Garden Talks with the Green Committee
In recent weeks, the Hammonton Green Committee held different garden talks.
On August 1, the Hammonton Green Committee held a Community Garden Talk with Master Gardeners Belinda Chester and Kathleen Spaeth. Held at the community gardens behind the NJ Transit Station, the two women led the group in a discussion about backyard composting.
Spaeth started off with the discussion by giving some background on composting. While many of the visitors at the event knew of the word composting, some did not know what went into the process. Spaeth explained that composting is a natural process, where organic materials decompose and are recycled. This recycled organic material is compost, and can contribute to healthy plant growth in gardens.
There are many benefits to composting, including stimulating healthy root development, reducing chemical inputs and helping the environment.
The process of making compost can be quite a long one, with methods ranging from 5-15 weeks, or even 12-18 months. However, this factor is determined by how fast you want your compost to be harvested. The compost can be made up of many different organic materials, such as green materials (vegetable scraps, grass clippings) or brown materials (leaves).
“You can take grasses, you can take browns… vegetables, and that turns into a compost type of soil. It improves your soil structure and moisture retention, and contributes to healthy plant growth,” Spaeth said.
Other essential ingredients for composting are composed of nitrogen, oxygen, water and carbon. These ingredients help to break the compost down, and can be found in different green and brown materials.
With harvesting compost in mind, there has to be a designated area for the organic materials to decompose. More often than not, many gardeners use a compost bin to hold their materials. Homemade bins can be built with wood pallets or even snow fences, or a compost tumbler can be purchased as well.
There are some additions that gardeners would want to avoid in their compost, such as meats or fats. By adding meat and fats, the compost pile may attract unwanted rodents or animals and will have a funky aroma. Avoiding meats, fats, grease and dairy will help the compost in the long run, as well as the garden.
“If you start to get smells, that may indicate you may have something in there you shouldn’t have,” Chester said.
There is also another method of composting, which includes the usage of worms. Vermicomposting is a method in which gardeners can break down kitchen scraps with red worms to make a valuable compost. This type of compost can be used for soil amendment or maybe a starter mix for houseplants.
This method of composting is natural, and demonstrates the life cycle of the materials and worms. A worm bin is needed to complete this process, as well as bedding material. When building a worm bin, the women suggest not using cedar, as it is toxic to the red worms. The bedding material can consist of shredded newspaper, cardboard or even leaves.
The process takes around three to four months to see results, however the wait is well worth it. The compost can be used to enrich the soil the gardens sit on, and can be used as mulch.
For more information on composting, interested gardeners can give the Rutgers Master Gardener hot line a call at (609) 625-0056. A master gardener will answer, and give information based off of the questions asked in relation to composting.
On August 16, the Hammonton Green Committee held a Garden Talk at the Community Gardens located on 11th Street and Washington Street. The Garden Talk this week was focused on Hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil. Gene Adamson was the speaker at this event, and showed the group different ways to make hydroponics affordable and easy. She first started off by explaining how the hydroponics system functions, and how the process works for her.
Hydroponics essentially comes down to dissolving nutrients in water, resulting in plants successfully growing in the water without soil. Without the soil, the plants have to exert less energy to soak up the nutrients. This process can result in stronger, healthier plants and at a rapid rate.
Adamson explained her designs for an at home hydroponics system, with different materials to help the growth of plants even inside the home.
“This is what my plants are in outside right now,” Adamson said.
She showed the group a tiny pot that a plant could fit into. The tiny pod looked like a cup with holes in it, which was later explained to help the roots of the planes. The little pot would then be placed into the lid of a big plastic bin (by cutting a hole in the lid). The size of the pot and bin can vary based on plant size. Plastic bins that are colored are recommended, that way light does not affect the hydroponic system.
The system has seemed to work for Adamson at her own home, with multiple different plants successfully growing in their hydroponic bins. Tomatoes, basil and more were grown with the hydroponic system for Adamson. She warned them that they could reuse the bins after a plant was finished growing, however to clean it out first.
“Without the air circulation, and with this warm weather, you will get algae growing up along your pot,” Adamson said.
She discussed using different types of bins that people could use to make their own hydroponic systems, and mentioned wine buckets work well. Many different bottles and cans could be used to create the system; it all depended on what plants were growing in them. Adamson showed off ways for people to experiment with soda cans, wine bottles and even fish bowls.
The goal for Adamson was to develop a system that could be used by recycling other materials.
Adamson said that she used clay pebbles to help with her own hydroponic system at home.
“The clay pebbles is just your medium that absorbs the water to keep the moisture around its system as its growing its roots. You use this to start your seeds in,” Adamson said.
She said that a rock wall or stone wall also can be used, however, for her own personal system she said she did not enjoy her experience. Adamson showed photos of the comparison between the rock wall and clay pebbles from her hydroponic system, with the clay pebbles clearly showing more signs of life.
For more advanced growth, Adamson recommended that a small netting should go over the plants, just to keep the bugs and birds away. Without having to look at the plants routinely as one would with soil, having the netting over the plants ensures no unwanted pests or bugs can harm the growth of the plant.
She passed around pictures of her one garden and her plants, showing the group that affordable hydroponics can work. Different bins and barrels were seen on the pictures, along with Adamson’s different garden beds at the home. By using the hydroponics system, Adamson has cut down on garden space, encouraging others to try the system.
For more information on the Garden Talks at the Community Garden, head to the Green Committee’s website at www.hammontongreencommittee.com.