Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Home and Garden

Timely Tendings: Add herbs to the fall garden; the perfect compost

Get growing on that herb garden

Herbs are a great addition to the fall garden because the growth habits and cultural requirements are similar to vegetables, and most grow best in cooler temperatures. Sage, rosemary and thyme require a well-drained, slightly moist soil, whereas parsley, chervil and mint give best results on soils retaining considerable moisture. Mint should be contained in a pot where the roots do not have access to the ground. It spreads rapidly by means of surface or underground runners that may grow several feet from the parent plant and take over your whole garden while you are not watching.

Many herbs are perennials in your Florida garden, therefore growing indefinitely. Be sure to place these in a location in your garden where they will not be disturbed by seasonal changes in crops. This can be done by grouping the perennial herbs together or by placing them along an edge of the garden.

For more information on growing herbs, go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_herbs.

Build a compost pile of greens, browns

Compost is an excellent free soil amendment that improves the health and structure of our sandy Florida soils. It's also a great way to reduce your waste by turning yard debris and kitchen scraps into garden gold.

There are two main categories of things you can compost: "greens" and "browns."

The "greens" are rich in nitrogen and include things like fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, farm animal manure and young herbaceous plants.

The "browns" are rich in carbon and include examples like fallen leaves, chipped branches, shredded newspaper, tea bags and coffee grounds.

Alternate even layers of "greens" and "browns" in a 3-foot by 3-foot (minimum) pile or use a compost bin, tumbler, etc., and water each layer as you build. It should be moist like a moist sponge, but not overly wet. Compost should be turned once a week or so to add air into the pile and mix hot and cold parts of the pile.

Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown and crumbly. If the texture is not uniform, the compost can be sifted through a screen to remove larger pieces, which can then be returned to the pile for further composting.

This finished compost can be used as a soil amendment by adding 1 to 3 inches of compost to the soil surface and mixing it to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Do not use unfinished compost, otherwise microorganisms will "rob" nutrients from plants as they continue to decompose the unfinished compost.

For more information on composting, visit edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP32300.pdf.

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