DIY – How to Make a Compost Tumbler

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How to Make a Compost Tumbler

My friend Heather recently made a compost tumbler from scratch and I wanted to share this easy peasy tutorial with you. Here are the directions, photos and even a video of the tumbler in action.

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Composting.Is.Awesome. Nature takes useless bits of food, grass, dead leaves and other natural pieces of organic material and turns it into a garden superfood. And it’s free. And we all looooove free.

However, the wildlife in my yard kept stealing my free snipits before they could even begin to turn into the garden boosting superfood I wanted so badly to add to my garden. What I needed was a contained compost bin. What my DIYer personality didn’t want was to buy one from a big box store. So I made one.

There are a million different versions of compost bins you could make, but the main ingredients to make a successful compost bin are air, the combination of ingredients, and turning your pile. After looking at my needs and some ideas online, I decided I’d like a container {to keep the critters away}. I knew it would have to be turned since I can’t get in there with a pitch fork to turn it, so I had to take that into consideration. But with household scraps and chicken manure, I’d have the correct ingredients just waiting for me to build one sweet compost bin.

Materials:

  • 50 gallon food-grade plastic barrel
  • drill
  • skill saw
  • permanent marker
  • (2) small hinges
  • (2) latches
  • (3) ½”x4’ PVC pipes
  • (4) small/med rolling casters
  • scrap wood (remember to hit that 70% pile at the back of HD!) or a pallet
  • deck screws

How many compost barrels do I need? How long will one barrel last?

Good questions, but there are lots of variables. The two 50 gallon food-grade containers I use will hold a little more than a year of household scraps for a family of four {assuming you don’t give any scraps to the chickens}. Now that we have chickens, one barrel would have been plenty. My suggestion? Start with one barrel and make another if you need it.

Where can I get a 50-gallon barrel?

Before you spend money on a barrel, check out these options:

The DPW in your town or surrounding towns
Companies that transport liquid in barrels, ie. syrup, molasses, etc.
Pepsi or similar soda distributor or local bottler
Cheese factory
City water plant
Feed stores
Craigslist
eBay
Freecycle
Recycling companies

If you find a place that has some, ask for a few. If you can’t use it now, odds are you know someone who can.

Composting How To

What do I put in my composting barrel?

I stick to the vegetable/fruit/plant material/tea bag/coffee/bread/pasta combo. Despite my best efforts, I’m still training the HH that no meats or cheeses can go in the compost bucket. It’s a work in progress.

We collect our kitchen scraps in a small kitchen composter  {I have this one}. I’ve had it for over a year and LOVE it. And, get this, it totally doesn’t even smell. At all. Then I have the kids take it out to the big compost barrel once or twice a week {depending on how much the chickens get}. Remember to add some brown {chicken coop gold or leaves} to your green kitchen scraps!

Where should I put the composter in my yard?

Remember how sometimes we learn things the hard way? Yeah… DO NOT keep your compost bin anywhere near the garden as it turns into a slug magnet. The first year the compost bin turned my garden into slugopalooza. It will be a general bug magnet anyway {my chickens run toward it every time I let them out to see what lovely treats they can find}, but that’s okay; it’s part of the breaking down process. The composting process is an ongoing process so you should be prepared for the stuff in the barrel to drip. I wouldn’t suggest putting it on your deck {unless you make a drip tray of some sort}. Also, keeping it in the shade is a good idea, as it will not dry out as fast.

diy compost tumbler instructionsHow do I build the composter?

Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple.

Door: Grab a shovel to measure the door so you know you can shovel the coop droppings into it without spilling {I wish I had made mine a bit wider}. To cut the door, use your drill and a fairly big drill bit to make a hole in each corner. This will make it easier to get the skill saw started. Next, follow the lines you made with your marker with the skill saw to cut your door – this part is pretty fun! Then get your hinges and your marker, and mark out where the hinge screws will go. Then attach them. Follow this same process to line up and attach the latch.

DIY - How to Make a Compost TumblerVentilation: Grab your handy dandy drill again {isn’t a good drill worth it’s weight in gold?}. You’ll want to use a drill bit that will leave holes bigger than a pea but smaller than a dime. The goal here is to allow air flow and drainage but prevent food and your precious garden-super-food from falling out when you turn the barrel. Experiment with a small bit and work your way up to an appropriate size. Once you get the size you think will work best, make holes all over the barrel. My OCD would only allow neatly spaced holes in tidy little rows – but it’s your project so, heck, get creative!

Tumblers: Just like the wings on the inside of the clothes dryer toss the clothes, you’ll need tumblers to break up and toss the ingredients in barrel. Three ½” PVC pipes will fit perfectly. Grab your drill again and using a ½ inch drill bit, make three holes in each end. Then thread the PVC through from one end to the other.

DIY - How to Make a Compost TumblerStand: The stand is not fancy – just a stand to attach the coasters so the barrel can be rolled on it. You could even use a pallet. To figure out where the coasters go, grab the nearest teenager and have them hold the barrel while you place the coasters, marking them with your marker. Do one end and then the other. You’ll notice they aren’t symmetrical because of the barrel shape.

TAAA-DAAAH! You did it!

diy compost tumbler

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Friday Night at the Movies – Grow!

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Tonight I am going to check out Grow!  It’s a documentary about the next generation of farmers–and how they have come to choose farming as a career path.  I’m pretty much a sucker for these kinds of films, so I am sure I won’t be disappointed.

 grow

Let me know what you think if you decide to watch it–or if you have already seen it.

Peace out Girl Scouts & have yourself a great weekend,

~Mavis

PicMonkey Collage

Looking for more movies?

Check out the full list of my Friday Night at the Movies Selections or click on over & look at all the movies on Amazon Instant Video. There are a ton of videos to choose from that will cost you absolutely nothing {nada, zilch, free-o} with Amazon Prime; like thousands of regular movies & TV shows & hundreds of documentaries {Wahoo!}. Get all the details HERE!

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Ask Mavis Your Gardening Questions – How to Grow Potatoes

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potatoes in wheelbarrowThe gardening questions have been pouring in lately, so I thought I would try out a question/answer series for some of the questions.   So, if you have any questions about gardening mishaps or how-to’s, send them my way.  I’ll try to answer them the best I can.

Recently a reader asked:

I went to the store and got several types of potatoes to plant, but then I look at the sites and they are being harvested in September, so why do the country farm stores sell them so early in the spring? when should they be planted, I live in Anacortes, WA, , my potatoes are Yukon gold, Russian red fingerlings, russet, white fingerlings and some I didn’t find in the ground until two weeks ago, they all have different sized eyes or sprouts, I don’t know how long to grow the eyes before planting them.

I am still an experimental gardener but love it. last year I experimented with squash, none got big but they were fun to grow. I had a weird success with corn, the husks turned a beautiful dark red, then pink, the corn was small but each stalk got one ear.

blue seed potatoes

First, the stores are selling the seed potatoes because it is actually time here in Washington to start thinking about planting them. Ideally, you would put them in the ground 2-3 weeks before the last frost {but if for some reason it did frost after they had sprouted, they would most likely just die back and re-sprout}.

seed-potato-chitting

Having different sized eyes on different potatoes doesn’t really matter too much.  As long as they have “eyes” they are ready to plant.  If you decide to cut your larger seed potatoes into smaller bits, cut with a clean knife, making sure each bit has at least two eyes.

Then, allow them to sit in a cool dark place for 24 hours so that they can callous {which helps prevent them from being susceptible to disease once you put them in the ground}.  Also, if you aren’t ready to plant quite yet, just store your seed potatoes in the fridge until you are.

blue potato leaves

Most likely the September harvest date you are seeing on varying websites is confusing you because it isn’t actually when you put the potatoes in the ground that you start the countdown to harvest, it’s when you see the plants emerge from the soil.  Harvest dates vary, but I think around these parts, September is pretty accurate.  You will know it’s time to harvest when the plants die back and start to yellow.

potatoes

Hopefully, that answers your question.  If you have any more questions about how to grow potatoes, check out my detailed Potato Grow Guide.

~Mavis

the complete book of potatoes

Want to get the full low-down on growing potatoes?  Check out The Complete Book of Potatoes:  What Every Grower and Gardener Needs to Know

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Pallet Gardening – Growing Lettuce and Strawberries Together in Pallets

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strawberry pallet gardenWhile I was working in the garden yesterday I snapped a few photos of our pallet gardens.

strawberry pallet garden

The strawberries we transplanted last fall have begun to come back to life and are leafing out really well now. So much so that I may need to divide them again here pretty soon. pallet garden lettuce

The buttercrunch lettuce we transplanted a few weeks ago are beginning to take off as well. pallet gardening lettuce

I know it’s hard to believe, but in about 60 days this pallet will be filled with 16 heads of lettuce. And that my friends is the best part about gardening if you ask me. Watching things grow. It always amazes me how something so small can turn into a full sized plant in just a short period of time. I LOVE it!!lucy the puggle dog

And so does inspector Lucy. ;)

Okay, so maybe she just loves being outside. pallet gardens

This year I think I’m going to stick to growing lettuce and strawberries in our 6 pallet gardens. Last year I grew chard, celery, beans and a few other odds and ends but the strawberries and the lettuce did the best overall… so that’s what I’ll be growing in our pallet garden this year.

Keepin’ it simple. That’s my motto for this summer.

~Mavis

heat treated wood pallet

Want to learn more about wood pallet gardening and how I put mine together? Click on the pallets above and it will take you to my first pallet garden post of the year. You’ll also learn what to look for when choosing a pallet.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Spring Vegetables in My Garden

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mavis butterfield garden lucy the puggle dog

I’m hoping the rain will hold off until this afternoon so Lucy the puggle dog and I can finish cleaning up the raspberry patch. Clipping dead canes and pulling weeds takes a surprising long time when you have a dog helping you out.  But I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way. :) raspberry canes

Have your raspberry plants started to leaf out yet? Our are looking really healthy this year. weeds in garlic

The garlic I planted last fall is doing really well too. Just a few weeds here and there but nothing I can’t keep up with. beet seedling

Beets! I planted beets seeds about a month ago and they finally decided to make their appearance. I planted 4 kinds of beets this year and let me tell you Bob, I can’t wait to harvest them this summer. brussels sprouts

I can however wait for the Brussel sprouts. ;)

mavis garden blog onions

While Lucy checked looked for hidden treasures I thinned the radish seedlings.radish seedlings

I suppose I could replant them somewhere else in the garden if I wanted to, but with only 10 garden boxes this year I’m already running low on space so I just tossed them onto the compost heap.

raised garden beds seattle garden

Now, if we could just get the weather to warm up {and stay warm} I could really get some work done. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to for heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil.

Ahhh summer… we need you.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Monthly Garden Chores – April

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april garden chores

Gardening season is here!  And I for one think I might set up a tent in the backyard just to keep from having to be indoors one more second.  I am going to live in my garden for the next 7 months.  Sure, it may get a little weird that the kids have to visit me in the backyard, but everyone has a little weird in their family, right?

organic gardening cucumber seedlings

Seeds I’m Starting Indoors this Month

See the full list of seeds I’ll be planting this year

celery

What I Plan to Transplant Outside this Month

asparagus crowns

Plants and/or Bulbs I Plan to Purchase this Month

fenugreek seeds botanical interests

What I plan to Harvest This Month

houseplant

Houseplants and Indoor Bulbs

If you forced bulbs, you probably have flowers now.  Enjoy the indoor color and water the flowers a little more regularly. Also now might be a good time to fertilize the houseplants.

how to plant raspberry canes

Trees and Shrubs

Rake up any fallen flowers from early blooming shrubs to avoid fungus problems. Prune trees and clean up raspberry canes and blueberry plants.

ortho home defense

Weed and Pest Control

Continue regular weeding.  You may start to see caterpillars and slugs in your garden.  {I use Sluggo to keep the slugs off, as an organic solution.} I also sprinkle Ortho Home Defense around the perimeter of the house to keep bugs away. It smells like bacon!

pressure washing

Lawn Care

The HH will be fertilizing the a lawn this weekend. It’s still a little too chilly to plant grass seed, but he can edge the driveway and back patio for me. :) Also, if you have a teenage son, now might be a good time to bribe him with a couple of sacks of Doritos so he will pressure wash the patio for you. ;)

These garden chores are based on my Zone 8a Seattle/Tacoma WA location. Find your garden zone HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Growing a Rainbow Vegetable Garden with Kids

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Growing a Rainbow Vegetable GardenYou know how all of the nutritionists always tell you to eat the rainbow?  {Not to be confused with the Skittles folks.}  Basically, your plate is supposed to filled with different colored foods to ensure you are getting the proper nutrients and all that.  Do you ever find it kind of difficult to teach your kids that basic idea when the grocery store is full of conventional varieties of green, orange and red?

peas in pod

Growing a rainbow veggie patch with the children is a great way to expose them to a whole different variety of foods, teach them the basic nutritional principles of eating the rainbow, and uh, I don’t know, maybe, just maybe, bond with them along the way.

Growing a garden from seed leaves you literally HUNDREDS of options you would never find in the grocery store.  Here’s some awesome, kid-friendly vegetables to try this year:

purple cauliflowerPurple

Cosmic Purple Carrots
Artichoke Green & Purple Artichokes
Sweet Purple Beauty Peppers
Royal Burgundy Bush Beans
American Purple Top Rutabaga {these taste like a sweeter version of a white potato}
Chef’s Choice Blend Cauliflower {these grow white and purple florets}

Pumpkin Jarrahdale HEIRLOOM Seeds pictureBlue

Dwarf Blue Curled Kale {try making Kale chips or putting this in soup to make it more palatable for the kids}
Jarrahdale Pumpkin {this has a gray/blue exterior and a standard orange interior}

heirloom beetsRed

Cherry Currant Red & Yellow Tomatoes
Cherry Belle Radish
Beets
Watermelon
Red Acre Cabbage
Romaine Garnet Rose Lettuce

sun gold tomatoesOrange

Tomato Cherry Sun Gold {these are literally the sweetest tomato EVER!}
Butternut Squash {use these instead of pumpkins to make pies–they kids will love them}
Cantaloupe
Sugar Pie Pumpkin

yellow crockneckYellow

Gold Rush Bush Bean
Summer Max’s Gold Zucchini Seeds {Zucchini bread anyone?}
Lemon Cucumber

Broccoli RomanescoGreen

Spinach {slip spinach in the kiddos smoothies, if they won’t eat it plain}
Broccoli Romanesco  {these have a crazy strange appearance that kids will be blown away by, but still taste like broccoli}
Butterhead Buttercrunch Lettuce {this is a mild tasting lettuce, but with more nutrition than plain old iceberg}

cherry-tomatoesMulti-Colored

Cherry Tomato Rainbow Blend {these sweet cherry tomatoes grow yellow, brown, red, green, white and pink and white striped tomatoes all on one plant}
Gourmet Blend Beets {these grow in a huge range of colors}
Calliope Blend Carrots

Seriously, the kids will have so much fun growing their edible rainbow.  Plus, how cool is it that they will learn that the grocery store is not the only place that they can get food?  It’s win-win.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Harden Off Seedlings

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How to Harden Off Seedlings

Before I can transplant all of the plants I started indoors, I will have to harden them off.  Hardening off plants is basically acclimating plants that you started indoors to the outside weather.  It allows your plants to get used to the sun, wind, rain, etc. gradually–kind of like slowly allowing your kids to experience some of life’s harsh realities {only plants won’t eat all of your food and make your house smell like dirty socks}.

I usually harden off my plants for about seven days, but some people shoot for closer to two weeks. I have milder weather here, so it is a bit easier to get them used to the outside.  About a week before you plan to harden off your plants, you need to stop fertilizing them {if you use fertilizer} and scale back on the water.

How to Harden Off Seedlings zinnia

Start the process by leaving plants in a shady spot outside for a couple hours–but make sure to bring them in at night {my favorite spot is my front porch}.  Each day, gradually increase the amount of time you leave your plants outdoors, as well as how much direct sunlight they are exposed to.  After about 7 days, your plants should be ready to stay out all day and all  night {make sure to check temperature requirements for each plant to make sure it is staying warm enough at night}.

how-to-transplant-seedlings-swiss-chard

Once you have hardened off your plants, you can transplant them into the garden.  If possible, try to transplant them on a cloudy day {pretty much always possible in my neck of the woods} and water them in well.

That’s it, it’s like the final step before the actual gardening starts.  Weeee!

~Mavis

How to Grow More Vegetables

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Mavis Butterfield | Backyard Garden Pictures 3/30/14

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raised garden beds

This past week has been a soggy one in our garden and there is no sign of letting up either. In fact, I think we actually hit a record for rainfall around here in Western Washington for the month of March.
potting bench spring

Everything is drenched! pallet garden

But the vegetables are still growing. Slowly.
poppies and rhubarb

Our poppies and rhubarb plants are doing great, but the artichokes I transplanted last fall have still not popped up yet. I guess it means I’ll have to plant another round of artichoke seeds and this time not move the plants. I knew I was taking my chances moving them but I was still hopping for the best. Oh well, lesson learned. magnum glass greenhouse

Everything in and around the greenhouse is growing like mad. 
greenhouse lettuce

 Don’t you think it looks like I’ve got a mini lettuce factory growing inside? {And yes, that is kale growing in the pots just outside the greenhouse.} ;)

shasta daisy flowers

If you are looking for a perennial flower that will spread like crazy and has some fantastic blooms, you should plant some Shasta Daisy Seeds. When we moved here 8 years ago we dug up a small section of a shasta daisy plant from our old house and planted it in our backyard. Since then every summer the plant spills seeds like gangbusters and now I’ve got shasta daisy flowers growing all over my backyard. I LOVE it!daffodils and raspberries

And last but not least, a photo of our raspberry patch. It’s coming alive!! Take a look at all those green leaves. I’m hoping for a bumper crop this year. :)

How about you? What’s happening in your garden these days?

Mavis wants to know.

This years garden is being sponsored by the folks at Botanical Interests Seed Company. You can check out their website HERE, order their new 2014 Garden Seed Catalog HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

3 Quick Tips to Get Your Garden Growing with Vegetable Starts

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vegetable-starts1

Looking to get a jump start on planting your spring garden crops but don’t know where to start? Check out my latest eHow article  Vegetable Starts: 3 Quick Tips to Get Your Garden Growing for a quick and easy solution.

Have you been to the garden center lately and notice anything new? How about all those rows and rows of promising vegetable starts waiting to be plucked off the shelves? Buying vegetable starts (rather than planting seeds) is a great way to get a jumpstart on your garden and cut down on your growing time.

Typically you can expect to save between 1-2 months of growing time (on average) when using vegetable starts instead of planting cold weather crops like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts under grow lights in your home.

Go HERE to read the full article …

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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