Harvesting cabbage

So you’ve harvested a few heads of cabbage from your garden before they split and you pull up the plants and dispose of them, right?  No, wait.  If you leave the plants in the garden, in a few weeks you’ll have more cabbage!

They won’t be as big, of course but just as good.  You should get 3 or 4 soft ball-sized cabbages per plant, plus more smaller ones.  You can do the same thing with broccoli.  The extra spears will have more flavour than the original head.  Maybe there’s been a frost or two and you’re thinking it’s time to put the garden to bed for the winter, now you have fresh cabbage!  A last hurrah from the vegetable garden. 🙂

Organic gardening – the soil

There seems to be a big movement towards organic everything these days.  I don’t seem to be any different.  😉  But the health benefits can’t be denied!  As the Organic Trade Association tells us:

“Growing crops in healthy soils results in food products that offer healthy nutrients. There is mounting evidence that organically grown fruits, vegetables and grains may offer more of some nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and less exposure to nitrates and pesticide residues than their counterparts grown using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.  Organic foods are rich in nutrients.
Organic produce has been found to be higher in antioxidants than its conventional counterparts.”

My first step to growing a better garden organically is composting, and using that compost.  I’ve had a compost bin for about 20 yrs! But shamefully have only used the compost itself sparingly.  The main reasons for that is the bin is far too big and I haven’t been tending it, and with only one bin, we are constantly adding to it, so the decomposing is taking years. 

“Organic Gardening” by Richard Bird tells me that the soil is the most important part of my garden (duh!) and to have vibrant growth, larger plants and resulting produce, I must first take care of the soil.  At the same time, the garden will stand up better to pests and diseases.

Compost: Compost is one of the organic gardener’s most important means of achieving a productive soil. Every year in the wild nature returns much of the goodness that has gone into creating plants back to the soil: trees drop their leaves (even evergreens drop leaves, but not all at once) and herbaceaous plants die back. This cycle is a continuous one, but if you break it, as one does in the garden, by removing the vegetables to eat, you have to find some other way to add organic material to the soil.

The non-organic gardener uses artificial fertilizers. While these feed the plants, they do not condition the soil in other ways. A much more sensible and natural way is to recycle all the organic matter one can – weeds, grass cuttings, vegetable waste, and leaves – and return it to the soil. If available in sufficient quantities this should be enough to keep most gardens going, just occasionally supplemented with naturally occurring, organic fertilizers to replace specific minerals which may be in short supply.”

So making better use of compost for me means a better compost bin!  There are lots of different ways to build a bin.  This is the design I chose.

New bin - Old bin

New bin - Old bin

Having at least 2 bins is important to me so that I can stop using one to allow it to finish decomposing in order to use it.  The materials I used to build the bin are all recycled from around the farm.  The only thing I need to do is make a lid for it.  As for the old bin, it is made up of mostly kitchen waste so I need to add other matter: leaf and grass clippings to balance it out and also some manure as an activator.   Hopefully by fall, I can take apart the old bin and distribute the compost throughout the garden.

How do you make use of your compost?  Have you noticed an improvement in your garden?  Please share what’s working for you.