Well, Emily and I have been working on our gardens to varying degrees of success. This year I am still good at growing cabbage worms… my three kale plants can attest to that. The most exciting thing for me this year is that, in addition to my four little tomato plants and some cucumbers, I added some strawberry plants and started some seeds for the first time (some melons)! I tried to start an herb garden but the amount of rain is actually drowning them … I need to add some drainage to my patio container. And, I planted six little kohlrabi plants. Just because they are so funky looking. My garden is not even in a square plot, it is spread throughout various flower beds around my little yard. I even put some corn and pumpkins in my front flowerbed … It will probably look pretty random to passers by here in a few months. You can take the girl out of Indiana …
On that note, while I sit and wait for my garden to grow, I have time to share this with you! This month we have a fun summer giveaway full of some random gardening, cooking, and foraging items. Check out the goodies and enter below!
Spring is here. As you can tell from our “Spring into Balance” Challenge, we are pretty excited. One of the things that we love doing is getting out in the garden. Emily is a long time gardener, whereas Laura is fairly new to the hobby but really enjoys it. Last year Laura grew some kale (and lots of cabbage worms!) and Emily started clearing out the garden in her rental home to make room for some new and beautiful foliage.
To get everyone in the mood for gardening, we are proud to announce a giveaway to get things started! (more…)
JK, you are not a dummy; neither am I (typically). I’ve been reading about composting, as requested, and I realized that I know very little about this topic.
Oh, I crack myself up. I read a LOT and came to this conclusion: composting doesn’t need to be complicated or high tech or expensive (see here).
My mom has composted for as long as I can remember. She has a simple approach: throw compostable items in a pile.
If that’s not beyond good and towards perfect, I don’t know what is. Ok, step 2 and 3, water a bit and mix occasionally. That’s it, folks. My mom, the master gardener, (and yes that is an actual thing) has the simplest and best and forget-about-the-rest approach to compost.
To cement the fact that composting is simple, my son and I watched an episode of Curious George where HE learns how to compost. Really, if that silly monkey can do it, can’t we all?
If you have a large yard with an out of the way, not immediately visible area to put your pile, then you are all set. Make a bin (like this chicken wire model), or dig a trench, and start composting!
Those of us with tiny yards – that’s everyone in So Cal, or at least my neighborhood – have a bit more work to do. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t want to contaminate my tiny outdoor space with a stinky, fly-ridden stack of garbage that will attract killer raccoons.” Well, I don’t want to either. An enclosed bin decreases the flies and deters the larger pests. And a properly maintained pile shouldn’t stink. It will have a smell, but that smell should be earthy, not garbage-y. You can buy a bin for $70-350. Say what?!
If you have cash to burn, you go on and get a sweet, prefab plastic bin. I’m jealous. I really want this tumbling one. It’s like the Corvette of composting.
I want it, but I’m the thrifty gardener, remember? As in cheap. As aside note, some cities will subsidize your compost bin purchase, even the fancy tumbling kind. It’s worth looking into before shopping.
Thanks to Mary, I pursued the cheapest option for an urban – teeny tiny – garden: the garbage can turned compost bin.
How to Make a Compost Bin from a Trash Can
Step 1: Get a large garbage can with a lid.
Here was my innocent, clueless $18 garbage can. Marked and prepped for surgery. It used to be for curbside garbage, but lately it’s been sitting, feeling sorry for itself, in the corner of the garage.
Now’s a good time to mention safety. Before you operate a power tool, consider taking safety precautions. Goggles are a great idea. Dorky looking, maybe. Less dorky than an eye patch after six hours in the ER? Definitely. Safety first. And if you don’t know how to operate a drill, ask for help.
Step 2: Mark where you want to drill holes.
I’d read to drill holes every 6 inches. Mine are probably a bit farther apart than 6 inches, but I didn’t want the dern thing to fall apart. Also, the plastic is REALLY hard. Thank goodness I’d been working out.
Step 3: Drill the holes.
I drilled a bunch of 3/4 inch holes using a counter-sink bit. (Recommended by the Home Depot dude, but if you look on the product site, I’m not sure this was the best plan. Whatever. I’m not a drill expert and anyway, it worked.) Mary used this type of bit for her trash can -> compost bin :
Step 4: Place compost ingredients in your bin.
Now the fun part. Add browns (dried leaves, sticks, paper, cardboard, coffee filters, dryer lint) and greens (grass clippings, food scraps that aren’t animal products except for egg shells), water lightly till damp and voila – your compost is in process!
It’s not that beautiful, but with the lid on, it looks just fine. And it’s next to the other trash cans feeling superior because this bin will be making something useful, not going to the dump.
If you get serious and “hot” compost, you can potentially throw in icky things like dog poop and diseased plants. That’s advanced. I wouldn’t use excrement-laden compost on edible planting sites; it’s just asking for trouble. Pruned (but healthy) plant parts and “spent” plants that you don’t want to rescue can go right in. Here’s my guide:
Note: more browns than greens. Some water. Some air. That’s all you need to know. You’re welcome.
You want just enough water to get things damp, not soaking. Drill holes on the bottom of the bin to drain if too much water goes in, and keep the bin off the dirt on some spare bricks to assist drainage. I’ve turned it using a pitchfork a few times to cover the “green” food scraps with “brown” items. This is supposed to decrease fly involvement. Seems to work so far. I’m imagining a similar set up on a condo/apartment patio with a planter saucer underneath to catch any liquid. It could work!
If you turn the compost once a week, all components will get some oxygen which will help the microbes do their job. Aerobic microbes = less stinky. If the pile looks slimy, add more “browns.” If the pile is too dry, add some water. If the pile stinks, turn to aerate and make sure you have enough “browns.” Flies bugging you? Bury food items under leaves and sticks, and put the lid on. Mushrooms? Hmm. Don’t know.
After three days, including clean-up yard work, our bin is essentially full. I’m considering a second bin so that the first can just cook while the second can be for new ingredients.
Your compost should look less like garbage and more like compost after 2-6 months. It depends how much tending you do. If you let it sit, like my mom does, it’ll take longer. If you tend it weekly, turning and watering, it’ll cook faster. Eventually, the ingredients get broken down by air and microbes to make compost.
By the way, it’s OK if bugs end up in the pile. We have lots of spiders in our garden. I try not to think about it. This one has made a HUGE web between two trees. It’s hanging over the other side of the fence, so I’m only marginally worried about it dropping onto my head. *shudder* I wear these long gardening gloves when turning the pile and adding leaves. Just in case any creepy crawlies are nearby.
You can spend a lot of money on composting if you buy a pre-made bin and extras like “Super Hot Compost Starter.” That better mean Ryan Gosling will stop by to help me put ingredients in the compost bin. Shirtless. Oh well, whatever it is, it’s not necessary. Your compost ingredients will start themselves, no hotties required. You can also buy a compost aerator. Personally, I use a pitchfork. Costs the same as an aerator and has more uses. And it makes me feel like a farmer. Or an angry villager storming the castle. If you’re going to garden, get a pitchfork.
That’s all for now, folks. Get composting. It’ll work even in the winter, so no excuses.
Ta-ta for now,
We’d love to hear about your adventures in composting! Anyone in an apartment tried balcony compost? Let us know!