With all the talk about the environment, it can be daunting to think that you could have any effect on such a large problem. But as our grandparents used to say in the Depression-era, “Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” There are many simple steps you can take right in your own backyard to do your part for nature.
Think Hard About Your Lawn
Although a lush green lawn has been the pride of homeowners for many years, it evolved as a sign of conspicuous consumption (to own land that wasn’t grazed or cultivated) and remains so today. Of course, you don’t need to raise chickens on it! But your lawn likely costs you a lot: you probably water it, fertilize it, and mow it weekly with a gas-powered mower. You might even spray weed-killer or pesticides on it. That’s a lot of time, money, and energy put into one little plot of land.
Instead, consider alternative solutions. There is xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that involves putting down rocks and gravel and a few plants that require little water. You can turn your lawn into a garden or orchard to feed your family and share with your neighbors. Or, you can simply plant it with low-maintenance perennials, trees and shrubs so that you spend the minimal time on yard work. Lawns, attractive as they are, are one of the most high-maintenance yard installations.
Though we get a lot of rain in Virginia, most people see it as a nuisance. You likely water your plants fairly regularly, but in most cases, plants could be self-maintaining. The trick is to get the water to stick around.
Most homes make sure water slopes away from them, and for good reason. But with a rain garden, you can capture much of that precious rain before it pours into the storm drains. The rain garden will create a reservoir of water in your soil that your whole yard will benefit from.
You can also set up rain barrels to capture the runoff from your gutter. If you install drip irrigation hoses from them you can ensure that you water with the deep soaking that is best for plants.
Composting and How to Create a Compost Pile.
Composting helps you recycle your garden and kitchen waste while also helping the the environment!
- Microorganisms found in compost help aerate the soil which allows the soil to be healthier and reduces the presence of weeds and plant diseases.
- Compost is great for the environment as it reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers.
What kind of materials do you need
- In thinking about what you should compost, you are looking for the right balance between nitrogen and carbon-based materials.
- Anything that you have in your house, your garden, or your landscape that is derived from a plant can be used as compost!
- Materials with a high percentage of carbon: branches, leaves, wood chips, sawdust, Coffeys filters, coffee grounds, egg shells, straw, wood ash).
- Nitrogen-rich materials: manure, excess food, grass clippings, green leaves)
- The healthiest of all composts will be more carbon heavy than nitrogen heavy. The colloquial school of thought is to have one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. The heavier brown materials allow the soil to aerate and help the microorganisms fight plant disease. But be careful because too much nitrogen based materials make for a dense and pungent mass that will not yield a productive compost.
- Carbon on the other hand, produces a breathable and great-smelling odor, so when in doubt, use carbon!
What to Not Put in Your Compost
- Though it will not completely disrupt the success of your compost in its interaction with your soil, you should avoid putting the following in your compost to yield the best possible results: meat, bones, fish trimmings, weeds, pet droppings. The previous five materials mentioned are always a no-go, unless you have a specific composter designed to compost such materials.
- Other materials that are not guaranteed to help your compost are banana peels or orange rinds as they may contain pesticides.
- Sawdust can be a useful material to add to your compost, but it should be scattered to avoid clumping. If using a saw, make sure that it is clean and does not contain anything.
Some helpful tips:
- To cut down on unwanted odors and to prevent animals from wanting to come on your property, it is best to store your kitchen waste in a stainless steel compost bin or pail. If you really can’t stand the smell of your kitchen waste, you can add a carbon filter that will further prevent those stinky smells from entering your kitchen and home.
- Because compost is an amalgamation of several different materials, some may take longer than others to decompose. If you want to speed up the process, you can cut the larger material into smaller pieces. Smaller compostable materials like grass clippings or dry leaves should be spread out as evenly as possible so that clumping does not occur.
- A fun thing to do once you have your bearings is to make leaf-tea for your compost. All you do is grab a pile of leaves, put them in a burlap sack, and then insert the sack into a bucket or garbage can that is full of water. Leave them there for three days and you will end up with a bucket of water that is full of life and able to help your compost thrive.
Step by Step guide for how to compost:
- Begin by putting your compost on a naked piece of earth. Worms and other small organisms will help create the compost.
- Lay an initial layer of small materials that are not necessarily compostable such as small twigs or straw. At JK enterprises we offer a leaf compost, or a blend of topsoil and leaf compost that makes a good starter for a compost pile.
- Add in your compost materials in an organized fashion. Begin with a layer of wet material such as food scraps, green leaves, and your leaf-tea. Next, add a dry layer of compost such as sawdust, ash, straw, and dry leaves. Make a few alternating layers of wet and dry material.
- Add in manure or any other nitrogen rich source that will kickstart the compost process.
- Add water occasionally if you live in a dry climate. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, then let rain do its thing.
- Cover your compost with anything you can. This could be a plastic sheet, a carpet, a slab of wood, and anything else you can imagine. By doing so, you help the compost retain moisture, or if it is raining a lot, the cover will help the compost not get soaked.
- Make sure to bring a shovel or rake every couple of weeks to mix and turn the compost which will create the pile and allow for oxygen to integrate into the compost and make it all the more healthy.
If you ever need a composter, there are several options and professionals to help you figure out what you need at our office at JK Enterprise.
“Green” landscaping is not difficult or expensive. In fact, many of these solutions are “install and forget it” fixes. Try it for yourself and see!