Restaurants Growing Their Own and Sourcing Local: Expanding Urban Agriculture

Restaurants across the country are advocating food sustainability by moving towards farm-to-table and growing their own ingredients.  Restaurateurs have long known that locally produced food generally guarantees higher quality and better tasting products. But urban agriculture is also increasingly an economically viable path for restaurants. Supporting local products, particularly within and around the urban setting, reflects an environmental and social awareness that appeals to customers now more than ever.  And while local sourcing does come with a few drawbacks — such as selection being limited by seasonality and weather, and a lack of uniformity and consistency in the products — it avoids the more major disruptions caused by national food scares, such as the recent outbreaks of e coli and salmonella.  Read more here

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“What are you?”

This is a question I have been constantly asking the tiny green sprouts that randomly popped up along our garden plot over the past two weeks.  Given that we had only sown a couple types of seeds in rows, it can only mean we have weeds. This is an unsurprising revelation given the amount of time I have spent plucking little cottony fluff, which usually comes attached to tiny seeds undoubtedly from some distant foreign plant, off our tomatoes and marigolds.  However, even when I see an unrecognizable seedling pop through the surface nowhere near where our vegetable seeds were sown, I am reluctant to pull anything out of the soil.  Being so new to gardening, I have a lot learn about the plants and I’m curious about every stage of a plant’s life, even the weeds.  Still, I couldn’t help but wonder just what we were up against.  So to help identify the seedlings, I decided to turn to the Internet.

Despite the surprisingly vast amount of online resources dedicated to identifying weeds, most of them are only useful when applied to full-grown plants.  At this early stage in their development, our little seedlings look nothing like the ominous giants staring back at me from the computer screen.  (Searching for help online was additionally tricky in this case because the majority of available information concerning “weed seedlings” emphasizes one particular type of weed, and it’s illegal to plant.)  However, I did find some of the resources particularly interesting.  Below are some of my findings:

This is the only website I found with images that identify weed seedlings.  Sadly, I do not recognize any of the seedlings to be found in our garden (that may have something to do with the fact that the website is based in Ireland). http://www.dgsgardening.btinternet.co.uk/weedseedgs.htm

The National Garden Association has a great and easy to navigate weeds library.  Its pages contain all the images of weeds onto one page, so it is easy to find what you are looking for.  The images are exclusively of adult weeds, but if you manage to identify the weed, there is a vast amount of information provided on how to control the weed. http://www.garden.org/weedlibrary/index.php?q=all_thumbs&keyword=Broadleaf%20Weeds

For a more comprehensive search, New Mexico State University has an online weed identification tool.  If you are able to categorize your weeds under any of the following: cacti, forb, grass or woody, this is the search engine for you. http://weeds.nmsu.edu/weedid.php

For those who have an iphone or ipad, there are several apps out there that will identify weeds.   http://nyflora.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/new-plant-id-apps-for-the-iphone-and-ipad/

Fortunately for me, my group members are much more capable than I am at identifying what to keep and what to dispose of, and much more diligent about actually doing the latter.  Getting rid of weeds as soon as they appear is probably the best thing for our garden.  However, I do feel some loss over the missed opportunity to watch the weeds grow and develop into the things depicted on the websites I’ve posted. I look forward to having my own garden one day, when I can employ the “wait-and-see” method.

white cottony fluff

unknown weed sprouts

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Dreams in an Urban Bathtub

When I was living in Pittsburgh, I was lucky; I had a big backyard that came with two lilacs, a dogwood, and a cement slab I thought of as my patio.  The first summer I lived there we got my parents old picnic table and grill, and spent countless evenings playing cards and drinking beers taking full advantage of the space.  My roommate Shakes and I liked to dream about what else to do with the yard, mostly we talked of a hammock and a garden, but it was already late in the season.  Finally, in May of 2009 I put my foot down, and we borrowed my mother’s rototiller and set to work.  We roughly estimated the size we wanted to make the plot, and scavenged old bricks from my yard, and from an abandoned house a few doors down to construct the sides.  Shakes and I dug out over eight inches of soil, and as we assumed it was contaminated we bagged it up in construction bags and piled it by the back gate with the trash.  Our neighbors were annoyed, but after a month of stalemating with the garbage men, the bags disappeared.

My garden in Pittsburgh after we bricked it in

After the initial hurdle of actually starting the plot, everything fell into place.  My mom and I took a couple of trips to buy soil (we settled on a mix of organic potting soil, topsoil, and peat moss), and then out to a local farm so I could buy some plant starts.  I planted a lot in my tiny plot, two eggplants, two types of spicy peppers, and two okra plants.  A handful of Swiss chard, lavender, thyme, and an ill-fated tomato, all interspersed with marigolds.  I don’t know if it was my mom’s influence (she’s an extremely successful gardener), the variety of plants crammed together, or the blessing of the marigolds but I had virtually no problems with pests.  I fertilized once, with blood meal, but otherwise did no major interventions and had high yields from my crop.  Save one, the tomato, succumbed to a rash of blight that hit about everyone I knew in Pennsylvania and Ohio that year.  Shakes tore the rotting plant out of the garden for me, as I was so sad to see it go.

Pittsburgh garden Planted

Last summer was a wash for my gardening endeavors.  I was preparing to move to Boston in August, and was out of town about as much as I was home.  Initially I had feared that this summer would be much the same as last, my current apartment has no gardening space.  Then in March, my boyfriend and I began discussing his backyard and he told me about the bathtubs on the side of his house that he had grown things in the summer before.  At first he was skeptical as he hadn’t been very successful, but my enthusiasm coupled with my cobbled together garden knowledge won him over.  We took one day in May and went to Home Depot, and a garden center and bought new soil and a variety of plants.

Our Bathtub

Two tubs together!

We’re growing a plethora of herbs, cucumbers, spicy peppers, eggplants, and some very unhealthy looking kale and arugula.  Something—probably rats—keep eating the flowers off my marigolds, and the eggplant’s leaves are beginning to resemble Swiss cheese.  While I’m worried that this year insect or mammal pests may compromise everything, I’m excited to be tending to plants again.  One of the upstairs neighbors has appropriated the other bathtub so ours isn’t lonely anymore, and two of the pepper plants are already covered with blossoms and the beginnings of a few peppers.  Urban gardening may pose a variety of new challenges (my organic gardening book doesn’t even mention rats), it’s a fulfilling endeavor.

Herbs and cucumbers from a few weeks ago

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Chives for Marx

A few weeks ago, I headed down to the Fenway Gardens to water our plants. Afterwards, I spent some time walking around the garden plots, peeking through gates, and speaking to the occasional gardener. With a camera in hand, I headed into one of the narrow paths that separated the plots with every intention of getting lost amongst the gardens. I walked around till dusk, snapping photos, admittedly a bit overzealously. Every rosebush, iris, or row of lettuce seemed worth of immortalization, but while looking through the lens of my camera, one thing became apparent: a fence was always in the way, and that began to bother me.

I’ve spent a few summers working in the Southern Adirondack teaching environmental education for the New York Department of Environment Conservation. Previously a steadfast city dweller, my time in the Adirondacks had been a cathartic experience, introducing me to a world that was previously unknown. Amongst the untamed pine and maple forests of upstate New York, my idea of nature was shaped by an unfettered wilderness, one that was majestic and unbridled by human hands. It was in the company of trees older than American cities and limpid freshwater lakes that I realized how recent and temporary we are in the story of the natural environment. The changes we made to the landscape, until recently, were mostly revocable.  But today, the impact of such change is sustained by our constant exploitation of the land.  We have learned how to manipulate the environment to fit our needs, shape it and tame it till it bends to our desires, but eventually, we are met with resistance.  The walk around the Fenway Gardens was a tour of this resistance in the form of several tiny botanical revolutions. When I looked closely I saw plants staging coups on the fences that contained them, their vines winding around the chain link fences, spilling into the pathways, reaching pass the constraints of the gates to be free.

History is littered with examples of how we have used the banner of ownership to claim things that were previously unattached as our own.  Modern capitalist culture has perfected the process and now every measurable inch of our planet has a monetary value placed on. While this may seems like a concern for larger spaces such as national parks or rainforest, the concept of public space and ownership is just as pertinent in somewhere as small as an urban garden in a city park.  Arguments of public space wouldn’t be necessary if the land was tended to on behalf of the majority, rather than a select few.

As my walk came to an end I noticed the blades of chives in blossoms standing stalwartly next to a locked gate.  I wondered how our views on space and ownership could benefit from a paradigm shift, once that placed an emphasis on stewardship over ownership, where gates wouldn’t be need, because the goal would not be to keep people out, but rather invite them in. Of course all this came to me amidst the haze of the mid June sun with a copy of Marx tucked snuggly in my bag.

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Where Does Your Garden Grow?

This Saturday, as I was fighting my way through the crowds heading to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup parade, I lamented the site of the Fenway Victory Gardens and the distance I had to travel to get there. Logically, I knew that it was no worse than getting to the gardens when the Red Sox are in town, but after a week of dodging the first seasonal flood of tourists in downtown Boston, I just couldn’t handle any more interaction with the sea of humanity. So, instead of enjoying the sunshine on my walk over from the Kenmore Square T station, I found myself wishing for a garden closer to home – or, to be honest, a teleportation device – and contemplating the importance of the urban realtor’s mantra of “location, location, location.”

In the city, many of us don’t have much of a choice as to where we garden. Apartment buildings rarely have usable outdoor space. Landlords with lawns don’t welcome tenants “playing in” or “messing up” their landscaping. Homeowner and condo associations tend to see growing food as unsanitary and messy, thereby limiting or outright prohibiting it. And we, the people paying exorbitant prices for the privilege of living in an urban center, are left with two options: (1) We turn to our windowsills, fire escapes and stoops, pray for good light, and hope we remember to water. (2) We turn to a nearby community garden, pray we’re high enough on the waiting list, and hope the to-and-fro doesn’t become a problem.

You could add guerilla gardening as a third option, but personally, after a full day of work and an evening class, I’m usually too exhausted to embrace my inner Empire Records persona and say, “’Damn the man!’ Let’s plant something.” If, however, you’re an Energizer Bunny for all things green and growing, more power to you and I’ll happily donate some seeds.

Back to our two completely legal – well, except for the fire escape – options for any urban gardener. If you decide to plant at home, you’re going to be much more limited in size, space and scope of what you can grow. Plus, you’ll be missing out on the social aspects of an outdoor garden. However, if you join a community garden, you’ll be dealing with transportation and supply logistics, as well as additional upkeep. Both choices have their benefits and their challenges, so how do you choose?

The way I see it, deciding where you’re going to locate your garden is a lot like figuring out what to plant in it. Different plants have different requirements – cucumbers like bright, warm locations, while bleeding hearts prefer partial to full shade – just like gardeners. A community garden may be too much of a time commitment for you, if you work all the time or are seldom in town. And an indoor or “renter’s” garden might not be feasible, if your home is lacking in natural light. It’s a personal decision; you have to determine the garden that will fit into your lifestyle, or be willing to change that lifestyle to accommodate the garden that you want.

And don’t be afraid to change your mind. Circumstances shift, and your garden can move with them. Right now, I know that if it wasn’t for my class participation grade, there’s no way I’d be trying to maintain a plot at a community garden, no matter how small. I have too many obligations and not enough hours in the day. Someday though – maybe when I finish my degree or maybe just when I find a landlord that isn’t a land-hog – I’ll be able to cultivate more than my windowsills.

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Organics, Biodynamics & Pest Control

Organic Agriculture

It’s safe to say that organic agriculture has assumed the role of poster child for alternative food production. The USDA lists it under Alternative Farming Systems and defines it as “a system [of production] that integrates cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” Organic food in the United States is associated with a national program of accreditation–The National Organic Program. The regulations that govern this process of accreditation are determined by the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. 

The Alternative Farming Systems website is extremely navigable and gives a comprehensive overview of organic production and foods, providing information for consumers and producers alike.  Information is further arranged into five categories and largely sourced from University extensions and national research centers.

  1. Crops and Gardening
  2. Livestock
  3. Standards and Certification
  4. USDA programs
  5. Spotlights

Local Resources

Northeast Organic Farming Association: NOFA/Mass is a community including farmers, gardeners, landscapers and consumers working to educate members and the general public about the benefits of local organic systems based on complete cycles, natural materials, and minimal waste for the health of individual beings, communities and the living planet.  They offer a number of workshops in the Boston Area, like the Boston Beekeeping Workshops and Feeding a Family Gardening Series.

UMass Amherst Extension: UMass Extension addresses public concerns of high priority for the Commonwealth. Part of the national Cooperative Extension System, UMass Amherst, in collaboration with Barnstable and Plymouth counties sponsors statewide programs in Agriculture and Landscape, Natural Resources & Environmental Conservation, Nutrition Education and the Massachusetts 4-H Youth Development Program.

Organic Consumers Association, Massachusetts: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, environmental sustainability and other key topics. We are the only organization in the US focused exclusively on promoting the views and interests of the nation’s estimated 50 million organic and socially responsible consumers.

Biodynamic Agriculture

Biodynamic farming goes beyond organics; it’s “a unified approach that relate[s] the ecology of the farm-organism to that of the entire cosmos,” which emerged from a series of lectures by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in Germany in June 1924. Brought to the US by Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, a colleague of Steiner, in the 1930s, biodynamics was quickly taken up by a group of farmers who formed the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. They further defined biodynamics as,

  • “An impulse for deep social change rooted in the practice of farming…”
  • “A type of organic farming that incorporates an understanding of ‘dynamic’ forces in nature not yet fully understood by science…”
  • “A recognition that the whole earth is a single, self-regulating, multi-dimensional ecosystem…”

Biodynamic farmers avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers, utilize compost and cover crops, and set aside a minimum of 10% of their total acreage for biodiversity – the variety of all forms of life in the ecosystem. And while most of these practices are shared with organic agriculture, there are a variety of ways in which biodynamic farming differs from the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) which include:

  • Observing and farming with cosmic and planetary rhythms.
  • Prohibiting the use of animal rendered products and chilean/sodium nitrate.
  • Respecting the soil as a living organism.
  • Applying biodynamic preparations, which are a series of biological materials that develop root growth, humus formation, soil microbial activity and light metabolism.

In the US, there is only one biodynamic certifier: Demeter USA. It’s a branch of the first label for organic produce and is a part of an international network of 45 countries. In order to be certified, a farm must first complete the same 3-year transition that is required by NOP certified organic farming. Certification from there on out is not standardized; instead Demeter USA surveys each farm as a unique entity/organism with its own baseline and inherited conditions. Finally, the entire farm, as opposed to a particular crop or field, must be certified, and inspected annually.

For additional information and inspiration on biodynamic agriculture, you may want to check out these publications:

There’s also a five-part video introduction to biodynamic agriculture on YouTube, entitled “Nature’s Mysterious Ways and Her Similarities to Us,” that was filmed at a local speaker’s series in Chatham, MA. To watch the first section, just click play.

Feel like you’re ready to start your own biodynamic garden? Start with seeds from Turtle Tree Seed, a biodynamic seed initiative in New York that offers everything from alfalfa to zinnias.

Biodynamic Farms in New England

The biodynamic movement is much more popular in England, Australia and New Zealand than in the US, but there are some notable exceptions throughout New England:

  • As host of the Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust’s Apprenticeship Program, Brookfield Farm in Amherst, MA teaches participants about running a sustainable, biodynamic farm, as well as the relationship between food, farm, and the community.
  • River Valley Farm in Lenox, MA focuses on animal husbandry for food and other animal-related products (e.g. sheepskins and wool).
  • Woodbridge Farm in Salem, CT has 30 acres of open fields that are used for farming and livestock, most particularly the endangered red Milking Devon cow. The farm also participates in the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program.
  • The slogan for The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill in Bedford, NH is “Connecting Community to Land and Agriculture,” which they do through camps, tours, fairs, animal sponsorship programs and much more.
  • One of the oldest CSAs in the US, Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Wilton, NH features approximately 130 acres of pastures, hay fields and vegetables, which provide over 100 households with food.
  • Powered solely by hand and horse, Hillside Springs Farm & CSA Garden in Westmoreland, NH maintains a unique extended 22-week harvest season.
  • Fare Share Farm in Canton, ME is a small, 3rd generation family CSA (community supported agriculture) farm open to any interested shareholders for whatever contribution they are willing and able to pay.
  • Wayback Farm CSA in Morrill, ME doesn’t have a website, but you can contact them by phone at 207-342-5052.

Biodynamic Pest Control

Similar to organic practices, biodynamic pest control requires a high level of biodiversity and eschews the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. It relies on natural predator-prey relationships and aims to improve the biological and spiritual health of the overall ecosystem. To learn more about the science behind biodynamic pest control, read or listen to this June 2009 interview with Professor Jane Memmot at the University of Bristol, who conducted a study on ecosystems services – the useful roles that different organisms fulfill – at 20 farms adhering to biodynamic principles and 20 which were not.

There are a lot of resources out there regarding how you can implement biodynamic pest control, and a good place to start is Town and Country Farmer’s three-page overview, “Managing Weeds, Pests and Insects on the Biodynamic Farm.” It includes sections on (1) weeds as messengers to determine problems with the balance of the surrounding ecosystem, (2) sugar sap levels as an indicator of health, (3) horn silica preparation 501, and (4) peppering, which is a spreading of specific ashes over problem areas at an appointed time in the lunar cycle.

So you want to grow organically, but you still have pests, what do you do? 

So you’ve discovered that something is nibbling on your tomato plant, your lettuce sprouts, or your prized tarragon plant.  You’ve committed yourself to not using chemicals in your plot so while you stare wistfully at a leaf littered with holes, you worry that all is lost.  Well, its not! There are many organic solutions to dealing with bugs that are healthy for you, and the soil you’ve planted in.

Well, for starters you can educate yourself in the concept of Integrated Pest Management, which is not always an organic means of pest control, but is a multifaceted approach that in the words of UMass Amherst, “…incorporates mechanisms for accurate estimation of both pest and beneficial insect populations, includes both economic and environmental cost and benefit assessments, and prescribes a combination of strategies for control of pest problems”.  Now it may seem a little complicated, but Cornell University offers an approach that is applicable to home gardeners.

If IPM seems a little to involved for your garden plans, there are some simple steps for addressing what’s happening in your garden.  For starters you need to identify the type of bugs you are dealing with.  This website offers great pictures of the different pests, and helps you to identifying what may be eating your garden on a plant-by-plant basis.  Organic Gardening magazine offers a great online guide for the top ten garden pests, as well as in depth looks at how to tackle Aphids, and Slugs (which are common bugs in most gardens, and in the New England area).

In addition to identifying the bad bugs, a good way to treat an infestation organically is to figure out what other bugs would eat the bad ones, and then attract them to your garden.  Organic Gardening Magazine offers good information on allies to your garden, and how to attract them through border plants, and in general what plants attract the good bugs.  Fine Gardening magazine also offers an overview on the topic What’s awesome about attracting the bugs to your garden, is that they do all the work for you, and you get to add diverse plants to your garden!

Finally, you’ve followed the basic steps to keeping pests out of your garden, and getting up everyday to pick aphids off by hand has gotten, it might be time to consider a spray, or another intervention.  However, there are many options that aren’t detrimental to the environment.  Martha Stewart, and Organic Gardening magazine offer simple steps to making an insect spray with items common to most households.  There are also some safe commercial sprays available, a favorite being Neem Oil (though make sure you get one that is a high, or pure concentration of the oil, as the sprays can sometimes have additives that are harmful to your soil or plants).  Neem Oil is available at many garden supply stores and online.  This website on about.com, includes an overview of the many other organic sprays available.  However, you need to assess the benefits and disadvantages of each of these types of options, because even though they are organic, it doesn’t mean they don’t have any negative side effects.

Inorganic Pest Control

If you have decided against organic products of pest control, take a few extra steps before heading over the local hardware or garden store.  Effective pest control typically involves proper evaluation and prevention.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency advocates Integrated Pest Management (IPM Principles ), which is a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls by following this four-tiered approach:

  1. Set Action Thresholds: Figure out when the pest level becomes a threat.
  2. Monitor and Identify Pests: The National Garden Association has a great pest library.
  3. Prevention: Using methods such as crop rotation or planting pest-free rootstock or pest-resistant varieties.
  4. Control: Determine the method to control the pest, using pesticides when all else fails.

The EPA categorized the following types of pesticides: chemical pesticides , biopesticides, antimicrobials, and the type of pest they control. Pest control devices are also listed in this category, but they are not technically pesticides.  They do serve the same purpose without using the substance found in pesticides. These devices include traps and tapes.

Certain Types of Pest Listed by the EPA

Attractants Attract pests (for example, to lure an insect or rodent to a trap). (However, food is not considered a pesticide when used as an attractant.)
Biocides Kill microorganisms.
Disinfectants and sanitizers Kill or inactivate disease-producing microorganisms on inanimate objects.
Fungicides Kill fungi (including blights, mildews, molds, and rusts).
Fumigants Produce gas or vapor intended to destroy pests in buildings or soil.
Herbicides Kill weeds and other plants that grow where they are not wanted.
Insecticides Kill insects and other arthropods.
Miticides(also called acaricides) Kill mites that feed on plants and animals.
Microbial pesticides Microorganisms that kill, inhibit, or out compete pests, including insects or other microorganisms.
Molluscicides Kill snails and slugs.
Nematicides Kill nematodes (microscopic, worm-like organisms that feed on plant roots).
Ovicides Kill eggs of insects and mites.
Pheromones Biochemicals used to disrupt the mating behavior of insects.
Repellents Repel pests, including insects (such as mosquitoes) and birds.
Rodenticides Control mice and other rodents.

Inorganic pesticides are made of minerals and chemical compounds found in nature.  They include silica aerogel, boric acid, borates, diatomaceous earth, cryolite, copper, and sulfur.   Ones manufactured with metals such as arsenic are now rarely used. It is important to learn how the different pesticides work and the different classes and categories in existence. For example, would poisoning the insects through its stomach be preferable than simply sterilizing them? Would you administer the method in the form of dust powder with a long shelf life or a potent spray? Even though these products are widely available, there is the potential of negatively affecting other surrounding organisms.  Also, pests are capable of developing resistance.  However, if you decide this is the method for you, products can be found locally at Mahoney’s Garden Center.

Happy Hunting!

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Learning to Compost

Producing compost and growing a garden seem to go hand in hand. Having never grown up with a composter, the idea of composting is as mysterious as it is fascinating. My first introduction with composting was, as a child, watching my grandfather set out soybean grounds left over from the few occasions of making soy milk at home.  The grounds would sit outside for about a week or so (I’m not sure if anything was added to them) despite the constant complaints from various family members about the odorless but ugly heap.  Yet, the grounds fertilized and helped produce some of the biggest roses in my aunt’s garden.  Turning waste into proper nutrients with the purpose of feeding plants directly relates to successful gardening.  As we are taking nutrients straight from the earth, it is only fair to put it back in order to perpetuate the growth of the plants.

Of course, getting the motivation to start composting is the tough part.  Since I’ve never gardened up until now, I did not feel the urge to produce compost, especially when this would involve finding a proper bin, establishing a permanent place for it in an apartment, and of course, learning how to successfully turn waste into fertilizer.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to learn the basics of composting and build in a composter this past Saturday.  It turns out that having the right knowledge and moral support makes this process a lot less scary.

Composting is very much like baking, where the right amount of ingredients, time, and preparation are required to create good products.  Basically, compost is made of brown matter (i.e. dried leaves, branches, and paper), which produces carbon and green matter (i.e. grass, food scraps not including meat or dairy due to their attraction to pests, coffee grounds, and egg shells), which produces nitrogen.   The mixture should be a 50/50 combination of each matter.  Too much nitrogen will create spoilage.  The heap should also be kept moist and turned regularly.  However, one can also choose not to turn it and the mixture will break down much slower.  Freezing food scraps is a good way to add additional moisture to the compost while making the process of collecting and transporting green matter more convenient.  The composter can be made of pieces of wood, hardware cloth and a staple gun.

Brown Matter

Green Matter

Building the composter

 

 

 

 

 

The whole process seems straightforward and achievable, so much that I began to do more research on my own.  I was surprised to learn that the City of Boston has a composting section on its website.  Bins and pails are available for purchase at a subsidized rate. There are detailed instructions, along with colored drawings and troubleshooting tips, on how to compost indoors and building your own bin.  I also discovered different methods of composting: holding unit, turning unit, worm heaping and soil incorporation.   Depending on when the compost is needed, how much space is available, and which material is used, there is more than one way to achieve the end result.

Even though there is a large amount of resources and support to promote composting as an effective way to reduce and/or eliminate waste, working with rotting trash is a hard sell, especially for non-gardeners.  However, as someone who cooks frequently with raw ingredients, it is upsetting to throw away of food scraps that can be used toward something useful.  Now that I am starting to garden and have even help build a composter for class, I really don’t have an excuse not to compost.

Links:

http://www.cityofboston.gov/publicworks/RecyclingandSanitation/composting.asp

http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/displaypub.aspx?p=g6957

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