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How to Compost

There are essentially three major ways to compost. We will be covering 2 out of three. The first way, the one we will not cover here, is making your own compost on the bare ground. As we shared earlier because we are largely focusing on more urban rather than rural areas we will be focusing on the Compost Tumbler or enclosed Bins as well as the store bought compost options. Urban spaces typically lack the space needed to dedicate to cultivating compost. Compost is also a delicate processes. Although it is a fairly simple process, because you are dealing with decomposition and microorganisms disease prevention and sanitary needs must be carefully attended to when taking on composting. Nonetheless, if you have questions about composting piles made on the bare ground, just ask and we will answer your questions.


A tumbler is simply a barrel of sorts that can be rotated or turned to promote air flow and encourage the compositing process. Commercial tumblers are typically made from recycled plastics. The tumbler is filled with compost friendly material according to the directions of the tumbler. Compost friendly materials include such items as:

  • grass clippings
  • tree leaves
  • vegetable food scraps (coffee grounds, lettuce, potato peels, banana peels, avocado skins, etc.)
  • black and white newspaper
  • printer paper
  • most disease free yard waste
  • cardboard
  • animal manure (e.g. cows, horses, rabbits, hamsters, etc.)
  • Wood shavings or sawdust

Tumblers are more ideal for urban settings because the composting process is contained within the bin, barrel or tumbler. It is also activated with commercial starters, manures, already finished compost, garden soil or nothing at all. The organic materials are broken down, as in the compost heap method, by microbes and other living organisms fueled by oxygen. To encourage the composting process the tumbler is turned twice or three times a week, mixing the microbes with the organic material while infusing fresh supplies of oxygen. The key here is that the tumbler keeps the materials contained, as well as the heat the process generates. In a month or two fresh compost is produced. As gardener’s say, you now have black gold. This is still technically making it yourself.

A Quick Guide to Buying Compost

There are four main types of compost that are commercially sold by the bag as Bonnie Plants shares with us. Keep in mind that you may need a lot of compost to cover your area in which case it may be best to buy bulk. However, some compost will instruct you to use it sparingly as too much of some of the composts’ content may not be good for the plants that you are growing or the soil you are cultivating.

Type 1: Yard Waste Compost

Yard waste compost is made from leaves and grass clippings. It has a light texture similar to peat moss and is usually inexpensive. It is sold in bags or may be even offered for free from municipal mulch piles. Some municipalities also deliver composted leaves by the load for a fee. Check with your city or county government to see if this service is available. Local Master Gardeners may also know where you can get free yard waste compost. Yard waste compost is especially beneficial to heavy clay soil or any soil that contains very little organic matter. Yard waste compost is a great source of organic matter, but it’s lean on nutrients. Don’t forget the fertilizer when you prepare planting space with this type of compost.

Type 2: Manure Compost

Composted manure may be made from cow, horse, or poultry manures that have been combined with sawdust, yard waste, or other high-carbon materials to create a rich yet heavy-textured compost. A little goes a long way, especially in naturally fertile soils. Composted manure contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by half when using this type of compost. Organic growers who incorporate composted manure into the soil in bulk do so in the fall to make sure that bacterial pathogens from the manure are gone by the time the crop is planted. The bagged composted manure that you’ll find in garden centers has usually been treated to kill bacteria.

Type 3: Mushroom Compost

Mushroom compost starts out as rich and hot compost made from straw and horse or cow manure or plant meals. Then, just as the compost cools down, it is inoculated with mushroom spawn and given just the right conditions to produce delicious button mushrooms. After the mushrooms fruit, the leftover soil is packaged and resold. Mushroom compost is often smelly when you first open the bag, but the odor goes away in a few days. It contains several important nutrients, so you can reduce fertilizer application rates by about one third when using this type of compost.

Type 4: VermiCompost

Vermicompost or worm castings are produced from manures, food wastes, and paper, yard waste, or other bulky material. Under carefully controlled conditions, the ingredients are processed by millions of redworms, and their waste becomes vermincompost. Before it is sold, vermincompost is usually mixed with high-quality soil to improve its texture and dilute its nutrients. The potency of vermicompost varies among products, so follow application rates given on the product’s label. Too much vermicompost can injure plant roots and flood the soil with excessive salts. Vermicompost is best used to prepare soil for root crops or as a midseason pick-me-up for peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables that bear for a long time. Ever-bearing strawberries grown in containers also respond well to topdressing with vermicompost.

How will you choose to compost? Why is that method of composting good for you? What do you think are the benefits of composting? How can you save by composting? Share your thoughts with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

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Corona: The Environment

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As we wrote to you about rethinking organic, it has come to us to rethink many things about this organic journey and the significance of our health. Environmentalists have a lot to think about as well. As the onset of COVDI 19 has caused many to self quarantine, be quarantined and rethink spacing in many facets, environmentalists have been watching from above. And what they can see is a significant reduction in pollution. Like many who have seen some positive changes in the midst of COVID 19, they want to hold on to the positive changes that have come out of all of this.

Organic growers are much attuned to their environment and the effects it has on what they grow. As we look at what and the ways we consume, essentially our diet, so too our avenues of thought about cause and effect are broadened. We can see how pollution has decreased when we see the need to reclaim space for public health safety has caused bike sales to rise and consequently having a positive effect on the environment by reducing smog. As we struggled with understanding the pests in our own garden and paying homage to our Organic Journey, we were perplexed how a seemingly healthy plant could get into trouble so fast. One day the plant looked lush and green and the next day it was withering and dying.

Most Organic growers will tell you that the signs of pest are the signs of an unhealthy plant and the best way to address pests is to promote plant health. While I think they are right to some degree, I believe there is another component we must flesh out more. What about its environment? If I put a healthy plant in an environment that is unhealthy how long will it stay healthy? Not long. So while our plants were healthy, underneath the ground where we could not see, we currently suspect, was a vole tunneling holes through root systems and munching on our plants from underneath the ground. This put our perfectly healthy plants in serious danger, which we could not see from above ground. The plants would then become unhealthy and susceptible to pests.

This observation gives us pause to think about our health from many directions as we consider the environments of our foods as well as ourselves. How do pests or culprits unknown, unseen and clandestine impact the health of the plants we grow to eat and our environment at large? What are some ways we can identify pests in the environment of our plants as well as the environments we live in? What are 3 things we can do today to start to have a positive impact on the environment around us and the environments in which our foods are grown? Leave your comments and questions so the whole community can benefit. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing! Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today.

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Neem Oil

When our Cabbage & Brussel Sprouts leaves were being eaten up, we went in search for an Organic Remedy. Most organic gardeners and farmers will tell you the best remedy is plant health. Those plants that come under attack are typically not in good health. Although the vole might be putting them under stress. We found that the plants coming under attack were perfectly healthy plants but young and tender. Some of them were going through the transplant process and experiencing some stress and shock. All things we think the plants could bounce back from without problem. So, we have decided to give our plantings a little Organic help to promote growth and health while we get our garden off the ground.

Our search produced a recommendation to use Neem Oil. We found a product that left us with a little more questions than answers because it did not fully disclose all of its ingredients. We discovered that Neem Oil is often mixed with dish detergent and water. The emulsifier in the dish detergent helps break down the oil and give it a little structure. Naturally the oil will loosen up if heated but that is not a good application method for your plants. Once the detergent, water and neem oil mixture is made it must be used otherwise it will break down and become unusable. Well we want to know what we are putting on our food so, we found 100% cold pressed neem oil. We will add our own water. If you decided to use detergent, we recommend Castile soap, which is a natural (and can be organic) soap with no chemicals. You can find this soap at your local store or order it online. We found our Neem Oil online for about $5 per 8 ounces plus shipping. We decided to buy in bulk so we got 32 ounces for that price (per 8 ounces).

Although we think it is still to early to tell, the results thus far have been very positive. We have seen a noticeable difference in the amount of flies. They have decreased in number and have become more clandestine. Just because they get clandestine does not mean they are gone. Remember to keep up your Organic Remedy Regimen for at least 2 – 4 weeks. It is recommended to keep treating plants 2 weeks after desired results are achieved. Click here to learn more about Neem Oil from the Smiling Gardener. We did not buy our Neem Oil from this supplier, but found them to have a great deal of knowledge regarding Neem Oil as it relates to gardening and farming.

This Organic Remedy should allow our plants time to get over any shock or stress. We also dug new ground and are always learning what works best. So, there are a lot of factors to consider. We wanted a product whose ingredients we knew. Also, we are always looking for a good deal. We don’t mind mixing up our own Neem Oil solution in order to get these things. We believe you should know what is on and in your food. So, we decided to go with a small business owner supplier who provided unfiltered and cold pressed Neem Oil.

We have high hopes for our garden once these seedlings have an opportunity to flourish. They are on average very healthy and strong. The introduction of Soil Blocks and other methods that discourage disease have significantly improved our sowing success, it is on track to be 100% of seeds sown sprout into healthy plants. The transplanting process has been improved. And we are in the process of helping them catch root quicker. Discouraging voles and other mole like animals should also keep the plants from being uprooted once successfully transplanted. What we believe is a vole could have also been preventing our plantings from developing healthy root systems as well as taking root sooner and completing the transplant process. We will be observing if these pest remedies shorten the transplant process.

We believe the Neem Oil will help keep pests at bay and give these plants a chance to recover from any stress or shock. When reading packages they often make EPA, USDA and other certifications. Do you know what these standards are and are these standards acceptable to you? Do you think manufacturers should release all ingredients despite their desire to protect trade secrets? How can you help influence EPA & USDA standards that are more transparent and acceptable to your own personal standards? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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When transplanting a plant, one of the first things we do is give its roots a lot of water. And when we water our plants daily, we water the roots not the leaves. If you water the leaves, you can encourage disease. So, this is the one time you can aim low and its ok. The first thing we want our plants to do is grow a healthy and well developed root system. This is typically underground so we tend to forget it. But, it is very important to the plant. The roots go out and seek the nutrients the plant needs to survive and thrive. We want to encourage a well developed and deep root system with access to all the nutrients it needs to cause our plants to thrive. So when applying fertilizer or just watering your plants, always aim for the roots of the plant. This practice will encourage and promote good plant health.

Regardless if you are growing a simple indoor herb or an outdoor onion nourishing the roots is key. Thank you for taking this journey with us. What have you learned so far along the way? What has been most helpful to you? How are your plants responding? Send us a picture and leave a comment so we can share your success and trail and error with everyone. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Soil Blocks – The Follow Up

Soil Blocks: We tried them and told you we liked them. So, here is the follow up. They seem to remain very good at preventing disease. Keeping things maintained and orderly. They are highly efficient. Requiring very little water. They are compact and seem to be carrying a lot of what seedlings need to get started and get transplanted into an outside garden or an inside container. The clay trays could be helping with that too. With my first go at this, I barely noticed, some of the seeds washed out of the Soil Blocks and along rocky (clay) ground. And as the parable of the sower goes, they immediately spring up because they had no depth of soil. But since they have no root, we know they will perish (Matthew 13). The parable of the sower is one of my favorite parables, which I have read many times. It just so happens that I am in the book of Matthew. When you look closely at the featured image for this article you will see that the seeds that were washed out of the soil block indeed sprouted. So, we are praying that we do indeed have good soil in our yard. We have not had it tested. We will indeed learn much on our journey. The cabbage and tomatoes are doing well. But we know different plants have different needs. So, we shall see what our soil produces.

We noticed that a few of the seeds sprouted right away, in just a few days. This is fast for almost all the seeds we have. You can see cabbage pictured to the left. We do have plenty of cabbage. However, those came to us as plants. These as you can see came to us as seeds. As you can see the Soil Blocks are very neat, efficient and it would seem fast. So far we are very pleased. It will be easy to place the hole thing, roots ready, in the ground. The material binding the soil together is very degradable. However, what you may find, Soil Blocks, handmade in a larger garden or farm probably will be more moist with no binding medium. Once the cabbage grows into a larger plant, she will go outside into the garden with a head start. Stay tuned to the journey and we will be sure to give you updates.

What would be the benefits of Soil Blocks for growing your own plants in or outside? What are your observations? How can these Soil Blocks help you save? Do you know where to find Soil Blocks locally? What questions do you have. We love the shape of cabbage sprouts. They look like little hearts just in time for mother’s day. The also remind us of the clover plant. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Transplanting Progress

Our goal over the next several weeks is to get all the plants from inside the mini greenhouse and outside into the garden. Things are progressing well. But, there is still much left to be done. We will be planting a few of the same types of plants. We have been anticipating the harvest and looking forward to a bountiful one. We will also be resowing some plants that did not either sprout or did not grow into successful pants or transplants.

As with any garden there is much work to be done; many observations to make and much progress ahead. Today we put out 4 (pinto bean, navy bean, parsley and sage) more transplants (pictured in the article) and observed some successful transplant progress. We also observed some recent and first transplants that are doing pretty well ( 2 tomato plants and 2 kale varieties that we put out. We are actually having kale tonight. But, that is store bought. Wait to you start your own garden as everyone says. You will not regret it and you will notice the difference.

Early Girl Tomato came to us fresh from the store as a plant and she is one of the plants we transplanted right away with out acclimating her. Because she went into shock, we spent many weeks nursing her into good health and protecting her from pests while she recovered from shock. So, we are pleasantly surprised to see her doing so well and growing tall. Her stalk is growing thick, tall and strong. As goes nature from time to time tomato leaves will grow yellow and then brownish. It is recommended that you clip these leaves to maintain the health of the plant and prevent disease. We have not yet seen any flowers. Tomatoes are perfect plants and will pollinate themselves. So, we are expecting to see some flowers before we see any fruit. The birds and butterflies love the garden and come to visit quit often. We will talk more about the birds and bees in another article.

Roma Tomato, very good for sauces because of the few seeds, has truly and literally blossomed. She too came to us straight from the store and went straight into the ground. We prune her and keep her in good health. Her stalk is growing strong, thick and tall. She is healthy and holding her leaves high. And as you can see, she really has blossomed two beautiful yellow flowers. So, we are expecting fruit to start budding any time soon. So we can patiently watch it ripen on the vine. I think this is going to be Charles’ top pick as I know he is into homemade pasta. She has come a long way. We are so pleased at her progress. The neighbors come by often to see the new garden in the yard. They have commented more than once how beautiful the yard is. We are hoping to make a couple of more inviting additions to the yard that will keep the yard a warm and welcoming place.

We planted two varieties of kale, which we love around here. Dark leafy greens are always high on the recommended good for you list. We like them because they are high in iron. Initially, I was very concerned about kale because no matter how much dirt I piled around it, they were just leggy and wanted to flop over and lie close to the ground. I noticed today that they seem to be holding their stance and growing their leaves big now that they are out of the pot. They are bright green and growing crinkles around the edges of their leaves like most typical kale. While you can cook kale, we have lots of salads in store for this duo. We are eager to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Waiting to enjoy seems to be the hardest part. At least my father and I both share that sentiment.

In keeping with our mission to get all plants out to the garden over the next several weeks, we brought out pinto and navy bean, which look very similar to green bean. Unlike lentil bean, which looks tall and stalking bearing several small leaves and a few branches. At least for now. They are not nearly as tall. Nonetheless, they went through the transplanting acclimation period very well and are standing tall as well as looking good. We gave them a healthy amount of water and will be watching how they take to their new home in the garden.

Sage and Parsley went out today also. Sage is looking a little saggy. But, it seems to be holding kind of low. Or either it was reaching for sunlight in the greenhouse. We are hoping that once she catches to her new home that she will spread out and full up. Parsley is one of those plants who did very well. We had one in a clay pot and one in a cardboard like pot and the one in the clay pot did very well in our mini greenhouse aka garage (which seemed to be very mold loving. if we decide to make cheese we should be good.). We are sure that the mold had something to do with that. Overall we were very pleased at how the clay pots were able to shrug off disease. We were able to get the smaller clay pots at a local dollar store. So, they were a good investment. We will wash them out and use them again.

When washing pots it is important to note that you should remove all past substance to prevent disease from spreading. However, if you use a detergent, sit your pot out in the sun for a few weeks and allow the chemicals to leave the pot. You might also try a water and bleach solution or an organic cleanser. What observations have you made? Have you begun your kitchen herbs or garden yet? What is holding you back? Have questions? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.