Monday, April 17, 2017

April 15th at the Kitchen Garden

This Saturday Susan, Iris, Laura, Linda H, Mark P, and Gabriela met at the garden.

We were busy planting the individual plots, adding compost and watering. Mark continued to advance the relocation of the shaded beds into a sunnier spot. He transplanted the herbs that came back (sage, thyme, and oregano) to make room for the bed and kept moving soil around and leveling the ground.

We mused about what we could do in the common areas, what new flowers to plant (Gabriela is sprouting lupines and will be planting them during the week), and what perennials could be eventually added to the garden (some thoughts included kiwi and passion flower vines in the west-facing fence, containers with berries, perhaps a dwarf nut tree/bush outside the fence on Oak St?)

Gabriela also installed new signs and a trash receptacle for the compost bins (for a fuller compost update, see the next blog post below).

For this week, we agreed on the following watering schedule to make sure our seeds and transplants are continually moist:

Sunday—Linda H

We were all so intent on what we were doing that no photos were taken!

Compost Update - April 15th

On Friday, Gabriela met with Elisa to touch base on compost pile management now that Kitchen Gardeners will take over during the summer.

Elisa took the temperature in the middle bin, which was about 80° F. The active bin was just slightly above ambient temperature, which is expected because the amount of scraps is still rather small.

We noticed some freshly added fruit peels with the stickers still on 😢. But now we have installed a trash receptacle to the left of the left bin. Please double check when you drop off your scraps, and if you find ANY NON-COMPOSTABLE ITEMS, TOSS THEM INTO THE TRASH BIN! Also, if you happen to notice any stickers or non-degradable stuff already in the bin, please give us a hand and remove and dispose in the trash bin as well (and let us know so we're aware this is still an issue and we can try other tactics to solve this problem--THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!)

Gabriela also installed new and improved signs (thank you Elisa for re-designing them!) so hopefully these will make it easier to remember all the basic steps!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Starting a new compost pile

Thank you to all the Kitchen Gardeners that helped turn the compost piles on Saturday, April 8th and make room for more scraps! (Marcelo, Iris, Els, Susan, Mark, and Gabriela met for the first gardening day of the season! read the blog post here).

  • Please redouble your efforts to remove all stickers, rubber bands, twist ties and any other non-compostable items--as you know these will never decompose and create a problem.
  • Tip: it's easy to forget removing these freaking stickers--we've all been there! A helpful tip: remove all labels BEFORE storing your produce, so you'll have to remember to do it only once!

Elisa came early and assessed the piles as usual, then guided and
helped us turn the compost.

The middle pile had been maturing for several months and the compost was ready to use (we'll tell you more about this next week). So we sifted the compost and took it to the garden where it will nourish the soil and plants as we spread it on the planting areas.
Finished Compost

Once the middle bin was empty, we proceeded to move the active pile (the left one) into the center. This not only created room for new scraps but also allowed us to more thoroughly mix the compost. The middle bin will be now left to mature for several months until it's well decomposed.

We found lots of worms in the compost--a sign of an active and healthy pile!

What's next:
  • Elisa will stop by this Friday at 11:30 but Kitchen Gardeners will tend the pile through the gardening season on Saturday mornings between 10 AM and noon. Stop by to say hi, drop your scraps and ask any questions.
  • We'll install new signs that will hopefully be more visible and provide clearer instructions.
  • We'll install a trash container where you'll be able to discard any non-compostable items that sneaked in.
See you around!

First Gardening Day of the 2017 Season!!

[Update provided by Iris--Thank you!]

We met at the garden today (April 8th) to get ready for spring planting. The big project was to move the mature compost out of the middle bin, screen it for undecomposed/large pieces (think avocado pits) as well as plastic and other non-organics, and put the finished soil into the garden beds. Elisa Zazzera, who has been keeping our compost going all winter, was there to get us started. MJ stopped by for a while too. (Sorry we didn’t get photos of MJ!)

We’ll be meeting at the garden again next week and, if the water is turned on by then, we’ll be able to start planting!

For more details on the compost pile see the blog post here.
Here’s a pile of beautiful dark soil created from food and garden scraps!
Marcelo and Els began working on creating the area where we plan to move one of our big double-plot raised beds (the one that is currently too shaded).
The middle compost bin, emptied of all the good stuff.
The bin that is in the process of composting with fresh fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves and other garden debris.

Gabriela took over the compost bins after Elisa left.
Iris made a trellis of string for the snap peas she and Linda H. planted this week.
Susan getting started on her plot, checking the layer of ground leaves and looking for overwintering greens.
Mark kept working on the area for the new bed. He and Iris wheelbarrowed loads of dirt from the infamous dirt pile to begin to even out the land. They also put the fence back up (it had been moved to allow for piles of snow to be plowed into the garden area). Hopefully the deer who discovered the garden while the fence was down will be discouraged from making it a regular lunch spot.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Seed Starting Workshop April 1

Kathy Puffer, a gardener and educator trained in permaculture, led a fun, hands-on workshop on Saturday, April 1st, 10 AM - noon at South Church.

We worked together and got our hands dirty under Kathy's guidance. We made our own seed starting mix using sustainable materials and learned how to ensure adequate moisture while avoiding seed rotting. 

Everyone took home a seed starting tray.

Access to Local Composting a Perk of Roots & Wings CSA

Roots & Wings CSA members get more than fresh vegetables and fruit from a local farmer. They also have access to community composting behind South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry.  

When CSA members gather to meet the farmer’s truck on Sunday mornings in the parking lot behind South Church, many bring a container of their vegetable scraps to the compost bins located there. The benefits are two-fold: They keep vegetable scraps out of the waste stream and help create nutrient rich compost for gardens in the river towns.  

To keep the compost pest-free, Roots & Wings requires new composters to take a free introductory session with Elisa Zazzera, a master composter from Hastings, who also maintains the health of the bins.  The sessions are offered about once a month.  

When I come to the bins I asses the compost with my eyes, nose and hands,” said Zazzera. “I take the temperature in a few places in the bin. I give it a good mix with the crank getting to the bottom and all around the edges. If the bin is on the wet side I mix in some dry browns.” 

The compost bins are spacious and accommodate not only CSA members’ compost but the vegetable scraps and coffee grounds from South Presbyterian Church’s campus—such as kale stems from the recent Mardi Gras gala. Bev Roche, a chef at Days of Wonder, located on the campus, will be begin composting the daycare’s vegetable waste with Roots & Wings this spring.  

“Because all the meals I do are plant-based, I generate a large amount of vegetable waste. It feels so bad to put them in the garbage. Plus, I love the idea of introducing the toddlers to composting,” said Roche.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Compost Update + Help + Tips

If you'd like to receive these updates and/or get involved in composting with us, please contact Gabriela.

Elisa's visits:

Saturdays at 11:30 am unless otherwise noted.

Compost update.
The winter composting season is going great! The active (left) bin has been between 80-115º through the winter thanks to you and Elisa, who has been tending to the piles weekly. We have filled the left bin with veggie scraps and now are ready to turn the bins. The contents of the center bin will be moved out to cure for a couple of months in a pile - location TBD - and the contents of the left bin will be moved to the center bin to continue composting while we continue adding to the soon-to-be empty left bin.

We need your help!
1. Somewhat confused by the above? Come help us turn, or just stop by to provide encouragement! We are waiting for a warmer day to do this (we missed the warm weather spell!) Let us know if you're willing to give us a hand and we'll let you know when we pick a date and time.
2. Please let us know if you regularly contribute scraps to the pile. We're trying to figure out how many people are contributing to the pile and how often/how much, so we can know what our capacity has been, better calculate our need for browns and measure our efficiency.

Tip of the week: how to break down egg shells

Egg shells are welcome in the compost pile, BUT they take a VERY LONG time to compost, so it is particularly important to break them into as small pieces as possible so they turn into compost faster. This is sometimes tricky because of the thin, elastic membrane right under the shell. But MJ provides a practical and easy solution:
1. Keep two stackable containers handy (e.g., yogurt containers)
2. Place the egg shells in the top container and let them dry (this will make the egg membrane become brittle)
3. Take the bottom container and put it on top, pressing and rotating
4. Now you should have small eggshell pieces suitable for the compost bin.

Thank you for being a part of this and we hope to see you around, especially as the weather gets warmer!