Category Archives: Urban environment

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.

 

Bring the Colors of Summer to Your Container Gardens

Get a jump on summer with abundant flowers in your containers!Summer Container closeup

Unlike the limited palette of early spring, the long summer season offers a huge array of bloom and foliage colors. Let us customize your containers to your color preference, style flair and property conditions.

We are scheduling summer container installations between May 29 through June 9. Let us know if we can make one for you! If you want to be included on our summer container schedule, please email Tim, Container Gardens Manager, by May 22nd.

Summer Containers on patioSummer Containers in fountain

A Design for All Times

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

“I have all my life been considering distant effects and always sacrificing immediate success and applause to that of the future.”  Frederick Law Olmsted

A Clearing in the DistanceEarlier this year, I had the good fortune of running into a great read, A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the Nineteenth Century by Witold Rybczynski. Being new to the horticultural field, I’ve been exposed to a lot of new and exciting things, and while working in and around Greater Boston, one can’t go too long without seeing the name Olmsted. A colleague enlightened me to the fact that Frederick Law Olmsted designed not only Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but also New York City’s Central Park. I immediately thought, “That’s quite an accomplishment!”, but what was more impressive is that those accomplishments turned out to be just a small part of quite a varied and accomplished career.

I think we all have a tendency to examine our own lives when we read about another’s life. Like me, I appreciated that Olmsted took his time early on in his career to feel out exactly what his passions and interests were. By taking his time, I mean he traveled the world, started a farm, explored the master gardens of Europe, authored nationwide publications and literature, was a strong voice against slavery and was the precursor to the American Red Cross during the Civil War, amongst other achievements.Emerald Necklace

For me, one of the biggest takeaways from his life and career was his propensity for long term planning. This skill exemplified his intelligence but much more so his immense generosity. To plan something so lasting as the Buffalo, New York Park System or The Biltmore Estate is a deliberate gift to future generations, one that he knowingly wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate in his own time. Imagine a painter or musician crafting a fresco or ballad but never being able to see it or listen to it? What vision indeed!

Visiting and working in our client’s gardens is a truly great opportunity and one that I genuinely enjoy. Installing new additions to a garden, pruning and shaping an ornamental tree, or even just editing a garden bed can have quite the long term impact on a garden. Seeing now that I have the ability to leave a more lasting impression than I might have initially realized only further enhances that experience.

Beat the heat – plant a tree

blog photo - trees - 6-12-14

Summer is almost here.  Summer means vacation and a chance to beat the heat in the city.  Perhaps we head out to the beach, the mountains or a walk in the woods.  Somewhere cooler.  When we picture comfortable summer temperatures, we seldom think of heading into the city, unless our destination is a climate controlled movie theater, shopping mall or office building.  Why are cities so hot?

The building blocks of the city – steel, asphalt, concrete, glass and brick- have high absorptivity, which is a measurement of how strongly a chemical species absorbs light.  When the sun beats down on these solid materials, they absorb and store heat from the sun.  In contrast, green vegetation has low absorptivity, reflecting much of the solar radiation back to the sky.  Lower absorption means lower stored heat.

When the sun goes down, the dense building blocks of the city release their stored heat, keeping the city hot well into the night.  Tall buildings prevent the radiating heat from escaping into the night sky.  Consequently urban settings have two disadvantages to cooling:  trapped heat in the building blocks and poor air circulation.  It’s not unusual for cities to be 10-15 degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside on hot summer nights.
“Urban Heat Island” is a term used to describe these city areas that trap heat.  The magnified heat triggers an increased demand for electricity for cooling which increases greenhouse gas production.  As you might imagine, the heat and smog contributes to a number of heat related ailments such as heat cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke or simply the discomfort walking to your car across a sea of pavement.

So when you pack the car to escape the heat, nod appreciatively at your trees and garden plants who stay behind and help to cool your property.  And if you want to strategically plant trees to aid in cooling your house – we are the right folks to help.

Southern Spain – Container Pots

Contributed by Christie Dustman

As someone who has an aversion to watering plants in pots, I have to hand it to the Spanish with their plants in clay pots.  Check out the use of clay pots in these photos.  Why keep them on the ground when you can hang them on the wall?  Just like polka dots!  As I mentioned in my first post about Spain, the inner courtyards of Spanish houses are usually tiled and don’t have extensive planting beds in the ground.  So to bring in the refreshing greenery of plants, you see many plants in pots.

Geranium Polka Dots

And instead of paintings on the walls, you see plants in pots and painted plates hanging.  Bright colors highlighted against the whitewashed walls.  How fun!

Fascinating view of potted plants