Tag Archives: compost

Garden Meanderings

Today’s photos and write-up are by student employee Adam Dubuc.

rudbeckia hirta

The Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is probably, in my mind, one of the most picturesque and recognizable flowers in the garden. It grows  throughout the United States and I remember seeing it often as a kid, thinking it was some kind of sunflower. It always seemed to signify the beginning of the end of summer- but my willingness to accept the impending fall will always be greater because of it.August 20th 2013 005The Dahlia is a genus of plants that has great diversity, exhibiting some flowers that are small and compact, whereas others are large and the leaves are open relative to one another. This diversity comes from Dahlias being octoploids where most plants are diploids in their chromosomal structure. The Dahlias also don’t emit any fragrance, so they rely on their brightly colored petals to attract pollinators. Even though they’re native to Mexico, they do well here and are always a pleasure to look at. August 20th 2013 003 ‘Heatwave’ Agastache is a cultivar of Anise Hyssop and blooms in mid to late summer, attracting all sorts of bees, hummingbirds, and insects. The fragrance is nice also–  it’s part of the mint family, and it’s deer resistant which can be suitable for any sunny garden, given that it’s perennial and can grow into a pretty large, spacious shrubby form.August 20th 2013 017 Phlox paniculata ‘David’ is a  white cultivar of Phlox that gives a bright contrast and jumps out immediately. Even in a dark night with only moonlight it is pronounced among the other plants. It has a  soft texture and just seems very calm to me, not too gaudy or in your face. August 20th 2013 030 Pink Powder Puff (Calliandra emarginata) is  just funny to look at, I think. Native to Mexico, it has these really goofy looking flowers that resemble exploding fireworks. It makes an awesome picture, and they flower year round in the greenhouse too, which is pretty awesome if you ask me.August 20th 2013 031The compost pile, to me, resembles the cyclical nature of plants – and life in general really. Even though things die, they can always be re-purposed into something new, giving nutrients and new life to the plants that come after them. I guess it all comes down to how in-depth and metaphysically you think when you look at a pile of dirt – but there is a lot that compost contributes to the garden and the plants of the future.

Flowers Like Snowflakes

ericaceous garden

          At the URI Botanical Gardens we are fortunate to have a stunning collection of Ericaceous plants  — that’s the family which includes Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Mountain Laurel, and Blueberries. The Ericaceous Garden, between Upper College Road and the main garden, is at it’s best right now. One of my favorites is the ‘Geisha’ Azalea. It’s flowers are primarily white, but every one has a bit of pink on it. Some have pink speckles, some have large pink blotches, and some flowers are entirely pink. Not a pale, retiring pink either but a bold and delightful clear magenta. I love that no two flowers are alike!

Geisha Azalea

'Geisha' Azalea

geisha azalea

An all-pink flower

Geisha Azalea

More 'Geisha' Azalea

Along with the Azaleas, some of the Rhododendrons are beginning to open.  There are so many different gorgeous colors that it’s impossible to choose a favorite.



          The perfect time to see these beautiful plants will be this week end! On Saturday May 28th,  from 8 am to 2 pm, the Botanical Gardens will be holding it’s “Everything Must Go” plant sale, the last one of the spring. Enjoy a stroll through the gardens and bring home a plant too. Lots of bargains as we try to empty the Greenhouse!  Perennials, trees, shrubs, annuals, and compost for sale. Directions to the gardens and greenhouse are on our website, cels.uri.edu/uribg.



brush pile“Feed the soil, not the plants”.

We make LOTS of compost at the Botanical Garden. This is a fairly recent development. The first summer I worked here, the weeds, leaves, etc from the garden were going into the dumpster out back. I was appalled. In there with the garbage, broken glass, cracked plant pots, and misplaced recycling. All that good organic matter going to waste!

The next summer, thanks to the relentless pestering of someone, we had a separate dumpster for the organic matter from the gardens and greenhouses. It came from Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, otherwise known as “The Landfill”.  RIRRC is really big on composting these days, because it helps keep “The Landfill” from filling up. This dumpster went back to Johnston and was…composted? I don’t know what they did with it, but apparently they were separating it somehow from the general waste stream.

In 2008 The URI Master Gardeners Association received a grant from the Champlin Foundations to begin creating a composting facility for the greenhouses and Botanical Gardens. The grant would also cover the purchase of a John Deere bucketloader tractor and a shredding machine attachment. This felt like  a turning point for the Gardens —  sustainability coming into view.

So, all the clippings, weeds, leaves, left over potting soil, and other organic matter from the gardens and greenhouses go onto a concrete pad between two greenhouses. It all gets put through the shredder, which  accelerates the rate of decomposition.  It’s not a perfect system — this summer the pile got very backed up and there was an unsightly mountain of green and brown stuff sitting on the concrete pad for months. But overall it works very well and right now there are three finished piles — about   3 cubic yards each —  and three unfinished piles still cooking. Finished compost gets spread on the  garden beds. It’s actually more than we can use at the moment and we sell it too (bring a five -gallon bucket to fill).

Compost  increases soil fertility and helps balance soil pH . It increases drainage, aeration and water holding capacity of the soil. It also creates a healthy habitat for beneficial microorganisms. All these things keep  plants healthy and help them withstand adverse conditions such as drought, diseases, and pests. Black gold for the garden,made right here.