Monthly Archives: May 2016

Client Q&A: Southie Simmons

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Ahh, Southie. Home to many young professional implants and native Bostonians alike. 11-4-2015 11-10-12 AMAnd while it isn’t the largest community of Bootstrappers, their excitement for composting is second to none. We could casually mention an article from Caught in Southie featuring us and longtime subscriber Mari, or we could drop the ever-growing list of businesses earning their green keep. Instead, today we’ll focus on Katherine “Southie” Simmons, another longtime subscriber, home cook, and young professional living in Southie. We couldn’t do it without you, Katherine!

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A beautiful day at Dorchester Heights in Southie

1. How long have you been a client of Bootstrap Compost?
For almost two years, since August of 2014.

2. How did you hear about us?
Honestly, I forget, but I heard long before I signed up. I had always kept Bootstrap in my mind and when I moved I had a much better location for pick ups/drop offs and storing my bucket.

3. Why did you sign up for Bootstrap?
I cook and always have a lot of scraps.  It seemed like such a waste that I was using my garbage disposal so much – or even worse, stinking my trash out.

4. In what other ways do you recycle, conserve and stay environmentally sound?
I do recycle and try to buy locally grown food when possible.  I’m also a member of Boston Organics.

5. How are you enjoying the service so far?
I love it!  And when I have a busy week, it always amazes me how much I can stuff in my bucket!  Just this week, I had some dead plants, cut flowers, and food scraps of all kinds – coffee grinds and banana peels are usually the most frequent fliers in my bucket.

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Taking a green bucket to a whole new level!

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The BiG Stink: Organic vs. Conventional, Round 1 – Soil Health

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Last time I covered what it means to be “organic” and now I want to know what the label is worth. The BiG Stink asks: Is organic better for the environment? That’s a loaded question with numerous angles and it would take an army of scientists to get to the bottom of it. Since I am not a) an army or b) a scientist, I will cover four specific topics (soil health, energy use, chemical runoff, and land use efficiency) in four different posts comparing organic and conventional methods.  While the conventional versus organic debate will hardly be settled, I hope I can drop some knowledge and get people thinking.

To begin, get to know thy farming method. Conventional farming a.k.a. industrial agriculture a.k.a modern farming is defined by a loose group of characteristics. Conventional farms are typically large scale and cultivate a single strain of a high-yield crop continuously for many seasons. They also are characterized by high energy inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers.

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BSC’s John, Faith and Emma visit organic partner farm Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester

Organic farming also has a wide definition. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic farming “preserves natural resources and biodiversity, only uses approved materials, and does not use genetically modified ingredients.” In order to “preserve natural resources and biodiversity” farmers employ techniques such as crop rotation and low-tillage to promote soil health, use of compost and green manure as fertilizer, and mulching to control weeds. For a more in depth breakdown of what it means for produce to be certified organic check out my previous post, “But what does organic even mean?”

Now that each farming method has a definition, let’s get to the good stuff. When it comes to soil health, how do organic and conventional methods compare? For soil to be deemed “healthy” it must function as a living ecosystem that sustains humans, animals and plants. And what’s the number one need of plants, animals, and humans? Water. The soil of organic crops exhibits better water-holding capacity, better water infiltration rates, and better resilience to moisture fluctuations. What does all that mean? Water, water everywhere. Under organic management, the soil system stores 15-20% more water than conventional methods. Stored water becomes crucial during dry spells or intense rainfall, making crops more resilient to extreme weather.

There’s not just more water down there. Soil handled using organic methods contains more soil organic matter (SOM) than soils subjected to conventional till methods. SOM allows soil particles to bind together which prevents erosion and loss of topsoil. SOM also provides substrates to attach heavy metals and pesticides. The microbes and minerals found in soil detoxify, immobilize, and degrade harmful chemicals and reduce runoff. Finally SOM produces nutrients for microbes that boost plant productivity by freeing up nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium for plant uptake.

What about soil subjected to conventional till methods, continuous monocropping and constant synthetic chemical inputs of industrial agriculture? Can you say dust bowl? Lacking careful management, soils can be stripped of their topsoil, become drought-prone, and, well, turn to dust, no longer able to sustain life.

The comparison of soil health of organic and conventional farming is no contest. Organic methods are superior at maintaining overall soil health in the long-term. Organic farming methods such as low/no-till, composting, use of green manure, and crop rotation produce healthy soils that function as physical support to prevent erosion, as a plant nutrient source, as a water source, and as a chemical repository to prevent runoff. While the conventional versus organic farming debate may never be settled, when it comes to soil health, organic farming has it in the bag.

With soil health behind us, next up the BiG Stink crunches numbers to compare the energy inputs of modern agriculture and organic farming. Stay tuned for the 411 on fossil fuel use during agriculture and we’ll discover where all that energy is spent on a farm.

Bootstrap Grows: 7 Tips to Sprout your Garden

Now that you’ve received your share of black gold, we’re eager to share some tried-and-true gardening tips. As the growing season continues to germinate, the Boot will periodically share bits of advice on growing and managing your crops. So without further ado, here are 7 tips to get your home garden sprouting this spring!

1.) Growing from seeds? Before filling your containers that will house the seeds, moisten the planting mix. You can mix in a bit of our compost too!

2.) Seedlings need a lot of light. If you’re growing in a window, choose a south-facing exposure.

3.) If you’re growing under lights, adjust the lights so they’re just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day.

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Baby Buttercrunch Lettuce, born and raised at Bootstrap HQ

4.) If you’re ready to transplant your seedlings into your garden, use newspaper covered with straw between garden rows to eliminate weeds and retain moisture.

5.) Make sure to position your garden so plants are exposed to at least six hours of sunlight per day. Six hours of sunlight are necessary for vegetables to produce fruit.

6.) Lettuces & herbs, however, will be satisfied with only 3-4 hours of sunlight a day.

7.) And beware! If you’re growing peppers, soil should be at least 65 degrees. Peppers will not survive transplanting at lower temperatures. So either grow those jalapenos indoors or wait until the summer heat!