Posts Tagged ‘Compost’

Eco-Friendly Approach to Fall Clean Up

There is nothing more beautiful than fall foliage, but what do you do with the fallen leaves?  According to the EPA, yard waste is the second-largest component of our trash stream (behind paper and corrugated boxes) and makes up roughly 20 percent of most communities’ haul. Additionally, trucking the bulky bags to the dump requires a lot of fuel.

Americans can be obsessive about fallen leaves on the lawn.  Below are some eco-friendly approaches to dealing with them.

Image by dasmant Flickr.com

Fallen Leaves Are Food

Dead leaves are actually Mother Nature’s food, rich in minerals, falling right where they are needed.  With a good mulching mower you can leave a large number of leaves on the lawn to add nutrition, but don’t leave so much that they smother the lawn and cause snow mold.

Fallen Leaves Make Super Compost

Fallen leaves can be composted into nutrient-rich soil for your spring garden. The leaves of one large shade tree can be worth as much as $50 of plant food and humus, according to CompostGuide.com. Leaves are a great soil conditioner and can also be added to your perennial beds for nutrients and as protective mulch.

If you prefer to get rid of them, check and see if your community has garden waste recycling programs, or offer them to neighbors, garden clubs or local farmers for composting.  Most town transfer stations take leaves for composting too.

Rakes Are Greener Than Leaf Blowers

When gathering your leaves, rakes are more effective, cheaper and certainly “greener” than a leaf blower!  And – raking is great exercise!  When using a leaf blower, try a quiet, energy-efficient electric one.

Use Biodegradable Bags For Leaf Bagging

If you do bag your leaves, use biodegradable ones. Green Genius makes bags that are the same strength and price of regular trash bags, but biodegrade within 1 to 15 years.  You can purchase them at Whole Foods or Hannafords.

Fallen leaves are part of nature’s perfect system, so please don’t interfere and throw them away.

One of my readers commented that she uses barrels for her raked leaves that then get emptied into the recycle trucks which comes every week for six weeks. No bags at all!  That’s the way to go if you don’t want to use the leaves.  I love the idea of recycle trucks for leaves – towns have come a long way!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Happy Green Memorial Day!

English: Barbecue Bosanski: Roštilj Deutsch: Grill

English: Barbecue Bosanski: Roštilj Deutsch: Grill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Memorial Day weekend, make your cookout eco-correct.  How?  It’s easy….

Think outside the burgers/hot dogs/potato chips box and focus on healthier options instead – turkey tips, wild fish, grilled tofu, grilled veggies, grass-fed beef, free range chicken, sweet potato chips and lots of different salads made with organic fruits and vegetables.  Farmers’ markets are just getting going, but you can still buy fresh, seasonal, and somewhat local fruits and vegetables. Perhaps you have lettuce ready for harvesting from your own garden.  Add delicious and nutritious vine ripened tomatoes and watermelon to your meal – they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which also wards off sunburn!

When it comes to grilling, a charcoal chimney is an easy way to start your grill and much safer than lighter fluid if you don’t have a gas grill.  Make sure you use natural, hardwood charcoal instead of the conventional briquettes.  Try filling at least half your grill with produce.  Produce is not only healthy and low-calorie, but also doesn’t produce the carcinogens that can form on grilled meats.  Always cook over a low-to-medium flame and avoid over-charring; flare-ups and smoking oil create carcinogens.  Marinating or basting with oil, honey or a barbeque sauce will provide a barrier and help prevent charring.

I prefer reusable dinner plates and utensils, but if you are having a crowd disposable is easier; just make sure they are compostable or made from recycled, BPA-free plastic.  Whole Foods carries a good selection of biodegradable disposable plates, cups and utensils.  Cloth tablecloths and napkins are a nice touch, but you can easily find recycled paper napkins and cloths at most supermarkets.

Organic, chemical free sunscreen and insect repellents are a much healthier and safer alternative to conventional products.  Consider spraying your yard in advance with a garlic spray to ward off mosquitoes. Start your cookout after peak sun time, between 10 and 2, and provide shade for your guests.

Compost leftover fruits and vegetables, and, don’t forget to recycle cans, bottles and other recyclable items!

Whatever you do to honor the start of summer, make sure you are good to the earth.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Dig a Five-dollar Hole for a Fifty-cent Plant

“It’s better to dig a five-dollar hole for a fifty-cent plant than to dig a fifty-cent hole for a five-dollar plant.” goes the old garden adage and how true that is. A good plant won’t grow in poor soil, but a poor plant will grow in good soil.

Spring means planting and after a long winter, nothing is more exciting than preparing your vegetable garden or potting pansies to liven up your front porch. The key to a healthy and thriving garden is a rich, nutritious soil with the right mix of organic amendments.

What’s the right mix?

Organic amendments vary depending on the need of the soil and the plant. For example, the soil pH may need fixing, or certain plants like roses, azaleas or tomatoes may require specific minerals. Fish, blood or bone meal, charcoal, kelp, humic acids, earthworm castings are great amendments. Or, you can simply supplement your soil with compost, or decomposed organic matter, the most important and beneficial soil amendment. Compost builds soil structure and improves drainage; it helps with water/nutrient retention and air exchange; it introduces beneficial biology; it is vital for healthy roots, and healthy roots produce healthy plants.

Using compost made from your decomposed kitchen waste is gratifying, but if you haven’t started composting yet, you can buy good quality compost from a garden center. There are many different types of compost like manure, worm castings or decomposed leaf and wood litter. All are good, just make sure the compost is 3-year finished.

Digging the Hole

Dig the hole twice the diameter of the root ball of the tree, shrub or plant and then mix the existing soil with the amendments. Don’t plant too deep – “plant it high it won’t die, plant it low, it won’t grow.” With extra soil, make a well around the plant to hold water.

 

It’s easy to just throw the plants in the ground without much thought to the soil, but by taking the time to improve your soil, you will get a higher yield from your vegetables, more blooms on your flowers and a better start for your shrubs or trees. Last year, one heirloom tomato plant produced more than 100 tomatoes in my raised bed garden filled with super soil.

 

So, go play in the dirt with some compost and watch your plants thrive!

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

A Greener Way to Start School

Summer’s end is fast approaching and school is about to start.  As you and your kids get ready, think greener this year. Here’s how.

For young kids:

I loved my trips to Staples with my kids to get new pencils and pens, fresh, clean notebooks, binders and folders for the first day of school, but buying everything new can be wasteful and expensive.  Instead….

  • Reuse last year’s unfinished notebooks. Just tear out (and recycle) the used papers and they are as good as new.   For new, buy notebooks with recycled paper or paper made from natural fibers like banana or coffee.
  • If last year’s binders aren’t in good shape, buy those made from postconsumer waste and water-based glue.  Fill them with recycled binder paper.
  • Reuse last year’s pencils and pens; if you need more, opt for pencils made from reforested wood or recycled newspapers. For young elementary age kids, get nontoxic, phthalate-free crayons.
  • Pack a healthy lunch in a reusable lunch bag;  buy bulk size wholesome snacks and put them in reusable containers rather than snack-size, throwaway plastic baggies. A piece of fruit is the most beneficial snack option.
  • Walk, carpool or take a bus to school to cut down on carbon emissions.
  • For after school sports, don’t forget your BPA-free, reusable water bottle.

For older students:

Follow the above tips and…..

  • Be ahead of the curve; try a solar-powered bamboo calculator.
  • Fun, eco-chic backpacks made from 100% recycled cotton canvas or other recycled materials and messenger bags made from recycled rice sacks with printed graphics are the new look.  They are a lot more environmentally friendly than the traditional polyester or nylon ones.

For college students:

Moving in and out of dorms creates a lot of waste.  The amount of cardboard and plastic packaging for the new bedding, bath and personal care products, school supplies, etc. is overwhelming and recycling bins are often not available.

  • Instead of always buying new, reuse some things from home and try not to bring so much stuff.  Dorm rooms are small and you can get away with less.  When you do buy new things, buy them at school and avoid shipping.  Target stores are everywhere and even sell organic towels and sheets! For futons and other furniture, graduating students often donate their old furniture or look on-line at craigslist.com or freecycle.com.
  • Use low energy certified microfridges, computers and tv’s.
  • Share appliances with friends – not everyone needs every appliance.
  • Use power strips instead of extension cords to save energy and keep air conditioning to a minimum.
  • Install CFL or LED light bulbs and turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Make sure to unplug your phone charger when not in use to eliminate vampire energy.
  • Skip disposable water bottles and get a reusable BPA-free water bottle instead.
  • For the late night munchies, eat organic fruits and snacks and compost the waste.
  • Choose green cleaning supplies like Seventh Generation for washing your dishes or cleaning your dorm room.
  • Decorate your dorm room with air purifying houseplants like spider plants that are easy to grow. 
  • Get involved with on campus environmental groups, or start your own.  Several colleges now have local raised bed gardens – volunteer to work in them.  Working with the soil is a great stress reducer and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Solo cups are “the” party cups, but they take hundreds of years to decompose and some recycling centers don’t take them.  Solo has a new product line of products that are made using recycled, recyclable or compostable materials called Bare® by Solo.  Set an example and go for those!  
  • Always use recycled paper and don’t forget to recycle used paper, bottles and those ubiquitous beer cans!

You are never too young or too old to start making a difference by living greener!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Appreciate Your Trees  

I love watching the trees take turns blooming this time of year. First the magnolia with its lovely pale pink flowers, followed by the cherries with their brighter pink and fuchsia blossoms, then the apples and their tufts of white flowers. Coming along is the golden chain tree with its delicate, dangling yellow flowers. The oaks are also flowering with their tender green leaves slowly emerging. (Did you know that all trees flower, some less conspicuously than others?) The majestic upright horse chestnut flowers are peaking and the fragrant purple lilacs are everywhere. Take a walk in your yard or around your neighborhood and appreciate the gift of trees.

Horse Chestnut Tree

Trees Need Care Too

Trees like humans, need preventative care to ward off disease, especially as they suffer from environmental stresses like air pollution, soil contamination and compaction, exotic invasive insect pests, temperature extremes, devastating storms and drought.

There are several organic approaches to prolong the life of a tree and maintain its good health and vigor.

  • Fix the soil with compost and organic supplements. Raking leaves in the fall removes vital organic matter, and toxic chemicals and high nitrogen based fertilizers deplete the soil of important nutrients.  It is imperative to replenish the soil with amendments or compost.  Healthy, nutrient rich soil determines how well your trees grow.
  • Consult a local arborist – a tree needs to be periodically inspected for structural defects, insect pests and disease.
  • Trees should be pruned properly and focus on removing dead, dying, diseased and broken branches.
  • Proper irrigation and mulching, especially in times of drought, are essential to maintain a tree’s good health.

Trees play a critical role in the health of the planet. They are not living statues – they need care and protection just like any other living thing.  Please help preserve these majestic beauties.

Some information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Celebrate Earth Day Wednesday, April 22

 

 

Earth Day is a time when people from all over the world unite to celebrate the earth and appreciate its beauty. Founded in 1970, Earth Day was first organized in “to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.”  Much progress has been made over these last 45 years, but there is lots more to do.

 

What will you do to celebrate? You can…..

 

– Plant a tree – it’s spring!

– Sow some seeds for your garden

– Visit a local farm

– Change a conventional light bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED

– Pick up litter on the beach

– Take part in a trash pick-up

– Use a travel mug rather than a styrofoam cup for your coffee-to-go

– Drink from a reusable, BPA-free water bottle

– Recycle newspapers, bottles and cans

– Start a compost bin in your backyard for kitchen waste

– Make a commitment to drive less and carpool or walk more

– Take public transportation

– Shorten your shower by one minute

– Shut down your computer for one hour

– Pick up roadside trash

– Attend an Earth Day event in your area or volunteer

– Include your kids and grandkids and teach them about the importance of protecting our beautiful earth

– Serve an Earth dinner with local, organic ingredients; use candlelight

 

Coincidentally, I will be moving into our just built, energy-efficient, healthy green home, which after several years of designing, permitting, living in rentals and dealing with the headaches of building, is at last ready. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day!

More blogs to come about what makes our new home green. Stay tuned…..

 

Some information compiled from: http://www.timanddate.com/

 

For more green tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Hot Tea!

Tea is tasty, nutritious, medicinal and “hot” right now.  So is compost tea for your lawn, trees, gardens and shrubs!

What is compost tea?

Compost tea is a natural organic fertilizer made from compost, or more specifically a water extract of compost that is brewed to give the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes a chance to increase in number and activity using the nutrients present in the water.   It is also a highly effective natural insect and disease inhibitor.  Compost tea is inexpensive and often an easier method of applying compost, especially to your trees and shrubs.

How is compost tea made?

Aerobic water steeps the biology off of the compost through an extraction process. Food-grade molasses, garlic, kelp, and fish emulsion are then added to the mix. The foods activate and cause the biology to multiply, creating a powerful, nutritious food for your plants.

How do you apply compost tea?

Compost tea can either be applied as a foliar spray or as a soil drench. As a foliar spray, nutritious compost tea deposits beneficial organisms to plant surfaces so disease-causing organisms cannot find infection sites or food resources. As a soil drench, compost tea develops a biological barrier around roots to prevent root disease-causing organisms from being able to find the roots. The tea introduces organic matter, which provides nutrients for the roots to improve plant growth and moisture retention.

Where can you get compost tea?

If you are in the Boston area, our tree care company, Boston Tree Preservation, offers compost tea treatments and serves as a tea center where homeowners can purchase the tea to apply themselves.  As the organic movement grows, many tree care and landscape companies understand the value of compost tea and are starting to offer compost tea treatments.  You can also find recipes on-line to make it yourself if you have access to healthy, rich compost.

Click on the video below for a demonstration on how to make compost tea.

Compost tea is vibrant, alive and wakes up your soil!  This spring, give your garden a treat with compost tea.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from bostontreepreservation.com.