Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mush -- And an Early Christmas Present

Well, last week's snow and cold turned a lot of my perennials to mush, pretty quickly. At the time that we got the snow, we hadn't even had a frost yet, so lots of things were still quite green and growing and flowering, even. Most of my shrubs hadn't even lost their leaves yet, in fact, most of them still had green leaves. Well, technically, I guess they're still green, but it's a strange drab olive green, you know the color lettuce goes when it freezes?

The snow is gone now, the weather turned a bit warmer on Thanksgiving day, and then the next day almost all of it had washed away in the rain. It got up to about 40 degrees out there today, so I spent a couple of hours in my squishy garden cutting back all the mushy foliage.

Anyway, here is a warning -- you risk looking at pictures of garden ugliness if you continue to read on and scroll down!

I knew my Dahlias would turn. I need to figure out if I need to do anything special to them to try to ensure their survival over the winter. They risk getting water-logged if I do nothing. I'm trying to figure out if mulching them will help. Will it keep water in, or will it repel any future water? I think I will try a few experiments.

Mushy Dahlia foliage

Eupatorium 'Little Joe'


Cardinal Flower

Chocolate Eupatorium


Agastache 'Tutti-Frutti'

Persicaria 'Red Dragon'

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Alice'

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Litte Honey'

I've never grown Hydrangeas before, so I don't know if this is normal Fall behavior for them or not. I guess I'll find out come Spring.

Did you survive all those ugly pictures? Are you still with me? If you are, then you get to see my early Christmas present.

It's a NatureMill automatic compost bin! It actually came a couple of weeks ago, a surprise early Christmas present from my husband.
It runs on electric power, and has a motor to turn the stuff inside, as well as a heater to heat it up. It turns this --
Into this!

The compost inside does get a bit stinky, but I have it outside on my sheltered back porch, where I have an outdoor electric outlet. I have to sprinkle sawdust pellets in it to balance the greens and browns. They are the same pellets that I use as cat litter, so my plan is to use used cat litter. The instructions say you can put solid cat waste in it too, cause it cooks it to get rid of pathogens, but I don't think I will chance that. I have always used the used cat litter in my compost, with the solids removed.

I have always been bad about dragging veggie peelings and food waste down to the compost bin way in the back. I'll still compost with that set of bins, but I'll do garden trimmings there.

So far, it's working great, and I love it!


  1. What a wonderful early Christmas present. I always dig up my Dahlia tubers and store them indoors. Have a great week.

  2. I see us real gardeners had the same thought this weekend. I thought that 40 practically felt warm and squished around outside too. I actually enjoyed it since it was too cold to be outside earlier in the week. My Oakleaf hydrangea looks the same as yours. It gets pretty fall color and then some of the leaves dry and fall off. It looks much nicer than my other slimy Hydrangeas.
    Love your new composter, I've never seen an electric on before.

  3. Wow-what a composter! I think Christmas was invented for those of us with slimy gardens this time of year! I have nothing to look at on House work breaks except melted plants. The snow was pretty though!

  4. Alison, what a great Christmas gift! My garden looks much the same as yours right now and I'm afraid today was our last day of warm (40 degree) weather. I know I should have gotten around to cleanup earlier! Instead of working on the garden, I put up Christmas decorations--oh well, the foliage on the hostas and other plants will dry out with time and I'll just rake them up. Seems hard to believe we're almost into December.

  5. Oh, Alison - I think I'd burst into tears if I saw my plants turn all brown and mushy overnight, but that's because we're not used to the huge extremes of seasonal change that you have to cope with in the northern hemisphere. I don't envy you that, but then we miss out on the dramatic changes from season to season, which brings a whole different kind of magic to your lives!

    You, on the otherhand, know it's all part of the cycle of nature.

    Your new compost shredder is a super gift, lucky girl! Would it work with adding shredded newspaper as well, to balance those greens and browns? That might help with reducing some of the pong ;)

    Have fun making your "black gold," while you're looking ahead to welcoming spring in a few months' time. Ask your visitors to bring you their eggshells, used teabags, coffee grouts and vegetable peelings all wrapped up nicely in sheets of newspaper...I'm sure any extras will be welcome!

  6. Oops! Just reread your description of your compost maker - I see it doesn't shred the additives first, silly me. The compost production process is simply sped up a lot quicker due to the heating mechanism and because it turns all the composting ingredients automatically. What a marvellous device for all of you who garden in such freezing winter weather!

  7. Hi Alison, nice mush! My oakleaf hydrangeas are still turning red to maroon. I really like the fall color.
    I am not sure about putting cat litter in the compost.(used litter that is) I have a couple compost bins...non-electric and the balance of green and brown is so critical. It shouldn't smell like anything other than earthiness (if that is a word). Will look for more posts about your compost.

  8. Thanks, everyone, for visiting and commiserating on the mush. The snowy, cold weather we had last week is actually rather unusual for this part of the country. Our winter is most often just a succession of rainy, windy weather.

    I probably should have mentioned that the cat litter that I use is Feline Pine, which is biodegradeable. I don't use it in my vegetable garden, I only use it on ornamentals. The smell coming from the new compost bin is that "rotten vegetables" smell, which I've gotten before from my big, non-electric compost bin. I do put shredded paper in my regular compost, but the new electric one can't handle it.

    I've never really been concerned about balancing greens and browns in my regular compost, and I've been composting for several years. I think you only need to worry about balance if you want it to really heat up well, and decompose quickly. I give the compost in my regular bin about a year to rot before I use it.

  9. Hi Alison and thank you for your comment on my blog! It brought me to your blog. I also have some mushy plants in my garden. Your post reminded me that I need to go cut down some perennials. Thank you for showing your new composter. It's a new type for me. Does it need to be plugged in all the time? I have a composter and a compost pile. They work fine, but not so fast as your electric one. What thoughtful husband you have!

  10. I love this post! Who would have thought to eulogize plants in quite this way if they had been gardening here for years? Your lack of familiarity with the climate is delightfully refreshing. This early cold snap is quite atypical, so it's not much of a future guide for you, but you are clearly on your way to mastery of your new climate.

  11. Thank you for identifying my Eastern Wahoo Seed plant! Now that I know the berries are eaten by birds and wild turkeys, I feel better about the plant because it's feeding wildlife. We supposedly have wild turkeys in Staten Island, my neighbor has seen them, though I have never seen them in my front yard. This shrub is going no where, it will stay in my front yard. I'll probably give it a haircut.

    I love your new composter. What an awesome present. How long does it take to create compost?


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