March 2018
Welcome to the Practical Earthkeeper newsletter!
This new monthly format will include topical articles for gardeners, homesteaders and farmers, as well as a listing of upcoming horticulture and agriculture events. We are interested in your feedback - let us know what you think of the new format, and if you like it please share it!
Volunteer Opportunities
Community Beautification Trainings
Monday, March 26, 2018, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Thursday, March 29, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
The Beautification Brigade takes care of public flower plantings in Ithaca. Have fun, learn gardening techniques, and help keep Ithaca gorgeous. No experience required. Free dinner provided at the trainings. FREE and open to anyone who wishes to volunteer with the program. Contact Martha Gioumousis at  mg10@cornell.edu , or call (607) 272-2292 for more information. 

Download a   Beautification application  here.
Tip of the Month
Early Blooming Flowers
By Pat Curran, Master Gardener
The two earliest spring flowers often bloom in March depending on how warm and sunny the site is, and they are both deer-resistant! Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) have bright yellow flowers that resemble crocuses, but the foliage is a ruffle of green rather than linear. Mine were in bloom when the snow melted on March 11. Rodents and rabbits don't bother them either. However, the tubers may dry out in the store in the fall; soak first before planting. I collect seed in mid-May and sprinkle it where I want more (and avoid digging or planting there). They sprout the next spring, and two years later, they bloom and self-sow profusely.

Snowdrops (Galanthus species) are white with touches of green or yellow. Their foliage is linear like many other spring bulbs, but I have never had any animal problems. They come from true bulbs, and they will also self-sow into colonies. They look especially nice with the early-blooming rose or purplish flowers of Lenten 'roses' (hellebores).

Both of these flowers (like all bulbs) should be left to mature their foliage, but it will be dormant by mid or late May. They are especially suited for doorway gardens, I think, where they can be appreciated even in cold or drizzly weather (as one runs to get out of the snow or rain!)

For more information on gardening, including spring and fall bulbs, consult the Growline at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County at 272-2292.
From the Rotline...
My backyard compost freezes solid this season. How can I compost over the winter?
Upstate New York winters are cold enough that most small-scale compost piles freeze, and decomposition nearly stops. The good news is that with a little bit of preparation, you can continue to compost over the winter!
 
First of all, since the volume of your material will not go down like other times of the year, allow yourself plenty of space. You may need to set up another simple bin like a welded wire cylinder bin, or an Earth Machine available at cost through the Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management.
 
Continue to lasagna compost in your bin or pile. At the bottom start with a layer of criss-crossed sticks and stalks, and alternate thin layers of "greens" (i.e. your food scraps) and "browns" (dry leaves, straw, shredded paper). It's ok if it freezes - come springtime, it will thaw and then really start breaking down.
 
Setting yourself up so that you always have dry browns on hand will make things easier. If you did not rake dry leaves, bag and store out of the elements, you can use some shredded newspaper. Or you can purchase a bail of straw. Keep in a dry place. And next year, remember to stockpile bags of dry leaves for composting all year round.
 
Another tip to composting successfully over the winter is to locate your compost in a spot that is easily accessible to your home. That way you can take scraps out without fighting piles of ice and snow. Some people shovel a little path to the compost. Another tip is to keep the compost covered to keep out thick layers of ice an snow, or just simply shovel them out before adding more material. This will also help conserve space in your bin over the winter.

For a few more tips and tricks, see our Winter Composting factsheet and our factsheet on Lasagna Composting
 
Don't give up - call the Rotline!   607-272-2292 , ask for the "Rotline"
We welcome your compost questions.
Upcoming Events & Classes
Landscaping Design Tips and Tricks
Wednesday, February 28, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
(Rescheduled from Feb. 7 due to snowstorm)

Cost: $7-$10/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford

Whether your yard is a blank slate that you are designing from scratch, or an established garden that is lackluster, there are some simple design techniques that can really make your gardens shine while reducing maintenance tasks. In this class participants will learn about design concepts like garden rooms and hardscaping, and how designing with plant shapes and textures as well as foliage colors can make your garden more interesting.

This class will be taught by Chrys Gardener, Community Horticulture Educator at CCE Tompkins. Chrys was previously a professional landscaper and has extensive experience designing, planting and maintaining ornamental gardens.

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Make a Bee Hotel for Native Pollinators
Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Cost: $10/person includes cost of materials
Help increase populations of native bees in your yard and garden with a handmade bee hotel! Native solitary bees, like mason bees and leafcutter bees, are gentle, easy to raise, and are as important for pollinating as honey bees.

Jacob Johnston from Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology will give a presentation on the life cycle of these fascinating native insects and show you how to make a bee hotel to attract them to your garden. Materials will be provided for participants to make bee hotels to take home. 

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Seed Starting
Saturday, March 10, 2018, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Cost: $7-$10/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford
Grow everything from artichokes to zucchini from seed at home. Save money and enjoy the miraculous process of seed germination and plant growth in your home to get you through these last weeks of winter and get your garden started early. We’ll cover techniques such as cold stratification and scarification as well as simple recipes for making your own potting and fertilizer mixes to save even more money. We’ll talk about tools such as grow lights and heat mats and soil blocks. All participants will leave with a few starts to take home.

Instructor Jennie Cramer is our Horticulture Program Manager and coordinates our Master Gardener Volunteer Program. She is a former conservation biologist with a passion for organic gardening, regenerative agriculture, natural history and botanical education. She is especially smitten with the intricacies of seeds. 

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Soil Series #1: Know Your Soil
Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Cost: $7-$10/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford
Get up close and personal with your garden soil at this hands-on workshop! Knowing more about your soil can really help your gardening practice. Participants will bring in soil samples from their own gardens and will learn to assess the texture, color, drainage, fertility, pH and type of soil.
Participants will also learn how to read soil analysis results and how to use the online Web Soil Survey tool to see detailed information about soils on their property.

Participants should bring a soil sample from their home garden to assess, and a laptop (if possible) to access the online soil survey tool. A limited number of CCE laptops will be available for participants to use as well.

Instructor Chrys Gardener is the Community Horticulture Educator at CCE Tompkins. She is passionate about teaching people to garden, with particular interests in growing edibles and seed saving. Prior to CCE Tompkins, Chrys worked as a landscape gardener in the Ithaca area and has extensive experience with practical garden design and working with challenging soils. 

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Soil Series #2: The Soil Microbiome
Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Cost: $7-$10/person self-determined sliding scale, pay what you can afford
Join Professor Peter Hobbs of Cornell University for an exploration of the hardest workers in your garden--the soil microbiota. Explore the fascinating world of the soil bacteria and fungi that do the work of creating fertile soil. A better understanding of the life in the soil help us to understand how to facilitate the growth and resilience of our gardens and orchards. We’ll talk about practical techniques for facilitating a healthy microflora in your garden for maximum garden sustainability and productivity.

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.
Spring Worm Composting Class
Saturday, March 24, 2018, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Cost: $10 per household includes a starter bin and worms to take home!
Learn how worms can make fast, rich compost for your garden while disposing of your food scraps. Take home the bin, a starter population of worms, and the knowledge to tend to your new pets.

Space is limited.

Register online . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Community Seed Swap
Sunday, March 25, 2018, 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Cost: $5 suggested donation, or free if you bring seeds to share!
Bring your extra seeds (home-saved or purchased) to share with others and go home with lots of seeds for your spring and summer planting! Learn about seed saving from some of our region’s avid seed savers, and take home seed varieties that you won’t find anywhere else and that are well-adapted to our growing conditions. Free hands-on demonstrations will also be held throughout the day on starting seeds, seed saving, seed cleaning and more!


Soil Series #3: Improving Your Garden Soil
Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Cost: $7-$10/person self-determined sliding scale
Learn the tricks of the trade for improving your soils from the Master Gardener and Master Composter teams.We’ll talk about tips and tools for working in tricky clay soils.Learn techniques for improving your soil fertility, tilth, microbial and fungal diversity through tools such as sheet mulching, compost and vermicompost, cover crops, compost teas and juices, biochar, broad forking, double digging, and more. If the snow melts and reveals the soil below, we’ll head outside and demonstrate some of these techniques hands-on and explore the compost demonstration site and take a look at different styles of compost bins and tumblers and chat about the pros and cons of each. 

Lead Instructor Jennie Cramer is our Horticulture Program Manager. She is passionate about soil, seeds, botanical medicine, and ecological education. Jennie will be joined by several Master Composters to give you as many tricks of the trade to working with your soil.

Pre-registration is required . Register and pay online on the link below, or call CCE-Tompkins at 272-2292. Pre-registration is required to hold your place in the class, and also in the event that a class is postponed or cancelled and we need to contact participants.

Save The Date!
Garden Fair Plant Sale
*Sunday , May 20, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM at Ithaca High School
Cooperative Extension  Master Gardener  volunteers, an estimated 40 area growers, and other garden groups offer perennials, specialty plants and gardening advice. You will find organically grown vegetable transplants and heirloom varieties, a huge variety of annuals, herbs and many specialty perennials, flowering shrubs, trees, hardy roses and fruit crops. Free soil pH testing is available and educational exhibits and information are offered. Bring baskets, wagons, and other containers for transporting plants.

Free admission! Learn more from the Spring Garden Fair webpage.
The Practical Earthkeeper is your monthly connection to classes, events and information
for gardeners, homesteaders and farmers. For more information about our upcoming workshops and events, visit us at ccetompkins.org and at our Education Center at 615 Willow Avenue, Ithaca NY

If for any reason you don't wish to receive our monthly newsletter, unsubscribing is easy and secure -
just visit the SafeUnsubscribe link at the bottom of this page!