Healthy soil is the basis for food production. Soil also stores and filters water, improving a community's resilience to floods and droughts. But we’ve been abusing it for centuries, and now it needs some help. One way to do that is to make better use of our resources.
“We need to redefine food scrap as a resource,” Rich Pederson, steward of Southside Community Land Trust’s City Farm, said during a workshop at the recent Rhode Island Compost Conference & Trade Show held at Rhode Island College. “We need to look at food scrap as an opportunity to use an untapped resource for personal gain.”
The Seattle native, who is entering his 15th growing season as City Farm’s steward, composts at the farm and at his Providence home. He told those who attended the March 10 workshop about urban composting that 40 percent of food purchased in the United States annually is landfilled or incinerated.
Pederson said we should be using that wasted resource — besides to feed people — to rebuild depleted soils. “You’re essentially making gold from trash,” he said.
He said he uses the same formula for both his backyard compost pile and the composting operation he manages at his three-quarters-of-an-acre farm on the city’s South Side: one part nitrogen (food scrap) and three parts carbon (leaves, yard waste, newspaper, cardboard).
City Farm composts about 25,000 tons of organic material annually, according to Pederson. He uses food waste collected and delivered to City Farm by ecoRI Earth, leaves, stable manure, the bedding and manure from the farm’s six chickens, and coffee grounds from White Electric and New Harvest to create what he calls “black gold.”
Besides helping rejuvenate mistreated soils, composting, especially in an urban setting, also builds resourcefulness and frugality, according to Pederson. He noted that City’s Farms three compost bins were made from discarded wood pallets. He reused pieces of an old cedar fence to build his own backyard compost bin.
Pederson calls “quick compost” a fallacy. “Compost is like good wine,” he said. “There’s no reason to rush it. Let it age for about a year.”
He said he would like to see Rhode Island become a nationwide leader in composting, saying the statewide collection of organic material could be the Ocean State’s newest “manufacturing product.”
“We need to build soil fertility to grow healthy food and healthier communities,” Pederson said. “The economic opportunity afforded by composting is underused.”
Bring Plastics Bags and Film to Stores to be Recycled
By ecoRI News staff: Plastic bags and plastic film contaminate loads of collected recyclables, but these materials are recyclable. You just can’t dispose of them in your curbside recycling bin or bring them to the local transfer station to be recycled. If you do throw them out, put them with the trash.
To recycle these items, bring them to bins that can be found in front of many pharmacies, supermarkets, and retail stores. These bins accept plastic bags and film that stretches at least a little. Don’t drop off clingy food wrap, fertilizer and pesticide bags, or plastics labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable.”
These store bins accept, among other items: shopping bags; sandwich bags, remove and throw away hard zippers first; cereal box liners; dry-cleaning bags; newspaper bags; bread and bagel bags; produce bags; mattress bags; shrink wrap from cases of beverages; electronic overwrap; paper towel and toilet paper overwrap; air packs, from shipped packages; bubble wrap; and pellet and firewood bags, turned inside out and empty.
If a store you frequent doesn’t offer such a bin, ask a manager about adding one. To find a drop-off location near you, click here. Rhode Island also offers these drop-off options
Back Road Growers
Great time to start some annual flowers this month. Good picks include marigolds, sweet peas, stattice, impatiens, petunias, and snapdragons.
Choose some perennials to start now from seed. Delphinium, Shasta daisy, carnation, digitalis, and armeria are good choices.
Start geranium, begonia, vinca, and viola seeds now for spring and summer bloom.
Begonia and vinca seeds are among the hardest to germinate, so don't be discouraged if your success rate is low or irregular
Don’t forget... after it snows to gently shake or brush off snow-weighted branches that have no support. Heavy snow cover protects evergreen foliage from windburn, but too much weight will break branches.
Prune fruit trees now. The prunes can be gathered up into bundles to be used for kindling after they've dried.
Avoid walking over the same areas of your frozen lawn, or you may find bald spots in the spring.... :)
Back Road Growers
At this time of the year starting a garden record book is a great way of listing what you need to do as well as knowing what worked and didn’t work over the past growing seasons.
I suggest you start one now if you don’t have one. Make sure your allowing space to record the dates for things like:
first and last frosts,,,,seed-planting dates,,,, transplanting,,, time of bloom,,,, first fruit,,,,fertilizing,,,, problems with pests,,,, and what worked and didn't work.
Over a period of years, this will be an invaluable record. You can also add a map of what you already have planted and where. This is great if you’re transplanting or when you’re planting new flowers, shrubs and trees.
Planning a new garden?... then make a diagram list materials and plants you might want in this new or old garden.
It’s cold out so no better time to organize, clean, oil, and sharpen garden tools. A splash of bright paint on tool handles will make them easier to spot out in the yard.
Don’t forget to provide extra protection to houseplants on window sills if it is very cold. Place cardboard between the plants and the glass. Be sure the plants don't touch the windowpanes.
Also, check any bulbs and tubers you may have stored to determine if moisture is okay. Repack bulbs that seem too damp, discarding any moldy ones. If bulbs seem too dry, try moving them to another location.
January 4th 2019
Use this month to check your houseplants: divide and re-pot any pot-bound plants.
Keep holiday poinsettias in a sunny, cool location with high humidity.
Closely inspect houseplants.
Remove aphids from houseplants with a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water and add a drop of dishwashing detergent. Apply this to troubled plants with a soft brush.
Back Road Growers
The last tasks for December 2018...
Apply a layer of winter mulch to protect your perennials after the first few freezes.
Remember to remove any new fallen leaves from your lawn and gardens, as the leaves can block sunlight or encourage disease among your plants.
To help reduce winter damage to your lawn, minimize traffic on the frozen grass.
Make sure that mulch is pulled back from tree trunks so that mice don't hide and destroy the bark.
If your houseplants have a sticky substance on the leaves and aphids underneath, spray with soapy water or insecticidal soap.
Use sand on icy walks instead of salt to avoid plant and grass damage.
Move your houseplants away from icy windows to prevent any chilling.
When watering your houseplants, avoid using cold water because it may shock the plants; use tepid water instead.
Houseplants with large leaves benefit from being washed with a damp cloth to remove the dust.
Save and inventory leftover seeds from your favorite plants for next spring; store them in airtight containers and keep them in a dry place.
Getting cold and probably snowy soon.... So, Relax and dream about next year's garden!
Back Road Growers
Something to think about during this time of the year.... or at anytime!
Thought of the Day...
“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."
Prune any dead or weak branches now, so that they do not break under the snow or ice.
After a heavy snowfall, go out and gently shake the snow from evergreens. Work carefully because the frozen wood is brittle. Remove any broken limbs with a sharp saw.