Sunday, May 10, 2015

Okra: How to Grow, Cook, and Preserve It

Okra is not easy to find in supermarkets and outrageously expensive when you do find it. But, if you have dirt in all-day sun, a reliable water supply, and lots of hot days you can grow your own okra. The okra plant has large leaves and pretty hibiscus-like white or yellow flowers that would look good in a sunny flower bed.

Okra Flower

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DIY Trommel Sifter for Compost

My composting method makes compost with very little effort, but it needs sifting to separate the undecomposed material from the compost.

The first sifting method relied on rubbing the compost through a wire mesh placed over a wheelbarrow - that was way too much work. 

Then I found this instructable on making a rotating sifter, called a "trommel". The one I built from this idea used a wooden frame that could rest on my garden cart.  It was OK, but having to lift the trommel and frame off the cart to move the compost to the garden and then set it up again to continue sifting was a nuisance.

First trommel with supporting frame

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Tilling and Plowing Tips for Gardeners

Everything I know about tilling and plowing gardens I learned from a horse. He was a darned smart horse.  I learned to use a garden tiller in my uncle's 1-acre garden plot, walking behind a small, horse-drawn cultivator. It was not easy, but the horse was twice my age, knew 10 times more about cultivating than I did, and he plowed the way he knew it should be done.

Farmer plowing in Germany. Photo: Ralf Roletschek

Unfortunately for suburban gardeners, their garden tillers don't have the brains of a plow horse guiding them through the process. Let me pass on what I learned from that old horse (and my uncle).

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DIY Cheap Compost Bin

Twenty dollars in materials and a handful of paperclips is all you need to make a sturdy, functional compost bin that holds almost a cubic yard of material.  This will make one wire bin, about 3 feet in diameter and 4 feet high. Wire compost bins will not produce compost as quickly as solid-sided bins that allow frequent turning and they can be untidy looking. However, "cheap and easy" is my gardening motto.

You will need about 8x4 feet of space for the assembled bin to allow room to rake around it and room to remove the compost later.
Compost bin, almost full

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