Posts Tagged ‘Compost’

Organic Lawns – What Kind Do You Want?

 

About this time of year, we’ve had enough of winter and are anxious to start gardening and working on the lawn. There are lots of creative options for lawns and now is the time to start planning.

Though conventional lawns are a perfect medium where kids can play as well as provide a nice, kempt look to your landscape, to get that perfect, weed-free golf course look requires time, expense and unnecessary chemicals and nitrogen-based fertilizers.  Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and linked to health problems in children, pets and adults.  These chemicals get tracked into our home, seep into our waterways and kill beneficial life in the soil.

515219850_b3805959a1

Turf grass is our largest irrigated “crop” using as much as half of all fresh water used in urban areas each year.  With drought striking much of the country, this is an awful waste of water. Lawns also use 20 times more pesticides per acre than farms.  Additionally, the fuel used to power mowers and other fume-belching equipment required to maintain a perfect lawn emits toxic emissions into the air.

 

You can have a beautiful, lush, green lawn where your kids and pets can safely play without the use of chemicals and save money too.  How?

 

  • Feed your grass naturally with organic fertilizers available at your local nursery.
  • Spread a thin layer of compost over the turf, particularly on the trouble spots. The beneficial bacteria in the compost wake up your turf miraculously!
  • Throw down some extra seed.
  • Add plenty of calcium to your turf.
  • Leave your grass clippings, a natural source of nitrogen, after you mow.  Cornell researchers have shown that mulching leaves on to the lawn in the fall results in faster green up in the spring.
  • Mow high.  Longer grass encourages longer roots, which require less water and food.
  • When you water, water deeply and infrequently.
  • Learn to live with a few weeds, or wild herbs.  Dandelions actually add a bit of color,  don’t last long, and in fact are a highly nutritious, edible weed (only on an organic lawn however).  Monocultures like a lawn are not typical in nature and only invite problems.

 

Alternatives to Conventional Lawns

 

  • Edible Landscapes with sustainable, self-perpetuating vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts.  There are edible landscape companies available to consult and/or install.
  • Wildflower and perennial gardens that attract beneficial bees and butterflies.
  • Cool season or warm season ornamental, drought-tolerant grasses that need no mowing.
  • Low maintenance ground covers like myrtle or nitrogen-enriching clover that stays green even in the driest part of the summer.
  • Trees and shrubs
  • Xeriscapes, or landscapes with an emphasis on water conservation, soil improvement, limited turf, native plants, proper mulching and low-maintenance
  • Or a combination of the above

 

This spring, take a safer and healthier approach to lawn maintenance!

 

Some information compiled from: http://eartheasy.com/grow_lawn_alternatives.htm#c. www.ediblelandscapes.net, and http://www.bostontreepreervation.com.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Let’s Call It Like It Is!

Why do you recycle?  Do you care about the future of the earth or do you recycle because it is the “thing” to do?   Are you genuinely concerned about the overflowing landfills or do you feel guilty if you don’t?   Maybe you don’t recycle at all unless it is already set up and really convenient. Whatever the reason, it is necessary to recycle.  In our consumer-driven society, there is just too much trash.   Thankfully, recycling is becoming a way of life.

I like the kitchen recycling center in my sister’s office in San Francisco.  It’s convenient and tells it like it is.  “Landfill” bin for trash, “Recycle” bin for items that can be recycled, and “Compost” for items that can be composted.  Labeling the trash bin “Landfill” gets you thinking about where your trash goes and encouraging composting raises awareness about the importance of composting.

photo 1-1 photo 2-1 photo 3-1

Recycling areas should look like this.  I can’t help but believe if more places set up their recycling centers  like this one, our landfill problem would be dramatically decreased!

Click here for more ideas on greening your office!

Proper Disposal of Cat Waste

English: Female grey tabby and white cat resti...

English: Female grey tabby and white cat resting on a box of cat litter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my readers, a true cat lady, asked about the proper disposal of cat waste. With pet populations on the rise, this is an important issue.  According to pittsburghpermaculture.org/, “Composting Cat Litter and Waste”, “approximately 34% of the United States population owns a cat, 90% of which uses at least one litter box.”

Some publications say it is okay to flush cat waste, minus the litter, down the toilet, but research is showing otherwise.  The eggs of the parasite Toxoplasma Gondi found in cat poop may not be killed during the sewage treatment process and could therefore contaminate waterways.  Though this parasite rarely affects healthy people, it can affect those with compromised immune systems and can cause birth defects and brain damage in babies whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy.  It has also been shown to harm sea otters and other wildlife.  Burying or composting cat waste is not an option either since the Toxo eggs can last up to a year in soil.

The solution unfortunately is to dispose of cat waste in the trash sealed in a plastic bag.  While this may not seem like a “green” solution, it is the safest.  There are other green things you can do to lower your cat’s “carbon paw print”.

  • Use one of the greener litters made of recycled wood shavings, wheat, recycled paper or corn.  Clumping and scoopable cat litters are clay-based and not the by-product of the manufacture of something else, but instead produced by strip mining.  Cats can ingest the clay, known as bentonite, by licking their paws; it is especially dangerous for kittens or dogs that eat cat poop.
  • Clean your cat box daily—it takes about 24 hours for the Toxo eggs in cat poop to be able to infect people. Wear gloves when you clean your cat box and make sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water afterwards.
  • Keep your cat indoors to stop it from hunting birds and other small animals.
  • Remove cat poop from your yard since the Toxo eggs last for months in soil as previously said, and can move into rivers and oceans.

 

Information compiled from http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/,

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/, http://www.seaotterresearch.org/, http://pittsburghpermaculture.org/, http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp.

 


Have a Green Memorial Day This Year!

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.  Farmer’s markets aren’t up and running yet, 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 may also help ward 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.

Organize activities to get your guests moving and not eating and drinking so much.  If your cookout is near the water, swimming and kayaking are fun. If not, set up a volleyball/badminton net and get the teens involved in a tournament.  Croquet appeals to all ages and a nature walk or an outside scavenger hunt is a great way to get the kids interested in the outdoors.

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.

Don’t Throw Away Your Coffee Grounds!

Coffee grounds, fine, wet.

Coffee grounds, fine, wet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before you pour your coffee grounds down the disposal, read this blog and find out what you can do instead with this versatile, nutrient-rich leftover.

  1. Neutralize odors in your refrigerator or freezer with dried grounds.
  2. Repel insects by mounding the grounds into a protective ring around plants that will ward off ants, snails and slugs.
  3. When you clean your fireplace, sprinkle damp grounds on the ashes to cut down on airborne dust.
  4. Scrub hands with grounds to act as an exfoliant and eliminate food smells like fish and garlic.  Grounds are also a good cellulite reducer (see recipe below).
  5. A few teaspoons placed on a thin rag can be used to clean grease and grime from dishware.
  6. Steep grounds in hot water to make a natural dye for Easter eggs or fabric.
  7. For a non-toxic cockroach trap, fill a can with an inch or so of wet grounds and line the neck with extra-sticky double-sided tape.  The scent draws the roaches into the trap.
  8. Add some grounds to your potting soil to give plants and seedlings a nitrogen boost.  They may repel root maggots too!
  9. Coffee grounds dabbed on scratches in dark wood furniture will minimize them.  Use a cotton swab to apply and add a bit of liquid; try a test area first.
  10.  Coffee grounds are a nutritious addition to your compost pile!

Companies are doing interesting things with recycled coffee grounds.  Moving Comfort, an athletic gear company, uses recycled coffee grounds in a fabric called S. Cafe to absorb odors. My husband’s company, Boston Tree Preservation, has an arrangement with Boston Bean Coffee Company to recycle their spent coffee pods. The pods are fed to the worms in the worm farm;  the worm castings are then used to make a rich, nutritious compost tea which is sprayed on customers’ trees as an organic fertilizer, natural fungicide and pest deterrent.

Recipe for Coffee Ground Exfoliant

 (from livestrong.com)

 Since coffee grounds are course, they are a natural exfoliant.  They also contain caffeic acid, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects on the skin and stimulates collagen production.

Mix 1 cup warm coffee grounds with 1/2-cup sugar, then add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Rub the mixture all over your skin, especially rough areas such as elbows and feet. If you do this in the shower, put a mesh sink strainer in the drain. Otherwise, the coffee grounds could clog the drain.  You can also just use the coffee grounds to exfoliate.

Information compiled from thisoldhouse.com March 2012 and curbly.com.