Tag Archives: Gardening

The Wicked Green: Seven Tips to Put Your Black Gold to Good Use

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Here at Bootstrap, we’re basking in the glow of another successful Compost Week! – our triannual mega giveaway of soil amendment back to the community. Some of us are celebrating with a ski trip to Vermont, others are taking in Big Sky in Montana, and surely, we’re all happy that the long hours of our successful effort are behind us so we can enjoy a nice, warm meal. As we salute our largest Compost Week! effort ever, we take pride in its monumental impact: the distribution of a whopping three tons (6,396 lbs) of compost back to the Greater Boston community, a feat only made possible by the hardworking, hard-core individuals that make up Team Bootstrap (who weathered not one, but two snow storms this time around!) White outs or not, black gold was delivered to over 1000+ households and businesses. And we recognize that some of you are new and may not be fully in the know on how to use your finished compost, so here’s a quick rundown on how (and why) to put your soil amendment to good use. But first, a little breakdown by neighborhood:

compostweekfeb2017

How much black gold did your neighborhood receive?

Alright, let’s talk compost! Here are seven tips to get you started:

1) Soil loses nutrients through erosion, over-cultivation, and culling of organic matter. Compost infuses nutrients back into soil. But what kind of nutrients?

2) Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the most important elements for healthy plants. Luckily, these macronutrients can be found in abundance in healthy compost, thus serving to revitalize depleted soils and frustrated flora. But what, exactly, DO they DO? In short, this:
Nitrogen is essential for photosynthesis.
Phosphorus helps plants develop new tissue.
Potassium is essential for the movement of water.

3) Compost also helps soil retain moisture. Not sure where to start? If you have any house plants, add a healthy 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of compost to the base of your plants.

4) If you’re doing any re-potting, be sure to mix compost into your soil. Up to 1/3 of the mixture can be compost, but no more than that! Over-saturation of compost can actually be detrimental to the health of the plant (let’s call it nutrient overload).

emma-compost

Emma gets compost ready to sift + pack!

5) Compost can benefit all types of soils. Is your soil sandy and loose? Compost will help bind it together, giving your plants more stability. Is your soil more clay-like? Compost will help increase its porosity, giving roots a chance to breathe.

6) You can also use finished compost as a mulch. If you spread it around the base of your outdoor plants, trees, and shrubs, it’ll help shade and protect the underlying soil, as well as increase water retention. Plus, the nutrients will sink into the soil over time!

7) Finally, you can use finished compost to make compost tea, which is a potent, nutrient-dense solution you can spray plants with. How do you make compost tea? Place your compost into a porous fabric bag (burlap or cheesecloth, for example), and steep in water for 24 hours. Use the resulting solution to spray plants, no more than once per week.

There you have it! Do you have any other uses of compost that I forgot? Feel free to post them, as well as questions, comments, concerns, dirty fingernails, etc in the comment section! And find us on Twitter under hashtag #bscgrows for more gardening and composting tips!

Also, 574 degrees Fahrenheit and 574 Kelvin are the same temperature.

Advertisements

The Wicked Green: 8 Tips to be Green in 2017

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Every year in early January, folks across the world make resolutions of all sorts: exercise more, eat healthier, spend more time with family and friends, call that aunt you barely know. If you’re looking for some ideas to set your sights on this year, look no further! Here are 8 tips that will make your life a little more sustainable in the coming year.

  1. Buy less, and buy more often: unless you’re buying for a large family or a big meal, chances are you can get away with buying fewer ingredients. The trick here is to shop more often. That way, you always have the freshest produce, and you’re less likely to waste food (50% of all produce in the United States is thrown away!)
  2. Buy locally: if and when you can, buy from local growers. It’s a no-brainer that your items will be fresher and more nutritious! You’ll also be supporting your own community and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Just think, an average meal travels 1500+ miles from farm to plate! And don’t forget, buying locally applies to art and music, too.
  3. Grow your own: if you have any sort of green thumb, try growing your own herbs and veggies this year. Basil, mint, garlic, and tomatoes are all easy plants to take care of, and you can grow them in a variety of spaces. See our Twitter hashtag #BSCgrows or read our “Bootstrap Grows” blog posts for tips and tricks!

    unnamed-2

    Meet Tom, my tomato plant. This guy was grown in a 5-gallon bucket on my back porch. Shoot me a comment and I can tell you more!

  4. Walk, bike, or take public transit: do what you can to reduce your dependence on your own motor vehicle. Did you know that one gallon of gasoline produces ~20 pounds of carbon dioxide? So ask yourself, do you need to drive to the grocery store for milk, or can you walk there? Do you live in a city with public transport options? Some companies offer incentives for using public transport – explore what your employer has to offer. Or hop on your bike and get a workout in! Just please, wear a helmet.
  5. Ditch the gym membership: we all join with great intentions, but unless you use it regularly and you just CAN’T stand running in the cold (personally, I’m in this boat), you can save time, money, and energy by exercising outside near your home or work.
  6. Only print what you need to: we live in a digital age, and frequently there’s no reason for printed materials anymore. Do you need a hard statement of your credit card bill mailed to you? Do you need to print directions to your child’s basketball game? If the answer is no, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and save these items to your computer or cell phone. You’ll save ink, trees, and water too!
  7. Compost: Whether you want to try out a worm bin, build a compost pile in your back yard, or sign up for a subscription service, give composting a try! Your trash will smell way less, you reduce your contribution to landfills – methane emitting powerhouses, and in return, you’ll get a great soil amendment at the end of the process.

    peace-love

    Wishing you peace, love & compost in 2017

  8. Consider alternative energyif you own your home, check out your options for alternative energy! Federal tax credits and state incentives offer price breaks for installing solar panels, and you can sleep easier knowing that you aren’t relying on an archaic, heavily polluting technology. Massachusetts and other states also allow you to subscribe to programs that source local and renewable energy to your home.

Bootstrap co-founder Igor couldn’t help but chime in: “Carry a reusable bag, replace your incandescent bulbs to CFLs and LEDs, and use your own water bottle!” So there you have it, folks. A list of easy ways to be a more eco-sustainable you this upcoming year!

What are your suggestions? What will you try, or what doesn’t work for you? Please share ideas, questions, comments, seedlings, and the like!

Also, the first enzyme to be discovered was amylase, which catalyses the hydrolysis of starch into sugars. In humans, it’s found in the saliva and is responsible for the beginning the chemical process of digestion.

The Wicked Green: The Grass Ain’t Always Greener

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

It’s officially fall in New England, and that means it’s time to rake leaves, and rake again, and then rake some more. But wait! Last year, I learned that your lawn can actually benefit greatly from the leaves that fall every year. You can fertilize your grass (for free!) by mulching the leaves and leaving them in place over the winter. In turn, your yard will be supporting a healthier ecosystem, which means you’ll have better soil for trees, shrubs, flowers, and yes, even grass.

Here’s the thing, though. Traditional lawns are a huge resource drain as they mostly sit empty and unused. Instead, homeowners would be wise to plant perennial flowers, shrubs, trees, or even a vegetable garden. Why? Home vegetable gardens can reduce your carbon footprint – up to two pounds of carbon emissions can be prevented for each pound of homegrown vegetables consumed. In Florida, a start-up called Fleet Farming will come help you plant a vegetable garden, help you care for it, and help you harvest it.  In some places, there are financial incentives for ripping out your lawn, and specifically your automatic watering system, where drought is common and water is scarce. In Long Beach, California, residents can apply to receive financial credit to turn their lawn into a landscape that fits Southern California’s semi-arid climate.

hopkintonhouse

Don’t be this guy.

Ultimately, what you plant and what you grow will depend on where you live. The point is to work with your local ecosystem and not against it. It can be more harmful to plant vegetables at home and not care for them than if you had never planted them in the first place. But if you know what to plant, not only will you be helping the environment, you’ll be helping your stomach and your wallet. Now, isn’t that something to feast on?

Also, there are typically 3 different types of membrane proteins: 1) integral membrane proteins (embedded in the lipid bilayer); 2) lipid-anchored membrane proteins (attach to fatty acids that are attached to the lipid bilayer); and 3) peripheral membrane proteins (bind to integral membrane proteins and never come in contact with the lipid bilayer).

 

The Wicked Green: Mealworms to the Rescue!

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

It happens to us all: you’re in the market for a new TV, maybe one that’s energy efficient with a really crisp HD picture. You save up all your money and finally pull the trigger to buy it. You take it home and unwrap it and it’s padded in styrofoam. You’re bummed because even though styrofoam is technically “recyclable,” you don’t have anywhere to recycle it, so you’re forced to put it out with your curbside landfill pickup.

Well, have I got news for you! It turns out that mealworms, those little wiggly buggers, can eat styrofoam with no negative repercussions, effectively turning it into a nutritious soil amendment. It’s the same process that happens when red wiggler worms feed on your food scraps in your home compost bin. Researchers in a collaborative study between Stanford University and Beihang University published their findings in September, 2015 and our joyful squeals haven’t stopped ever since.

mealworm

Here’s the catch: one hundred mealworms can only consume between 35 and 39 milligrams of styrofoam per day, which means we have a long way to go before that floating-Texas-sized trash patch in the ocean gets cleaned up by our little friends. For comparison, the average adult housefly weighs approximately 21.4 milligrams. Nonetheless, the discovery is an important one, because it gives scientists a clue as to one way they can start to tackle the problem at hand. Of course, we could also be making an effort to reduce our production and consumption of those products in the first place, but that won’t reduce the issue we already have.

150930105125-plastic-eating-worms-exlarge-169

What are your thoughts? Questions? Comments? Disbeliefs? Concerns? Favorite beetles? Please add them to the comments below.

Also, due to Saturn’s low density, it would float in water (the only planet in our solar system that would do so).

The BiG Stink: Organic vs. Conventional, Round 2 – Land Use

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

After a bit of a hiatus owing to Bootstrap’s seemingly unbridled growth (1,600 subscribers and counting), I’m thrilled to announce the return of the BiG Stink! As you may recall, I left off in the midst of a whopper of an investigation: Is organic farming better for the environment than conventional farming? There are hundreds of angles to consider to answer that question and I will not make you read through hundreds of posts, but I did chose four specific topics to cover: soil health, land use efficiency, energy use, and chemical runoff.

Last time I defined organic and conventional farming and explored the effects of each farming method on soil health. This time around we’ll delve into crop yields. How do organic and conventional methods compare when it comes to produce per acre? Depends on what kind of food is being grown. Are we talking fruits, vegetables, legumes or grains?

FullSizeRender (2)

BSC co-founder Igor and Faith drop off scraps at organic farm Wright-Locke Farm.

When going head to head, organic and conventional fruit production finish in a statistical dead heat. Fruits such as melons, apples, and tomatoes (yes, tomatoes are fruit) have similar yields per acre regardless of farming techniques. In fact, organically grown tomatoes (considered separately from other fruits) were statistically indistinguishable from conventional tomatoes. Oilseeds such as sunflowers and canola performed well under either farming method. Legumes such as peas and beans also had similar yields.

So far so good for both methods when it comes to crop yield; here comes trouble though. Organic grain and vegetable yields are underwhelming when compared to conventional acres. Organic acres of grains such as corn and wheat are 26% less productive than conventional ones. Among vegetables, organic farming yields 33% less food per acre (!). When considering multiple crop types (grains, fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, and legumes), organic crops produce 25% less food per acre overall than conventional ones. That 25% gap is a big deal. One study projected that in 2014 growing all US crops organically would have required farming 109 million more acres of land, an area equivalent to all the parkland and wild-land areas in the lower 48 states.

“While conventional crops are pumped with synthetic nitrogen, organic crops are limited by the slower release of nitrogen from compost and green manure.”

What is causing the gap between organic and conventional yields? Scientists suspect organic farms produce less food per acre because of nitrogen availability, a crucial nutrient for plant growth. While conventional crops are pumped with synthetic nitrogen, organic crops are limited by the slower release of nitrogen from compost and green manure.

Don’t count out organic farming just yet! With expert knowledge and careful management, organic farming can equal or even surpass conventional yields. Well-educated organic farmers know when to apply nitrogen sources to achieve maximum growth during peak growing times as well as how to manage soil pH and other factors that could limit organic yields. After 30 years of study, the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST) found that organic methods can produce just as much food as conventional ones, whether it be a fruit, grain or vegetable.

Let’s go back to the original question: How do organic and conventional methods compare when it comes to produce per acre? Currently organic yields lag behind conventional ones and when it comes to output, conventional is king. That doesn’t mean we should give up on organic agriculture. With better technology and an increased understanding of soil health, nutrient availability, and plant growth, organic farming has been shown to compete with industrial methods. But organic farming still has a lot of work and research to do before it can top industrial systems. Indeed — at this very minute — conventional farming takes the cake when it comes to food per acre.

Bootstrap Grows: 8 Tips for a Healthy Garden

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

With the weather heating up and your seedlings firmly planted in your garden beds, we’re ready to share some tips on how to keep your garden healthy. If you haven’t started growing yet, don’t worry, we’ve got your back with “7 Tips to Sprout your Garden“.  We’ll continue to share more as the season continues, but for now, here are 8 tips to keep your garden happy and healthy. 

1.) Don’t overcrowd your herbs: cilantro, chives, dill, and parsley each need 1 square foot between plants; basil, thyme, and tarragon each need 2 square feet; rosemary, sage, mint, and oregano each need 3-4 square feet.

2.) Fruits and veggies also need plenty of space, but you can save space by growing vertically, either on a wall or in a container.

3.) Young plants need a lot of attention! Water them frequently, and don’t forget to trim any dead or yellowing leaves.

4.) You don’t need chemical pesticides to ward off predators. You can steep onion, garlic, and hot pepper in hot water for several days to make a natural spray.

kale bucket

Back at the Boot, we’re growing. More info and pricing on our self-contained bucket gardens coming soon.

5.) Similarly, a solution of water and powdered kelp will keep Japanese beetles and aphids at bay.

6.) One last spray: a spoonful of canola oil + a few drops of soap in water will kill mites and aphids. But don’t use it in hot, sunny, weather, as the soap will cause leaves to burn.

7.) Not all bugs are foes: ladybugs will eat harmful insects. You can attract them by planting herbs like dill, fennel, and cilantro, or flowers like dandelions and geraniums.

8.) Got rabbits? Plant marigolds or garlic around your plants, and eliminate tall weeds and other hiding spots to keep the bunnies out.

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.

plants

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!

 

Ringing in Spring with Compost Week!

After months of collecting and composting food scraps through rain, snow, and sun-deprivation, we were thrilled to announce our spring edition of Compost Week! — our seasonal distribution of finished compost back to the community. Between April 4th and 15th, a six-pound share of our black gold (hand-sifted and mixed) made its way to your stoop, with hopes of boosting the health and yield of your houseplant, raised bed, or garden plot. And modesty be damned, this batch of finished compost is likely our best yet — dark, moist, and fluffy. It’s truly Boot-iful. And we’re hoping your flora feel the same way. So how did we do?

IMG_7397

Largely hidden from public view since 2011, Buckethead reappears to spread soil for the soul.

As we salute our largest Compost Week! effort ever, we take pride in its monumental impact: the distribution of a whopping two and a half tons (5,144 lbs) of compost back to the Greater Boston community (a feat only made possible by the hardworking, hard-core individuals that make up Team Bootstrap). Let’s break it down, town by town…

The fertile soils of Jamaica Plain will rejoice, as our founding neighborhood stayed true to its green roots and pulled in a healthy share of 1,190 lbs of compost. Across the river, the Fluffernutter-loving people of Somerville weren’t far behind, amassing 1,012 lbs of compost. Up third, Cambridge collected 380 lbs of black gold, amounting to a treasure of growing power for The People’s Republic. Capturing fourth and fifth place, respectively, were Brookline with 334 lbs of soil amendment received and Arlington, which took in nearly 200 pounds. The remaining 2,032 pounds were hand delivered across the Hub, from Malden to Quincy, Southie to Wellesley, and everywhere in between. Big shout to each and every one of you making good use of your soil amendment. As a quick tip, remember that a ¼” of compost on top of your soil will help your plants retain moisture and nutrients. If you’re mixing soil and compost, a ratio of 3 parts soil to 1 part compost is ideal. Stay tuned for a series of blog posts and Tweets that will provide additional gardening info and tips.

IMG_7401

Six pounds of black gold spotted in Cambridgeport.

Lastly, we’d like to highlight the gardens and organizations that took part in our donation program, while thanking our residential clients who elected to have their share donated. This year’s crop of donation recipients includes Glen Park Community Garden in East Somerville (which will put 90 pounds of Bootstrap compost to use) and the Cambridge Community Center garden and Malden Community Garden, both of which received 60 pounds. Our donation program is first-come, first-served — so give us a holler if you have any compost needs for your school, community garden, or organization.

IMG_7477

In total, 858 containers of compost were signed, sealed and delivered, courtesy of Jacob & co.

The BiG Stink: The Scoop on Poop, Part 2

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Welcome back to The BiG Stink and thanks for tuning in for Part 2 of the ins and outs of composting scat. Last time I covered the merits of composting cat, dog, rodent, and bird wastes but this week is all about your fellow man. So without further ado, let’s talk about composting human poo.

IMG_7258 (2)

The story on humanure? It may kill you or it may bless your garden.

There are two reactions to composting human waste; either you think it’s gross or you think it’s awesome. For those of you on team gross, the ick-factor is warranted. Human feces may contain pathogens such as Hepatitis A, norovirus, E. coli, and roundworms to name a few. Also, food contaminated by night soil (untreated human waste) has led to major public health scares in places such as China, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Since poop can kill, a little fecophobia is justified.

Given that human feces is packed with pathogens and could be deadly, why would one want to compost it? Turns out excrement is chock-full of nutrients plants need including phosphates, potassium, and nitrogen which are the same ingredients in synthetic fertilizers. Americans are flushing 8 million pounds of poop a year, letting a major nutrient source go down the toilet.

composting toilet

An example of a composting toilet

There are in fact people collecting their waste and saving it from a watery grave. Dedicated composters are harnessing the power of their poop using specialty composting toilets or by simply collecting their waste in a bucket. Contents of the bucket are transferred to the compost pile and given a generous dose of sawdust to mask odors. After several months of curing, a humanure pile should test negative for coliform bacteria and be safe for use on edible crops. When the pile reaches high enough temperatures to kill off pathogens, it appears humanure can be perfectly safe.

That’s human waste composting at a small scale. What about large scale composting of poo? Mass quantities of human waste are composted in the form of biosolids. Biosolids are the organic materials resulting from the processing of sewage in a treatment facility. Biosolids are NOT sewage. Sewage is the untreated mush from everything we flush, throw down the kitchen sink, and wash down the bathroom shower. Biosolids are produced from a heavily regulated process overseen by the EPA and can be applied to crops. In fact, nearly 50% of biosolids produced in the U.S. are returned to farmland.

While a significant portion of human waste is being recovered for fertilizer, many people are concerned that the heavy metals, steroids, and pharmaceuticals found in human waste will make their way into soils and crops.  However, regular testing has found that soils treated with biosolids have heavy metal concentrations significantly below the maximum permissible levels. When tested, biosolids are found to have the same concentrations of pharmaceuticals and steroids as water, soil and human bodies. Which begs the question- if these contaminants already are in the environment, does it matter if they’re in biosolids?

That’s the story on humanure. It may kill you or it may bless your garden. As long as the pile reaches high temperatures and is allowed to cure, pathogens shouldn’t be an issue for home composters (or they can invest in a $960.00 composting toilet). As for biosolids, they contain no more heavy metals or pharmaceuticals than the background environment. My take? Excrement is complicated and one should take it seriously. Tackle the turds at your own risk.

Client Q&A: Sustainable Cynthia

By Igor Kharitonenkov
Co-Founder at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Have you ever wondered how you could take your sustainability game to the next level? I applaud anyone who is composting, recycling or riding their bike to work; all laudable lifestyle choices that help keep our community clean. But what about installing a Monarch Butterfly Waystation? Or only planting native species in your yard?

For years now, since “waking up” and aspiring to live a more sustainable, fulfilling and mindful life, my proverbial green thumb has been out and about, hitchhike style, ready to be taken to my next truth. I’ve always wondered what other personal measures we could take to conserve. Planting gardens? Installing rain receptacles? My curiosity was satiated when I ran into Somerville Bootstrap subscriber Cynthia Williams, who shared with me a myriad of new and exciting ideas. If you are a fan of sustainability, Bootstrap Compost or just our blog, I highly recommend you check out Sustainable Cynthia’s Guide to Green Livin’ (aka the list below). And Cynthia, you are a true EcoHero, thank you for your commitment to composting and to our environment.

for bootstrap compost (2)

EcoHero Cynthia (left), proudly showing off her Bootstrap bucket with her roommates.

1. How long have you been a client of Bootstrap Compost?
We’ve been clients for nearly one year. We started in May of 2015.

2. How did you hear about us?
When we moved to the neighborhood a year ago we saw the bucket our neighbor put out and inquired.

3. Why did you sign up for Bootstrap?
I’m concerned about putting compostable waste in the landfill, and I’m concerned about using my kitchen sink disposal because of water usage. The twice-monthly pick-up seems perfect!

4. In what other ways do you recycle, conserve and stay environmentally sound?
We can always do more, but here’s what we’re doing so far —

  • Our household of four adults has only one vehicle, and it’s a hybrid that is used maybe four times a week.
  • We’ve taken up most of the lawn because grass isn’t a good investment environmentally.
  • I’m working on making our yard a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, but we have a small property, so we may not actually qualify, but even if we don’t, we’ll be helping.
  • I water ornamentals and the little patch of lawn that’s left via a rain barrel.
  • I plant only native plants.
  • For 30 years, we’ve used only cloth napkins, no paper. We do not use paper towels or things like Swifters.
  • We use silicone lids instead of plastic wrap for food going into the fridge.
  • We have durable washable sandwich bags rather than plastic throwaways.
  • We buy larger quantities of foods to minimize packaging. And down with single-serve coffee machines!
  • We use our own cloth shopping bags.
  • We use only environmentally sound cleaning products.
  • We bought all highly-rated Energy Star appliances and prioritize gas.
  • We belong to an organic CSA.
  • We are looking into solar panels.

5. Do you have roommates? Have you influenced others to compost?
We’re a household of four adults. I don’t know whether we’ve influenced others to compost, but we’re spreading the word about Bootstrap!

6. How are you enjoying the service so far?
We love it!