Category Archives: Vegetable gardening

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.

 

Are You Being Bugged?!

Contributed by Tim Wholey

9-25-15 pesticide-free-zone-ladybugWhen you see something amiss with your plants and vegetables, like uninvited guests dining on them, do you cringe at the thought of reaching for that chemical pesticide you keep in your garage? Do visions of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring come to mind? You certainly don’t want to expose your family and pets to anything that could harm them or make them ill. While you don’t want to harm beneficial insects like honeybees, you don’t want to see all your beautiful results, money and hard work being devoured either.

What to do? Don’t fret, there are safe organic remedies that you can easily make yourself, often with ingredients you already have around the house. And you will save some money too!

Various remedies make use of natural odors, bad taste, stickiness, texture & even heat to ward off pests. They call for such common household ingredients as onions, garlic cloves, jalapeno peppers, cooking oil & baking soda, just to name a few. Growing certain flowers and herbs, such as Chrysanthemums, garlic bulbs & Marigolds, and planting them among your vegetables can also be an effective means to ward off certain insects.

To apply any solution, understand the problem first. For instance, is the problem related to insect infestation, fungi, mildew or some other problem? I have selected just a few websites that can help you select the right remedy and walk you through a few simple steps to get you on your way to safer, non-toxic pest control in your garden.9-24-15 Spray_bottle

Please share your results with us if you try or have tried any of these solutions!

http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm#c

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/homemade-organic-pesticide-vegetables-45069.html

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/homemade-pesticides-zmaz80mazraw.aspx?PageId=2#ArticleContent

http://tipnut.com/natural-pesticides/

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/organic-pesticides/

http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/homemade-organic-pesticide-sprays-101

The Next Generation to Make the Connection: The ABC’s of Gardening in Schools By Julie Campbell, Design Associate

A colleague of mine at the office is doing her graduate thesis on “living classrooms”, which means that she is showcasing and highlighting the educational and nutritional benefits of integrating gardening and growing food into early education. (Photo of Rachael Ray copyright Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

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The Food Project: Building Raised-Bed Gardens in Boston and Lynn

Build-a-Garden is a program designed to get more people to grow their own food in Boston and Lynn. The Food Project will build a raised bed garden and provide the support needed to grow food successfully. Raised beds have many benefits: they can be built on pavement or on top of contaminated soil; it is easy to learn how to grow food in them; and they can be planted intensively to produce lots of food in a small space.

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