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Tips for Growing Cilantro

cilantro plantCilantro is used in a great many different dishes, particularly Mexican and Asian dishes, but despite the growing popularity for this dish in cooking, you do not see cilantro growing in the home garden as much as you do other popular herbs. This may be due to the fact that many people think that growing cilantro is difficult. This is not the case at all. If you follow these few tips for growing cilantro, you will find that you will be successfully growing cilantro in no time at all.

Cilantro Seeds

In cooking, cilantro seeds are called coriander. The “seeds” are actually two cilantro seeds encased in a husk. The husk is hard, round and is light brown or grey in color. Before you plant them in the ground, you need to prepare the cilantro seeds to increase the chances that they will germinate. Gently crush the seed husk holding the two seeds together. Soak the cilantro seeds in water for 24 – 48 hours. Remove from the water and allow to dry.

How to Plant Cilantro

Once you have prepared the cilantro seeds, you need to plant the seeds. You can either start cilantro indoors or out doors. If you are starting the seeds indoors, you will be transplanting cilantro to the outdoors later on.

Put the seeds in the soil and then cover them with about a 1/4 inch layer of soil. Leave the cilantro growing until it is at least 2 inches tall. At this time, thin the cilantro to be about 3-4 inches apart. You want to be growing cilantro in crowded conditions because the leaves will shade the roots and help to keep the plant from bolting in hot weather.

If you are transplanting cilantro into your garden, dig holes 3-4 inches apart and place the plants in them. Water thoroughly after transplanting.

Cilantro Growing Conditions

The most important thing to remember when growing cilantro is that it does not like hot weather. Cilantro growing in soil that reaches 75F will bolt and go to seed. This means that the ideal cilantro growing conditions are cool but sunny. You should be growing cilantro where it will get early morning or late afternoon sun, but be shaded during the hottest part of the day.

Additional Tips for Growing Cilantro

Even with ideal cilantro growing conditions, this is a short lived herb. Taking the time to prune cilantro frequently will help delay bolting and prolong your harvest time but no mater how much you prune cilantro it will still eventually bolt. Plant new seeds about every 6 weeks to keep a steady supply throughout the growing season.

Cilantro will also reseed in many zones. Once the cilantro plant bolts, let it go to seed and it will grow again for you next year. Or collect the cilantro seeds and use them as coriander in your cooking.

So as you can see, with just a few tips for growing cilantro, you can have a steady supply of this tasty herb growing in your garden.

(original post)

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How to Compost

Composting involves mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. The decomposition process is fueled by millions of microscopic organisms (bacteria, fungi) that take up residence inside your compost pile, continuously devouring and recycling it to produce a rich organic fertilizer and valuable soil amendment.

Sound complicated? It’s really not. All you need to know about composting is a basic understanding of a few simple principles, and a little bit of elbow grease. Nature does the rest.

Note: Decomposition, or the composting process, occurs constantly and gradually around us everyday. The dark, rich soil covering the forest floor is an excellent example of this. When we compost, all we’re really doing is speeding up Mother Nature.

Location & Appearance

First you’ll need to select your location for composting. Where you put it depends on function and aesthetics.

In terms of appearances and good relations with your neighbors, you probably don’t want to place your bin on your front lawn next to the mail box. (Your neighbors, and not to mention your mail man, will also appreciate a more behind-the-scenes location.)

Instead, opt for the backyard, or, if you don’t have one, then a compost bin located in your basement can do the trick.

Want to build your own? Here’s one simple solution: convert old shipping pallets (which you can usually pick up for free) into a compost “repository.” Use one for the bottom. Pound in metal support poles and then add pallets by slipping them over the support poles to make your bin’s walls and you’re all set.

You can also skip the bin (a structure isn’t essential) and just have a compost pile or heap. In terms of appearances — and if your homeowners association is fussy — you may want to screen the pile from view by planting shrubs or a fence. You’ll also probably not want it by your picnic table or other areas outdoors where you entertain.

From a functional standpoint, you’ll need a place with good air circulation. Don’t place it next to your home or other wooden buildings as the decomposing scraps and resulting compost may cause the wood to rot. Partial shade is a good idea so the compost doesn’t get overheated. Also make sure the spot of land where you place your heap gets good drainage.

Close to the garden and to a water source are both good places for building your compost pile since it will be easier to move the materials to and from the garden and easier to water it. Another idea may be to place it near your kitchen to make it convenient to place table scraps on the pile or in the bin.

Size

Make your pile no smaller than 3′ x 3′ x 3′. In fact, this is probably the perfect size. It’s sufficient enough to “cook” your waste and transform it into compost, but not so large that it will become unmanageable and hard to turn.

Moisture

The microbes that do your dirty work in the compost pile require water for survival, but it can be hard to judge how much water to add and when. Too much water means your organic waste won’t decompose and you’ll get a slimy and smelly pile that could well answer to the name “swamp thing.” Too little water and you’ll kill the bacteria and you won’t get your compost.

One rule of thumb: the more green material (cut grass, weeds, leaves) you put in, the less water you’ll need to add. In fact, if you need to add dry ingredients such as straw or hay, soak the material first in water so it won’t dry out your compost pile. In general, your compost should be moist, but not sopping wet.

If you are backyard composting and you get a lot of rain, build a roof over the pile. This can be as simple as a tarp. The reason you want to give your compost pile more shelter is because nutrients, or leachates, leak out when it rains. That’s not such a problem in a place where rainfall isn’t heavy, but if you get a lot of rain where you live, it can make a big difference. Too much water in the pile will slow down the process and can also make it slimy and icky.

Aeration

Oxygen is also required by many of the microorganisms responsible for successful composting. Give them adequate ventilation and they will take care of the rest. You can make sure that the bacteria in your compost gets sufficient air by turning the pile often and well. Use a pitch fork, spade or compost aerator to mix your pile. If you’ve got a compost tumbler, you’ve got it easy. Just crank that lever. Don’t aerate your compost and it will break down slowly, resulting in a slimy, dense, stinky pile. It’s also a good idea to turn the contents since it rearranges the decaying material. With a little care, you can move the less decomposed material on the edges to the middle of the pile to heat up.

Temperature

As they eat, the organisms responsible for composting generate large amounts of heat, which raise the temperature of the pile or compost bin and speeds up decomposition. A compost pile that is working well will produce temperatures of 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures almost all weed seeds and plant diseases are killed. A “very hot” compost pile will generate temperatures of up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for up to a week or more. Use a compost thermometer to measure the exact temperature at different locations inside the pile. Note: As organic material in a compost pile heats up, it breaks down and takes up less space. A compost pile can shrink up to 70% as it “cooks.”

Adding Materials

When adding organic waste to your compost, don’t squash the materials down to make more space. Squashing the contents will squeeze out the air that microbes in the compost pile need to turn your garbage into gold. (Instead you’ll be promoting the anaerobic microbes, which also do a good job converting carrot peels and other organic matter into compost but tend to be a lot smellier.)

Also be strategic about filling your bin. Include a mixture of brown fibrous ingredients and greens. A well-balanced “diet” will ensure that composting doesn’t take too long and that you don’t end up with a slimy, smelly heap. Also shred, dice or otherwise make scraps smaller, which will help the resident bacteria do a good job in converting the garbage into compost.

Finally, after you’ve added kitchen vegetable waste, throw some leaves or grass clippings on top of it. This will help keep things balanced, reduce smells and make your compost bin less attractive to critters who are trying to sniff out a free meal.

(original source)

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Why Hire A Designer?

Hiring a professional landscape designer could be one of the smartest investment decisions you’ll ever make. Designers trained and qualified in the principles of garden design and horticulture can help their clients avoid the costly mistakes that can turn the dream of an outdoor haven into a landscape nightmare.

Professional landscape designers are skilled practitioners of fundamental design concepts – proportion, unity, balance, perspective, color, texture – that can bring about a fully integrated design. They have a comprehensive knowledge of plants so that you get the right plant that grows to the right size for the right place in your garden.

They are skilled communicators and planners who work with contractors, vendors, local governments and others to complete successful projects. Professional landscape designers are also aware of our natural environment and promote sustainable practices whenever possible. They are inspired by the creative process, by great design, and most of all, by their clients’ needs, wants and dreams.

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(original source)

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Sagaponack Goes Boom

Anyone who has driven down one of the bucolic lanes in Sagaponack can see it. A virtual explosion of plywood, concrete, balled trees, dumpsters, and piles of soil off to the side of properties, lying in wait for final grading. The roads are streaked with dirt, and the sounds of construction boom across the fields.

The size, scale, and quantity of residential building sites are mind-blowing, even for an architect, who can, at least at times, revel in such creativity. Having a modest project in Sagaponack has led me to Town Line Road and Daniel’s Lane, where there is a palpable feeling of power, energy, and the mighty force of those who, despite the economic meltdown, landed at the top of the heap.

Wall Streeters, hedge fund titans and real estate speculators have set their sights on Sagg. Its peaceful vistas, dotted with houses in the historic farm vernacular, are now sprinkled with strawberry-pink Corian above-ground pools, Middle Eastern follies, and imported stone edifices. Change has provided steady work for a vast number of tradespeople, architects, designers, landscape architects, engineers, and any possible specialty construction/design service available.

The Sagaponack Village Building Department and Zoning Board see some of the most extraordinary manifestations in architecture today. It is fascinating to watch those involved gracefully try to balance the heritage of the village and the right to freedom of expression.

The signage is so rampant that a sign law (perhaps slightly less stringent than East Hampton Village’s) must be on the horizon. In the words of Lady Bird Johnson, “Public feeling is going to bring about regulation so you don’t have a solid diet of billboards on all the roads.”

Months ago, I listened to a description of plans for light posts at the end of a long driveway, at the end of a private street. The posts, as presented, were large enough to fit a person inside them. I couldn’t help but wonder if the homeowners were going to station guards there.

The East End, for an architect, is a series of never-ending fascinations of architectural philosophy — and psychology.

(by Erica Broberg at The East Hampton Star)