Thursday, September 30, 2010

Turn Your Trash into Great Garden Fertilzer

Kitchen scraps, shredded paper, and lawn clippings usually end up in the trash bin, but can easily and cheaply be turn into a source of rich nutrients to add to garden beds. This is called composting, and while many people assume that composting is a complex and challenging undertaking, there’s really no need to be intimidated.

The benefits for the garden are many: it improves soil structure and also water retention, helping to keep plants healthier for longer in dry conditions. It provides a source of slow-release, organic fertilizer for plants, while at the same time boosting the community of microorganisms and other creatures beneficial for plant.

Composting is as easy as 1-2-3.

1) Get a bin: Compost needs a certain critical mass of organic material to create enough heat for decomposition to occur.. Something to contain this matter is helpful. Most city waste departments now offer a free or low cost waste bin to be used for compost. Just check your city’s website or call the waste management department.

2) Fill it: All manner of waste can go into a compost bin. There are two basic types of organic waste: nitrogen-rich (aka “greens”) and carbon-rich (aka “browns”). Use about twice as much carbon-rich material as nitrogen-rich. Some good carbon-rich materials include dead tree and shrub leaves, cardboard, newspaper, shredded paper and wood chips. As far as nitrogen-rich materials go, think of fresh grass clippings, green yard waste, vegetable scraps from the kitchen and even hair (think of Fido’s brush).

3) Turn and water: Organic matter needs both oxygen and moisture to break down. To add more oxygen, give compost a turn every once in a while with a pitchfork or shovel and keep compost generally as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

There you have it! Let nature take its course. In a matter of time, some of the best garden food ever, all made from stuff that would have thrown away, is free to use in the garden.

For more details including a complete list of WHAT you can compost -  attend a workshop I am doing on Saturday, October 2nd from 1pm - 2:30 pm with the Phoenix Permaculture Guild.

Location: Central Slope Design Center

Street: 8801 N. Central Ave
City/Town: Phoenix, AZ 85020

Hope to see you at class soon!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack
aka the Garden Goddess

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall Means a Fresh Start in the Garden

There is a change in the air in Phoenix. The evenings and mornings are definitely cooler. The humidity is gone and so is the monsoon rain. The leaves on the Mulberry trees are starting to yellow slightly and drop.

This slight shift always has me feeling hopeful and excited for another planting and growing season. Time to clean out the garden beds, re-build the soil with my compost, rake it smooth and get the seeds planted. Time to make the row markers, set out a plan of what goes where, and start to think about the color that comes from flowers in the garden. Oh I almost forgot, I pick a new edible plant to grow each year – I wonder what it will be this year – Do you have a suggestion for me?

While I was watering yesterday, I noticed one of my artichoke plants is emerging from its summer rest. I have two – I hope the other one comes back!

I like to take a reasonably-paced approach to getting the gardens ready for a new season. I start with getting the garden cleared and soil amended one week. I like to let the compost and any other amendments sit in the ground for a week at least before I plant into it. Looks like I will be doing this on Sunday morning while it is cool. That also lets me take stock of my seeds and purchase anything I may still need. However – after the bounty I got at the American Community Gardening Association Conference I attended in August and the seeds I got at the Seed Swap last week I think I may be set this year!

I also have new seeds from Humble Seed for an herb garden – aptly called Uncle Herb’s Favorites – 10 different herbs in a great package that can be reused. What I love about this company is they are very particular about where they get seeds and the package them locally using the Marc Center.
So in a few weeks I will be planting out my new garden. I am excited about eating fresh lettuce, spinach and other greens, beets and peas – all in about 2 more months! The gap between will need to be supplemented by the farmers markets.

What are your plans for a fall garden? Please let me know if I can help. I am starting to book consultations now – just email me at or call 623-217-6038.

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September Garden Tips - Fertilize Citrus NOW

September Gardening Tips

(as found on the Maricopa County Extension Office website and
What to do in Your Garden this Month)


- Fertilize Bermuda-grass lawns with Nitrogen each month beginning late April or early May according to the directions on the package.

- Apply Iron each month according to the directions on the package.

- Apply one inch of water per week to Bermuda lawns. Water deep and less often.  Find watering instructions here on Arizona Water Users Association website


- Prepare bed for fall planting: add organic materials, compost, nitrogen (blood meal)

- Plant Seeds: Snap Peas, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collard Greens, Endive, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mustard, Onions, Peas, Turnips


- Prepare bed for fall planting: add organic materials like compost
- Plant Seeds: Cilantro, Lavender, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Oregano (transplant- will spread)


- Resume full fertilizing of established roses as the weather cools

- Toward the end of August and into September add an iron supplement if roses show yellowing from iron deficiency

- Plant and spilt agaves, yuccas and cactus (remember the holidays are coming – put in a nice pot for a gift)

- Cut back on watering when temps drop by 10 degrees. Should spread out watering to 3-4weeks for small plants; 5-6 weeks large plants during winter.

Fruit and Nut Trees

Fertilize Citrus by mid-month.
- Cut back on water once temps are below 100 degrees to every two weeks. Helps Citrus and deciduous fruit trees prepare for winter.

- Apply nitrogen and zinc to pecan trees to produce normal size leaf growth and to enhance kernel development. Pecans also need more water than most other shade trees.

Landscape Plants 

- Apply mulch (a great use for your compost!)  to the ground around heat sensitive plants keep the roots cooler and prevent evaporation.

- Cut off spent blooms to stimulate rebloom

- Native and imported heat tolerant plants can be planted right through the September. They will need to be watered on a regular basis until it cools in fall. 

- Protect newly transplanted trees from heavy winds and dust storms by staking carefully

- Plant any non frost sensitive tree

- Final fertilizer for container plants.


- Plant flower seeds when under 100 degrees.  Here's a list to guide you.

- Bulbs – Buy now & refrigerate for 6-8 weeks in a brown bag in an area by themselves (not with fruit or veggies). Can plant when below 90 degrees during day.

Don't List . . .

-Do not increase opportunities for fungal disease on turf by over watering or watering at night.

-DO NOT OVER WATER which will result in root rot. Allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens, providing garden consultations and coaching. Join her for free gardening tips at monthly What to Do in Your Garden this Month workshops. To find a workshop near you, visit or call 623.217.6038.


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