Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Create A Wildlife Habitat

Steps To Get Wildlife Habitat Certification

The National Wildlife Federation has a program that encourages folks to create a natural habitat for wildlife.  If the space is a  small condo patio, or acres of farmland and woods, it can be certified if all of the elements of  a habitat are present. Does the school have an outdoor nature lab?  It can be certified as a Wildlife Habitat. Setting aside land for wildlife use is good for the environment.  It can enhance the neighborhood, and  make others aware that steps are being taken to preserve nature.

Certified Yard
The requirements to get this certification are to provide an environment that can sustain wildlife with food, shelter, and water.

Food Sources for wildlife should be varied in nature, from seeds and berries, to nuts and nectar.  The birds and pollinators will be drawn to a variety of plants such as native berry shrubs and trees to nectar from fruit.  Small animals like mice, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums will also be attracted to these foods.

Growing seeds in the form of perennials is also available.  Plants like coneflowers and  black-eye Susan present a great stage for birds and pollinators.


Water features in the yard are vital for wildlife. Ponds are a big attraction, but small fountains, and birdbaths are quite inviting.  Ponds provide a habitat for frogs, and they in turn, eat mosquitoes.


Shelter for wildlife is important for animals to hide from prey, or to protect nests of the young. Shrub rows, evergreens, and even wood piles provide these needs. Trees and Bird houses allow birds a place to build nests.

100_1440The Backyard Wildlife Habitat is available with a questionnaire submitted to National Wildlife Federation.  It is easy to make this environment for wildlife and bring an awareness to the neighborhood of your steps to protect the wildlife.  Envision a habitat for wildlife, enrich your life , and enjoy.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cottage Garden Visit On A Warm Fall Day

Cottage Garden in the Fall  

Received this from my friend Luanne Ebert this morning.  She tells the story of our visit to Smith Gardens in Oakwood.  Great memories and a great friend who is a photojournalist who 'takes the high road' here and abroad. 

Hi Claudia,
Here’s what I saw yesterday.
A lonely bench …
… a pensive pose …
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get-attachment (3)
… a passerby on the way to explore the nearby cottage.
Nature preened into a manicure …
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… babbling waterfall …
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… two strangers in a happenstance meeting – no strangers to the joys of gardening.
get-attachment (5)get-attachment (6)
Thanks for a much needed break from the routine …

I hope you enjoyed a look at Luanne’s views of a lovely garden.  Claudia

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Organic Fertilizers–Part 6–Other Sources

Other Good Organic Fertilizers 

We have looked at the sources of organic fertilizers from Plants, Animals, and Sea Sources.  The alfalfa, corn, cotton and soybean plants offer good safe nutrients to the soil.  The food chain is not impacted by these products since the debris of the stems, stalks, and hulls is used for this organic material.

Manures, blood meal, and bone meal create excellent sources of nutrients. Here again, the materials used here are either remnants of the slaughtering process, or the waste from the animals themselves.
The ocean offers kelp, and fish to add to this list of organic fertilizers. Kelp is harvested in such a way that it regrows with a few weeks making this a highly sustainable resource of organic fertilizer.  And the fish industry removes the food portion of the fish, and the scraps are ground and processed into the fish fertilizer we use. 

A few other sources I’d like to bring attention to are great in nutrient values and I'd like to mention them here. 
comfrey w blooms by AlyssssyIA
Comfrey blossoms

Comfrey – Is a  fast growing plant with large leaves and deep roots.  These roots are able to collect nutrients from the soil and make this plant a good source of nutrients.  Livestock feed on comfrey, and the leaves can be used to make liquid fertilizer.  By soaking these leaves for 4-5 weeks, a nutritious and smelly ‘tea’  is created.  This liquid fertilizer can be used around the garden once it is diluted 15:1.
The comfrey leaves can also be used as a compost activator. They quickly breaking down to a thick black liquid. The comfrey roots are high in potassium, and the leaves are high in nitrogen.

bonfire ash by jon Smith
Bonfire Ash
Bonfire Ash – is the remains of wood.  It is alkaline (pH higher than 7) and has lots of minerals like potassium and calcium.  Fireplace ash can be spread around the garden, and tilled into the soil. 

nettles by me'nthedogs Mark Robinson

 Nettles – are Prickly. Using gloves to harvest these leaves is essential.  Once the fresh, young stems are gathered, crush them and soak in a covered container for 3-4 weeks.  Nettle ‘tea’ should be diluted one part tea to 10 parts water.  Use a a foliar spray or douse soil around the garden.  The nettles are a good source of nitrogen.  Since this is a weed, it can be cut twice a season for an endless source of nutrient.  Studies have show that even manure of cattle who have a diet of nettles is more nutritious.

buckwheat as cover crop  osu.edu
Buckwheat as cover crop - OSU

Cover crops, or Green Manures – This practice of covering the garden with a crop works if you have a nice sized vegetable garden.  The sowing of rye grass or clover in the fall is going to add nutrients to the soil when, in spring, this material is tilled into the garden to decompose.Some plants in the legume family increase nitrogen in the soil as well.  Cover crops can reduce weeds by shading the weed seed from germinating. The nutrients this ‘crop’ returns to the soil when tilled in is benefitting the micro-organisms as organic matter that is decomposing.

This return of nutrients to the soil from these sources is often overlooked, but hopefully, we can try some of these in our own space.

Have you used nettles or comfrey?  Wood ashes?  Do you plant a cover crop?  What plant have you found to be beneficial?  Let us know.  Thanks.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Native Perennials–Plants that Bring Bling

Stephanie Cohen Gives 'HOPE' to the Boring Backyard

Stephanie Cohen was guest of the Five Rivers Metro Park Sunday at the Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton, Ohio.  Truly a fun event. Stephanie has a wealth of knowledge of herbaceous plants and perennial design that she shared with a room full of gardeners.  Native plant choices Stephanie showed us were bright and colorful, and bring ‘bling’ into the garden from spring, into summer, and fall.

This fun speaker has been telling others about perennials for over 20 years and has many accomplishments to her credit. 
As an author of three books, her ideas and knowledge are available.  The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer was selected as the best selling book for 2005 by the Garden Writers of America.  Fallscaping and The Nonstop garden (Timber Press) currently are in the top ten on Amazon
Since I lost so many trees this past year, I’m anxious to fill in with some of these native perennials that Stephanie talked about in my sunny border. 

Echinacea 'Hope'

One Echinacea I will be looking for is ‘Hope’.  This coneflower is large with soft pink blooms which are fragrant.  Sturdy stems hold up flowers from late summer to early autumn.  ‘Hope’ is a “Plant for a Cure” dedicated to breast cancer survivors.  A portion of the proceeds of every plant sold goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

Besides being colorful, Native plants draw in pollinators,  their seeds feed birds and small mammals, and they take little or no care once established. After the 2012 summer most of us experienced, natives seem the obvious choice. Natives can handle the heat and drought so we don't need to drag those hoses around.

As gardeners, we can reach out to the community through our gardening efforts. Share a bouquet or show a youngster how to plant.  Any time we can, touch another’s life – and just like that plant in our garden, we grow.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Organic Fertilizers–Part 5–Sea Sources

Ocean Plants and Fish Offer Great Fertilizers

kelp in ocean

From Kelp, we get one of the most nutritious organic fertilizers.  This algae is not the seaweed that washes up on the beach, but a highly sustainable plant that is harvested from the ocean floor.  The kelp regrow within ten days of harvest, giving a fresh harvest that is quite renewable.  
Kelp contains 79 minerals, or micronutrients. The is almost every mineral and trace mineral found in nature. Carbohydrates are available to feed microorganisms in soil when applied as an organic fertilizer.

 kelp plants

Kelp is the most common type of seaweed. It is processed in three different methods.  One is a Kelp Powder.  The fine ground kelp is small enough to be mixed into a solution.  Applied as a foliar spray, kelp powder solution nutrients that can be taken in by the foliage of plants.

kelp powder

Kelp meal is another version of this organic fertilizer source.  Kelp meal is a good source of potassium , with some nitrogen.  Kelp meal is primarily used as a soil conditioner. 

kelp meal

Kelp meal, or seaweed meal, is dried and milled into a powder as shown here. Liquid kelp is yet another form of this product.  Liquid kelp is usually cold processed and has high amounts of growth hormones.  These hormones are readily available to plants.  Liquid kelp can be mixed into water for application. 
liquid kelp seaweed

seaweed   greenSeaweed is divided into three types – green, brown, or red. seaweed  brownseaweed  red

Seaweeds, particularly the green and brown seaweeds, are processed into extracts which are accepted in the horticultural industry to improve plant yields, plant growth, plant health, and the plants have better resistance to insects and diseases. Seaweed extracts are full of macro- and micronutrients.  High in amino acids, and plant growth regulators, seaweed extracts offer a good source of nutrients to benefit plants.


Fish fertilizer is a by-product of the fishing industry.  Most fish that are processed into fertilizers are not fish by-products that come from the food industry, but fish that are specifically used for plants and animals. These are bottom fish that don't make the grade for human consumption.

Like the seaweed, fish fertilizers come in different formulas. Fish powder is ground up, and using heat, produces a water soluble product that is high in nitrogen.

fish powder

Fish meals are ground up carcasses of fish.  The meal is high in nitrogen with an N-P-K of around 10-6-2. Nitrogen aids in the growth of plants, and the phosphorous benefits good root development.  Use fish meal early in the growing season for vegetables and flowers for a slow release benefits for months.

Using a process called hydrolyzing, which uses enzymes, manufacturers omit the use of heat and acids in making a product that is water soluble and high in nitrogen. This product called Liquid fish are less smelly than Fish emulsions. However, the cost is higher.

Fish emulsions are produced from the fluid remains of the fish. A liquid remains and results in a fish concentrate by evaporating this liquid by about half.  The evaporating portion of this process destroys some nutrients but at 5-2-2, fish emulsions are still known for the micronutrient availability.

fish liquid
fish bone mealFish bone Meal is high in calcium                                                  
Alaska Fish Fertilizer is OMRI (C) listed

Ok – here is the conundrum I am facing: Do I close this article now, or do I tell you –as Paul Harvey used to say – the rest of the story?

Fish emulsions and fish meal are made mainly from fish that are not suitable for human consumption.  This ‘trash’ fish often contain toxins.  The Menhaden is a fish that spends time in heavily polluted waters and is a popular fish in production of emulsions.  Heavy metals can be found in these fish. Even some freshwater fish that are not allowed for human food, are used in some fish emulsion processes.

bunkerBunker or Menhaden Fish
fish processingFish Processing

Some fish fertilizer companies do use food grade waste products in addition to non-food fish. This may reduce the impact of the toxins that may be in non-food ingredients

When steam is used in the process, it can be problematic too, especially if the water comes from a municipality that chlorinates it’s water. Since the emulsion is ‘reduced’, the chlorine becomes more concentrated too. High chlorine amounts can harm plants.
If you can't tell from the product label, check on the MSDS, Material Safety Data Sheet for details.  The MSDS will be specific on ingredients and chemicals in the product.

I will be looking for liquid fish made from the enzymes.  This process retains more of the proteins, enzymes, vitamins, and micronutrients than emulsions.
Enzymaticall Digested Hydrolyzed Flquid fish
Peaceful Valley Enzymatic Digested Liquid Fish

Seaweed, kelp, and fish can be excellent fertilizers.  The seaweed and kelp are highly renewable, and the fish by-products offer complete nutrition to plants if they are not loaded with heavy metals.
( I have no financial connection with any of the products I have featured here.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Organic Fertilizers – Part 4 - Animal Sources

Animals Provide Organic Nutrients

Getting this article on Animal Sources organized today, I found that the animal sources for organic fertilizers are limited.  The products that come from animals are few, but I did find some really good quality fertilizers, and some – not so much.
Let’s look at the –not so much- products first.
Blood Meal   As the name implies, blood from animals is the ingredient of this product.  Slaughterhouse floors are scraped and the products is pulverized into powder.  Processing of cattle is the usual source, but pigs, and chicken blood can be used.  High in Nitrogen, Blood meal has an N-P-K of 12-0-0.  This type of nitrogen is readily available, and may burn plants if over applied.
In strict organic production, blood meal is not allowed to be fed to organic livestock.  The risk of mad-cow disease is the reason for this ban.  Applying blood meal to crops as a soil amendment is allowed however.  As a precaution, it is recommended that during application of blood meal, a mask is worn to limit exposure of this disease.

Blood Meal is also used as an animal repellant and as a compost accelerator.

As a readily renewable product, resources (blood) come from processing 26.4 Billion pounds of beef annually.  22.5 Billion pounds of pig products are produced annually.

bone meal  arbico
Bone Meal  The same industry as above, provides bone for organic bone meal. Bones are steamed, stripped, dried, and ground during processing.   Bone meal is high in phosphorus, and helps promote root growth in plants. Common use of bone meal is in the fall while planting spring flowering bulbs.

I recommend that indiscriminate application of any fertilizer be discouraged.  In the case of phosphorous, this element is not readily used,  (especially in soils of pH above 7)  and stays abundant in soil for a long time.  Over use can cause phosphorus to leach into the watershed, and cause algae bloom in area lakes.(Here again, I suggest a soil analysis, before applying amendments.)

There are alternatives to using bone meal and I will look into them in Step 5 – Ocean and Sea Products Used for Organic Fertilizers

Feather Meal  feather meal
Feather meal is also a by-product of the food industry, slaughtering poultry. It supplies a fairly good supply of Nitrogen. As  a slow release fertilizer, feather meal can provide nutrients for up to four months. Work powder into soil for decomposition to start.

poultry feather meal

Making feather meal is called rendering. The feathers are steamed to sterilize them and ground into a powder.

Poultry Litter   Poultry litter is a blend of poultry manure, feed, and bedding.  The nutrient values are 3-3-2.  It works best when worked into the soil.  Long-term benefits of this nutrition is evident even into the second year after application.  75% of N-P is available the first year.  The remaining 25% remains viable into the second year. The main cost of poultry litter is transportation to the marketplace, and the cost of applying it.  With so much litter available, this resource is being useful in another area – biofuel.


Example:  In the State of Minnesota, several farms that produce turkeys have found a way to dispose of tons of litter – 1.7 million tons, to be exact!  The litter is removed to a local power plant where it is burned in turbines, and generates thousands of KW hours of electricity.  This is enough electricity to power 60,000 homes!  The remaining ash of the turkey litter is returned to the farmers who use it as an organic fertilizer.  Win-Win – no mountains of litter piling up, no odor, and the resource is –indeed- renewable.

Manures   Animal sources of this organic product are several.  Horse manure – sometimes called mushroom compost – is used to top dress farms and gardens.  Cow manure – to me – is a better choice than horse manure. I’ve have found that cow manure is less likely to contain seeds that will gladly sprout all over the garden.  Since cows have a two stomach digestive system. the weed seeds are digested better.

Composted manures are starting that decomposition process, and nutrition is more readily available.

Bat Guano  Guano is another term for manure – of bats.  The three types of bats are sanguivorous – vampire bats that seek blood; the insectivorous bat who eats insects; and the fruit eater, the frugivorous bat.

bat eating fruitFruit eating bat
bat eating insectsInsect eating bat
deer bat - sean hall 5032 Blood eating bat

The blood eating and the insect eating bat guano is high in nitrogen and phosphorus.  The fruit eating bat guano has less nitrogen.  Therefore, when purchased, the label for Guano will indicate a Nitrogen Source, or a Phosphorous Source.
bat guanoArbico bat guano nitrogenArbico products

Guano extraction is bat friendly.
bat guano retreival

Tarps are collected after a week or so, and the guano is processed into fresh, fossilized, or semi-fossilized formats.  Macro- and micro-nutrients are available in huge amounts. These nutrients activate microorganisms in the soil.   Mix granular guano in holes when planting trees and shrubs, or apply to soil when planting grass seed.  A ‘tea’ can be made with guano, and used as a foliar spray as well.

Animal sources for organic fertilizers are readily available, but some concerns are noted.  What organic fertilizers do you use?  What do you  avoid?