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Create a More Sustainable Garden and Get Started with Composting

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Vegetable garden by Nick Saltmarsh via Flickr

One of the most important things you can do for your garden is to feed it nutrient-rich compost. While a mixture of grass clippings, leaves and vegetable matter may not sound exciting, it can do amazing things when it comes to improving your soil structure and providing your plants with the nutrients they need to thrive.

You can easily create your own compost for little or no cost, in your own backyard or on your patio. However, it’s important that you start composting now because it can take about a year for the compost to be ready to use in your garden. If you’re ready to get started, here are some steps you can take that can help you compost at home.

Choose a Container


There are a number of containers made for compost. You’ll find some at your local garden center. You can purchase a sealed bin that has a small door where you add the organic matter. You might also consider buying a composting barrel on a stand that allows you to tumble it – CompostBinHQ has a good selection of all sorts.

If you’re a traditionalist you won’t need to buy a container, you can create a conventional compost heap. You build a four-sided box from scrap lumber and place it in a corner of your backyard, according to Nicholas Staddon, director of new plants for Monrovia. The company grows 22 million plants (and over 2,300 varieties) annually. You want to position the compost heap away from your home and outdoor gathering places because the compost can get stinky when it’s not in a sealed container.

Start Piling

If you want to have an organic garden, make sure you only put organic items in your compost. According to Robert McLaughlin, CEO of Organic Bouquet in Maitland, Florida, you should not add chemically-treated produce in your compost or you’ll be adding those chemicals. The majority of your compost should be fruit and vegetables. However, you can add small sticks, straw, grass clippings, paper and newspaper. Staddon says that the amount of chemicals in a newspaper is so small that it does not make a big difference.


If you run short of organic matter, ask your neighbors for their vegetable waste or grass clippings. According to Staddon, you’d be doing them a favor. If your neighbor owns goats, chickens or horses, you may also be able to get nutrient-packed manure.

Hit the Right Ratio

When adding to your compost heap, you want to make sure you keep a healthy ratio of nitrogen-rich matter and carbon-rich matter, according to Nell Foster, gardening blogger, horticulturist and owner of Joy Us in Santa Barbara, California, which creates eco-conscious garden accessories. A healthy ratio is 25 to 30 parts carbon to one-part nitrogen. If you can maintain this ratio, it is the quickest way to produce aromatic, fertile compost. If the mix has too much carbon decomposition will slow down. If the nitrogen levels are too high, then you’ll have a smelly pile.

Finely shredded cardboard, straw, leaves, sawdust, ashes, corn stalks, peanut shells, pine needles and fruit are excellent sources of carbon. Coffee grounds, garden waste, manure, hay, seaweed, grass clippings, clover and vegetable scraps have high levels of nitrogen. According to Foster, you should do a little research before throwing things into your compost pile. And make sure the plant matter, you throw into the pile has not gone to seed or they can take root in your compost. For example, if you toss your rotting jack-o-lantern in the compost, you may find your pile full of sprouting pumpkin plants.

Stir Your Compost Regularly

Turn the compost heap regularly with a garden fork to aerate the soil. This will help to speed up the bacterial activity. You can tell when a compost is ready by its appearance. When ready the compost will have the look of rich, healthy soil.

Keep the Compost Warm

Compost breaks down faster when kept warm, so it’s important to keep your compost bin or heap insulated from the cold. That’s the reason many compost bin containers are black, to attract the sun. Covering a heap with a black tarp can have the same effect. The ideal temperature for your compost heap is 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Although you want to try to keep the temperature at that level, don’t worry if it drops. The microbes in the compost can generate their own heat, so some decomposition will occur, as long as the compost heap is above freezing. Here are some tips to keep compost warm during winter.

Collect the Run-off

Some compost bins allow rainwater to flow through. The water comes out of the bottom of the bin and collects for drainage. This liquid is an amazing fertilizer; all you need to do is pour it around the plants in your garden.

Put the Compost to Work

When the compost is ready, add it to your garden. After the plants in your garden have taken root and have 10 to 12-inches of growth, you can add an inch of compost on top of the soil. McLaughlin advises you to blend the compost into the soil for the best results.

 

Environment

Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness

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Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.


While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.


One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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Environment

6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move

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Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.


1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.


4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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