Do you have any suggestions on how to easily and simply start a compost pile?

The easiest way to start a compost pile is to start collecting natural “garbage” in the kitchen, such as coffee grinds, leftover lettuce, vegetable scraps, etc. Then pick a place in your yard where you can start the pile. There are plenty of bins available for purchase, however, to start a simple pile construct a wire bin around the pile. Chicken wire is a good thing to use. The wire will help keep the animals from spreading the pile out. To the pile add: newspaper, eggshells, feathers, food scraps, dead leaves, old hay, wood ashes, grass clippings and livestock manure. Keep away from meat and dairy products.

When does the planting season officially start?

That’s a tough question to answer, since the weather in our great country is so diverse. For areas of the country that experience cold temperatures, a good recommendation is to find out what climate zone you are in. Climate zones are based on frost-free dates for various areas of the country or state where you live. The frost-free date in the spring tells you when it’s safe to start planting tender vegetables or plants that do not like frost. There is also a frost-free date in the fall that advises you when the temperatures get too cold for many plants to grow well. The number of days between these two frost dates is called the growing season.

To find your area’s frost-free dates, we list many cities in the Farmers’ Almanac, or you may want to visit a library, garden center, extension office or do a search on the Internet. There are also plants that can withstand cooler conditions. As you research your area of the country, you may also want to research the hardiness of plants, as this will also help you with your gardening plans.

In your Farmers’ Almanac, you state that the moon is illuminated by the sun. How does this work when we can’t see the sun?

Out in space, sunlight falls upon the moon at various angles, producing the various phases. We can see the moon in our night sky when the sun is below the horizon because that part of the Earth that is experiencing night is turned away from the sun.

At any specific time, the moon is illuminated to some degree by sunlight. Like the Earth, the moon is a sphere which is always half illuminated by the sun. As the moon orbits the Earth, we see more or less of the illuminated side. Throughout a lunar month, the cycle from illuminated, to partially and completely illuminated can be apparent to the viewer. These visual times are what we refer to as phases of the moon. However, during a new moon, the moon’s unilluminated side is facing the Earth. As such we cannot view the moon, unless there is a solar eclipse.

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