you need.

Wherever you find it, having dry material on hand is always a good idea — especially during soggy, rainy springs, when stinky compost problems more commonly rear their head.

Aerate

There are several ways to keep oxygen flowing into the middle of the compost pile, keeping those stinky anerobic bacteria from taking over. Some compost piles can be built with perforated PVC pipes that run through the center (somewhat like a chimney) or through the layers, allowing air to reach inside the pile. Other piles can be layered with branches and sticks to keep things airy. Though that approach may be best for cold composting, rather than hot composting because the sticks make turning the pile awkward and difficult.

Stir, Stir, and Stir Some More

If you’re doing hot composting, stirring is a necessary element of introducing air, mixing the materials, and encouraging rapid bacterial activity. Stirring a stinky compost pile will break up compacted layers and better combine your greens and browns. This should reinvigorate the aerobic bacteria to return to a healthy frenzy.

If you’re doing cold composting — a slower, more hands-off approach — occasional stirring can still help combine the layers of the pile and keep stinks from emerging.

Stop Wasting Food

Compost piles are fabulous ways to redeem garden fertility from peelings, cores, and otherwise inedible bits of produce. If you’re tossing tons of leftovers on the pile, and having to constantly address stinky smells, perhaps the real problem in your house isn’t compost that’s too high in nitrogen, but a kitchen that wastes too much food.

There’s a lot of vegetable material that goes into a compost pile that’s still perfectly good to eat. Carrot tops, beet greens, watermelon rinds, leek greens, and tons of other bits and bobs that are usually relegated to rot are perfectly edible, and in some cases, delicious. I wrote an earlier article on how to reduce food waste, and it’s got tons of useful tips and ideas for those looking to change their habits for the better.

Get Chickens

Instead of feeding racoons or overfeeding your compost pile, why not get some chickens instead? Chickens are excellent at converting food scraps — especially meat scraps — into eggs, meat, and manure-rich bedding. You may find, as I do, that with chickens, there aren’t enough scraps for a compost pile in the first place. The coop is the compost pile.

If you have further compost questions, check out our ever-growing list of articles on what you should and shouldn’t compost.

So, have we helped you defeat the stink? Hopefully, you’ve found what you need to quiet down the olfactory assault of your compost pile, and get your yard back to its sweet-smelling ol’ self. Tell us the story of your smelly battles in the comments below!

Originally published on How to Fix Stinky Compost

© Insteading

Can I Compost Seeds?

Thu, 10/26/2023 - 17:00
Table of Contents

Although seeds are essentially compostable, most composters and gardeners shy away from them due to concerns about seedling growth and spread. You can minimize this issue by correctly preparing your leftover or spare seeds and maintaining high temperatures in the pile.

Hot compost systems are suitable for processing seed scraps. Heat from hot piles can eliminate seeds, but as a precaution, you can pulverize or scorch them before composting activity.

If you notice unwanted plants sprouting on top of the pile, turn your compost vigorously until the plants are trampled at the bottom. This step will disrupt the lifecycle of the plants.

Read more to find out the best practices for successfully incorporating seeds in your compost.

How to Compost Seeds

Seeds are technically compostable, but without proper preparation and optimal pile temperatures, the seeds can sprout and survive in your compost pile. They could then spread to your garden and flower beds when you apply the finished compost.

For this reason, most composters exclude seeds from their compost to avoid accidental or unintentional germination — especially of weed seeds.

Preparing Seeds for Composting

Take precautionary measures by killing the seeds prior to your composting activity.

Using a blender or food processor, you can pulverize the seeds, effectively preventing them from sprouting in your bin or pile. Doing so will accelerate the decomposition of larger, tougher seeds like avocado pits. As an alternative, use a kitchen knife to chop large chunks of seeds in smaller pieces.

You can also scorch your seeds under the sun for 2 to 3 weeks until crisp and dry. For instance, seeds from invasive weeds will not survive the intense heat, preventing accidental growth in the pile and garden.

After these preparations, mix your seed waste with other compost materials.

Be aware — seeds have both carbon and nitrogen. When composting, sustain the best compost conditions below.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Seeds

Stick to the ideal 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio, ensuring the best compost quality. Carbon from “brown” materials such as dried leaves, shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg carton, untreated sawdust, and wood chips, provides energy to composting microorganisms. Coffee grounds and other fruit scraps and vegetable trimming support healthy development of these microorganisms due to their nitrogen content.

Sustained microbial activity from the balanced mix of organic wastes will increase the pile’s efficiency.

Keep your compost wet, but soggy. Too much moisture and lack of air triggers anaerobic decomposition, which can cause putrid odors. In contrast, a dehydrated compost pile will result in slow decomposition. Combat this issue by adding water or more nitrogen-rich compost materials.

If you notice excess fluids and off-putting smells, incorporate additional brown material to your bin or pile. 

A hot composting system is excellent for seed waste. The internal temperature of a hot pile should reach anywhere between 130 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Within this temperature range, you can safely transform seeds and other organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Turning or stirring a hot pile frequently will improve air circulation and disrupt the growth of seedlings (if any). Young sprouts on top of the compost pile will end up at the bottom after turning, effectively impeding their growth. You can do this by using an outdoor pitchfork or a shovel.

Ideally, integrate seeds at the bottom center of the hot pile, where the most intense heat is.

How Long Do Seeds Take to Compost?

Your compost’s conditions and preparation will determine the decomposition rate of the seeds. In a well-managed hot pile, seeds can break down in less than a year. Keep the pile aerated, maintain the optimal temperature range, and balance moisture levels to successfully yield compost from seeds and other organic matter.

How Seeds Affect the Composting Process

Seeds contain carbon that improves the overall composting process.

Impact on Decomposition

When prepared correctly, seeds can decompose easily. Chopped or pulverized seeds decompose relatively fast compared to whole seeds. As a general composting rule, smaller organic materials are quicker to break down because microorganisms can consume them effortlessly. 

Correctly preparing your seeds prior to composting will definitely save you precious time and prevent sprout issues.

Microbial Activity

As discussed earlier, seeds provide both carbon and nitrogen to your compost pile. These elements primarily fuel the pile’s microbial action. 

It’s important to protect your compost’s microorganisms from seeds that have been chemically treated. The toxins from these seeds could seep into your compost and damage the microorganisms.

Temperature and Moisture

Continuous microbial activity will lead to a temperature increase in your compost pile. A balanced proportion of seeds and other organic matter helps promote such activity. 

Fresh fruit seeds contribute very little moisture, while scorched ones provide none. To prevent a soggy compost pile, make sure to turn the material regularly. Moreover, maintaining adequate air circulation will help control your compost’s internal temperature.

Potential Issues With Composting Seeds

Unintentional growth of seedlings and possible pest problems are primary concerns with composting seeds. 

Will Composting Seeds Attract Pests?

Adding seeds to your compost bin or pile can attract certain insects, such as beetles, borers, and weevils. Seeds already infested with other pests should be handled with caution. Some pests can survive the composting process (especially if you fail to achieve the optimum temperature range). To minimize pest problems, bury seed waste at the bottom center of your compost bin or pile where uninvited critters will have a hard time reaching them.

You can also cover your compost pile with a sheet of board or plywood to keep these critters.

Will Composting Seeds Cause Odors?

In a well-maintained compost pile, seeds do not cause bad odors.

However, anaerobic conditions like excess liquids and lack of oxygen prompt anaerobic decomposition, linked to unpleasant smells. To avoid this issue, follow the best management practices.

Methods for Composting Seeds

Not all composting methods are suitable for seeds. Explore your options below and see what works best for you!

Hot Composting

You can safely include seeds in a hot compost system. In fact, it may be the best option for handling seeds due to the hot temperatures, but a hot compost pile is more difficult to maintain. Some composters and gardeners might find the temperature checks and regular turning laborious.

Hot composting involves composting microorganisms, their activity, and the consequent heat to effectively break down organic matter. Due to high temperatures, a hot pile produces compost faster than most methods. Proper air circulation and a balanced combination of brown and green materials are necessary to the successful hot compost of seeds and other organic material.

Cold Composting

Seeds are not usually included in cold compost systems.

Cold piles lack the heat needed to kill seeds and are prone to unintentional growth and spread of seedlings. To avoid this issue, correctly prepare your seed waste by grinding or pulverizing them first. Or scorch your seeds with sunlight for a few weeks (until crisp). 

Cold piles require minimal human intervention. The primary agents of decomposition are naturally occurring microbes, stray insects, and other environmental conditions. Because cold piles do not heat up, they take a longer time to produce compost.

Vermicomposting

Recent research encourages the additions of fruit and vegetable seeds in the worms’ diet. 

Vermicomposting relies on the activity of worms as they consume decomposing organic matter. The resulting worm castings can be added to your garden soil, boosting its nutrient content. Gradually introduce small amounts of grounded seeds and provide other food sources to keep your worm farm healthy.

If you notice seedlings sprouting out of your worm bin, do not worry. Worms would consume the seedlings, too. Simply cut or shrivel the seedlings and they will start to decompose, attracting worms for consumption.

Avoid chemically treated seeds to protect your worm farm from toxins. Additionally, discard disease- and pest-infested seeds that can harm your worm farm.

Bokashi Composting

Although seeds are fine to include in a Bokashi bucket, they do not add any valuable nutrients for fermenting microbes derived from the Bokashi inoculant bran. 

The Bokashi method is a favorite among composters who have limited garden or outdoor space. In contrast to other techniques Bokashi promotes the anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. The fermenting microbes, in the absence of oxygen, break down food waste until compost is fully fermented.

If you decide to add seeds to your Bokashi bucket, prepare them in the same way you would for traditional composting. To neutralize the seeds, ferment organic waste and other food scraps for longer periods.

Alternatives to Composting Seeds

If you don’t have a home compost, consider sending or dropping off your seed waste at a composting center. Alternatively, use them to cultivate new plants.

Industrial Composting of Seeds

Large-scale commercial centers offer composting services to neighborhoods and businesses as an alternative to a traditional home compost system. These facilities are capable of maintaining hot temperatures, removing the risk of accidental sprouts in the compost. The finished compost is typically used in agriculture and various industries. 

Reach out to the nearest composting facility in your area to learn more about how they accept seed waste. Keep in mind — these types of facilities differ in their guidelines on accepting organic household wastes.

Upcycling Seeds

Spare seeds not more than a year old and stored in a cool, dry place, can be forwarded to food and shelter organizations and seed banks.

For instance, Slow Food USA® offers a Share a Seed program initiative wherein seed donations across the United States are accepted. The organization has local chapters such as Slow Food DC, Slow Food Denver, Slow Food Las Vegas, and Slow Food Springfield.

Support food resilience and give the gift of growing by heading to their page to learn more.

Feeding Seeds to Chickens and Livestock

Some seeds can be fed to chickens. For instance, soybean seeds can provide amino acids to your poultry, while sunflower seeds are excellent protein sources. Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but can affect the flavor of your hen’s eggs and darken the yolks.

You can mix moderate amounts of ground seeds in your chickens’ regular feed, but avoid chemically treated seeds to prevent health risks.

In a study, sunflower seed meal can increase the caloric energy of cows and consequently, boost their milk production.

Seed-feeding your livestock should be done carefully and moderately, however. Keep in mind that seeds alone will not cover all the nutritional needs of your animals.

Disposal Options for Seeds

If you cannot compost, or upcycle seeds at home, collect them in a nonbiodegradable bag and dispose of them in an appropriate waste bin.

What Seeds Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Discard seeds that are disease- and pest-infested to avoid contaminating your compost. Some of these diseases and critters can survive the composting process and possibly spread in your garden after the homemade compost is applied.

Carefully prepare seeds from invasive weeds before composting. If you’re unable to kill them prior to composting and fail to attain optimal temperatures during composting, you risk spreading the seeds in your compost and garden.

Omit chemically treated seeds, mainly if you aim for an entirely organic compost. Residues from herbicides and pesticides can leak into your compost and harm beneficial microorganisms. 

Safety and Precautions When Composting Seeds

Sustain ideal compost conditions and practice the best pile management guidelines when composting seed wastes.

Handle moldy seeds with care. Wear a protective mask and a pair of gloves, especially if you have preexisting immunity or respiratory problems. Some molds produce mycotoxins that can threaten your health. 

After composting activity, wash your hands over running water with soap.

FAQ How do I prevent seeds from sprouting in my compost pile?

Chopping, grinding, or pulverizing seeds will speed up their decomposition and prevent sprouting issues. You can also scorch seeds under the sun for 2 to 3 weeks, especially seeds from invasive weeds.

Can I compost salted seeds?

You can include salted seeds — like salted sunflower seeds — in your compost pile. However, do so in moderation as excessive salty seeds can throw off the pile’s salinity, potentially harming valuable microorganisms. Rinsing the salted seeds before composting can help wash away their salt content. In addition, rinsing will moisturize the seeds, aiding with decomposition.

What is the best compost method for seeds?

Hot composting is the best method when handling seeds. It generates enough heat to ensure immediate decomposition of seeds and minimize the likelihood of seedling sprouts. Hot piles should be anywhere between 130 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Originally published on Can I Compost Seeds?

© Insteading

Unusual Exotic Plants

Wed, 10/25/2023 - 18:00

“Did you know there’s a shrub in India that blooms once every 12 years?”

(My friend was sharing more gardening trivia.)

“I read about it somewhere,” I replied. “What’s it called?”

“The kurinji shrub. When it blossoms, the hillsides turn a bluish purple.”

“Must be a sight to behold.”

“Like that a plant that stinks like rotting flesh,” she added.

“The corpse flower?”

“20 years!”

There are a lot of exotic plants around the world, many of which have unusual growing patterns, certainly not like the predictable garden plants we know so well.

Plants That Take Forever to Bloom Maurício Mascaro//pexels
  • Queen of the NightPeniocereus greggii (called night-blooming cereus and deer horn cactus), this tuberous rooted cactus spends 364 days a year resembling a dead bush with stems up to an inch wide and a height up to 10 feet. It’s found in areas of western Texas, southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, but it does bloom for one night in the middle of the summer, and the waiting is well worth it. This brief spot of delicate beauty is a creamy white, trumpet-shaped flower that grows as much as 8 inches in diameter. The largest private collection of this plant is in Tohono Chul, Tucson, Arizona. The botanical museum hosts a bloom night every summer to allow visitors to view a one-night show of the Queen of the Night flower. Since this is an aromatic flower, the one-night display is for the olfactory senses as well as the visual. During its short blooming cycle, the flowers are pollinated by moths and bats. Though it only blooms once a year, the plant bears a dragon fruit about six times a year.
  • Corpse Flower – Amorphophallus titanum, aptly named because its epic, once in 8- to 20-year bloom, emanates a pungent odor not unlike that of rotting flesh. It may smell horrible, but there is a reason for this odor, as it attracts the carrion beetle, the plant’s primary pollinator. The plant is native to the rainforests of central Sumatra. Although its blooming cycle is far spread, when the flower does open, it’s a single, dark purple petal that spans 5 feet in width underneath a tall central stalk.
  • Century PlantAgave americana (century plant is a bit of a misnomer as it has nothing to do with the number of years it takes to bloom). Apparently, visitors to the Arid Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden believed the plant blossomed once every 100 years and that’s how it came to be known as the century plant. Native to desert areas, particularly in Mexico, Texas, and Southern California, the flower blooms usually between every 10 and 25 years. It’s a succulent that forms a rosette that stretches up to 10 feet in width with thick, grayish-green leaves topped with spines. The plant produces a single flower stalk at its base. The stalk itself grows up to 30 feet in height and produces greenish-yellow flowers when it blooms. Having thus expended all its energy to produce this massive collection of blooms and seeds, the plant dies with the flowers. There’s nothing else to do with the plant but dispose of it.
  • Kurinji ShrubStrobilanthes kunthiana is native to southern India. A tall, bushy shrub with reddish, hairless branches and 2-inch long, elliptical, leathery leaves, the plant blooms once every 12 years, painting the hillsides with a carpet of bluish-purple flowers. The leaves have excellent medicinal properties including treatment for acute respiratory inflammation, stomach ailments, rheumatism, and bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. It’s known to be anxiolytic, anti-diabetic, a laxative, anti-cancer, diuretic anti-arthritic, and anti-inflammatory. Interestingly, its reproductive, flowering stage is a survival mechanism. The massive sudden appearance of its flowers outnumbers feeding predators such as wildebeests. When it’s time to flower, the plant creates an ornamental sight to behold, beginning after the last phase of the monsoon — usually from August to November.
  • Talipot PalmCorypha umbraculifea are found in Sri Lanka and India. Imagine flowers that are 16 feet tall. Wow! The plant itself grows up to 80 feet in height, and with a trunk that can span 3 feet in diameter, it’s the largest palm in the world. This tropical plant can live for 80 years, but it only blooms once during its lifetime. The once-in-a-lifetime (literally) blooming period produces millions of flowers on a single stalk at the top of the trunk, and then, sadly, it dies. It has a practical use, as well. The sturdy leaves make great fans to ward off the oppressive heat. These leaves are used in thatched roofs.
  • Queen of the AndesPuya raimondii grows in Peru and Bolivia, and specifically, high in the Andes (about 12,000 feet above sea level). It’s another really tall plant that grows up to 50 feet in height. Remarkably, it boasts the tallest flower spike in the world. It also lives a long life up to 100 years. This plant will blossom just once, its stalk consisting of 30,000 individual, small flowers. Like the talipot palm, it dies after it blossoms.
  • Sheep EaterPuya chilensis is a native plant of Chile. This thorny plant traps sheep and birds that get too close. The trapped animals die from starvation, decaying at the base of the plant and providing a natural fertilizer. Up to 10 feet in height, its spiky leaves are a deathtrap for those with thick fur or feathers. It takes at least 11 years to bloom, but when it does the top of the plant fills with dozens of greenish-yellow flowers.
  • Giant Himalayan LilyCardiocrinum giganteum is another tall plant, up to 10 feet in height with a mass of glossy green leaves. It only blooms once in 4 to 7 years. Its massive white and purple flowers are trumpet-shaped, and again, this plant dies after it flowers. However, it does leave behind some smaller bulbs to make sure it will reappear.
Plants That Are Extremely Expensive

So many of these unusually exotic plants are extremely expensive. The queen of the night is one of these expensive plants because of its fragility and the fact that the flowers die as soon as they’re picked. The value of this plant and the kadupul flower is “priceless.” Also on the list of rare and expensive flowers is the Juliet rose which is valued at $15 million, the Shenzhen Nongke orchid at $200,000, the gold of Kinabalu orchid at $6,000 and the saffron crocus at $1,500.

There are many other expensive and rare plants, but this short list gives you an idea of the monetary value for some. It’s amazing what people may consider spending to showcase the rarest and showiest flowers of the world. For me, it’s enough to know about these fragile plants and hope that one day I might see them in their natural environment. It would be a crime (in my opinion at least) to transplant them.

Originally published on Unusual Exotic Plants

© Insteading

Can I Compost Pine Needles?

Tue, 10/24/2023 - 10:45
Table of Contents

Pine needles are generally compostable, but they may not work for some composters because they are slow to break down — even in optimal pile conditions. Also, there is a common misconception that pine needles can make compost too acidic. While fresh pine needles are in fact acidic, they become neutral over time once they fall off the pine branches and become incorporated in the soil.

Oxygen, moisture, and temperature are key factors in accelerating the decomposition rate of pine needles. Among composting techniques, the hot composting method can quickly transform pine needles into nutritious compost.

Aside from composting, you can apply a layer of pine needles over your garden soil as mulch — especially near acid-loving plants. 

Learn more about the challenges composting pine needle waste and some tricks to speed up their decomposition.

How to Compost Pine Needles

In moderate amounts, pine needles can boost the efficiency and nutrition of your compost, but inclusion of pine needles in your bin or pile requires some planning.

The needle-shaped leaves of evergreen pine trees are prevalent across the United States, making them essential fire starters during camping or barbecue activities. Pine needles have a waxy coating, protecting the leaves from harsh external elements. Consequently, this wax also slows the decomposition of pine needles — even in well-managed compost piles.

Experts from Oregon State University encourage limiting pine needles to 10% of the compost pile volume.

Fresh pine needles are acidic with a pH level of anywhere between 3.2 and 3.8, but they lose acidity once they fall from the tree and are composted properly. The resulting compost can be applied to your vegetable garden or flower beds without worry of acidifying the soil or plants.

Preparing Pine Needles for Composting

Inspect your pine needles and remove any nonbiodegradable materials. Separate pieces of rock or metal from your compostable pine needles as these elements won’t decompose like the rest of the organic materials.

Chop or cut your pine needles into smaller pieces. Doing this step will accelerate their decomposition, allowing composting microorganisms to reach the pine needles faster. Never overload the pile with pine needles to avoid slowing the decomposition of your compost. 

Fresh pine needles contain nitrogen, while dried pine needles are rich in carbon. With this in mind, combine and balance your chopped pine needles with other organic matter, adhering to the compost conditions below.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Pine Needles

Follow the ideal 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio when composting. Unlike other carbon materials, dried pine needles do not clump together. Carbon from dead leaves, dried grass clippings, shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg carton, untreated sawdust, and wood chips serves as an energy source for composting microorganisms.

In contrast, nitrogen aids with the development and growth of these valuable microorganisms. Common kitchen wastes like fruit scraps and vegetable trimmings, are excellent nitrogen sources. A balanced mix of carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials is advantageous to microorganisms, increasing the pile’s microbial action and efficiency.

Keep your compost wet, but not flooded. Moisture is necessary in organic decomposition. However, excess moisture — coupled with lack of oxygen — can set off anaerobic decomposition and putrid odors. Frequently check on the pile’s moisture levels, and add water only when necessary to avoid these issues.

If your compost bin or pile starts to leak liquids and emit bad smells, consider adding more dry, carbon-rich ingredients. They are highly effective at absorbing excess moisture. 

Lastly, keep your compost at a temperature anywhere between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This range can be accomplished through sustained microbial activity and proper oxygen supply. You can use a pitchfork or shovel to stir and turn your compost heap, significantly improving air circulation.

How Long Do Pine Needles Take to Compost?

Due to their waxy coating, pine needles take a longer time to decompose than most organic materials. Under ideal conditions, pine needles break down in just under a year. Cutting the pine needles will accelerate their decomposition.

Other factors that influence the pine needle decomposition rate include moisture, oxygen, and a balanced mix of carbon- and nitrogen-rich ingredients.

How Pine Needles Affect the Composting Process

While composting pine needles can be challenging, it is beneficial because they supply either carbon or nitrogen, thus supporting the microbial action in the pile. 

Be aware, though, that fresh pine needles have higher acidity. Overloading your compost pile with them can damage beneficial microorganisms.

Impact on Decomposition

Due to their resinous nature, pine needles take a significant amount of time to decompose. If you need compost right away, it is better to skip the pine needles. They could linger in the compost for an extended period.

Microbial Activity

Depending on their state, pine needles contribute carbon or nitrogen to your compost heap. Both elements are essential for healthy microbial action and growth, but avoid large amounts of fresh pine needles as they are acidic.

Temperature and Moisture

Pine needles do not clump or compact during decomposition. Oxygen can freely flow in and out of your compost bin or pile, raising its internal temperature. When hot composting pine needles, aim for the temperature range of between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At these high temperatures, pine needles decompose noticeably faster.

Composting pine needles adds minimal moisture to your compost bin or pile. You can prevent liquid build-up by maintaining a balanced mix of brown and green materials and turning your pine needle compost frequently.

Potential Issues With Composting Pine Needles

Some composters may find the slow decomposition rate of pine needles unhelpful, especially if you urgently need compost. Additionally, the acidic pH level of fresh pine needles is a potential concern during composting.

Will Pine Needles Make Compost More Acidic?

Incorporating small quantities of pine needles will not throw off your compost pH balance. Pine needles, though highly acidic when fresh, become neutral after falling from the tree. To protect composting microorganisms from overly acidic conditions, do not overload your compost pile with fresh pine needles.

The finished compost will not acidify your garden soil and plants when applied. 

Will Composting Pine Needles Attract Pests?

Pine needles don’t attract pests in a well-managed compost pile.

Be cautious with pine needles that are already infested with pests, as some of these critters can survive the composting process and wreak havoc in your bin or pile. Explore other disposal options for pest-infested pine needles — away from your vegetable garden and flower beds to prevent accidental spread.

Will Composting Pine Needles Cause Odors?

Under optimal compost conditions, pine needles do not typically cause unpleasant smells.

Nevertheless, mismanagement of your compost can lead to anaerobic decomposition of other organic compost materials. Excess fluids and lack of oxygen can trigger this condition, prompting putrid odors. Minimize this issue by adding dry, brown materials to your compost and turning the pile for improved air circulation.

Methods for Compost Pine Needles

Some composting methods can process pine needles faster. When building your compost bin or pile, always carry out best management practices to ensure a nutrient-rich compost.

Hot Composting

You can include small amounts of pine needles in your hot compost pile. This method “cooks” organic waste and speeds up decay due to the sustained activity of composting microorganisms. While a hot pile provides compost faster, it does require considerable effort to maintain temperatures of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For best results, monitor the pile’s internal temperature, and turn the compost regularly when hot composting.

Proper air circulation and a balanced combination of compost materials are crucial. Mismanagement of hot piles can lead to slow decomposition of pine needles. 

Cold Composting

If you’re a first-time composter, you may want to start cold composting pine needles; cold compost piles require minimal maintenance during decomposition. Pine needles, alongside other organic matter, will break down via naturally occurring microbes, insects, and other external elements. 

Due to the lack of heat, however, cold piles take a longer time to produce finished compost. Stick to the 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio, and keep the cold pile moist to enhance its efficiency.

Vermicomposting

Adding pine needles to your worm bin is not entirely safe.

Pine needles contain terpenes (responsible for pine’s distinct odor), and hexane (which can be toxic to worms). Furthermore, the pine needles’ waxy coating and fibrous nature prevent red wigglers from easily accessing organic waste in the needles.

Also, the worms are sensitive to acidic, fresh pine needles. 

Bokashi Composting

Because they are difficult to break down, pine needles are commonly discarded by Bokashi composters. Fermenting microbes from the Bokashi bran primarily thrive on carbohydrates and proteins found in organic food wastes. 

You can still add a very few pine needles to your Bokashi bucket, but keep in mind they provide limited nutrients needed by valuable fermenting microbes.

Alternatives to Composting Pine Needles

Aside from composting, other sustainable methods should be considered for pine needle waste. Dumping them in landfills should be the last option.

Industrial Composting of Pine Needles

Commercial composting centers help in reducing landfill waste by transforming organic matter into compost for agricultural and industrial use. These facilities operate at high temperatures, effectively breaking down pine needles faster.

Contact your local composting facility to learn more on how they accept pine needle waste. Guidelines vary depending on your location. 

Upcycling Pine Needles

You can make use of pine needles in various craft projects, apply them to your garden soil as mulch, or use them for livestock bedding.

Pine Needles as Fire Starter

Keep your home or campsite warm with this easy-to-make pine needle fire starter.

Simply put your dried pine needles in a cardboard- or paper-based egg carton. Pour your choice of wax into the cups and allow the wax to cool and harden. Cut the cups apart and use the starters to enjoy the warmth of your fireplace.

Pine Needles as Closet and Drawer Fresheners

Known for its fresh and woody fragrance, pine needles can be stuffed in fabric sachets alongside other organic herbs like eucalyptus, tansy, and wormwood. These homemade sachet fresheners are an excellent alternative to commercially-made mothballs.

The scent from these herbs will eliminate any nasty odors from your closet or drawer, while keeping your clothes fresh-smelling.

Pine Needles as Mulch

Pine needles can be used as mulch and as an acidifying agent for acid-loving plants such as azaleas, blueberries, and rhododendrons. To use pine needles as mulch, just spread them around your plants, limiting the pine needle layer to 1 to 2 inches.

If you want your garden to be fully organic, do not use chemically treated pine needles.

Pine Needles as Livestock Bedding

You can combine pine needles with other bedding materials for your livestock. The pine scent from the needles will keep your barn, coop, and stable smelling like the woods. 

Feeding Pine Needles to Chickens and Livestock

Goats and chickens can be fed small amounts of fresh pine needles. They should be introduced to their diets gradually, and mixed with other food sources. Pine needles have antioxidants beneficial to animal growth.

You should be more cautious with pine needles from yew pine trees, because those can be toxic to chickens even in small amounts.

Small amounts of ponderosa pine needles are fine to feed to your cattle. However, do not give them to pregnant cattle (and bison) as pine needles have been linked to premature birth of calves and other birth complications.

Disposal Options for Pine Needles

If none of the options are feasible, dispose of your pine needles in an appropriate waste bin.

What Pine Needles Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Avoid putting pine needles that are diseased or infested with pests in your compost heap, so they don’t spread to your garden.

Chemically treated pine needles should be discarded to protect your composting microorganisms from potential toxins. If you’re aiming for purely organic compost, these treated pine needles should be omitted.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Pine Needles

For efficient and safe transformation of pine needles to nutrient-rich compost, closely maintain the optimal pile conditions and apply best practices in pile management. 

After composting activity, wash your hands with running water and soap.

FAQ Are pine needles good for compost?

Although they are difficult to break down, pine needles do not compact (unlike some carbon-rich brown materials), thus improving the compost pile’s air circulation.

How can I speed up the decomposition of pine needles in compost?

Cut or shred your pine needles in small pieces to accelerate their decomposition. Always stick to best compost conditions and managed practices to increase the efficiency of your bin or pile in processing tougher compost materials like pine needles. 

Can diseased pine needles be composted?

Diseased pine needles are not good compost material because viruses and pathogens can survive the composting process and spread in your bin or pile. Explore other disposal options for diseased pine needles.

Originally published on Can I Compost Pine Needles?

© Insteading

Can I Compost Flowers?

Sat, 10/21/2023 - 13:50
Table of Contents

Some flowers are compostable, but others should be disposed of elsewhere to prevent a possible spread of disease, toxins, pests, and poisons in the compost pile. When composting, use healthy flowers free from chemical treatments.

Flowers are excellent sources of either carbon or nitrogen, depending on their state.

Methods suitable to handle flower wastes include cold composting, hot composting, and vermicomposting. Although you can still incorporate pieces of flowers in a Bokashi system, they would contribute small amounts of nutrients to the fermenting microbes.

And landfills should be the last place fresh flowers end up when you can display waxed flowers in a vase, or hang pressed flowers on the wall to beautify a space.

Learn valuable tips and tricks when composting flowers and explore diverse options for the sustainable use of flowers below.

How to Compost Flowers

Flowers make lovely gifts for many of life’s occasions. However, a bouquet of flowers, such as those given on Valentine’s Day, will eventually wither and lose its beauty and fragrance. Rather than discarding the flowers and contributing to landfill waste and carbon footprint, consider composting them with other organic wastes.

Fresh flowers contain nitrogen that is beneficial for composting organisms. Hand dried or dead flowers should be treated as carbon-rich brown ingredients.

Preparing Flowers for Composting

General composting guidelines can be applied when composting flowers.

Collect your flowers and inspect for any nonbiodegradable components. Remove ribbons, tags, and wiring that will not break down with the rest of the organic matter.

Ensure the compostable flowers are disease- and pest-free to maintain a healthy compost. Certain bacteria, pathogens, and critters can survive the composting process and contaminate your vegetable garden or flower bed once the resulting compost is applied.

Some commercial flowers are treated with chemical-based biocide or synthetic preservatives. Chemical residues from these store-bought flowers can leak into your compost, harm beneficial microorganisms, and impede proper decomposition. 

Garden flowers treated with homemade and organic preservatives (such as lemon and sugar) are more suitable for composting.

Be aware — bulbs and rhizomes from spring-blooming flowers such as hyacinths and tulips, can take two years to decompose in well-managed piles. If you would still like to add the flower bulbs and rhizomes, shred them first to accelerate decomposition. New plants are likely to grow in your compost out of whole bulbs.

Thorny stems from roses can be a safety hazard. Since they take time to decompose, the thorns remain in the compost and may pierce your skin when the compost is dug, touched, or stepped on. Cut thorny stems into small pieces to speed up their decomposition, and use a pair of gloves before touching your compost.

Shred or chop your flowers — including the petals and stems — before incorporating them in your compost bin or pile. As discussed earlier, fresh flowers should be treated as nitrogen-rich green compost materials, while dried flowers should be considered carbon-rich brown materials.

With this in mind, mix your chopped flowers with other organic materials and aim for the optimal compost conditions.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Flowers

When layering compost materials, follow the ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30 parts carbon to every 1 part of nitrogen. Carbon materials like dead leaves, shredded cardboard, newspaper, egg carton, untreated sawdust, and wood chips serve as an energy source for composting microorganisms. Nitrogen materials like fruit scraps and vegetable trimmings boost the development and growth of the pile’s microorganisms.

A balanced mix of these materials increases the efficiency and microbial activity of your compost bin or pile.

Monitor the pile’s moisture levels to avoid anaerobic decomposition. Keep your compost wet, but not flooded. If a compost pile isn’t turned frequently, excess water can create anaerobic conditions leading to unpleasant smells. You can counter this by adding dry carbon materials to absorb the excess moisture. Frequently turn your compost pile to improve air flow and allow oxygen to reach cramped areas in the pile.

Continuous microbial activity will heat up compost. Hot piles should have temperatures anywhere between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a backyard pitchfork or shovel to turn your compost pile for better aeration. An outdoor thermometer may also be handy to check the pile’s internal temperature.

For the best compost quality, maintain these conditions. 

How Long Do Flowers Take to Compost?

In a well-managed compost pile, flowers take less than 6 to 12 months to completely break down into finished compost. The rate of decomposition for organic materials and the efficiency of your compost pile depends on the availability of air, heat, and moisture.

How Flowers Affect the Composting Process

As an organic matter, flowers can positively influence your composting activity, encouraging valuable microbial activity.

Impact on Decomposition

In a well-managed compost pile, the softer parts of flowers, particularly petals and sepals, decompose easily. Fibrous parts like stems (particularly woody ones), bulbs, and rhizomes from flowering plants take longer to break down. You can speed up their decomposition by chopping or shredding them into smaller pieces.

Nitrogen from fresh flowers and carbon from dead flowers are essential to produce a conducive environment for microbial development and activity.

Microbial Activity

The 30:1 ratio of carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials stimulates healthy microbial activity within your compost heap. Flowers can provide both elements — depending on their state.

To protect beneficial microorganisms from hazardous toxins, avoid using chemically treated flowers and do not include any nonbiodegradable materials.

Temperature and Moisture

If you have a hot pile, aim for a temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Sustained microbial activity in your flower compost usually raises its internal temperature. This range can break down organic wastes faster.

Inclusion of flowers can further aid your compost’s microbial activity. 

On the one hand, flowers add minimal moisture. On the other, only add water when necessary. Avoid overflowing the pile with liquids to prevent anaerobic decomposition.

Potential Issues With Composting Flowers

Potential issues in flowers include vermin introduction from pest-infested flowers, and disease contamination from infected flowers. These issues can be easily minimized with proper preparation of flowers.

Other composting problems during decomposition like attraction of other pests and rancid odors, do not usually come from flowers alone. 

Will Composting Flowers Attract Pests?

Composting healthy flowers does not usually attract pests. Flowers that were initially infested with pests, however, should be handled with care. The existing pests can resist the composting process.

Infested flowers should be disposed of elsewhere — preferably away from your plants or garden — to avoid accidental spreads.

Will Composting Flowers Cause Odors?

Under normal conditions, flowers do not produce foul smells.

Excess moisture and lack of oxygen can incite anaerobic decomposition of the organic matter, which consequently triggers unpleasant smells. To avoid this issue, always adhere to the ideal compost conditions and best compost management practices.

Methods for Composting Flowers

Most composting methods are suitable for flowers. Whether you opt for a traditional home compost heap — hot or cold — or build a vermicompost system, flowers will contribute essential nutrients to the finished compost.

Hot Composting

Hot piles can efficiently convert flowers into nutritious compost. This method involves composting microorganisms, their sustained activity, and consequent heat in breaking down organic wastes faster. Oxygen and a good mix of carbon- and nitrogen-rich compost materials are crucial to the success of hot composting.

Among other techniques, hot composting yields finish compost faster but may not be for everyone. Some first-time composters find hot piles challenging to maintain. Regular temperature checks and frequent turning are necessary to ensure the best compost quality with this method.

To start hot composting, cut or shred your compostable flower scraps and mix them with other organic materials. Stick to a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Layer these materials into your bin or pile, aiming for a temperature range of 90 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cold Composting

For composters who seek an effortless method, cold composting might be the answer.

Flowers and other organic wastes will decompose with nature’s help. Microbes, insects, and other environmental elements will kickstart the decomposition of your flowers. With minimal to no human intervention, a cold pile takes significant time to process compost due to its lack of heat.

Pro-tip: Closely follow the 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio for your cold compost materials. Keeping the cold pile mildly wet and not overly soaked, will increase the pile’s efficiency.

Be cautious when cold composting flowers with seeds in them, such as Amish cockscomb, purple coneflower, radio calendula, vining petunia, and zinnia. Because cold piles don’t heat up, these seeds may unexpectedly sprout.

Vermicomposting

You can feed plant trimmings like flowers to your red wigglers, but do so with caution.

Check whether your flowers are poisonous. You should never add flower petals from azaleas, buttercups, nightshades, or rhododendrons to your worm bin. These flowers contain toxins that can harm worms. Also, keep your worm farm safe by avoiding chemically treated flowers that may carry harmful herbicides or pesticides. 

You can safely vermicompost petals from daisies, roses, and tulips. Just chop the flowers into smaller pieces and introduce them gradually to the worms’ diet. To keep your worm farm healthy, make sure you provide other food sources.

The resulting worm castings can be applied to elevate the nourishment of your garden soil.

Bokashi Composting

Some Bokashi composters discourage the inclusion of flowers to a Bokashi bucket. The flowers provide small amounts of nutrients for fermenting microbes from the Bokashi bran inoculant. You can still add them, but note that they take up precious space more suitable for food scraps.

Alternatives to Composting Flowers

If you cannot compost at home, other sustainable options are available for flower scraps. You can give them a second life through upcycling or send them to facilities where they are processed for agricultural and industrial use.

Industrial Composting of Flowers

Large-scale composting centers accept household and yard waste for processing. These centers operate at high temperatures, hot enough to handle commercially compostable materials. Every center has varying guidelines on how they accept organic wastes.

Contact your nearest composting facility to learn more.

Upcycling Flowers

There are creative projects that make use of your leftover or disposable flowers. For instance, Alpha Foodie uses rose petals in their homemade rose petal jam. The sweet, aromatic flavor of the rose petals pairs well with croissants, ice creams, and pancakes.

When dried, flowers are fun for crafts, too! Consider the options below before sending them to landfills.

Pressed Flowers

A great way to preserve flowers is through pressing. Flat flowers such as daisies, and violets are best for this process. You can press the flowers between the absorbent pages of a book for up to ten days (this method is easiest).

You can also press your flowers using an iron, a microwave, or a specialized flower press machine. 

For more tips and tricks on this craft, head over to Funny How Flowers Do That, where they also elaborate how to display the pressed flowers beautifully.

Waxed Flowers

Another preservation method of flowers is waxing. The resulting waxed flowers can be given as gifts that will last longer than fresh ones. Flowers in full bloom are suitable for waxing. Simply melt your wax of choice in a pot — beeswax or soybean wax are great organic options — and dip your flowers until completely covered.

You can continually dip the flowers for at least 20 minutes. Hold the flowers until dry. Place a scrap paper below that will catch the excess wax drips from the petals. 

Flowers in Candlemaking

If you’re into do-it-yourself candlemaking, you can use flower scraps to beautify your finished candles. Add color and elegance to your jars by arranging the flowers to your taste. Pour the white, melted wax and add the wick. Allow it to set and you have a homemade, flowery candle. 

Flowers with aromatherapeutic properties like lavender are suitable for this project.

Feeding Flowers to Chickens and Livestock

Many flowers can be safely fed to chickens: dandelions, squash blossoms, sunflowers, and violets. Nasturtium flowers can also act as an organic dewormer for chickens, while calendula and marigold blossoms make egg yolks bright to orange yellow

When feeding flowers to your poultry, avoid poisonous flowers and provide other food sources to maintain a healthier flock.

Due to fatal health risks, some experts discourage feeding cows with wild flowers, like lantana, yellow top, or yellow jasmine. 

Gorse, nettle, rushes, and thistle are beneficial to sheep’s diet

As a general rule, feed your livestock with flowers free from chemicals, diseases, and pests. Always offer other types of food to their diet for more robust health. 

Disposal Options for Flowers

As a final option, gather your flower scraps and dispose of them in an appropriate bin.

What Flowers Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Discard flowers that have been diseased or infected with pests to avoid spreading them in your compost pile.

Additionally, it’s best to omit chemically treated flowers to safeguard composting microorganisms from toxic chemicals. Especially if you’re aiming for a purely organic compost.

Poisonous plants are tricky to compost. The composting process commonly dilutes and eliminates any toxin from the flowers, preventing the spread in your garden. Unfortunately, this is not always the case because some toxins resist decomposition. If you’re feeling unsure and toxins in your compost worries you, avoid poisonous flowers and seek other sustainable alternatives.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Flowers

Maintain ideal composting conditions and carry out the best practices on pile management to efficiently and safely transform flowers into a nutrient-rich compost. 

Handle moldy flowers with extra care. Wear a face mask and a pair of gloves before composting these flowers to minimize health risks, especially if you have existing immunity or respiratory problems.

FAQ Can I compost tulips?

Tulips are fine to compost as long as you prepare them correctly. The tulip bulbs, petals, and stems should be chopped into small, manageable pieces to accelerate their decomposition. Doing this step will also prevent the bulbs from sprouting new tulip plants.

How can I produce compost out of dried flowers?

Dried flowers contain carbon that fuels composting microorganisms with energy. Simply chop or shred the dried flowers and mix them with other carbon-rich brown materials. Offset the carbon with materials rich in nitrogen like coffee grounds, fruit trimmings, and vegetable scraps. Layer these materials in a bin or pile, and maintain optimal compost conditions.

Are rose thorns compostable?

Rose thorns can be composted, but they are more difficult to break down than the rose flowers. Some composters opt not to add them in the pile due to safety concerns. The thorns can possibly poke anyone who touches or steps on the compost without protection.

Originally published on Can I Compost Flowers?

© Insteading

Can I Compost Garlic?

Fri, 10/20/2023 - 14:25
Table of Contents

Garlic scraps are fine to compost as they provide calcium, nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Inclusion of garlic should be in moderation, however. Large quantities of certain garlic compounds can harm beneficial microbes in your compost and garden soil, and while the natural smell of garlic can drive away pests such as rodents and raccoons, garlic cooked with dairy, meat, or oil can attract these uninvited critters.

Most compost systems are suitable for processing garlic into compost. Worm bins are less ideal because worms are sensitive to organic matter with strong smells.

Aside from composting, you can make an organic pesticide out of garlic scraps.

How to Compost Garlic

General composting guidelines are applicable to garlic wastes. They degrade over time just like other organic wastes. Either fresh or old garlic can be added to your compost, regardless of the plant part. You can incorporate garlic cloves, peels, skins, and scalps into your compost bin or pile without worry. 

You can also compost plain, steamed garlic, but be cautious when composting garlic cooked with dairy, meat, preservatives, oil, or other foods. These could negatively affect your composting process, make the pile smell, and slow down decomposition.

Such issues are more likely to occur in mismanaged traditional home compost.

Preparing Garlic for Composting

Gather your garlic scraps and inspect for any nonbiodegradable stickers or tags. Chemicals from these labels can leak into your compost, and potentially harm beneficial microorganisms. In addition, most of these labels contain vinyl and a layer of plastic that won’t decompose even in well-managed compost piles. 

When introducing garlic scraps to your compost, chop them first. Doing this step will help accelerate their decomposition. Be aware — adding whole bulbs can lead to unintended garlic sprout in compost. For good compost quality, always chop or cut your garlic waste into smaller pieces. 

Most composting systems efficiently transform garlic peels into healthy compost. Thanks to their thin, paper-like texture, the peels decompose faster than other parts of the garlic. These peels, which cover the entire exterior of the garlic bulb, rarely release any garlicky odors.

On the other hand, the garlic skins that shield the cloves are slightly more fibrous than the peels and release a stronger garlic smell. Remember to cut them before adding to your compost.

During their decomposition, garlic cloves emit sulfur gas that can harm composting agents, such as worms. For this reason, some composters or gardeners opt not to add garlic to their bin or pile. Rather, whole cloves are utilized for regrowing in their garden.

Nevertheless, if you’re operating a closed composting system, hot or cold and not reliant on worms, it’s perfectly fine to add chopped garlic cloves. Open compost piles may also benefit from the strong odor of garlic cloves as their smells can deter pests like raccoons, rodents, and skunks.

As mentioned, cooked garlic is fine to compost, as long as it is not contaminated with animal products, preservatives, or oils. Cooked leftovers such as garlic bread, garlic broth, garlic confit, garlic parmesan pasta, and garlic rice can significantly impact your composting process, potentially attract problematic pests, and impede proper decomposition in most home compost piles.

Bokashi composting is more suitable for handling cooked leftovers, including dishes with garlic.

Optimal Composting Conditions for Garlic

Consider garlic scraps as nitrogen-rich green compost ingredients.

Successful composting requires a balanced mix of carbon and nitrogen materials. This mixture creates good conditions for composting microorganisms. Therefore, when composting garlic, try to aim for the perfect balance of 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. 

Carbon can be found in yard and industrial waste like dead leaves, dried grass clippings, shredded brown cardboard, and untreated wood chips. For excellent nitrogen materials, consider your other kitchen waste like fruit trimmings and vegetable scraps. In the composting process, carbon provides an energy source for microorganisms, while nitrogen stimulates their development and growth. 

It’s essential to keep your compost moist but not soggy. The pile should be neither too dry nor overly wet. While moisture is critical for successful decomposition, excessive moisture may cause anaerobic decomposition, particularly in unturned piles. 

If your compost heap becomes overly wet, add more brown materials and turn the pile to enhance airflow. 

Sustained microbial activity will produce heat, and raise the pile’s internal temperature. A hot pile should be between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You may use a pitchfork or a shovel when turning the pile and a backyard thermometer for temperature checks.

By maintaining these optimal conditions, you’ll be able to turn your garlic scraps into a nutritious soil amendment for your vegetable garden and flower beds.

How Long Does Garlic Take to Compost?

Proper preparation helps garlic decompose quickly in a well-managed pile. The decomposition rate of garlic depends on the mixture of brown and green materials, the availability of moisture, oxygen, and temperature. Typically, finished compost can be ready in as little as three weeks.

How Garlic Affects the Composting Process

Nitrogen in garlic scraps improves the development and growth of composting microorganisms in the pile. Although they are small, the garlic cloves contribute some moisture. 

Impact on Decomposition

You can add small amounts of garlic scraps to a regular compost pile at home, but don’t overload. Garlic is known to have allicin, ajoene, and other aliphatic sulfides that slow down microbial activity of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Garlic’s antimicrobial properties can slow down the overall decomposition of your compost pile.

Other garlic parts like the peels and skins pose no problem. After shredding, you can easily incorporate them into your compost bin or pile.

Microbial Activity

As a green compost material, nitrogen from garlic promotes the development and growth of beneficial microorganisms, but other compounds in the cloves can counter these microorganisms. To maintain healthy microbial activity in your compost pile, add other nitrogen-rich materials such as bananas, coffee grounds, or fresh grass clippings.

Remove any nonbiodegradable labels or tags to safeguard your composting microorganisms from toxic chemicals. 

Temperature and Moisture

The microbial activity in your garlic compost heats up your compost pile’s temperature. Hot piles should have an internal temperature anywhere between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This range increases the pile’s efficiency to break down organic matter.

Always remember to keep your compost moist, but not flooded. Monitor the pile’s moisture level to prevent anaerobic decomposition that will further contribute to foul smells.

If you notice excessive liquids in your bin or pile, simply incorporate more carbon materials and turn the pile frequently to improve aeration. 

Potential Issues With Composting Garlic

Garlic is known for its strong, pungent smell that can impact your composting activity.

Will Composting Garlic Attract Pests?

Composting garlic scraps does not usually attract pests. In fact, raw garlic works well as a garden pest repellent because of its strong scent. Apart from raccoons, rodents, and skunks, garlic can deter aphids, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, and slugs. 

Keep in mind that cooked garlic contaminated with other food items, can attract pests.

Will Composting Garlic Cause Odors?

Garlic naturally gives off a strong odor. To avoid additional smells stemming from anaerobic conditions, always maintain optimal compost conditions.

Methods for Composting Garlic

Certain methods are more effective for transforming garlic waste into nutrient-rich compost. For instance, worms in vermicompost systems will avoid garlic due to their smells, while Bokashi composting can safely process food scraps cooked with garlic.

Hot Composting

You can safely add garlic scraps to hot piles as nitrogen-rich green materials. The heat generated by active composting microorganisms helps “cook” the organic waste, producing finished compost faster. However, hot composting might not suit all composters as it demands more maintenance.

Both heat and oxygen play crucial roles in hot compost piles. To check the temperature, you can use a long-stemmed backyard thermometer. The pile’s internal temperature should ideally range between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. To improve airflow, use a pitchfork or a shovel when turning your compost pile.

For best results, bury chopped garlic scraps deep in the center of a hot pile, where the heat is most intense.

Cold Composting

Cold composting is a more relaxed approach that relies heavily on bacteria, fungi, insects, and other elements to decompose organic wastes.

Adding small amounts of garlic can stimulate microbial development in cold piles. Add them in small quantities because garlic contains compounds that can impede the growth of these beneficial microbes.

Cold piles are suitable for first-time composters as they require little to no human intervention during the decomposition period. Without heat though, cold piles take a significant amount of time to produce a finished compost. 

To ensure successful cold composting, chop your garlic scraps into small pieces and maintain a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. Always monitor the moisture levels to avoid aerobic decomposition of organic materials.

Vermicomposting

Most vermicomposters discourage the addition of garlic scraps and other alliums (such as onions) in worm bins.

Worms are sensitive creatures that shy away from foods with strong smells. Garlic scraps can also release sulfur gas as they decompose, which may irritate the worms and disrupt the efficiency of your vermicompost system.

You may try to add small amounts of garlic — together with other food sources and worm bedding materials — and see how your worm farm reacts. Do this with caution. Usually, worms avoid garlic until it disintegrates in the bin so it’s best to exclude garlic.

Bokashi Composting

Bokashi bins are able to handle unconventional garlic scraps contaminated with other food items. Originating from Japan and Korea, the Bokashi technique involves the use of a specialized Bokashi bran to kickstart the fermentation of food waste in a sealed Bokashi bin.

Unlike other techniques, fermenting microbes from the Bokashi bran thrive in anaerobic environments and feed on the carbohydrates and proteins found in food scraps.

Due to its compact size, the Bokashi bin is perfect for composters with limited garden space.

Alternatives to Composting Garlic

Let’s face it — composting is not for everyone. Here are excellent composting alternatives you should consider before sending away your garlic scraps to landfills.

Industrial Composting of Garlic

Local industrial composting facilities accept household wastes, including garlic scraps. They operate at high temperatures to create compost suitable for agricultural and industrial use. These facilities offer drop-off options and curbside pickups.

Contact your nearest composting facility to learn their guidelines for accepting kitchen wastes such as garlic scraps.

Upcycling Garlic

Aside from their countless kitchen uses, garlic has beneficial compounds potent enough to deter vermin and free your garden plants from fungus. Garlic tea is an excellent eco-friendly alternative to herbicides and pesticides that may leave chemical residues in your garden.

Garlic Tea Recipe for Plants

Blend your leftover garlic cloves, peels, and skins with at least two cups of water until smooth. Store this mixture in an airtight container and let it sit for a day. After it’s ready, strain the garlic tea and use the clear liquid on your plants or soil.

The garlic tea can be applied on plants to repel aphids, bean beetles, cabbage worms, potato beetles, spider mites, and termites. For infected plants, spray the garlic tea on the infected leaves once every week. Also, apply the garlic spray weekly on fungus- and nematode-infested soil.

For prevention, apply the garlic tea once every two weeks to both your plants and garden soil. When applied more often than that, garlic can eliminate the valuable microbes in the soil.

Feeding Garlic to Chickens and Livestock

Small amounts of chopped or crushed raw garlic can be fed to your backyard chickens. Nourishment from garlic scraps stimulates a chicken’s immune system and surprisingly, can mask the strong smell of chicken wastes. When feeding, provide standard feed sources to your poultry.

Take note — raw garlic has higher allicin content that can benefit most animals.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) encourages the addition of crushed raw garlic to cattle diet due to the antimicrobial, antioxidant, and immune-boosting benefits found in allicin.

Cats and dogs are not suitable for garlic feeding. The allium plant family contains thiosulfate that is toxic to dogs. Thiosulfate from garlic (and onions too!) can damage red blood cells in dogs, causing hemolytic anemia.

Note: Garlic is toxic to cats, prompting symptoms such as drooling, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, and weakness.

Disposal Options for Garlic

If composting and other alternatives are unavailable, gather your garlic scraps and dispose of them in an appropriate waste bin.

What Garlic Shouldn’t Be Composted?

Omit garlic scraps infested with diseases and pests. Dangerous critters, pathogens, and viruses can persist in the resulting compost and potentially leak into your vegetable garden or flower beds. Safely dispose of the affected garlic, and do so away from your healthy plants.

To maintain purely organic compost, avoid including garlic treated with synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, or other unnatural treatments.

Be aware — garlic cooked with dairy products, meat, preservatives, and oil can trigger composting problems like pest problems, unpleasant smells, and slow decomposition in traditional home compost systems. For these organic items, consider Bokashi composting to safely turn them into finished compost.

Safety and Precautions When Composting Garlic

Maintain optimal compost conditions when processing garlic and other organic wastes. By removing nonbiodegradable tags from your garlic waste, you can protect beneficial microorganisms from harmful chemicals. For quality compost, only add small amounts of garlic to your bin or pile.

Handle moldy or rotten garlic carefully. Determine if these impurities are caused by a disease before adding them to your compost. Wear a face mask and a pair of gloves to minimize health risks, especially for composters with pre-existing immunity and respiratory problems.

After composting activity, wash your hands with soap and running water.

FAQ Can worms consume garlic cloves?

Usually, it’s not recommended to add garlic to a worm bin, especially if it’s new or small. Worms are sensitive to foods with strong smells like garlic. You could try adding small amounts of garlic scraps and observe how the worms respond. Usually, they’ll avoid the garlic until it has broken down. Another reason to steer clear of garlic when vermicomposting is because it emits sulfur gas during decomposition. This can give off foul odors, potentially irritating the worms and interfering with your vermicompost system.

Can I compost garlic bread?

Garlic bread is technically compostable. However, like other bread products, it contains dairy and oils that can trigger common composting issues such as problematic pests, and putrid smells. These issues are more likely in open home compost piles using traditional compost techniques. Bokashi composting is a better way to handle garlic bread.

Can I compost garlic skins?

Garlic skins are fibrous additions to your compost. When shredded, they break down over time, releasing critical nutrients like calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. As organic fertilizers, garlic peels and skins promote continuous growth and improve disease resistance in plants.

Originally published on Can I Compost Garlic?

© Insteading

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