Author: rishi

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Question

Hello Growing Club,

I’ve heard that soil in urban areas is often contaminated. Should I get my soil tested? Who do I get it tested by?

-Janice

Answer

Hi Janice,

You’re right, soil in urban and suburban areas is often contaminated and we should be concerned about it. Especially in older cities or cities that used to be industrial centers, soil is often contaminated with heavy metals that can be toxic to humans and especially children. Old homes were often painted with a lead based paint and homes near busy streets often have lead-contaminated soil from the times when gasoline was not unleaded. It’s a good idea for everyone to get a soil test before starting to grow food.

Make sure when you take your soil sample you create a composite sample. A composite sample is made by mixing soil together from a few different spots in your land.

For the actual testing, we use Wallace Laboratories. You want to get their Standard Agricultural Suitability test, which will give you an analysis of heavy metals, and a breakdown of all other macro- and micro-nutrients. They are also very friendly and you can call them if you have any questions.

Hope that helps! Happy Gardening!

-Rishi

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Question

Hello Growing Club,

I purchased a compost bin at one of the LA County Smart Gardening classes. I’ve been saving vegetable and fruit peel scraps for a while now and storing them in the freezer until my husband put the bin together. It’s now together and I’m not sure where to begin. It doesn’t have a bottom to it he says. Is that common? If so what’s the first layer I should put down green or brown or does it matter? He and I are both very new at all of this.

– Nettie Wilson-Johnson

Answer

Hi Nettie,

Great question and congratulations for starting composting! You are in for a fun learning adventure. It sounds like you bought a bin for starting a traditional compost pile (not a worm composting bin). To answer your first question, yes it is common to not have a bottom to your bin, in fact its great. That will allow microbes from your soil to come into your compost and for the reverse to happen as well.

For starting your compost bin, remember that the ratio of green (nitrogen-rich) material to brown (carbon-rich) material is very important. You want to have a 50-50 mix of these materials. Kitchen waste is a green material (along with animal manure and any fresh leaves). Brown material would be exactly that: brown (carboard, newspaper, dried leaves, wood chips, wood shavings etc.). To start your bin, mix the kitchen waste you have saved with an equal amount of brown material, and put it in your bin. Add water until the mixtures is moist, but not wet. If the pile starts heating up by the next day and doesn’t have a putrid smell, you’ve done a good job. If there is no heat, add more green material (or urinate on the pile). If there is a bad smell, add more brown material. Keep the pile moist, and turn it whenever it starts to get really hot. That should be all you need to get started!

You may also want to look into starting a worm compost bin if you are mostly compost food waste. They will be much easier to take care of and give you a better compost in the end.

Hope that helps! Happy Gardening!

-Rishi

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Question

Hello Growing Club,

I have access to lots of free horse stable bedding, which is wood shavings plus horse urine and manure. Is it okay for me to add this material directly to my garden beds?

-Joanne Wilson

Answer

Hi Joanne,

Horse stable bedding is one of the great blessings of gardening in a suburban or urban area. Stable bedding is a perfect mix of carbon (from the wood shavings) and nitrogen (from the manure and urine). Stable bedding breaks down readily once it is moistened, and has many uses in the garden. In regards to your specific question, yes you can use manure directly in your garden beds. You’ll want to wait until the bedding has cooled down (it should not be warm to the touch) and then add about 2-3 inches of it to the tops of your growing beds as a mulch. The bedding will trap moisture in your beds (you’ll water less) and the manure and urine will break down and feed your plants. We’ve found that many summer vegetables (tomatoes, corn, squash, etc.) respond especially well to a mulching with horse stable bedding. Horse bedding also makes a great mulch around your fruit trees. Apply it in a circle 4-6 inches thick around your trees, staying at least 2 ft around from the truck of the tree.

Hope that helps! Happy gardening!

-Rishi

A well designed chicken coop has all the features that make keeping chickens at home easy, fun, and simple. The chicken coop we designed and built at The Growing Home has many wonderful features that have made our chicken keeping experience a joy, and we share those features with you in this video.

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Question

Hi Rishi,

I’m considering planting star jasmine on the south side of the house to keep the house cooler. Is star jasmine safe for bees? I love the perfume smell. (more…)

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Question

Hi Rishi,

I ordered compost from a local compost company (Cal Blend Soils) and planted starters into it few weeks ago. They are not growing, but they are alive. They are not thriving 🙁 and the leaves on many are even yellowing. My friend who shared the delivery with me is having the same experience with her plants. What do you suggest we do? Should I purchase some kind of amendment? (more…)

Chickens are great companion animals for any garden or farm. While most people default to building a chicken coop, which is a completely enclosed space where chickens will live most of their lives, and in many cases, a chicken tractor is a better idea. A chicken tractor is an open-bottomed, movable chicken enclosure.  (more…)

Have your radish plants bolted? Don’t rip them out just yet! Radish seeds pods are excellent tasty vegetables and you often get more food from the pods than the root itself. Learn how to cook these delicious pods in an easy and delicious way in this video! Don’t forget to leaves us your comments!

A drip irrigation system is the optimal way to deliver irrigation water to a garden. Drip irrigation delivers water right where your plants need it: at their roots. This makes a drip system very efficient in comparison to a sprinkler system. In this video, we show you how to install a basic drip irrigation system for a vegetable garden.