Monthly Archives: June 2018

Composting Made Simple

It’s no secret that compost is highly revered among gardeners. We know some who have requested a truckload as a Birthday present!  Love for compost is understandable since the benefits of this nutrient-rich substance include improved soil quality,  reduced need for watering, and healthy plant growth. But the benefits extend beyond being an invaluable resource for gardeners; composting is one of the simplest things we can do to make a positive impact on the environment. According to the EPA, Americans discard about 73 billion pounds of food each year. All of that unnecessary waste takes up a lot of room in our already crowded landfills, in turn, creating a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind, it makes sense that more of us should be in the routine of composting, whether we maintain a garden or not.

Oftentimes, people don’t take up composting because they believe it is too complicated, while others may have the impression that it’s too messy or smelly. There is, of course, something else that may prevent someone from taking the plunge into the composting world: limited space. Lack of space is an issue that many of us in the Boston area know quite well. While it’s true that larger kitchens and yards can be helpful for creating compost areas, deciding to compost need not be a big endeavor. There are several easily manageable ways to begin the practice of composting, regardless of space constraints.

One popular method of composting is known as “stealth composting” and this is ideal for those with limited space as it allows for composting on a smaller scale. Stealth composters can be kept indoors or out and it’s not difficult to make your own, which means the size can be customized to suit your needs. With this process, it’s not uncommon to designate a countertop or the space under your kitchen sink as your compost area. If this appeals to you, here’s a great tutorial to get you started.

 

 

Vermicomposting (or “worm composting”) is another popular option for indoor composting. This option is particularly suitable for basements, and as an added bonus, children are likely to want to be involved with this system. Vermicomposting is unique in that is specifically relies on using worms to assist in the decomposition process. As with stealth composting, setting up your own vermicompost bin is not complicated, nor is it difficult to maintain. Here are some good guidelines should you decide to take up vermicomposting.

If you are fortunate enough to have enough space to compost on a larger scale, there are endless choices when it comes to creating an outdoor compost area. Compost bins can be made from wood pallets, trash bins, large storage containers, wire fencing, and pretty much anything imaginable.  However, living in an urban area can make for unique challenges when it comes to composting. You will definitely want to take measures to ensure your compost does not attract rodents and other critters, and it’s also important to keep your neighbors in mind when you consider the location of your bin. Purchasing a compost bin is not a requirement, but manufactured bins may be the best way to ensure your food waste is securely covered. (If you are a Boston resident you can purchase  your bins at a reduced rate from Boston Building Resources.)

 

Those of us in Boston are lucky to have a few more options to make composting as simple in possible. Recently, the city began a pilot program called “Project Oscar,” which allows residents to drop off their food waste for composting at designated areas through the city. (Read this to learn more about Project Oscar.) An even easier option is to sign up for service with Bootstrap Compost. For a fee, Bootstrap Compost provides members with buckets in which to store food scraps, then it is collected weekly or bi-weekly, depending on your needs. In return, you are given five pounds of compost a few times a year (or you can choose to donate it). 

Perhaps you like the idea of composting but you just aren’t sure what to do with the stuff once you’ve got it. This is where we can help! Our experts at Christie Dustman and Company can work with you to show you how to use compost to get the most from your plants and garden. If you don’t personally have a use for it, check with the gardeners in your life as they will probably happily take it. You can also contact your nearest community garden and see if they accept donations.

With so many composting techniques available, there really is no excuse not to do it.  Find the method that suits your needs best and you’ll be in the habit of helping your garden and our planet in no time.

 

Keeping Rabbits Away

Aside from the erratic temperatures May and June bring, perhaps nothing says summer is coming to Boston like the appearance of the eastern cottontail rabbit. The first few bunny sightings of the season may have you fawning over their cuteness, but that feeling of adoration often gives way to dread once you realize how much damage these cute creatures can do to your landscape. These voracious herbivores have long been the bane of many vegetable gardeners’ existence, but their appetites are certainly not limited to “people food.”  The list of things rabbits are known to eat is exhaustive and includes almost all varieties of grasses, flowers, twigs, and buds. In short, if you grow anything at all in your yard or garden, odds are good the eastern cottontail can and will make a meal out of it.

If you want to enjoy your outdoor space without fear of it being destroyed, you are likely to be in need of some rabbit-proofing solutions. Unfortunately, no method is completely guaranteed to keep rabbits away, but it is certainly possible to create an environment that is less inviting to them.

The most effective ways to reduce the number of rabbits that visit your yard is to create a physical barrier. Many gardeners have great success using chicken wire to section off areas, but if aesthetics are of utmost importance this is, admittedly, not the best option. However, installing a metal or wood fence is a great alternative, depending on the amount of space and budget you have to work with. The key is to make sure your fence is deeply anchored into the ground in order to prevent the rabbits from being able to crawl underneath. You will also need to make sure your barrier, whatever you choose, is at least three feet high, as it is believed wild rabbits can easily jump about two feet.

If creating a physical barrier is not an option, there are countless other methods that may prove helpful. Natural rabbit repellent, both homemade and commercially available, may be an easy fix. A few DIY options include sprinkling cayenne pepper around the perimeter of your garden; soaking rags in ammonia and placing them discreetly behind planters and other out-of-view locations; or combining a mixture of garlic, red pepper flakes, dish soap, and water into a spray bottle and frequently spraying the area you hope to protect.  You can also purchase ready-made repellent and ultrasonic deterrents from most hardware and lawn and garden stores. Some people even claim to have success by filling their yard with plants rabbits tend to avoid- snapdragons, salvia, and geraniums, to name a few- although, of all the options available, this may be the least effective as hungry rabbits aren’t too picky. 

Since there’s no way to control the ever-expanding rabbit population, the best solution is to try multiple options in hopes that your yard or garden becomes too much of a hassle for cottontails to bother with. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin, our team at Christie Dustman and Company can help you create barriers and choose plants that make for a rabbit un-friendly space. The good news is that whatever works for rabbits often works for other animals as well. With a little experimenting and perseverance, you’re likely to have your outdoor space all to yourself in no time.