Deep Feeding my Tomatoes

I like to get water and nutrients deep into the soil beneath my tomato plants. This encourages a strong root system and a more sturdy plant overall. Plus, a deep watering means I don’t have to worry as much about the plant drying out on those hottest of summer days.

Just a juice bottle

Just a juice bottle

I use a juice bottle with the end cut off and the top removed.

Bury the bottle

Bury the bottle

I like to add some compost to the feeding bottle. Occasionally I add Epsom salts this way as well, providing the plants with much needed magnesium.

Compost added

Compost added

Just add water and let that absorb over the next several hours.

Just add water

Just add water

 

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2013 Edible Garden Tour a Great Success!

I want to thank Claudia Bolli and Amanda for bringing a bunch of fabulous green thumbs to my place to view my garden and yard. It was great to meet people who love gardening as much as I do.

Here are some quick links to some of the things we discussed:

Sheet Mulching Workshop (2011)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thanks everyone for coming by!
 
 

Build a composter from…Whatever you’ve got

When it comes to building something new for my garden, I like to use what I have rather than buy something ready made. Today I decided that I needed a new composter for under a tree in the front yard. I have a pile of compost out there that needs to be properly processed.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I had an old tomato cage and some plastic netting.

I found an old tomato cage that I built a few years ago out of concrete reinforcing mesh. I also had some pieces of plastic garden netting that I thought might keep the compost in place yet assure lots of air flow.

I used zip ties to attach the netting

I used zip ties to attach the netting

Using zip ties (does anybody else love zip ties as much as I do?) I attached the netting to the tomato cage. I moved the new composter to the front yard and filled it with some of the organic material I had piled up. A good soaking with the hose and I’ve got a working compost pile.

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

Loaded the new composer and gave it a good soaking

Graduation! Gardeninggrrl is now a Master Composter/Recycler

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management's Bud Latta, and Graduate

Counsellor Ben Henderson, Waste Management’s Bud Latta, and Graduate Gardeninggrrl

Last week my class of Edmonton Master Composter/Recyclers graduated from the 2013 City of Edmonton’s MCR program.

A like-minded group of 28 waste conscious Edmontonians, we spent 40 hours in class and at various sites around the city learning everything and anything about reducing waste, recycling and reuse.

Our job is to now disseminate this wealth of knowledge by sharing it with our friends, families and communities. My plan is to work to educate people about the benefits of grasscycling, composting and overall reduction of materials that needn’t go to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

I’ve already worked the Waste Management booth at one event and have another one scheduled for tonight. It is, after all, International Compost Awareness Week! It’s practically a religious holiday for Master Composters 🙏

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Six: Eco Stations and Household Hazardous Waste

Over the past month I have been sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

Eco Station

Eco Station

Edmonton began holding city household toxic roundups in 1987. People could drop off their hazardous household waste at select locations around the city. They were three day events, once yearly, and continued until 1994.

Out of a demand for more regular service, the City began planning for a permanent solution. In August 1995 the first Eco Station was opened in Strathcona; 26,350 vehicles visited in 1996 alone. In December 1999 the City opened its second station at Coronation.

By 2006 more than 130,000 vehicles were visiting the Eco Stations and it was time to open a third at Ambleside. Ambleside features a reuse area where staff can place items that they feel others might use, like furniture or electronics in good condition. In 2014 our fourth Eco Station will open near the elvedere transit station (Kennedale).

Eco Stations provide a safe means of disposing of hazardous materials that may cause fire, injury or health concerns. It also keeps these materials out of landfill and therefore the environment.

Inside the Eco Station

Inside the Eco Station

Hazardous waste includes chemicals, metals, electronics, appliances, batteries, fluorescent tubes, tires, and paint. Recyclables are also accepted at Eco Stations as well as large bulky items, small appliances, lawn clippings and many other items. If you’re not sure about what goes where, check out this link.

Paint comes in large volumes into the station. They have a paint exchange program where people can drop off or pick up partial cans of paints. Some paints are mixed and now are available for sale in shops as “ecopaint”.

Chemicals are packed in drums and sent to contractors who further recycle or incinerate them. Oils can be mixed and used as a burner fuel or in asphalt. Tires are used in rubber paving stones and to make livestock mattresses. Metals in computer components get extracted and reused.

Eco Stations don’t accept explosives, radioactive waste, pressurized gases or anything dangerous to handle.

Now over 220,000 vehicles visit Eco Stations each year. They are successful because they are convenient, comprehensive and affordable.

Thank you: This week we were visited by Jenna from the Coronation Eco Station

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program: Touring the Edmonton Waste Management Centre

Over the past month I have been sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

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I’m not sure how to even begin to describe the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC). Situated on the eastern edge of the city, it encompasses over 80 acres of land adjacent to the now-closed Cloverbar Landfill.

Developed in the 1980’s as a solution to the need for more landfill, the today’s EWMC is a testament to the forward-thinking minds of that time. It’s a marvel of efficiency and tribute to problem solving.

Only one group gets the “full monty” tour of the EWMC and that’s the Master Composer-Recycler class. We were privileged to see everything from the tipping floor of the Materials Recovery Centre to the bowels of the Leachate Treatment Plant.

Integrated Transfer and Processing Facility

Integrated Transfer and Processing Facility

Dressed in our hard hats and steel-toed boots, our first stop was at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility (IPTF). This is where our garbage arrives to be sorted into waste and compostables. A surprisingly large amount of material in the garbage can be sent to the Composting Facility and kept out of landfill. Still more can be sent to the Waste to Biofuels Facility which should be fully operational by 2015.

A combination of mechanical and manual sorting separates (essentially) the organics from the inorganics. Waste destined for landfill is then trucked to the West Edmonton Landfill or the site at Riley. Organics are sent to the Composting Facility.

The Edmonton Composting Facility is capable of producing as much as 80,000 tonnes of compost annually. Organics from our garbage are combined with wood chips and sewage biosolids (yes, those are what you think they are) and composted to produce a high quality mixture that can be applied to fields or used in landscaping. Second Nature compost is sold at several locations in the city.

What I learned about large scale composting is that although we should be proud to have such a facility, its definitely not the most efficient way to deal with organic materials. Transporting it to the EWMC, putting it through a 14-21 day indoor mass bed process, then curing it in big windrows outside is very labour and resource intensive.

Backyard Composting, worm composting and grasscycling at our own home is far more efficient and environmentally responsible.

So much garbage

So much garbage

Rodney hams it up at the MRF

Rodney hams it up at the MRF

The other stream of materials coming into the EWMC are the recyclables – the materials collected in the blue bags and blue bins. They are taken to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where they are sorted, again both mechanically and manually, into various categories. This part of the tour was eye opening. It’s amazing how much plastic and paper we use in the city, and how much energy it takes to recover it for recycling.

The best way to keep these sorts of items out of the system is to reduce consumption in the first place. That means doing things such as bringing cloth shopping bags to the grocery store, or reading the newspaper online. Recycling is admirable, but its not the most efficient use of resources.

Leachate

Leachate Treatment

Our tour also allowed us in inside the Leachate Treatment Plant where the liquids extracted from the landfill, treated and released into the sanitary sewer system.

We saw how construction and demolition waste is handled at the EWMC, separating the drywall from the wood, concrete and shingles so that each an be appropriately treated.

We drove by the Grey’s Paper and Glass Recycling Facility which will soon by producing recycled paper from waste paper collected at City offices. This will be sold back to the City, “closing the loop” with respect to paper use. Pretty cool idea.

We also drove by Global Electric and Electronic Processing (GEEP) where your TVs, computer monitors and other electronics are salvaged for their valuable components.

Overall the tour was amazing. We got to see just how much thought is put into waste management in the city. All of this recovery is costly, but not nearly as costly as landfill. Properly managed landfill is expensive and should be our last resort when dealing with our waste. By 2015 when the waste-to-biofuels facility comes online we will only be sending 10% of our waste to landfill. That’s incredibly impressive.

You can book your own tour of the EWMC by calling 780-496-6879.

Special thanks to our tour guides:
Allen Yee, Waste Management Engineer
Neil Burkard, Education Program Coordinator for the EWMC

Edmonton Master Composter Recycler Program Lesson Three: Grasscycling

Over the next two months I will be sharing my experience with the Edmonton Master Composter-Recycler Program. Maybe it will inspire somebody to learn more about composting. Maybe a few people will discover more about recycling. Perhaps more than one reader will find something here that they can take away and use in their own community.

I haven’t bagged my lawn clippings since I can remember. I never understood why anybody would go through the trouble and mess to collect the grass when it could be left on the lawn to feed the soil. In the fall I collect a combination of grass and leaves to use as a protective mulch on my flowerbeds, but other than that I don’t use the bag on my mower at all.

Grasscycling is one of the least complicated things Edmontonians can do to reduce waste.

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In the summer months 40-50% of all household waste picked up curbside is grass clippings. Yes, it is composted at our Composting Facility, but transporting to the facility is a huge drain on resources. Bags of grass are heavy, dense and take up space in the truck – trucks fill up faster and need to make more trips to the waste management facility. In addition, the volume of grass overloads the compost system throwing off the balance of nitrogen and carbon rich materials. Leaving it in situ, that is on the lawn, is a much more efficient and environmentally sound practice.

So how does one go about grasscycling? It’s easy. Any lawnmower can be used. Simply cut your lawn at a height of 2.5-3 inches every 4-5 days during peak growing season. Cut it high and cut it dry. The time you save collecting clippings will easily make up for a few more cuttings during the summer months.

Leaving clippings on the lawn improves the lawn’s ability to retain moisture and provides much needed nitrogen and other micro-nutrients to the soil. It’s a win-win situation. It’s one of those things that doesn’t demand over-thinking. If anything, it requires under-thinking.

VIDEO: City of Edmonton Grasscycling

Special thanks to this week’s guest instructors:

Mary-Jo Gurba-Flanagan: Graduate of the MCR program 2007
Pat Church & Myles Curry: Social Marketing, Waste Management Department – Designing campaigns to change people’s behavior