Friday, March 29, 2013

Chop, chop

Chopping yard debris for my compost bin can be a tough job.  The recommendation is to cut your organic material into 1 inch pieces. 
My push reel mower and a weed wacker takes care of the grass.
A leaf vac sucks up and mulches dead leaves and my McCullogh mulcher chops up small branches and other woody materials but nothing works very well with green (wet) or fiberous plants. 
Whats a composter to do?
Well, many thanks to Paul James (remember HGTV's garden guy) for this great tip. 
Place your plants in a heavy duty trash can and use your weed wacker to quickly chop everything into small pieces.  
In seconds a trashcan full of bolted radishes (or Arugula, or canna lilies, etc.) is cut down to a manageable size.
CAUTION: Plant pieces will be flying.  Be sure to wear eye protection...long sleeves aren't a bad idea, either.
Be well and Happy Gardening!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Waste Water?

In a dry world the true wealth of a man will be how much water he has. 
I wish I could remember where I read those words but my memory isn't what it used to be.  No matter, the thought has managed to stay with me.
A class in "waterwise" living mapped out the large (dry) picture. 
3% of the earths water is fresh and 97% is ocean.
Of the 3% (fresh water) 2/3 of that is glacial or unaccessable.
In a nutshell, there's not a lot of fresh water out there.
A few other notes worth listing:
13 gallons of water per person per day is poverty level (in some parts of the world people exist on even less)
151 gallons per person per day is the U.S. average
40% of residential water goes to outdoor use.  Gardens can be very thirsty. 
I live in Southern California.  With less than 16 inches of rainfall a year our climate is considered semi-arrid.  We are constantly hot and dry.  So while I can grow fruits and vegetables all year long it takes A LOT of irrigation to do it.  What's an environmentalist to do?  Conserve, reuse, repurpose and reclaim the water that I use every day.
Here's a list of my day to day "waterwise" living:
We keep a couple of buckets in the shower.  Clean water (water saved during warming) goes on edible crops.  Soapy water gets used to flush toilets or gets used on our potted ornamental plants.
My granddaughters bath tub holds soapy water that gets reused, bucket by bucket, to flush toilets, water plants, etc.
I use watering cans or empty containers to collect water I'm warming for dish washing.
I hate letting anything go to waste so once again I reclaim what would otherwise go down the drain.  This bucket in the kitchen sink holds liquids (leftover coffee, soda, cooking water, etc.).
The apple tree next to my kitchen door gets much of it's water from what I save in the kitchen.
A pool vacuum hose delivers grey water from my washing machine to my lawn and ornamental garden.  I keep it earth friendly by using environmentally safe, plant based detergents. 
Rinsing my produce in the garden leaves most of the soil (and some of the pests) outside while giving a drink to the plants below.
Our downspouts are left high enough so that a trash can fits underneath.  5 gallon buckets hold the overflow.  When our short rainy season ends the trashcans and buckets get reused in the summer garden.
To save water, and my time and energy while watering, I hang plants off our concrete wall, placing them directly above larger potted plants.  I water the top plants and let the draining water take care of the plants below.  This works especially well if you put the "thirstier" plant on top and place plants with lower water needs on the bottom.
It can be tough to think of water as a precious resource.  It's so easy to turn on a faucet and get all the water we want.  But forecasters predict the drought plaguing most of the U.S. (and world) will continue.  Fresh water continues to be in short supply.  It's never to late (or early) to cut down on the amount we use while reusing what we have.
Be Well and Happy Gardening!