Compost Recipe

Now that we have a DIY compost bin that cost us $15 and about a half hour of our lives, largepuppy and I need to start cooking. After we combine the right ingredients, mix them together and layer them like a cake, sprinkle the goods with a bit of love (and water), and put the whole mess into the oven to cook, we should have some delicious “black gold” to call our own. Wealthy in a whole other sense of the word.

Ooey Gooey Crispy Damp Paper Food Scrap Compost Recipe
yield: cooks down to about half the starting material

Browns, divided:
1 large bag of dry fall leaves, preferably chopped or minced
A weeks worth of junk mail, shredded into strips**
5 cardboard containers, torn
Leftover paper napkins from last night’s takeout
A few twigs and branches
Sticks to taste
Sawdust (who has that lying around?)
Hay or straw (again, who has that lying around??)

5 coffee filters + grounds
4 banana peels
8 eggshells, rinsed to prevent rats
Onion scraps, potato peels, old celery, carrot tops, chopped into small pieces
An apple core or two
Pinch of green yard waste, weeds, or grass clippings
Manure from the imaginary farm animals in your backyard
Seaweed, from the sea

**There are differing views about whether or not to compost junk mail and newspaper because of the dyes and chemicals in the paper. I don’t have very much material to work with so I’m going with what I have. Less to send to the recycling center and hopefully more compost for me!

Prepare compost bin by punching holes in the container or dig a hole in the ground (see How to Make a Compost Bin Out of a Trash Can for reference.) Collect browns (carbon-rich) and greens (nitrogen-rich) materials in a ratio of 3:1 browns to greens. Put down half of the browns and give it a little sprinkle of water to slightly moisten the dry cardboard, then add the greens, followed by the rest of the browns. Give the layer cake another sprinkle of water as icing and cover the whole mess with the lid of your bin or the soil you dug up from the hole (this is your oven.)

Give the whole thing a roll to aerate and mix all the goodies together. Add more browns and greens and roll around every once in a while to cook. Compost will be ready in about 3 months. Enjoy!

How to Make a Compost Bin out of a Trash Can

Ok, so I’ve given up on making a compost “pile” because I don’t have a shovel and I fear the squirrels that think they own my backyard. It’s our fault because largepuppy and I don’t really venture outside on the back deck very often. So the squirrels think they own the place and sometimes when I peek out my back window, there they are, staring right back at me with an expression that says, “We run this s***!” just like a bushy tailed Missy Elliott. I can just imagine them digging in my pile, messing with my layers of browns and greens, and being the mischievous little hip hop critters that they are.

So we decided to make our own compost bin out of a garbage can. Here we go!

  1. Grab a plastic garbage can with a tight fitting lid. Round ones are good for future rolling, also known as aerating.
  2. Poke a bunch of holes in the sides using your teeth (or a hammer and nails or a drill, whatever works best for you.)


DONE. Compost bin ready to receive our browns and greens and magically transform said browns and greens into beautiful humus-rich compost that will magically help my plants grow into magical vegetables.


Frugal Gardening Tips: Recycled Containers, Water Conservation, & Natural Insect Repellant

I’ve been doing a lot of aggressive reading lately. Reading becomes a sport when you check out too many books at once from the library. Trigger happy and manic, I reserved all these gardening books in about 2 minutes, not bothering to think, “Alex, is there really enough time to read all these books before they start costing you a precious $0.25/day/book?”

Now, faced with a looming deadline, I can’t afford to waste any time leisurely meandering my way through my stack of pretty books. If I put as much energy into exercising as I do into reading, I might be a really good athlete instead of someone who is overly educated on very specific topics like how to make your own worm poop. But believe you me, that information is going to come in handy soon and the ability to run for longer than a minute–well, that could be handy too… Moving on!

I did finish You Grow Girl and it’s as I feared: I love it. I love everything about it. If I were to write a book on gardening, it would be this book. If I could live inside a gardening book, I would nestle between the section on growing edible flowers and the entire chapter on how to combat evil, nasty bugs and diseases. And although it is clearly written for the female audience, I do believe men would find it helpful too. Jordan may want to skip the chapter on sewing a gardening tool belt, but otherwise it’s got amazing bits of information on every single page.

Here are some things I learned that I never knew before:

  • You can use pretty much anything as a container for seed starting and growing.
    When I first started this project, I thought I would need to buy lots and lots of expensive containers and gardening gear. That is not true! I have begun to collect pretty much anything that can have holes drilled into it. My seeds will be started in toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, yogurt cups, butter containers; tin cans, plastic buckets, trash cans, old tupperware–all kinds of junk will be repurposed into suitable housing for my veggies and herbs!
  • You don’t have to buy an expensive rain barrel to conserve and collect water.
    You can buy a rain barrel if you want to, or you can make your own. However, there are lots of ways to collect water throughout the day. We can save the water from our showers and sinks that runs while we wait for it to warm up, rain water can be collected in buckets placed on the porch, we can reuse our pasta, leftover tea, and laundry water. Who says our water bill has to be high this summer? I laugh in the face of the water company!
  • You can combat insects and woodland creatures naturally without expensive and/or environmentally harmful sprays.
    You can use companion planting, i.e. planting something that attracts good bugs that will eat bad bugs next to a plant that attracts bad bugs, to go on the offense for you; you can lay down copper pennies to keep slugs and snails at bay (I feel slightly bad about this one because the copper shocks the poor guys); and burning frankincense, yes the stuff that the wise men brought to baby Jesus, discourages birds, squirrels, and cats from taking up residence in the garden.

FYI, I am not looking forward to plotting ways to murder the bad insects that will inevitably invade my sweet garden. I already know that I will be a ruthless killer. And isn’t gardening supposed to be peaceful?

Gardening Books, At Last

It has happened. I finally made it to the public library to pick up my gardening books just in time for the weekend. Oh, the joy of Saturday morning when I can sit down, linger over my coffee, and start reading. Saturdays are the best day for reading because you aren’t rushed and you can pause at appropriate intervals and tell your fellow sloth factoids that begin with, “Did you know…?”

Here’s my pile of artfully stacked library books. You’ll notice that the second book in the stack says “You” at the top and features a graphic of a woman with a ponytail sprouting out of the top of her head. This book is called, You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail (I wasn’t lying in my earlier post) and it will probably end up being my favorite.

Here is the list of books I snatched from the library. They are all so pretty!

The Cook’s Herb Garden, Jeff Cox & Marie Pierre Moine
After just a cursory glance, I have already decided that I need to buy this book. It is an encyclopedia of herbs and edible flowers with pictures, descriptions, habits, and cook’s notes for all kinds of herbs including many that just tickle me with delight. Have you ever heard of the herb(s) Good King Henry/Fat Hen? It has such a delicious name I can hardly stand it! The book also has tips on how to dry and freeze herbs and recipes for salads, sauces, liqueurs, and tea.

You Grow Girl, Gayla Trail
I hate to admit it, but I love this book already. It’s like the Stitch ‘N Bitch of the gardening world. I like the sassy titles, the tips to make your pots grow moss so they don’t look store-bought, and all the sections titled make it, grow it, brew it. There is even a section on how to deal with the bugs and recipes for homemade natural bug repellent. I guess I’m going to have to face my fears sooner or later. :-/

Container Gardening Through the Year, Malcolm Hillier
Unfortunately, this is not a book about vegetable container gardening. Nope, it’s about flowers. Beautiful flowers in containers. This is what happens when you order books in haste. You can see evidence of my irrationality and crazy here and my rational, prudent side here.

Garden Anywhere, How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens Herb Gardens, Kitchen Gardens, and More–Without Spending a Fortune, Alys Fowler
I included the subtitle because this book is exactly what I’m looking for. We need an inexpensive and thrifty way to grow vegetables and herbs, because let’s face it, we might not succeed. I don’t want to have spent my hard-earned green on gardening and then have nothing to show for it. Eek. Things I like about this book: 1. the introduction is all about slowing down and not stressing out (I need to adopt this philosophy right now) and 2. there are lots of ideas on how to repurpose scrap wood into containers and how to use all parts of the garden, even the weeds!

Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers, Edward C. Smith
I started reading this book immediately because I was so interested in self-watering containers. I never even knew they existed, and wondered why doesn’t everyone use them? I quickly learned why. I don’t know if Jordan and I are crafty enough to build our own self-watering containers and we surely can’t afford to buy them. We’ll just have to resolve to be crafty and make at least one with the pretty cachepot that Jordan’s momma gave us. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The Container Kitchen Garden, Anthony Atha
Flipping through this book, it seems to be a nice introduction to container gardening. I should have started reading this one first. There is a lot of helpful info on choosing the pots and containers, a nice index of herbs and veggies in the back, AND a page of herbal beauty treatments. How sweet of this man to think of us ladies.

The Complete Herb Garden, John Stevens
When I opened up to the title page I found a label that says, “Presented to the Library by The Charlotte Herb Guild.” I didn’t know we had an herb guild. How fun! This is really a reference book and not so much a practical guide so I probably won’t actually read it. Too many words.

Any book or web resource that I should be reading that I’m not? Suggestions welcome!