Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Dirt is Easy ...

Our current challenge is about composting, specifically the "how-to" of composting, so I thought I'd share my experiences and thoughts on the process with you. As some of you know, I live in an apartment and have a small patio where I grow herbs and vegetables each summer. After several years of spending money on potting soil, seeds and plant food ... and not really getting a bumper crop ... I decided it was time to try my hand at composting. I was hesitant because I thought that composting was messy and smelled ... two things which wouldn't be convenient during the summer when the patio door is left open. But ... I write a blog about green living so ... how could I NOT give it a try.

As with everything I try out, I started with a bit of research. That, in itself, was daunting because the information I found suggested that creating the perfect balance of dry matter to wet matter, and providing the perfect environment for microbial activity, took careful planning and precise action. Some articles said that I'd need to sprinkle certain compounds on the pile ... some said that I'd need to carefully measure the temperature so as not to cook the microbial "critters". The more that I read, the more disheartened I became ... it seemed that composting was a lot of work!

In reality, composting is easy! I started with a 10-gallon plastic planter ... you know the ones ... they are the containers which trees and bushes are planted in at nurseries. I tossed in a few inches of soil. The veggie bits and scraps came next covered by a couple of inches of dry matter (dried leaves, shredded newspaper, etc.). Another couple of inches of soil on top finished the bin. I covered the bin with a plastic bag (Eco-friendly, of course) and let it sit. When I had a container full of veggie scraps to take out, I stirred the bin, layered the scraps, dry matter and another couple of inches of soil ... and, again, let it sit. When one bin was full, we started another.

In the spring, a rather amazing thing happened ... all of the veggie scraps had disappeared and in their place ... rich, dark soil. I didn't need to buy soil ... didn't need to buy fertilizer ... and that year, we had the best tomatoes ever.

I've been composting ever since. Here are a few tips and thoughts:

  • Covering the compost bin is important if it is near your patio or an area which is frequently used. Composting materials do smell and bugs, an important element to decomposition, can be annoying.

  • Shredded toilet paper rolls make excellent dry material. They are made from trees (carbohydrates) and microbial critters, bugs, etc. love them.

  • During rainy days, worms find their way to our patio and walkway. Typically, they crawl to a dry space and die. So ... we save their lives. We wrangle them up and place them in the compost bin. They get a dry environment with three "squares" a day ... and we get compost. By the way, when I recently opened my original bin, nice fat worms were munching on a sweet potato.

  • It isn't necessary to sort out any "left-over" veggie matter when using the newly composted soil ... think of it as added nutrition for your plants. They will continue to benefit as the items decompose.

  • While composting in the winter is a slower process (those critters prefer to be warm and cozy), it does continue. So compost all year long.

  • When planting, add some dry matter to the planter. I add a layer of leaves to the bottom half of the planting area, top with soil and then add seeds or plants. The dry matter keeps young plants warm and, once they are established, provides nutrients.

  • Many things are compostable. We prefer plant matter and never compost cooked items. In my opinion, composting animal products and/or cooked foods invites bad smells and undesirable animals.

  • Composted soil can be used for planting container gardens, mixing into larger, outdoor gardens, sprinkling around existing plants and trees, planting indoor plants and sprinkling over lawns.

Composting is truly turning trash into treasure. It doesn't take precise actions or day-to-day monitoring ... it basically works on it's own. The results are Eco-friendly, frugal and ensure that you'll grow healthy, happy plants. Who knew we could make our own dirt? I hope you'll give it a try!

As always, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Five Free Apps Interviews ... Me!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Today I'd like to invite you to head over to Five Free Apps. My bloggy buddy, Brian, recently interviewed me and wow ... he asks such thoughtful (and tough) questions. It was a fun interview! So if you have a moment, head on over and check it out ... who knows what you'll learn about yours truly!

After you've read the interview, be sure to look around. Five Free Apps is an amazing resource of information. Brian not only presents us with the best of the best on the Internet, he checks out each link so if he recommends it, we can trust it.

Thanks, so much, to Brian for having me over!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vegan Recipe - Baked Apple Raisin Oatmeal

It's the first Friday of the month and that means another delicious, vegan recipe. Why? Because meatless meals are one of the easiest ways to walk gently on the earth. Recipes like this one, or the ones found on our recipe page, are guaranteed to please even the most devout carnivore.

This month's recipe comes from The Knowlton Nest. It's easy to put together and delicious. I think it would be perfect for a holiday brunch or for a yummy family breakfast. Thanks to Shonda who graciously agreed to share it with us!

Baked Apple Raisin Oatmeal

2 2/3 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 c. raisins
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon
4 c. soymilk
2 unpeeled chopped apples
walnuts for topping

Mix altogether. Put in greased 9x13 in pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 min.

Doesn't that make your mouth water? Thanks, again, to Shonda for sharing this recipe with us.

If you have a vegan recipe to share, we'd love to try it. Just Email Me.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!