STARTING THE GARDEN. THE NEED FOR GREAT SOIL

You can spend a million on plants, trees, bushes, flowers but even the least of your newly sown seeds won't grow unless the soil is like a fragrant black humus and TRUST ME, you cannot afford to buy soil at 8$ a bag. Cuz you'd need hundreds of bags of it.

You want to have the best soil, make compost. The only alternative is the local MUSHROOM PRODUCER (visible on the boxes at the market,) whom you call up and  ask for his 'spoor' and to borrow his pick up truck to deliver it. 150$ later, you will have a TON TRUCK LOAD of the best soil in the world in your driveway and
bucket by bucket you and the kids will carry it to every bed and plant in the garden.

But listen to the voice of experience, if you're willing to go slowly, COMPOST can be FREE. You make your own and guess what? It is easy to make! Everyone has garbage and they put it out at night in their GREEN CAN. (In L.A. Blue is recyclables, Black is garbage but Green can is garden waste as the city composts it, but you can grab their can, wheel it up your driveway and dump it.)

Your kitchen produces a pound of green trash daily. Put a big coffee cup, the TWO CUP size on sink and every tomato rind, orange rind, coffee grind goes in it. Twice a day that garbage goes out onto a discreet little pile near the kitchen door. You bury that day's treasure with a shovel full of that soil at day's end.

Reserve several empty corners of the front and back garden for another few, little piles where you put all the Spring weeds you yank, Autumn plant waste there, leaves, slender branches even.

Last in the driveway, that strip at the far side of your land is going to be a compost pile. We place it near the curb as you are going to pick up your neighbor's green trash on trash night. Wheel it down driveway to that spot there. (It is easier to use your driveway strip for a compost pile. Accessible to neighbor's trash barrels at midnight. I put my compost pile alongside driveway, by neighbor's fence, just on my side. It looked like a 6 x 30 pile of leaves, nothing ugly.At midnight the sound of me wheeling their barrels to my strip.

SOURCES FOR COMPOST: Leaf piles  in the street. Keep some black plastic trash bags in the hatchback of car with a broken off shovel. Always save these for when you drive around and see compostables. People always leave bags of leaves by the sidewalk in Autumn. Pine Trees line one street, their needles all fall in Summer. I come along with my broken off shovel and a lot of black bags.

UNUSUAL SOURCE for COMPOST discovered by my net pal KEIRA: "Anita, check this out! my girlfriend and I ran around Hollywood one day on the scooter going to Starbucks and Coffee Cup stores. Guess what? We picked up 3 huge bags of coffee grinds that are disposed of after the espresso shots have been made.We took them to a friend in the Hollywood Hills because she's been using the grinds to cover the premises of  her property and apparently not only does it smell and look really cool, but her plants are completely thriving off of this!  The coffee swilling worms just about throw kick punches at me when I'm digging in the garden!!!! " Keira.  GOOD IDEA. One I hadn't thought of. We all know coffee beans are nitrogenous and they are acidic like pine needles one of the finest composts available.

PINE TREES - Know of a stand of pine trees? Bring a trowel and scrape off the top layer of soil. When you prune pines, bury the branches in a pile of dirt. Months later, pull the tree part of the branches out.

CHICKEN RANCHES - I tracked down the egg supplier for WHOLE FOODS in L.A. He had a few acres ot a mile from my house. This is the richest poop in the world. He gave me my choice of fresh or composted. You have to bring your own pails so save those 5 gallon paint cans, pick them up in alleys when you see them thrown away. Keep in the hatchback with a small shovel.

AS FOR the COMPOST pile and the odor question? Except for chicken waste, COMPOST has a wonderful smell, a faint sweet, autumn leave perfume. I ADORE it. TO enhance that, KEEP a lot of pretty autumn leaves on the top. LEAVES, even rotting leaves, have no odor. If you ADD manure, chicken refuse, straight from the farm, it does stink and I do add both. So I have to load leaves right on top of it to squelch those aromas. I do not go out in the driveway often, nor does my neighbor who's 90 years old. But boy, it has a stench!

And what is the alternative? NO GARDEN? I don't think so. BUYING SOIL at 14$ a big bag? No way JOSE! A CONTAINER of some kind? The concept of your starting one with a CONTAINER isn't realistic. They don't come  6 feet x 30feet, do they? And that size COMPOST PILE is the minimum you need for the average home.

I'm a very small time gardener with just a rented house less than 8k sq feet total property. My pile abuts the street, is 'al aire fresco' and nobody complains. It's very public. It starts at the sidewalk of front curb and goes all the way up driveway to the garage. ON ONE SIDE of driveway. (Yard is on other side.) It's about 6 feet wide and 30 feet long. That's the basic amt of compost one would require for a tiny property. I still have several small compost piles in backyard, in corners. When I am weeding, I always pile them within arm's reach, then cover the pile with a dusting of soil. When I water, I target it. I may turn it weekly. I may inseminate it with worms from my kitchen compost heap which is the worm nation of all time.

THE COMPOST in these mini piles maybe is gonna do for ONE TREE. The big one in front is the main guy.
Nobody has complained about compost in all these years. Now, when I got that chicken poop (3 lg 5 gal buckets) which had been freshly taken from the cages, for three days I noticed an odor. No one else did, as it didn't waft to houses or sidewalk, you'd have to have your face right ABOVE the pile. . I buried the poop under grass, leaves. but it was a subtle chicken manure odor that was there. THE WORST ODOR I've ever encountered was buying manure from HOME DEPOT. That had HUMAN BIO SOLIDS in it. That stuff smelt just JUST like a men's latrine. THE WORST. AVOID IT. I'm sure my swollen throat glands were caused by it. I had those glands for weeks after I used this dangerous stuff. Now adays their manure says, "no sewage!" I imagine there were lawsuits and complaints both.

NOW, if you have some cash, YOU CAN GET COMPOST RICH HUMUS SOIL BROUGHT TO YOU. Have a mushroom producer in your area? Check all pkgs at market for addresses. A MUSHROOM FARMER's TRUCK can bring an entire garden load of the very best soil from the local MUSHROOM FARM. THEY WILL PAY YOU TO TAKE IT! Mushroom Spawn is fabulous  sandy, rich fragrant soil and they these people throw a truckload or two away after every crop. FRESHPICKED SHROOMS in VENTURA CALIFORNIA was where my friend Edythe ordered her truckload. VERY CHEAP! 100$ delivered! They were desperate to get rid of it. If you have a pal with a truck, pack a picnic basket and pay them for the drive.

ANOTHER WAY to get a quarter acre of chocolate cake?? KILL THE LAWN! Yep, Compost the whole back yard growing area, from one side to the other,  TEAR OUT THE LAWN, turn it upside down in a pile, let it rot in a corner and green crop the entirevacant space. Rye, vetch, clover. When that's a foot high,turn it upside down. Let it rot. Read up on GREENCROPPING. DO a google on that word.

You cannot just grow food crops where lawns once were, (SOIL is exhausted!) without composting,  and doing the compost/rot process for a long season, maybe all winter long.

If you moved in with a lot of plants, GROW those PLANTS in pots in the lanai or protected area, plastic tarped over, all winter, and in spring when it warms up, PUT THEM OUT into the garden.

So right now, make a pile of green trash. Use: LAWN DIVOTS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN home depot manure or local chicken farmer, manure the chick farmer can deliver a truckload ----- or I drive to chicken farm with buckets in my car, tarps, and load up, drive home w. windows open.

Get everybody's autumn leaves, go get their big brown bags, their trash can, the green one, and dump it into your driveway strip which I turned into a compost pile for years. Finally I planted an orchard in it. Carry bags, trash, ets in the car back area where tarp is spread.

It sure save space and hauling LATER when you don't use your drive way strip for compost but compost the entire lawn or back yard. What is that area?  40 feet by 30 feet? THE WHOLE THING gets a foot of refuse, plants, trash, manure from  chicken farms. Everyone has chickens somewhere near them. GO to healthfood store, see where the box comes from. THE EGG BOX read an address not five blocks from my house! Add fish scales, we all have a fish market. Go there once a day! BUY THEIR FISH and take their trash for free! BURY bodies, bones, scales DEEP THOUGH!  Bury orange peels which worms love.  Hair from your brushes and cat litter, but remove the turds just use the sand. Cat Litter makes soil friable, also it carries its urea with it. I dig it into every bed. A friend said that she found used kitty litter makes a WONDERFUL border around the flowers. "Rabbits, mice, shrews, voles  and other small varmints will NOT cross over to eat my veggies....and it also works to keep the weeds down.  Next spring, it gets rototilled into the dirt and helps hold moisture.

A GOOD COMPOST pile will heat up much that germs die. You know that ancient Chinese used human ordure for their compost piles. Add lots of wet/ Green nitrogenous stuff like your morninglory vines which will heat up as they rot. Grass heats up, also. YOUR PILE will get so hot you can grow strawberries in JANUARY! (I am not kidding. Many farmers grow vegetables in the snow by putting a huge compost pile under a foot of soil. Plastic covering the whole thing. That soil keeps warm all winter. It is the heat that kills the bacteria.

I have a great deal of morninglory growth every year. Autumn's first nippy night, the stuff turns to straw. Not a problem, you can pull it off every tree and fence like shearing a sheep. My dead or half frozen. morninglories are great as green manure, so I do greencropping alright. It takes a tough NOSE to compost green things... lawn clippings must be the greenest cuz THE STENCH is horrific. Not to worry. Stink indicates that you have a good rot going. Add chicken manure to up the ante. That stench means you're getting nitrogen, ammonia but your neighbors will complain so place it right in the middle of your property, not near a fence.

I didn't. I was not fond of my neighbor. She was demented, in her mid eighties and she turned my cats into the pound hoping they'd be gassed!  Luckily, my daughter mailed me a vacuum cleaner. After I used it, I showed the cats the back yard. House was empty the day the pound came. I showed them, no cats. Later I learned from the chicken farmer with all that compost for me that you don't have to open the door for animal regulation when they knock and you can and should ignore all their letters, nothing happens,oddly enough.) My chicken manure guy says they've been after him for years for the thousand chickens. He never opens any door!

HERE is a soil composting expert. Much more COUTH than I.

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"It' s Our Garden ---The Importance Of Soil"
By Elkabeth and Crow Miller

Composting, Building Healthy Soil

One of the great beauties of the organic approach is that it enables a
person to grow beautiful, healthy plants without much of anything special.
In Nature the soil is built by a very efficient recycling of nutrients.
Things that die and fall to the ground begin to rot almost immediately.
Little is lost. The organic approach feeds plants by feeding the myriad
organisms of decay that live in the soil. Wonderful gardens are built on
wastes, trash and castoffs.

Basic composting is an easy to arrange process. True, transformation of a
mass of undecomposed organic materials into life-giving fertilizer is one
of Nature's almost unbelievable miracles. But the elementary steps which
set off this transformation are simple, and easy to follow.

Sheet Composting is one good example of low temperature decomposition. It
involves tilling under plant refuse, manure and other wastes, leaving them
to decay in the soil. Since there's no pile to turn, sheet composting means
less work. But the problem with it, as with other methods of anaerobic
decomposition like trench or pit composting, is that high carbon residues
rely on the nitrogen (N) reserves of the soil for their break down.
High-nitrogen materials, on the other hand, release their (N) too quickly
or in the wrong form for plants to use when decomposed anaerohically Sheet
composting is slow. What can be accomplished in a well managed heap in a
few weeks may take a full season in the soil.

Hot compost means fast compost, but hot, aerobic compost pile, too, has its
disadvantages. Building a pile takes plenty of time, energy and sweat.
Nutrient-rich liquids can leach into the ground beneath the pile where they
are of little help to plants.

Rapid decomposition burns up oxygen fast. A well made pile will heat up in
2-days. But to keep it rotting as quickly as it is able requires a turning
for aeration every third day. Without it, the bacteria and fungi that are
digesting the pile run out of oxygen and the decomposition slows.

Active composting has some compelling advantages. One is that it is an
easier way to apply large amounts of organic matter to the soil. Especially
in small gardens where vegetables are spaced closely.

The process of composting reduces the bulk of whatever material you have
roughly in half, with minimal losses of nutrients. Some of the nutrients in
the original material are rendered readily availahle to roots. the
continuing action of soil microbes on digested compost releases more.

Behind every successful compost pile are well fed microbes. They acquire
essential energy by oxidizing the carbon and nitrogen (N) contained in
those materials, using carbon for growth and (N) for protein synthesis. The
heat in a compost pile is a direct result of this oxidation for biological
burning. For a pile to heat up properly, it needs the right blend of
organic wastes, air, moisture and sufficient size, in that order.

To start building a compost pile, all you need to know is a rough estimate
of the carbon/nitrogen content of the materials you have to work with. The
carbon content is a gauge of the food energy, that is available for the
microbes. The microbes also use nitrogen (N) as building blocks for protein
as they multiply.

To work at peak efficiency, the bacteria and fungi in a compost pile need
25 to 30-parts of carhon to one part (N). If there is too much (N), that
is, less than 25-parts of carbon to one part (N), the excess will he
wasted. You will smell it escaping as ammonia gas when you turn the pile.

When the balance is right (carbon level between 25 to 30), heat loving
microbes thrive. The temperature raises, which makes the microbes work even
faster. As a bonus to you, the high heat also kills many weed seeds and
disease-causing organisms. Nearly all the (N) is incorporated into the
bodies of the micro-organisms. And they consume carbon energy in the
process until the carbon level drops to roughly 10-parts to each part (N).
That's the same carhon to nitrogen ratio (C/N ratio) as a humus-rich soil.
The compost then cools to about 110 F. and is ready to go on the garden
beds immediately.

Feeding a compost pile is simple. The micro-organisms require only a
special blend of protein and carbohydrate sources. Vitamins, minerals, and
other nutrients, these they seem to either manufacture for themselves or
forage for just fine. High-protein wastes are usually succulent, green
vegetation (kitchen wastes and grass clippings), and many animal
by-products including manure and urine. Note: Urine is not a source of
protein, but of (N) containing compounds from which some microbes can build
their own protein.

Energy-rich materials are almost exclusively dry, tough, fibrous former
plant parts; autumn leaves, straw, sawdust and the like. these contain
complex carbohydrates, which the microbes digest for the energy they
contain.

Adding organic matter triggers a complex soil system into action. When
plant and animal wastes are worked into the soil, the most soluble
components, sugars and starches, decompose first. They're a good source of
energy for the micro-organisms in the soil. The micro-organisms feed on
some of the carbon and (N) in the organic matter and convert them into
their own cellular material. In the process, many nutrients are released in
a form accessible to plants. Later, when the micro-organisms die, their
cells decompose, and the nutrients in their cells become available for
plants.

A yearly application of 10 to 20-tons of organic matter per acre, 240 to
450-pounds per 100-square feet, would certainly provide all the (N),
nitrogen, (P) phosphorus and (K) potassium you'd need in most garden
situations. After about 5-years, you might want to cut back, and you'll
still find the nutrient level increasing.(Note:) have your soil tested.

An ideal soil profile contains about 5 to 10% organic matter. Getting the
level up that high isn't difficult. Since a 6-inch layer of mineral soil in
a 100-square foot plot weighs about 47,000 pounds, adding 235-lbs. of
compost will give you an instant 5% organic matter. Even in soil that has
only 1% organic matter initially, 20-tons per acre (460-lbs. per 100-square
feet) will make a big difference.

We can get our soil's nitrogen from leaves, our potash from wood ashes but the hard one to find is PHOSPHOROUS! That glistening stuff in fish scales. How do we get it into our compost pile?

Bone meal and rock phosphate are typical sources. If you can find them, fish waste from a fish MONGER, fish bone meal and soy husks are other good sources. And then there is compost :-) Composted yard waste and manures generally provide all the phosphorus normally required by most plants in most soils and if applied in excess, can create an oversupply.

Some food sources have pretty high levels of phosphorus naturally - banana peels, crab shells, shrimp peelings, most grains and nuts - and these should all be added to compost when available.

Finally, a few review points for successful composting:

1) Make sure the nitrogen content of your pile is high enough. If you add sawdust it takes a few months for the nitrogen level to return. Adding sawdust to garden soil near plants turns them pale.

2) Try to mix together more kinds of raw materials, primarily to provide proper physical condition.

3) Shred all fibrous materials.

4) Keep your compost moist, not soggy.

5) Turn it with a spading fork, as often as you can. (at lest 3-times/Wk.) Fork tines are narrow and won't kill worms. SHOVELS WILL! RUMOR that one worm cut in  two  make four. Uh-uh. Only head end lives!

6) Test your soil, if your soil is acid, mix in Dolomitic limestone (54% Ca.Calcium/42% Mg. Magmesium). No matter what kind of soil you have, mix in some kelp meal (hit beach, drag all that kelp home, wash it carefully w. hose to remove salt, then add to pile to increase the trace mineral content. I add actual vitamins, all the old vitamins in the house, minerals, sulphur, etc.Mind you, a rich astrology client gal who is VERY INTO supplements send me bottles of her old minerals, so what the hay?

If you haven't been composting, now is the time to start. Bags of neighbors' dry leaves every trash night. Your garden will love you for it!

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Anita Sands Hernandez astrology@earthlink.net

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Our POSTER is ANITA SANDS HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles Writer, Futurist and Astrologer. Catch up with her websites  TRUTHS GOV WILL HIDE & NEVER TELL YOU, also The  FUTURE, WHAT'S COMIN' AT YA! & HOW TO SURVIVE the COMING GREAT DEPRESSION, and Secrets of Nature, HOLISTIC, AFFORDABLE HEALING. Also HOW TO LIVE on A NICKLE, The FRUGAL PAGE.* Anita is at astrology@earthlink.net ). Get a 15$ natal horoscope "my money/future life" reading now + copy horoscope as a Gif file graphic!

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