Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Garden guru Steve Solomon likes to pamper his veggies.  To make sure that they receive all the nutrients they need without the risk of leaching or or overloading the plants, Solomon uses his own home-made fertilizer in his garden.  A result of  over 30 years of experience, this mix is easy to make, affordable, and certain to raise an edible paradise.  Unlike many store-bought formulas, this organic fertilizer is free of harmful chemicals, includes valuable trace minerals, naturally slow-release, and is slower to dissolve.

What You Will Need:

Seed Meals- One of the most important ingredients, the seed meals are the byproducts of vegetable oil production.  Mainly used as feed for animals, they are labeled by protein content instead of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium composition like most fertilizers.  Composed of flaxseeds, sunflowers, cotton seeds, canola, and a variety of other plants, seed meals should be purchased free of genetic modification and be certified organic whenever possible.  Chemical-free grass clippings can be used as a substitute, although they will not stimulate the same growth as the meal.

Bone Meal, Guano, Phosphate Rock- All of these compounds help to add phosphorus.  Bone meals are probably the easiest  of the three to find in garden centers.

Kelp Meal- Seaweed provides a wide variety of trace minerals as well as hormones which act like vitamins that help a plant cope with environmental stresses.  Farm supplies will sell sacks of the meal, but lucky residents of the coast may opt to take a shovel and flatbed truck to the beach.

Lime- This rock possesses huge levels of calcium and is available in three types.  Agricultural lime is pure calcium carbonate, gypsum is calcium sulfate, and dolomite contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates.  Dolomite is the most preferred, but a combination of all three will produce the best results.  Make sure not to use chemically active “hot limes” which are sold as hydrated lime, quicklime, and burnt lime.

The Mix:

Measuring all ingredients by volume, mix uniformly:

– 4 parts seed meal

-1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, finely ground

– 1/2 part agricultural lime (or 1/4 gypsum)

-1/2 part dolomitic lime

Then add:

– 1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or guano

-1/2-1 part kelp meal (or basalt dust)

 

Application:

Before planting, or at least once yearly (usually in the spring) apply one quart of fertilizer evenly.  Add a quarter inch of compost evenly on top of each 20 square feet of planting area.  Blend the layers with a hoe or spade.  For vegetables that demand more food like melons, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and spinach, sprinkle small quantities of fertilizer around the root systems every couple of weeks.  Gardens with heavy clay soils should expect to use 50% more fertilizer.

Get growing!

The morning after Halloween, candy wrappers and discarded costume pieces end up littering the streets like autumn leaves.  Children (and let’s face it, enough of us adults) are pushed ever closer to the brink of diabetes.  Party decorations and leftover snacks line city dumpsters, and stores begin liquidating all of their orange and black inventory to make way for the red and green.  This time of year can be frightening for the environment, but with a few adjustments and mindful observations, your celebrations can be devilish without being destructive.

1. Fair trade and organic candy- If you are going to put yourself into a sugar-induced coma, you might as well ensure that your candy is free of artificial dyes and flavors.  Certified fair trade treats make sure that the horrors and tricks of the holiday remain in jest and not encouraging shady business practices.  For a list of sustainable sweets, check out naturemoms’ blog article for great recommendations.

2.  Reusable candy sacks- Pillowcases are the classic renewable favorite, but tote and fabric grocery bags work just as well.  Decorate your own bag with ghouls and goblins, or purchase reusable sacks like those available from ChicoBags and save it for Halloweens to come!

3.  Recycled Costumes-  The Salvation Army, Goodwill and local thrift stores are fantastic places to find costume material.  Instead of purchasing new items, sew, mix and match pieces to create a unique ensemble that breathes life into an old wardrobe and won’t break the bank.

4.  Halloween party can drive-  With Thanksgiving around the corner, institute a party can drive to help those who are hungry feed themselves and their family this season.  (I am proud to give credit for this idea to the epic Halloween rager that a local socially conscious San Luis Obispo house holds every year.  Even some hoodlums have a heart!)  SLO residents should check out GleanSLO, a group of farmers and volunteers that gather together to harvest produce and donate it the county food bank.  Spend the day in an apple orchard to enjoy the fall weather with the family and do something good for the community!

5.  Salvaged decorations-  For our party this year, my house is using all recycled or salvaged materials to create devils, angels, and various scenes of the afterlife.  Whatever was not acquired for free from Craigslist or reused from past celebrations was taken from dumpsters and local trash piles.  With a little rooting, we were able to pick up gigantic pieces of cardboard, outdated newspaper for paper mache, and wood from discarded pallets.  It may take a bit more time and ingenuity to round up all of the items needed, but it definitely makes for some colorful adventure stories.

6.  Go natural-  When given the choice between decorating your porch the styrofoam pumpkins or plastic corncobs, opt for the real deal.  When they have outlived their purpose, add them to a compost pile, use them to feed the local wildlife, or reuse them for Thanksgiving centerpieces.

7.  Walk instead of driving- Let the kids use their legs a little and work for that free candy when trick-or-treating this year.  Resist the urge to drive to distant neighborhoods or bring along the golf cart.  Bicycles are a wonderful way to get around, and as long as all traffic and safety laws are observed, an easy and enjoyable means of burning off a sugar-high.

8.  Buy local-  Purchase treats like apples, handmade chocolates and cider from neighborhood candy stores or produce stands.  Money stays in the local economy and fossil fuels are conserved by keeping transportation distances to a minimum.  In SLO, fruit and veggie lovers can find a CSA, farmers market or stand close to home by visiting Central Coast Grown.  We are lucky to have Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, Tropical Chocolates and Sweet Earth Chocolates to satiate our collective sweet tooth.

“Finish your potatoes!  There are starving children in Somalia!” . . . “Don’t throw that out!  Do you know how hard I work to put food on this table?” . . .  “If you let that go to waste, you’re contributing to global warming!”

Global warming?  Yes, it looks as though  parents have one more phrase to add to their arsenal of  nit-pickings to make their kids feel just a little bit guilty about leaving that last vegetable on the plate.  Turns out that letting last night’s meatloaf languish in the refrigerator may be contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.  As Americans, we waste a staggering 55 million tons of food annually, which is roughly 40 percent of our total supply.  Using software developed by CleanMetrics, an analytical firm out of Oregon, the USDA discovered that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of atmospheric CO2 each year, about 1.5 percent of total output.  That comes to about 440 pounds of discarded food per individual each year, not counting meals eaten in restaurants or taking into consideration the energy and emissions produced in cooking.

The type food you waste may also have an impact on the climate.  For example, meats and dairy are more energy intensive and expensive to process, transport and raise.  Depending on where you live, your salad may have had to travel several hundred miles to reach the grocery store, meaning more fossil fuels burned and time spent in refrigeration.  According to CleanMetrics, nearly 80 percent of all emissions are created during transportation and processing, with additional greenhouse gas being released through decomposition in landfills.

What to do to keep the planet cool and mom and dad from nagging?  Leftover plants and grains can be composted in order to let carbon return to the soil and become sequestered in the ground.  Buying local groceries will help to cut down on the amount of highway your food needs to cover before becoming dinner.  Eating lower down on the food chain can also reduce the amount of energy needed to create, sustain and process your meal.  Most importantly, shop prudently and purchase only what you can reasonably eat within a given expiration date.  Not only will you save a little bit of cash, but possibly make a dent in the fight against global warming!

 

The days are growing longer, the rain is falling — albeit intermittently — and the pollen on my porch is in an uproar. In the land of permanent sunshine and perpetual springtime, this could only mean one of two things: spring is either here or very close at hand!

And if you’re a perpetual gardening enthusiast like myself, then your thumbs must be perking up, as green as the oxalis rioting in your flower beds.

I don’t know about you, but when I get to feeling this way, the first thing I do is walk around the side of the house to inspect my compost pile. For me, there’s nothing like a happy heap of compost to put a smile on the face of an organic gardener.

So in order to ensure that happy heap, here’s a quick list of Dos and Don’ts to help you maintain a healthy, well-balanced mound of compost.

Compost Tips for the mindful gardener

1. DON’T let your compost get slimy. This is of paramount importance. If you’re regularly adding buckets of wet “green” kitchen scraps to your backyard heap, you will definitely need to add some dry “brown” waste to the mix.

2. DO add dried leaves, dried lawn trimming and wood chips to help break down the wet kitchen scraps and fresh green garden waste. Ultimately, you want a mix of about 50-50 wet waste (nitrogen) and dry waste (carbon).

3. DON’T just dump your kitchen waste on top of the pile and leave it there for all the world to see. Mix it in, and try to cover it with some older and/or dryer waste.

4. DO add wood and paper ash from your fireplace. Ashes are a great source of potash, or potassium carbonate, an essential component of a rich soil mix.

5. DON’T add ash from petroleum products like starter logs, or from cigarette butts.

6. DO add eggshells in moderation, but generally DON’T add animal products like meat or cheese. They will rot rather than compost. They will also attract unwanted, carnivorous pests and scavengers.

7. DON’T put poop in your compost, either from your pets or yourself. Fecal matter can harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites.

8. DO pee on you pile. A healthy compost pile needs to be kept moist, and readily-available urine actually adds trace minerals that can benefit the mix.

9. DON’T add too many orange peals. Too much of anything can throw your compost out of balance, but the acidity of citrus peels (esp. if clumped together in the pile and not spread around) makes them slow to decompose and attractive to fruit flies.

10. DO add coffee grinds and tea bags. These contain great soil-enriching ingredients. A healthy compost will also break down the paper filters and bags without a problem. Same goes for bathroom tissues and occasional paper towels.

11. DON’T expect wine corks to break down very fast, but they can make a good addition. Natural wine corks are made from oak tree bark, definitely organic matter that will eventually, slowly decompose. In the meantime, their porousness can help with aeration and provide a niche for beneficial microorganisms.

12. DO cut your twigs and branches as small as possible before adding to the heap. Thick branches can take months or years to break down. (One or two long branches across the middle of the pile can actually be helpful for aeration purposes, but they won’t break down.)

13. DON’T worry too much about flies around the compost. That’s pretty normal, as long it doesn’t start looking like a 1950s science fiction movie. With any luck your compost will become home to herds of earthworms. We also get legions of pill bugs loitering in our compost; they thrive on the moisture. They also help break things down because they will eat anything that doesn’t move, and yet they’re relatively harmless as far as garden critters go.

14. DON’T expect your compost to do all the work. You’ll need to prod it with a shovel from time to time to make sure it’s not drying out or staying to wet. Periodic shoveling will keep it well blended and aerated. Eventually (after 3-6 months), you’ll want to flip the whole pile (so the fresh top layer ends up on the bottom and the more decomposed bottom layer ends up on top), and then start a new pile.

Bamboo compost pail

Witness and be a part of the unending cycle of life with your very own kitchen scraps. And our new Bamboo Compost Pail will help you do it in style. This handsome piece includes enhanced counter-top intelligence, with a plastic inside liner that can be easily removed and washed by hand or with the energy-saving dishwasher of your choice. Expect to see them at Bambu Batu no later than the first week of June. Call or stop by the shop for availability.

*UPDATE* Bamboo Compost Pails are now in stock!

Collect your kitchen scraps in this handsome 3.25-quart countertop compost pail. Thoughtfully designed with a removable liner and dual charcoal filters in the lid that keep odors contained. The removable liner also has a handle for easy washing and convenient transport to outdoor compost bin.

X