You Bet Your Garden

Let worms turn your garbage into black gold


Listen to the full show:

Mike McGrath explains how to transplant a potted hydrangea to your garden, what conditions raspberries require to thrive, how much coffee you should add to your compost, the dangers of planting near black walnut trees, and worm composting basics.


Question of the Week:

“You’ve mentioned on the show that you are ‘vermicomposting’. Me too; I made my own worm bins from large plastic totes, and they work well. My only complaint is that separating out the finished compost is time-consuming and tedious. You’ve said that you use a stackable ‘Worm Factory’ for this very reason. Do you find that it makes it easier to harvest the finished compost? Do the worms really crawl up from the “finished” trays into the next higher tray? Do you have a problem with escapees? And finally, how do you store the compost produced in the winter? In short, I would love to hear a segment about your vermicomposting! And thanks for all the wonderful shows you already do. I listen to your podcast every week.”

— Sue in Detroit

Learn the do’s and don’ts of worm composting »


Highlights from show for February 22, 2014:

Transplanting a potted hydrangea to your garden

A generous friend gave Josh’s wife a potted hydrangea a few weeks ago. Josh from Woodstock, Georgia wants this plant to thrive and he hopes to transplant it outdoors in the spring. He calls Mike to ask for advice because the last hydrangea plant he transplanted has never bloomed. Mike advises Josh to pick a spot that gets six hours of sun every day, keep the plant well watered, and add a little compost around the base. Mike thinks Josh will have this plant blooming in no time! Mike says: “As long as you get new green growth from it by the time the normal cycle comes around next year I see no reason why you shouldn’t see new blooms on that!”


Planting raspberries

Francine from Ardmore, Pennsylvania wants to plant raspberries for her young daughters to enjoy. She already has some raised beds in her yard and calls Mike for advice on where to plant her raspberry bush. Mike explains that “raspberries deliver the most, and the most delicious, fruits in the poorest soils, the only thing they need is good drainage … and space to spread because raspberries do not stay in the same place.” To get started, Mike advises Francine to either buy raspberry canes or ask a neighbor with a healthy plant if she can cut off some green shoots of new spring growth. These canes or shoots can be planted directly into the ground with minimal clearing. As long as Francine keeps the plants well-watered, they’ll do just fine and she’ll have her first crop of raspberries at the end of this summer.


Coffee grounds and compost

Kate from Dayton, Ohio wants to know if coffee grounds will help her garden grow. Her husband has been bringing home buckets full of coffee grounds and adding them to their flower beds. Mike is concerned because “there is no such thing as too much compost but there can be very quickly such as thing as too many coffee grounds.” Coffee grounds are highly acidic, full of nitrogen, and potentially damaging to normal plants when spread directly on the soil. But they are also the most valuable kind of kitchen waste. Mike suggests that in the future, Kate try making a premium compost out of coffee grounds and shredded leaves in the fall to use in the garden in the spring. In the meantime, if her plants aren’t flourishing this spring she can adjust the alkalinity in her soil using agricultural lyme or ashes from a hardwood stove in small quantities.


Planting near black walnut trees

Paul has lived near Warriors Mark, Pennsylvania for fifty years. He has three black walnut trees on the edge of his property and he wants to plant near them. So far, he’s only had success with mountain fern. Mike reminds Paul that black walnut trees produce juglone, a natural chemical that negatively affects many plants. These large trees also have large root systems and compete with other trees for shade.


— This week’s post was written by Marissa Nicosia, You Bet Your Garden intern




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