Gail of Green Living


Composting With More Experience

In July of 2009, I posted about compost, what it is and what you can do with it.  Now, I have more experience!  These are my current observations:

Pumpkin stem from 2011

Wine cork from 2009

Pumpkin stems and wine corks are not very good candidates for your compost pile.  From your kitchen, have a good mix of “kitchen greens” and “kitchen browns“.  It will be a natural process once you get started.

This is a typical kitchen waste container for the counter top.  I keep mine next to the sink, because that’s where I retrieve most of the kitchen waste from the disposal side.  The bags I use to line it are bio-bags, that are the same compost-able material as the yard waste bags required in the City of Houston.  They break down so quickly; you’d better empty the container every 2-3 days, or the bag will begin to break down from the liquids generated!  In the last couple of days, I have put in banana peels, coffee grounds with filter, paper napkins, dryer lint, apple core, ends of green beans, cucumber peel, acorn squash shell, and orange peel.  That’ all that I can remember anyway.

First, I used a child’s rake to stir the pot to aerate it.  Then I dropped the bag into the compostmachine“.

I covered it lightly, but completely, with fresh leaves and pine needles (brown yard waste).  I added pellets of compost booster to the mix and lightly watered the top, because it was very dry.  The lid is on and now the busy bugs can do their work.

Kitchen greens are vegetable and fruit scraps, rice and pasta, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags.  Kitchen browns are coffee filters, stale bread, paper napkins and towels, dryer lint and hair.  Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about it and you will have a good mix all the time

Yard greens are any fresh trimmings, flowers, etc. and yard browns are dried leaves, pine needles, small twigs and dried grass and weeds (no seeds!).

I started my compost machine on October 14.  How long do you think it will be before I realize good compost from the bottom?

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Compost: A new way

My new Earth Machine Compost Bin

Thanks to my good friend, Jill, I have a new compost bin.  In the past 40 years, I have probably composted for 20 of them.  I have always just made a compost pile behind the garage.  But the City of Houston in its efforts to create a more green environment for our city, has been selling composting bins and rain-collection barrels for half the normal price, once a year.  Jill has several of each type and is expanding her efforts.  I’ll have to take a field trip to Jill’s garden and report back.

But meanwhile, I put my beast together easily.  The material is hard plastic and seems quite durable.  It appears to be the same material used for our recycling bins, which are made from recycled products.  There are long plastic screws that hold the frame in the ground.

Getting it started…

I put some unfinished compost in the bin to get it going.  Recently, a yard man put way too many grass clippings on the top of my compost pile, and it hasn’t been happy ever since.  Too much added at one time is not good.  The only grass I ever add is from sweeping the driveway or street gutters, so it’s not very much.  I use a mulching mower and never have to fertilize the yard…ever!

I am one of over 2 million users of the Earth Machine Composting Bin.  One family can divert over 500 pounds of kitchen scraps and yard waste a year.  The winners are the land fill and my garden!

This week I will share some new composting hints to inspire you to do this simple routine in your home.



Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #1

Last week I took an Organic Container Gardening Class from Urban Harvest.  The teacher, Diane Norman was so full of information and didn’t hesitate to answer any and all questions.  She knows her stuff!  The first bit of information was about the various container choices we have.

Clay Pots

I think the most popular and most common container is clay pots.  Clay breathes and dries quickly to keep the plant’s roots from sitting in water.  The bad news is that they are heavy and difficult to move and they break easily.  But because they are heavy, they are less likely to blow over on a windy day.

Plastic Container

Most plastic containers you purchase will look just like the clay pots.  But this clever person has used a former City of Houston recycling bin for starting plants and this could hold a large plant or several small ones.  Plastic is cheaper and lighter weight, so they are easy to move.  Over time, they deteriorate from UV sunlight, but mine have lasted a long time.  They do blow over easily when we have a windy day!

Wooden Container

Wooden containers can rot, but they last a long time.  Redwood and Cedar are the best woods to use.  Avoid using any wood that has been treated with creosote or other toxic compounds, since they can affect the plants.  We once used railroad ties to build our garden, but now, I know better.

Wooden Raised Table

This is a great way to use wooden containers.  No more back-breaking gardening, unless you leave it on the ground.

Ceramic Containers

To make your garden area even more interesting, ceramic containers can match a color scheme or provide a stark contrast, for attention.  Ceramic pots require several drainage holes.

Metal Container

This is my new favorite!  I bought a large galvanized tub, my husband drilled lots of holes in the bottom, and I planted pumpkin seeds in it.  I am going to place it in an area where tree roots keep grass from growing well, and lift it up for drainage, and let the pumpkin vines grow over the edges and spread over the ground area.  The area is not very shady, so the pumpkins should get plenty of sun.  I’ll keep you posted on how that works.

What kind of unusual containers have you used for gardening?



Knollwood Water Main Breaks

Because of our extended drought in Southeastern Texas, there have been an unusual number of water main breaks.  I think the City of Houston was repairing 100/day and the backlog was 900, and they decided to get the private sector involved.  They are working around the clock to keep water from just flowing down the drains!  Some people have purchased pumps and pumped the water out of the street gutters and on to their lawns.  Hurray for these resourceful people!

The street pictured is in my Knollwood neighborhood and I think there were at least three breaks in this one block.  City crews arrived today and I caught a worker repairing the last one in this block.  Thank you, City of Houston, for hiring people who are willing and able to work in the intense heat and around the clock, to save water!

Do you know of others working in the heat every day to make a difference in the quality of life of your neighborhood?