Fast growing, slice and use in sandwiches or salads
Use in salads, sauces, or serve roasted
Cover in breadcrumbs and fry, or make a stew
Here in Southern California, we are fortunate to experience warm weather year long. However, even though we don't have the typical growing seasons of our northern neighbors, it is a good idea to organize your gardening into a summer and winter sessions. In the fall, clean out any overgrown vines and other plants that have finished producing fruit. Then till the soil to rotate the nutrients and loosen up any large chunks. Work in compost or manure and let sit for a week or two. Fresh manure stays hot for several days due to the ongoing decomposing action, and hence it's best to wait for the weather to cool down before adding manure. After the soil is no longer hot, add young plants, or, even better, seeds. You are welcome to take seeds from our seed library located near the shed. To protect young seedlings from animals and birds, you may want to cover your plot with burlap. It is generally recommended to rotate the plants to let the soil replenish nutrients taken up by a particular plant family, and to also prevent growth of fungus specific to a single plant. Keep in mind the size of the mature plants. Some plants such as tomatoes or eggplants take up a lot of space and can shade other plants if planted too close.
(Article written by Kris Ebbert and Sam Sarkar)
Compost is organic matter that has been intentionally decomposed to create material that is suitable to enrich soil. It’s an effective way to put back nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
RULE: Greens equal nitrogen and browns equal carbon
The basic rule of compost is to follow the ideal ratio of green to brown, aiming for a 1:3 ratio. This has less to do with color and more to do with chemistry. Simply put, the kitchen scraps you use are the green source, versus yard trimmings which make up the brown source. One part green (nitrogen) to every three parts brown (carbon) is an easy rule of thumb when throwing scraps into the bin.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have yard trimmings, there are easy ways to make up the brown: you can throw compressed pine pellets, purchased at the hardware store, into the kitchen scraps as you go. Compressed pine pellets are essentially sawdust and commonly used for animal bedding (horses, guinea pigs, etc). Keeping the 1:3 ratio is important so that your compost doesn’t turn slimy or wormy, which can happen if you have a lot of wet vegetable matter without any carbon scraps (dead leaves, twigs, wood shavings, etc.). In our plot, we save leaf and stem trimmings from our plants and let them dry out before adding them to the compost. (Note: Weeds, however, go into the garbage so that the seeds won’t propagate.)
Coffee grounds, crushed eggshells and tea leaves are great additions from the kitchen. Avoid throwing things into the scrap pail that have gone moldy; other than that, you can put in almost anything that isn’t meat or processed foods as those attract unwanted pests. And it’s best to cut up food scraps into smaller pieces so that they can transform faster.
|The Greens: nitrogen-rich organic material||The Browns: carbon-rich organic material|
At the garden there are two methods currently being explored: bin composting and tumbler composting. The two-sided tumbler is as easy as it gets. Just add greens and browns to one side and give it a turn every few days (you can also put in some steer manure to start the mix with microbes, and add a little water once in a while if it seems too dry). When that side is full, start adding compostables to the other side while the first finishes its conversion. With bin composting, you add the greens and browns in layers, like a lasagna.
Both bins and tumblers help add another essential element to the compost: heat. Usually the bins are black and thus absorb heat from the sun. Heating the compost helps speed the action of microbes that decompose the organic matter. (Advanced composters pay close attention to heat and humidity).
The final consideration is time and time fixes a lot of problems. Compost is done when you can no longer identify the kitchen scraps that went in and what you’re looking at resembles dark soil and smells earthy but not sour. This can be anywhere from three weeks to several months depending on what goes in and what conditions are like. Summer heat helps break it down faster but fall provides plenty of dead leaves, which can also help speed things along. It’s fine if the odd twig and leaf hasn’t completely broken down, you can pull what you don’t want and feed it back into the next batch.
So what do you do with the stuff? The benefits of mixing compost into your garden (other than improving nutrient levels) include better moisture retention, better soil structure, balanced pH, and attracting healthy organisms. You can use it as mulch and DIY potting soil. You can extend perennial blooms, feed potted plants, and put nitrogen-loving squash, tomatoes and melons directly in it. Overall it’s been an easy and satisfying learning process and we’ve avoided sending pounds of kitchen scraps to the landfill every week.