Thursday, December 17, 2009
Then look around the community. This will take more work, but at least there are the benefits of exercise for you and more nutrients in your compost! And you could get to meet a lot of nice people.
Here are some ideas:
- Collect pumpkins after Halloween.
- Ask neighbors if you can have their leaves if you are willing to rake them.
- Collect coffee grounds from neighbors, restaurants, motels, and your workplace. At work, you can place the coffee grounds with the filter in a container or bag in the freezer. This will prevent it from stinking and allow you to collect the grounds less often. At a restaurant or motel, have a certain day of the week that you go and collect some grounds from that day only. That way the employees only have to save grounds from that morning. If you have a big enough pile, then you can even go daily.
- Offer to take Christmas trees. Some people may even be willing to pay you to take them. Saw the branches off to put in the compost bin, and leave the trunk to dry to become firewood or art wood.
- Take leaves off sidewalks.
- Put out a "compost bin" at a farmer's market. Encourage people to put their organic materials in it. Some people might bring their compost to you if you are there every week to collect it.
- Make a compost collecting day where you go down the street collecting people's donated organic material they put in a paper bag near the sidewalk for you.
- Have a collection bin in your front yard and encourage people to drop off their food scraps. Care must be taken to make it easy enough to get to, but far enough that it isn't treated like a public trashcan for everyone who walks by.
- Collect newspapers.
- If people in your neighborhood have a yard waste cart that the city picks up, ask their permission for you to go through it before they put it out. You could even offer to put out people's carts on collection day with your "pay" is being able to take stuff out of it. You have to be very consistent with this or people will be mad that their cart was not put out.
- Pay kids to ask neighbors if they can have their leaves and compost materials they may have at that time. That gives kids a good job and may help beautify the neighborhood. This idea does cost money though.
- Ask groundskeepers at big facilities if you can have their leaves. They may already have a company that picks up their yard waste to compost.
- Start your own mowing business and keep the clippings for yourself. I am a little bit hesitant about this option because there is no telling how much fertilizer and pesticides have been used on the grass. Also, I'd be afraid that gas lawnmowers might leave residue.
I hope to get lots of leaves and pumpkins in the fall for my compost piles.
Monday, December 14, 2009
There is a drought in my area and even tap water can be expensive. I am going to need to find ways to maintain a necessary amount of water for the plants, without going broke. The cost for the privilege of having running water in my house is $30 / month. Any amount of water that I use is added to that amount.
My first idea is to reuse water from the house. If I wash my hands with a biodegradable soap then I can put that water on the compost pile. When I do not use soap, I can catch that water in a basin to water plants. I can also just rinse my hands with a washrag when that will be sufficient, like when they just have a little dirt on them and I am going back outside anyways.
Another thing I can do is divert washing machine water to an area outside. I could also hang my clothes to dry outside near the plants. If spaced closely together that might provide a little bit of humidity, which may decrease the plants' need for water.
I can catch water in the shower while I am waiting for it to warm up. If I want to work a little harder then I could also catch the water used while getting wet before using soap. If I use biodegradable soap and shampoo then I can catch the soapy water separately for use in the compost pile.
I could catch rain from my roof to store it for non-rainy times. I do not know how much it would cost for a rain barrel and to retrofit my water spouts to catch the water. It might be worth it.
I could also create small ditches to help catch water and allow it to flow into the ground. These small ditches could be filled with rocks to become a path. This is a way to catch runoff. It also helps keep the ground moist in hot weather. This probably wouldn't become too water-logged since the highest average rainfall is less than 5 inches/ month.
Finally, I can utilize mulch and shading to help the plants retain the water they have. Also, the compost bin does not have to have water when there isn't any available. It can wait until the rain comes. Besides, additions of water containing food scraps will maintain some moisture. I can also cover the compost pile to deflect sunlight.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Even though this unit is really big and claims to compost faster than traditional methods, I feel I might need to set up another compost area to handle creating all the compost I will need to add plenty of organic matter to the soil. An easy method would be to create a compost pile over a spot I plan to plant another season. My difficulty with that idea is that water would evaporate too quickly in my hot, dry climate. I would prefer a method that is easier to cover in wet or really hot weather, and has less surface area for evaporation. The organization afforded by a compost container will help keep my yard looking presentable.
This bin, from chromalux's photostream on flickr.com, is my favorite. It looks like the wood in the front can be pulled out from the top, which would make it easier to get the fresh compost out. I might make one like this, without the wood in front to make it easier to turn. The back and sides appear to be chicken wire. That would allow plenty of air penetration. This one might actually be too big for my backyard needs!
Here is a basic compost pile. I like this a lot better than I thought I would. It can be located in the shade to prevent too much water evaporation. I think this would be my best bet for now. I might do something else after a few seasons, but this is affordable and effective! This photo is part of uberculture's photostream at flickr.com. The author is thinking about giving up on it! I hope that doesn't happen. This is a nice compost pile that will return vital nutrients to the soil.
Thanks to those who provided pictures on flickr for the public's use.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Libraries are very helpful. Some helpful keywords to look for information about sustainable gardening are:
- kids garden
- edible landscaping
- Jeavons, John
- Mollison, Bill
- bee keeping
- edible plants
Your library may have other resources. Some libraries have groups that share interests. They might have a directory that leads to nurseries or groups. They may have computers for accessing internet information. They might be able to get a book from another library for you to borrow.
You could also help start gardening resources at the library. This could even provide you with free seeds and cuttings! That is good for sustainability, variety, and community.
I am considering multi fruited trees. These are trees that different fruit cultivars are grafted onto one root stock. This means that the tree produces different types of fruits on different branches. Benefits include saving the space that a would be required to plant separate trees, the ability to get trees that can pollinate themselves, and a longer harvest time as different cultivars produce fruit at different times.
Of course there are potential problems. Pruning can be extra work to make sure a single cultivar doesn't take over. The total yield of fruit most likely will not be more, just spread out over time. Also, some cultivars on the tree might be more prone to certain diseases and pests than others. It could be difficult to safely treat a pest or disease that is only present on parts of the tree. Another aspect is price - multi fruited trees can be expensive. Finally, the exact interaction of the cultivars is hard to predict. Will one cultivar hog resources? The fruit might taste good but without much analysis it is hard to know for sure that the nutritional content is just as good as trees grown individually.
A store I found that doesn't say "cannot ship to CA" is Nature Hills Nursery . I am really excited about this website. They have a multi-fruited / multi-budded apple tree with a description that recommends planting in zones 4-9. I think I would like this tree. It produces 4 different types of apples. That is great so I don't get too tired of any one type - or end up with a too many apples at one time.
The website also sells two different multi fruited pear trees. The one that is hardy in my zone, "Multi-Fruited Pear Tree 1" grows 4 cultivars. I would like this tree as it grows Bosc pears - my favorite pears for their sweet flavors.
The website's multi fruited cherry tree does not include my zone in the planting recommendations. I might plant it anyway near other trees so that they can create a cooler microclimate. Cherries are so good - but so expensive! It would be great to have my own.
I do not know whether I would put fruit trees in the front yard since they drop a lot of fruit that can be a bit unsightly on such a beautiful street. That can be a lot of fruit to pick up! I would not be able to plant multi fruited trees along borders in my front yard since it is very important for all the cultivars to receive adequate sun. In the backyard I could just rake up the dropped fruit and easily put it into the compost bin. That is less work and more forgiving when I miss a few days of upkeep.
A final factor is cost. These trees are more expensive than trees that haven't been grafted. I do not necessarily need 4 different types of one fruit. I might need at least two different types so that they can pollinate each other. Two trees might be less expensive than one multi-fruited tree. Extra care will need to be taken to choose cultivars that bloom at the same time. Then there is the cost to water the plants. One tree likely requires less water than two separate trees, a benefit of having a multi fruited tree. Finally, there is the issue of space. Planting only one tree means that space is available for other crops. A packet of seeds usually costs less than a tree. Then seeds can be saved from the crops, so that only one investment into seed packets can last many years.
I think I might order some multi fruited/ multi-budded trees when my soil is ready and the climate is right. I also plan to get some traditional fruit trees that are self-pollinating. There are many options. Multi fruited trees are a lot of work to prune to make sure all the cultivars are getting light and to keep the tree balanced. Any tree will either need to be naturally short or pruned to keep them from hitting the power lines.
Other options? Give a pollinator tree to a nearby neighbor. You get pollinated, they get pollinated, and you both get fruit. There is also the option of grafting your own cultivars onto a similar fruit tree you already have. You can get the cutting from a friend, or grow the new tree and give it away after you have produced a graph. I certainly like this option, it gives more than one home something they could use and beautifies the neighborhood.
Friday, December 4, 2009
This photo comes from Mat_the_W's photostream at flickr.com.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mat_the_w/ / CC BY 2.0
These rhubarb plants are so pretty. And they produce good food. They would be great in a front yard edible landscape. The bottom photo's description states it had only been planted for two months! I also wonder if this would make a good container plant for me and to give away.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
"Warmer sites should be reserved for early blooming species, such as almonds, apricots, Japanese plums, or hardy citrus. Colder locations are more appropriate for apples, pears, quince, European plums, berries, and other late blooming species."
I live in a very warm area. If I want an apple tree I will have to carefully choose my planting site and variety. Another potential issue is that many apple trees require pollination from another apple tree which blooms at the same time. This is an important factor in my decision of which variety to plant.
On the UC Davis site is a very helpful document (at http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/varieties.pdf) which explains some of the fruits that are available to the home orchardist. One element I especially appreciate is the description of "spur type varieties". This is a short list of some varieties that are naturally dwarfing due to different genetic makeup. The document also lists a few apples which do not require as much cold weather. These trees, grown in hot Southern California, would likely be my best bet. They are: Anna, Beverly Hills, Dorsett Golden, Einshemer, Gordon, and Tropical Beauty.
My next stop was The Arbor Day Foundation website at www.arborday.org. Here I typed in my zip code and discovered that I am in zone 9! That means lots of hot weather. A quick search for "apple" trees did not yield any trees higher than zone 8. I may pick out zone 8 trees and create a microclimate by placing it very close to other fruit trees. If I do that, the temperature inside the trees will be less than if I only plant one tree. The listings of apple trees also state that they are not drought tolerant. I will need to figure out how to get the trees plenty of water without losing too much to evaporation. I also don't want the soil to be waterlogged, either. Growing trees close together to shade the ground and using a mulch will probably be my best bet. Also having healthy soil will help water get to where it needs to be.
I did not find the best apple tree for me today. I will keep looking since there are so many cultivers out there that I am sure there is something for me. I can plant some of the varieties I have found, but it will take lots of planning and work. I might go with a couple of the apple trees that the UC Davis website lists as being appropriate for Southern California.
Another thing to consider: Do I really need an apple tree? There are plenty of other options. Should I spend extra time, resources, and space to make this work? Something else can be planted in that spot. This is certainly a topic that demands more thought. Part of permaculture and biodynamic gardening is choosing the right plant for the space, not necessarily forcing a plant to grow where it isn't fit to. However, using permaculture and understanding microclimate can allow a person to choose the best location if the person really wants that plant.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
- a Sustainable Garden Starter Kit. This kit comes with the book The Sustainable Vegetable Garden and the seed packets which correspond to the garden in the book. I like this because they have already collection because they have put together plants that many people like and that are relatively easy to succeed with. Great for a beginner like me to get a taste of success! It has these seed packets:
- Derby Snap Beans - I could not find information on the website about this seed packet. I did get an inoculate to help the plants fix nitrogen and grow better.
- Golden Bantam Corn- the website says that this is a good producer of sweet corn with good flavor. That sounds good to me! The height is described as "short 5-6' ". I can't imagine what a "tall" variety might look like! 150 seeds / packer to cover an area of 180 sq ft.
- Bronze Arrow Lettuce- I look forward to trying this loose-leaf lettuce. It may be possible to get multiple cuttings from each plant, which I appreciate because I do not always want a whole head of lettuce at one time. There are 300/ packet to cover 100 sq ft.
- Rutgers Tomato - One packet has enough seeds for a beginner to harvest 100 lbs of large tomatoes from 100 sq ft. The website claims that with more experience and better soil the yield could be over 400 lbs. 400 lbs of tomatoes sold at 25 cents each would be $100 - enough to pay for a bunch of tools for the garden. There are 45 seeds / packet to cover an area of 125 sq ft.
- Sugar Baby Watermelon - I probably wouldn't have chosen a pack of watermelon seeds if I was only going to try a few plants. I like watermelon, but the fruits are too big (8-12 lbs) that I would be unable to eat one myse6+lf. I would rather smaller fruits to begin with. This packet contains enough seeds for a beginner to harvest 50 lbs in 100 sq ft. I suppose this would be a great crop to share with the food bank, since they accept home-grown produce. I also do not plan to plant very many seeds, so I shouldn't get too overwhelmed with watermelons. There are 70 seeds / packet to plant an area of 140 sq ft.
- Nantes (Tip Top) Carrot - I am not much of a carrot eater. Maybe that will change when I have a bunch of fresh carrots to practice cooking with. I would like to try juicing carrots and dehydrating them. I also heard that carrots can be good for dogs to chew on. I might try that. I have also heard that vegetables can give dogs gas and dogs can concentrate too much vitamin A in their bodies. I will have to research that some more. There are 800 seeds / packet, which only requires an area of 30 sq ft.
- Straight Eight Cucumber -This is an organic seed packet. I am not a big cucumber eater, so I will need to find some recipes. I do look forward to eating the skin of the cucumber without wondering whether or not it was coated with wax or how far it traveled. Last time I purchased a cucumber, the cost was 50 cents each. This was in California. There are 40 seeds / packet to cover 24 sq ft.
- Haogen Melon - I have never heard of this type of melon, so I look forward to growing it. The description says it has a yellow rind with green sutures. I guess I will know for sure how it looks when it starts growing. There are 30 seeds / packet to cover an area of 35 sq ft.
- Southport White Globe Onion - Onions will be good for grilling and pizzas. I might also try making onion rings or a blooming onion recipe. I can also make onion dip and put chopped onions on my nachos. If these store well then I can have lots of onions whenever I care to add one. I think I read somewhere that onions have strong antioxidants. There are 150 seeds/ packet to cover an area of 11 sq ft.
- White Lisbon Green Onion - This is labeled "Scallions" in parentheses. Because I have come across a number of recipes that have called for scallions, these plants could prove very useful. I think I like the green tops cut off on a piece of bread and butter, though I might be getting this plant mixed up with another. There are 150 seeds / packet to plant an area of 6 sq ft.
- Hard Red Spring Wheat- There are a couple of different types of this wheat available. I assume they are referring to item number GWH-7570, the modern organic type. I do not know if this is a crop that I can realistically harvest and make bread out of. I intend to find out! A challenge for bread-making using my own ingredients will be getting the amounts and time right. Different varieties of grains have different properties, so what works with one grain might not work with another. There are 1250 seeds / packet to plant an area of 150 sq ft.
- Taylor’s Dwarf Bean - I have no idea what to expect with this bean. The description on the website is: "Cranberry. Improved Pinto Snap beans, green shell bean, & dry bean in one." I will have to find out if I can eat this raw. I certainly hope it does not taste like cranberries, those are a bit too tart for me. I will research this bean further. There are 85 seeds / packet to cover an area of 13 sq ft.
- Hulless Oats - I might use the oats in my bread machine. They could also be used for oatmeal baths or maybe as birdseed. I might even have to try making cookies with these. There are 750 seeds / packet, for a planting area of 90 sq ft.
- Compost Crop Mix - this is a mix of wheat, vetch, and rye, which are grown as bulk materials for compost. If planted in the fall the grain can also be eaten. I hope to be able to harvest some grain as well as keep some seeds for later. There are 1500 seeds / packet to cover 100 sq ft.
- Fava beans - this is included in the collection as a crop to grow for compost and to condition the soil. The store states that this plant fixes nitrogen if the seeds are inoculated first. I purchased the product to do so. There are 300 seeds / packet to cover 78 sq ft.
All together (excluding the Derby Snap Beans, which I could not find information for), this collection provides over 5,000 seeds to cover an area of 956 sq ft when grown intensively. The website states that you would need 4 times the area to plant in conventional rows. This seems like a good deal to me, as it also comes with the book that provides instructions. There are more seeds than I will plant my first year or two, and seeds can be harvested from my garden as well. Not bad for an endless supply of seeds that I can keep and/or share.
- a pack of Alpine Strawberry Seeds because strawberries are so good. This variety supposedly tastes like wild strawberries and takes 2 years to mature. I certainly want to get it started as soon as the soil is ready! The plants then produce every year. There are 150 seeds / packet to cover an area of 100 sq ft. The listing says that a beginning gardener can expect to harvest 40 lbs of produce from 100 sq ft. Too bad it will take two years, but 40+ lbs of strawberries every year after might just be worth it. The website states this plant is often used for edging and edible landscapes.
- the Perennial Vegetables Collection, which consists of 6 packets of seeds from "permanent" plants. That means they stay where they are year after year instead of being grown from seed each year. The collection includes these seed packets:
- Asparagus - I think having lots of asparagus to grill might be very tasty. I need to get this planted as soon as conditions are right because it takes 4 yrs to mature! It then last for several more years. I might plant this in a border area since it will stay there for a long time. The description recommends cold weather. I wonder if shade in a hotter area would work well enough? There are 35 seeds / packet to cover an area of 22 sq ft.
- Perpetual Spinach - I do not know if this is a spinach or a Swiss Chard. I cannot find an exact matching seed packet. I would like spinach, I am not sure about Swiss chard.
- Rhubarb - I am excited about growing rhubarb. I would like to try it in a homemade pie. The biggest problem is that the leaves are poisonous. I will need to find a place where my dog cannot get to it. I also plan to grow grapes at some point, which are toxic to dogs. I might create a little garden for these plants. I will have to plan now as this plant takes three years to mature. If I plan correctly, the presence of beautiful rhubarb and asparagus beds might be a big selling point if I sell my house someday since they take so long to establish. This plant also desires cold weather. Unfortunately, beginning gardeners can only expect to harvest 4 lbs, while experienced gardeners with good soil can only expect 8 lbs. I will have to research how much this crop goes for at the grocery stores and farmers markets. 35 seeds / packet to plant an area of 100 sq ft.
- Artichoke - this plant at least appreciates warm weather. I hope it doesn't get too hot. It takes 4-11 months to mature. The spacing recommended for this plant is 72 inches! I will need to look at pictures and do more research to see if anything can be planted closer to it. I hope to get enough artichokes to learn how to cook them. Since they take so much room, I may not even plant this crop so that I can have room for others. I will also investigate if they can be grown in pots. There are 50 seeds / packet to cover an area of 1000+ sq ft.
- Welsh Onion - This onion is also labeled "scallions". This is described by the website as being grown like chives as well as tasting a little stronger than chives. I think I will enjoy this plant. The website also states that this plant "likes deeply- dug rich loam". I might grow a few things in their future spot first to condition the soil. I might have to find a safe place for this plant if it is true that onions can be poisonous to dogs. There are 150 seeds / packet to cover an area of 6 sq ft.
- Sorrel - This leafy plant likes shade! That means I have a plant that will appreciate the little bit of shade I have available, and future shade from fruit trees. I have never tried sorrel. The website recommends its use in salads and herb butters. There are 200 seeds / packet to plant an area of 50 sq ft.
- American Wild Plum seeds for my first time growing a fruit tree from seed. I already have some sort of tree, possibly plum, in my yard. However, it is too close to the house and needs to be removed to prevent foundation damage. I like this tree because it is self-fertile, likes full sun, and matures in only 2-3 years. It also only grows to 10 ft, making it good for harvesting and planting in a suburban area that has power lines. There are 7 seeds/ packet, the planting area is not listed.
- a pack of Fodder Radish seeds. These seeds have more potential than just providing radishes - the website describes this plant as able to break up clay soil. It is also listed as having a "very deep tap root that brings up nutrients from the subsoil". I am excited about this. Even if I don't eat the radishes, they will help aerate and fertilize my soil. They can also be composted, allowing the found nutrients to be used for other crops. I plan to plant these where I want to grow trees and crops later. This will help other plants get off to a good start. I am considering purchasing additional packets and planting lots of radishes to get soil ready that won't be planted this year. I think I could just give them a little water and let them grow. I wouldn't even have to tend them until I pull them out to put in the compost pile. They also might be able to be left in the ground to decompose where they are. According to the store website, a beginner can expect to harvest 100 lbs of radishes per packet. There are 2500 seeds to cover an area of 100 sq ft.
- 3 packs of Seeds for Kids (of all ages). These are packs of random seeds left over from last year. Not all of them are as productive as the marketed packages, but many will still grow. I plan to plant these in a small area just to see what comes up, and to create compost. I hope to get a couple of interesting melons. Another advantage of this is that plants that I like could grow and I could save seeds from the crop, allowing myself to have seeds for next year at a much lower cost. The number of seeds and planting area is unknown.
- a Pot Maker for creating temporary pots out of newspaper. These will be good for starting seedlings. The entire pot can go into the ground when ready to plant. The website advises tearing off the bottom before placing in the ground. I would also like to plant extras to give away or sell. This would minimize costs while making it easier for the recipient to plant.
- an Eco Spout, which is an attachment for regular water bottles and jugs. This Eco Spout comes with a head for pouring, and a head for sprinkling. This way I can mix up worm tea and other things in a water bottle and pour or sprinkle it onto the plants or soil. I can then rinse the bottle and recycle it as normal. For less than $3.00 (as of today) I thought this would be useful.
- a can of Tangle Trap to protect some of my future plants and trees from climbing insects. I think I just have to brush it in a ring around a plant, but I will find out.
- Garden Combo Inoculant to help my beans and peas to get off to a good start. This gives them the bacteria they need to grow best. After a few years I probably won't need it, but for now I doubt my lawn has the bacteria that beans and peas need.
- a jar of Root Zone Beneficial Microbes, which has many things the soil needs to grow. I feel the expense is worthwhile since a good variety of microbes may not have been established since there is only one plant (grass) in the area, and I do not know if the area has been depleted of microbes from chemical fertilizers. I also plan to add a little bit to my new compost bin to get it started. If I keep up with composting and gardening then I may never need another jar of this product. The microbes will have established themselves and will reproduce prolifically on their own.
- A bag of silica gel for drying seeds for preservation. I do not know how to do this yet, but I figure I can find out later. I can read a book and/or look it up online. They sell a package that has the gel and a book, but I decided I had already spent enough money for one shopping trip.
After writing all this out I feel like I may have purchased more than I can handle. At least seeds can be saved for next year! I want to at least get the radishes in to loosen the soil and get a good compost bin going. We'll see what I can handle, and what I have room for.
The book (mine is older, from 1982) explains Biodynamic / French Intensive techniques for growing crops. Some of the major components are pre-digging the soil to loosen it and growing crops close together to create a micro-climate. The book also advocates building up soil rather than depleting the nutrients.
I hope to get the new book soon (this one).It is an expanded version of this excellent book. For now, I will use what I learned from the book I already have.