April 19, 2009

Chicken Compost Tea Promotes Color Therapy

The South Forty, our lot next door to our house, came with thirty-four rose bushes. I didn't know how to care for them, literally and figuratively, until I met with my gracious neighbor and she explained a lot about them to me.

After having been neglected for two years, I pruned the roses hard and dared them to grow back. I didn't care if some of them died. I had no attachment to them whatsoever. They looked like diseased thorny stalks. It took hours to trim them all back. I wasn't sure why I bothered, however, I remembered that when they were cared for, their blooms were pretty. I guess I hoped that I could return them to that state.

Last year after surviving an awful auto accident, I finally learned to appreciate the roses in the lot. While I walked among them, afraid of falling because I had vertigo, I noticed that the intense color of each rose gave me a sensation of pleasure. This sounds weird but, I think the hue of the roses provided me with color therapy.

One of the reasons why our roses are doing well is from the use of compost tea. At first I tried to add composted dirt around the base of the plants, but our chickens scratched it all away. Then I discovered that the former owner buried a pipeline watering system and placed open spouts next to each bush. My new technique is to pour the compost tea, or the liquid nitrogen food, into the open holes. With this method, the plant may be fed and watered about a quart every four days. I'd like to mention that I have outwitted our chickens and I am very pleased about that.

My friend at Wonderfarm gave me a book by Pam Peirce called, Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California. This book is a wealth of information for anyone in the Bay Area who wants to grow edible plants. If you have access to chicken manure, try their recipe. It's easy to make; albeit it's smelly, but plants thrive on the nitrogen in it and according to the book, our soil is void of that element. Here is the magic solution for your plants:

Recipe For Compost Tea

"With very little effort you can turn manure or hot compost into a wonderful liquid fertilizer to add before or as you water plants. Put some manure or compost in a large bucket and fill it with water (may cover to shield odor). Use about 2 cups of solid material per gallon of water. Let it sit in the pot for three days or more, stirring it a couple of times a day. Every 2 weeks or so apply the liquid around your plants. When the liquid is gone, pour the slurry in the garden in an area between plants and start over."

Align Center
Our roses are blooming now and I have to admit I enjoy looking at them. I used to think, and still kind of do, that roses are trite. A nasal voice in my head tells me, "They aren't native and they use too much water." But alas, I've noticed that they unfold like a tessellation of delicate satin scoops; and their color makes me feel better after I look at them closely, and with my new system, they don't need as much water.

Align CenterIt's finally feeling like The South Forty is ours. All the weed picking, planting, watering and tending is transforming it. The plants are thriving and it makes me happy when our land is well tended. Unfortunately when I work outside, the inside of our house becomes a disaster in my absence. It's nice to be so needed (sarcasm intended).

I realize that in Austria and in many places in the United
States spring is just beginning. My cousin in Colorado noted on her Face Book that it was snowing. I'm sure there's still snow around the mountains of Anchorage too, where Mr. Green Jean's Dad and his sister's family live. My brother and sister in Oregon said there are finally spring blooms there, and that their weather has finally warmed.

It's hard for me to imagine it being cold elsewhere, since our first spring blooms occurred here in February. (Our bees keep me abreast of blooms and pollen bursts.) All of our fruit trees, except for the cherry, have finished blooming and it feels to me like spring is over.

Soon our hills will turn from ones that look like the land in Ireland to their dry yellow counterparts. But our roses will still be blooming throughout summer, and I plant to continue to appreciate their color in daily doses. Remember the post that I wrote:
To trim or not to trim? I'm thinking that roses are year round in the Bay Area, especially since we aren't getting winters like we used to. There just doesn't seem to be a cold enough time to prune them back. Well, I did a little test. The roses that I didn't trim this winter are all blooming right now. I know so very little about caring for them, but I'm learning to appreciate them slowly.


Susan said...

The roses look gorgeous. I'll have to get Golden Gate Gardening. I am a little annoyed that the only spot that gets enough sun in our yard is too close to the bees. Not a coincidence, however. The bees need sun, too. I tried to water our two lettuces and two strawberry plants this morning and the bees were bumping me. We'll have to water and pick early or late.

patricia said...

I love roses that have a tinge of gold to them, like many of yours do. That one bush looks especially pretty against the color of your house.

I never thought about making compost tea with bunny droppings, but I'll bet that would work too. I have read that rabbit droppings are one of the few types of manure that you can use directly, uncomposted, around plants, so maybe you can leave some of Pedro's goodies around your roses too. One of the best things you can do for roses is put alfalfa pellets around their bases in the spring. I've ordered them from the place I buy our rabbit food--you have to get all-alfalfa pellets, not the ones they usually sell for rabbits, which have other ingredients. I learned this trick from a Bay Area rose guru whose name I'm forgetting--it really works! But, alas, I forgot to order pellets this year. Maybe it's not too late, but I think March is the best time to apply.

I'd love to see your roses one of these days.

Kristin said...

Hi Susan,

If your bees are acting aggressive and kind of going after you, I've heard that you should replace your queen. You could have an aggressive strain which isn't necessary. I can walk right past the front of my hive (slowly) and stand right next to it, or lift the lid off without any bee coming near me. On another note, isn't your front yard sunny? Thanks for your comment.

Kristin said...

Hi Patricia,

Sure mixing the rabbit pellets in water would work. I put the pellets right around my plants though I can't do that by the roses because the chickens would scratch and possibly eat it.

I've heard that if the rabbit poop is a bit wet from urine, than it may be too strong to put around your plants, so some people compost it first; but I just do it anyway, at a bit of a distance away from the stalk. Your alfalfa idea sounds great, but my chickens would eat it. Good to hear from you and welcome back from La La Land.

Stefaneener said...

I love the idea of the color of the roses being healing for you. We finally have one rose because I was so thrilled with Caterina when she was little that "her" plant was a rose which was supposed to smell. Have you noticed that modern roses don't smell? Pity. Anyhow, it's okay. . . I'm really not a rose person, but maybe I'll prune even more next winter.

Kristin said...

Hi Stafaneener,

That's a unique idea to plant a rose bush to signify the birth of your daughter. I pruned my roses hard after years of neglect, but now I just cut the bush back to the size I want it to be, and remove every diseased leaf in sight.

Since you have chickens, and your manure is ample, have Caterina add water to manure in a bucket. Help her find a long stick or implement to stir the tea throughout the week. She might like the process of feeding her very own special plant.

I enjoy hearing from you. Thanks.

cat said...

thank you so much for the information! we have 1 white rose bush (yeah, not alot of color but looks really pretty at night when in bloom..haha), and 5 varieties that are more like trees than bushes..hah i am definitely going to use the compost tea method you describe with our chicken manure...thanks!!

and thank you for the lovely comment on my blog..:) yes, the goats can be loud...especially our wethered boy who is separated from our new mama by a gate. the babies are less than 2 weeks old, so not ready for his rough play just yet...;) and since he's in the main yard right now, my potato plants are toast...grrrr...i'll have to harvest early, so good thing new potatoes are tasty! hah

thanks again for your wonderful blog...i'm really enjoying it!

Kristin said...

Hi Cat,

5 rose rose varieties? I bet that's spectacular.

Yes, having animals can make our edibles thrive and or suffer, but at least in this case of your goat tromping on your potato plants, the main ingredient is safely underground.

Thanks for the good chi re: my blog.

Merisi said...

Thank you so much for the link to my blog! :-)
I was reading your post and enjoying what I read, so it was a very nice surprise to find the link on top of the pleasure of your writing!

I can imagine the toile and sweat over many days in order to bring such a beautiful garden to life again! I wonder how old your roses are, they look very well adjusted to the soil and climate. I love visiting the Rose Garden that the City of Vienna tends to so well. I noticed one of the rosebushes dating back to 1942!

Vienna is blessed with a gorgeous Spring, temperatures have been in the low to high seventies for what seem weeks and weeks on end. Yesterday evening, as I was walking through the streets and parks of the center, scents of lilacs and chestnuts and wisterias were wafting through the golden evening light, competing with each other.

Kristin said...

Hello Merisi,

A rose from 1942--so cool. My oldest ones are from 1977. The petals of older varieties are less compact. I hear that they are more fragrant too.

It seems that you are always exploring and capturing exquisite photos in Vienna. I admire that you work hard at it and post so frequently. That's why I wanted to share your blog with the readers that visit my site. I hope they do.