Category Archives: Gardening

To Compost or not to Compost?

by, Liz Rutledge

Yimby Compost Bin

i Compost in the works!

I don’t know about you, but I cannot stand the smell of a stinky garbage bin.  All that rotting food gives off such a nasty stench.

One easy way we’ve lowered  our family’s carbon footprint is to start composting. And, as an added benefit, we no longer have the smelly trash issue.

I was shocked to learn that 1/3 of what goes to landfills is compostable.  Have you thought of reducing the amount of waste your household contributes to the landfill? Landfills emit methane as well as Carbon Dioxide and other gasses*.  Methane is a gas that is 20+ times more damaging to the Ozone Layer and traps up to 100 times more heat over a 5-year period than Carbon Dioxide (CO2).

Some cities, like our city of Denver,  have composting programs, which is a great option if you are not a gardener or if you rent an apartment or condo where composting is not allowed. You can reduce your trips to the dumpster and reduce your contribution to the landfill.

If you have your own property or rent in a property that has a community garden or landscaping, you can have your own compost!  Even if you live in an apartment, you can (usually) still have a worm farm.

Our family has been composting since 2000.   I can tell you that I do not miss having to go to the garden center and buy heavy, bagged-in-non-biodegradable-plastic bags.  Putting peelings and such in our kitchen collector bucket is a very natural action now and taking it out to the compost bin in the alley is just “something I do” as I head out for the day.

One of SustainableThree.com’s offerings is helping with compost start-up. After a brief interview, I can help you find a composter in your budget and a collection bucket for your kitchen. Then, it’s just a matter of collecting the right materials and giving it a weekly or bi-weekly stir. We set up the composter and get your composter cooking. If you want to learn the setup process, we can work together. Or, I can set it up and give quick instructions on how to maintain it. Once it’s set up, keeping it going is easy – just feed it and stir it regularly.

Sign up for a Composting Consultation in the month of June and you’ll receive my “Composting Made Easy” guide FREE

Sign up here  for more information:

Building a Compost Bin

Building a Composter is Easy

*Methane and carbon dioxide make up 90 to 98% of landfill gas. The remaining 2 to 10% includes nitrogen, oxygen, ammonia, sulfides, hydrogen and various other gases. Landfill gases are produced when bacteria break down organic waste. (Source: https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/outdoors/air/landfill_gas.htm)

I like to keep things simple (easy as 1-2-3), but if you want  more detailed information on composting, here are some resources:

http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/panning-black-gold

earth911.com/home-garden/composting-how/

onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/basic-composting-secrets/

planetnatural.com/composting-101/

Compost=Black Gold

Black Gold

Save Water, Time and Money – Part 3

by,

Rob Rutledge

City sustainable development concept illustration

Another step deeper in the exploration of SmartSprinkler controllers:  again, the goal is to save water, time and money but not have a dead lawn or landscaping.

By focusing on the residential products, since I don’t have 24+ zones, I get down to a list of a few manufactures whose products I will choose from. Rachio, RainMachine, and Cyber Rain (residential). The Cyber Rain controller has some good functionality, but its price tag of $500 will eliminate it from further consideration since competing products are $200 or less and provide virtually the same functionality. Several municipal water systems offer rebates up to $100 for WaterSense controller, which helps lower the price, but not enough to bring $500 units back into consideration. Rachio and RainMachine both have very good reviews on Amazon, which is important as there is nothing quite like getting feedback from hundreds or thousands of existing customers. Additionally, both controllers have open APIs that allow for IFTTT (If This Then That) control and therefore access from devices like Amazon’s Echo (a.k.a. “Alexa”). Alexa is by no means a smart home controller, but until I take that leap it is nice to be able to control my devices all via voice.
It appears as though you can’t go wrong with either of these controllers. The RainMachine controller offers control from the unit itself, which could be helpful. It also has the option to not use its cloud service. However, Rachio recently released its 2nd generation controller which very clearly address feedback provided by customers. In addition, they are taking steps to ensure customers are happy with their purchase, and publicly standing behind their product will make the difference for me to give it a try. I have no doubt that even with extensive research, I may need some post sales support, and that gives Rachio at edge for me. After installation and usage, I will report back on progress.

Save Water, Time and Money – Part 2

by,
Rob Rutledge

http://s3.amazonaws.com/digitaltrends-uploads-prod/2014/06/Screen-Shot-2014-06-04-at-3.15.24-PM.png

Smart Water Control – iPhone

Continuing the exploration of Smart Sprinkler controllers:  The goal is to save water, time and money but not have a dead lawn or landscaping.

There are many Smart Sprinkler controllers, and many definitions of what makes a sprinkler controller ‘smart’.  For instance, simply attaching a moisture sensor or rain sensor may qualify for some definitions of a Smart Sprinkler Controller.  However, I would like to think we can do better than simply attaching static sensors.  Therefore, I will limit my evaluation to those controllers that get weather data wirelessly and allow for control via mobile phone and computer, as well as allow for more intelligent watering by inputting landscaping and/or sprinkler information.  After all, I would like to think that better decision could be made rather than just automating the same binary decision of watering or not watering.  The final requirement is for the smart controller to adhere to the watering limitations of my water provider.  With these in mind, I return to the extensive list of Water Sense Smart Sprinkler Controllers.  Since most, if not all, of these controllers involve using the service associated with the controller (other than RainMachine which has a hybrid option), it seems as though there should be some consideration of the stability of the company.  After all, it would be unfortunate to make the investment in time and money to acquire and setup the controller, only to have it revert back to a normal controller or worse stop working all together due to the company providing the service going out of business.  Several of the companies are private, which limits the amount of due diligence that can be performed, so instead I will use longevity and multiple product offerings as a proxy for stability.  This is, of course, flawed.  But the best that can be done without extensive effort.  This only eliminates one that I thought looked intriguing, Skydrop.

 

Save Water, Money and Time – Part I

by,

Rob Rutledge

dreamstime_s_26939355

Part I

My water usage and associated bill is about to go up.  It happens every year.  In the next several months, my water bill will more than double, costing me an extra $40 or $50 each month.  I want to continue my Smart Home exploration of options, but not necessarily limit my options if I come across something even easier than smart home solutions.  For instance, the vast majority of my extra water usage is based on maintaining the plants and grass around my home.  I will focus on this aspect of water saving for now, but I also realize there might be some options to further reduce my water usage inside my home.  Although we have already used low flush toilets, low flow shower heads and better dishwasher usage.  Thankfully there is good information to leverage through programs like Water Sense, an EPA program that certifies products which save water, from 20% to 50%.  The technology portion of Water Sense narrows down the discussion to the areas that are of most interest to me, the sprinkler related savings opportunities.  Again, I need a criteria to go about selecting what options I want to explore.  I will use the same criteria as I am using to curtail electricity usage:

  • Easy to understand and install myself
  • Proven benefit for my environmental impact
  • Financial benefit of reduced monthly bills (at least during the summer)

Given those criteria, there are two options that seem most appropriate to explore.  Rotary Spray Heads (Nozzle), and Smart Spinkler Controllers.  The Rotary spay heads deliver water in a stream instead of a mist and therefore reduce lost water due to evaporation and wind blowing the water where it isn’t needed.  Smart Sprinkler Controllers use better information about your landscaping and external factors (like weather forecasts) to make better watering decisions.  Rotary Spray heads are valuable, but not nearly as interesting to explore here as Smart Sprinkler Controllers, so that is what I will focus on here.

 

“It’s Too Hard” – Easing into Sustainable Living

Sustainable_Dev_Sign

If you are not already living a more sustainable lifestyle, it can be daunting to even think about it.  Overwhelming, you might say.

“It’s too hard!”

“It takes too much time!”

“It’s a pain in the a**!”

“Why should I have to when none of my neighbors are?”

“My neighborhood doesn’t recycle – or doesn’t do single stream so it’s too much work…”

Well, about eight years ago, my neighborhood didn’t do single stream recycling and it WAS burdensome having so separate – and the city didn’t recycle nearly as much as they do now.  I helped form a group of people in conjunction with Denver Recycles and the now Governor of Colorado.  Before I knew it, we had large wheelie bins that could hold two weeks’ worth of recycling.

I didn’t grow up composting or gardening, but now our waste to the landfill is minimal and we use our food scraps to nourish our small garden which then becomes food for our family.

It doesn’t take that much extra time and the feeling of knowing where my waste is going and reducing our family’s impact on the city landfill and the planet-at-large makes me feel better as a person.

When I go out to harvest in the garden in the summer months, it’s like my birthday every time – gifts just present themselves asking little in return…like fresh, organic raspberries, tomatoes, squashes, beans (SO many beans).  And then, they give the gift of seeds so, over time, I have had to buy fewer and fewer seeds in the spring…completing the cycle.  It’s satisfying and exciting and cheap.

Setting up a compost bin probably takes half an hour…maintaining it takes little time as all you have to do is “feed” it regularly, but not even daily…ours is out by our garage, so whenever I’m going out, I can just dump the compost into the bin/box and leave the bucket from the kitchen in the garage.  Then, I bring the bucket back in on my way back home, rinse it out (to prevent smelliness) and start the refilling process as I cook.  The bucket is a small step-can that lives on my counter/kitchen bench by the sink.  About once a week, I stir the compost and about once a month I add leaves in (from autumn).  The leaves are stored in containers in our garage.

Let me say it simply…it saves money and doesn’t take that much time…and it helps reduce the amount of stuff going to the landfill.

Here are some helpful links to get you started:

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=where+to+buy+a+compost+bin

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=where+to+buy+a+small+step+can

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=how+to+start+a+compost+bin

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=how+to+start+recycling

Please feel free to leave comments on this site with your suggestions on what you’d like to see discussed on SustainableThree.com!

 

Getting Your Garden to Bed

Autumn Garden Bed - 2015

Garden to Bed for Fall, Harvest

Each autumn, there is a harvest.  Harvest of food, harvest of grades, harvest of family time.  It’s a natural process.  Animals do it by instinct.  Plants and trees do it automatically.  If we follow nature’s rhythms, we naturally feel a sense of needing more down time and rest in autumn.

Putting your garden to bed is also a natural process.  Plants have done their jobs producing food and, when they have finished, they naturally go inside.  Their leaves turn brown and fall off, their stems dry up.

All that is involved is harvesting any last fruits or vegetables and then use large pruners or shears to cut down the plants.  Then, spread them evenly like a blanket and that’s it!

The remains will naturally break down over the winter and in the spring, you can mulch it all into the soil.  Easy peas-ey.

Herbs can be dried.  Simply cut them, bind them with twist ties or string and then use clothes pins/pegs to hang them from hangers in your kitchen, laundry room or garage.  Once dry, you can put them in jars and use them for recipes or teas.

Too cold for your tomatoes?  Green tomatoes can be ripened by putting them in brown paper bags in a pantry, garage or mud room.

For more detailed information on how to put your garden to bed check out these links:

http://www.almanac.com/content/putting-garden-bed

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/winter-garden-zmaz88sozgoe.aspx

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/checklist-putting-your-garden-bed-winter

We could all take advice from nature…go inside, get retrospective and introspective.  Rest.

It’s only natural.