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how does your garden grow?
kind krafts supports Prescott's gardening program for adults with intellectual challenge in Halifax.
by: hannah baillie, prescott summer student
Prescott’s “We can, I can” motto was on full display this summer as we enhanced our partnership with the Prescott Street Community Garden Society.
This partnership has also inspired Prescott’s work with kind krafts. As kind kraft’s current cause, Prescott will receive funds they raise to support our community garden programming.
Here at Prescott, we support 160+ adults with an intellectual challenge through the development of work and life skills. We also manage four social enterprises (businesses for a social good): Prescott Bakery, Prescott Custom Bags, Prescott Mailing Services and Prescott Online Auction.
The newest skill we’ve added to our repertoire is gardening!
The idea came about last winter. Life Skills program instructor, Sarah Nartiss, immediately jumped on the opportunity to become a part of the Prescott Street Community Garden Society.
“I liked the idea of gardening because it was accessible to everyone,” said Sarah. “We started from seeds, so even those who couldn’t work outside were able to take part.” She also noted that it was a good continuation from other Life Skills sessions on healthy eating and food prep. “I wanted to show the clients where food comes from and how it’s grown. They were more willing to eat fruits and vegetables if they grew them themselves.”
In addition to Sarah’s gardening sessions, various community members have also volunteered to teach our clients new skills. “It reflects our values of community engagement” said Sarah, recalling sessions where other gardeners stepped in to demonstrate how potatoes, carrots and tomatoes are grown.
Prescott clients Martin, Trevor and Shawn watering the garden
This year’s harvest includes over 14 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. “I learned about tomatoes, chives, potatoes, and cabbage,” said Jessica Watson, a client at Prescott Bakery.
In addition to being a fun activity, gardening has furthered the discussion around healthy eating – especially in Prescott Bakery. After harvesting an abundance of beans, beets, and zucchini, our bakery has been able to incorporate these vegetables into their products.
“I grated zucchini to make muffins and loaves,” said Jessica, adding “I like using garden stuff in the bakery.” In addition to baked goods, the bakery has been pickling vegetables like beets and beans for Prescott’s 18th Annual Christmas Tea and Sale coming up on November 16, 2019.
Even though there are many vegetables still to be harvested from our plot this fall, one thing is certain: this will not be the end of our partnership with the Prescott Street Community Garden Society. Thanks to generous donations of microgreens and terrariums from fellow gardeners, our project will continue throughout the winter and into the next season, with new varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow and taste – we can’t wait!
Pictured above: some of our harvest, client Jessica, client Shawn grating zucchini for delicious muffins in Prescott Bakery
composting at home: a complete beginner's guide
As one realizes how composting can be a relatively simple and effective way to improve their gardens and reduce waste, they may wonder why they did not start doing it sooner. About one in three homeowners in the United States compost at least occasionally, with nearly one in five doing it on a regular basis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away over 250 million tons of trash per year. At present, around a third of this refuse is recycled or composted.
As much as 30 percent of residential waste can be turned into compost. This effort could dramatically cut back on an individual's waste production. If they compost in the house or yard (make sure to check that it is allowed in your community), homeowners who are worried that the items they recycle will end up in a landfill can look for replacements they can decompose instead. People may be surprised with just how much they can toss into a compost pile. Composting can also save money by reducing the need to purchase expensive potting soil or fertilizers to promote healthy plant growth. It may also reduce irrigation needs, cutting down on water usage and utility bills. Composting is growing in popularity across the world. The Town of Collierville, for example, looks to increase the amount of yard waste taken to compost sites by 10%.
Here's how you can get started.
Useful Tools to Have for Composting
Most of the tools homeowners use for composting relate to adding to the pile, mixing it, or moving it when it is ready for use. Compost can be fairly densely packed, but it requires aeration to decompose. Shifting dense soil can be a physically demanding activity. The kinds of tools people need to have for this purpose depends on the composting setup—its size in particular. Fortunately, implements do not need to cost a lot of money or take up a great deal of space. A small compost bin for a modest property works best with smaller tools.
People who are just getting into the idea of composting may want to start with hand tools. This helps to minimize their investment while they figure out what they prefer to use. Popular tools include:
Some implements may not be appropriate, depending on the way people keep the compost. For example, a large pitchfork or shovel might not be necessary or practical for a small bin. Homeowners should select tool sizes that allow them to manage the compost with relative ease.
For larger projects, people may want to add a few pieces of equipment to their collection. A wood chipper or shredder will make short work of clearing out a lot of yard waste. A mulching lawn mower can collect lawn clippings or distribute it back to the lawn. Finally, a wheelbarrow allows homeowners to move a lot more compost at once.
The right setup can make a big difference when composting. Many people choose to buy or build a product that will help them easily contain and aerate the compost before it is ready for use. The time required to get the compost going necessitates solid research into the first purchase or build. Few would want to have to get a new setup after less than a year. A wise choice at the beginning will make the whole process easier and prevent extra work or purchases later on.
Common Compost Bin Materials
As composting grows in popularity and accessibility, people can choose containers in an increasing variety of materials and styles.People should consider their budget and the space available before selecting any particular style. The material for the bin can affect and be affected by the makeup of the pile, so it helps to understand the basics. Manufacturers may sell products made of the following components:
Before narrowing down available options, aspiring composting households should think about the size they need and its placement on the property. People who do not enjoy the scent of earth may want to position a bin away from the home's exterior doors and windows. Plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel may be ideal for people who want to compost indoors, since they would not need to worry about weather resistance. Materials like metal, wire, or wood should typically be kept away from excessive moisture to keep them in better condition longer. Larger bins are often made out of pre-molded materials like resin or polyethylene, and can be placed almost anywhere.
Types of Composting Bins & Bin Alternatives
There are a few types of compost systems that people can buy. Most current products on the market tend to fall into three categories: bin, tumbler, or bag.Homeowners typically need to dedicate about 4-6 square feet for the system. A compost bin is a stationary object of varying sizes and materials. A tumbler has a base that supports a drum homeowners can spin to turn and aerate the compost. Tumblers tend to have a smaller range of sizes, because the system has to support the entire weight of the compost. Large sizes may be physically difficult to turn, especially if they are full. People who need a more compact size, or who only plan to compost a few months a year, might consider a bag. Compost bags are ideal for easy setup and removal for storage.
Each option may have different features that homeowners can choose to improve their use or convenience. Common aspects might include:
People should identify the specific features of each product during their research to make comparison easier.
At times, aspects of a compost bin or tumbler can create problems while they solve others. For example, people might opt to buy a pest-proof container that seals fairly completely. However, this makes regular air circulation more difficult, and may demand more attention. Homeowners who buy products with larger holes for aeration could have a higher likelihood of rodent infestation. People should consider how they intend to manage either of these common issues before buying any particular system.
Easy DIY Compost Setups
Buying something that is designed for composting may be an ideal, quick solution for many, but others might prefer something custom-made. Building a compost bin allows homeowners to get the exact size and shape that they need, with a temporary or permanent placement that they can build right on their property. DIY compost bins are not necessarily cheaper than buying a manufactured option. They can be as simple or complex as the creator wants. With the right tools and equipment, handy homeowners may find that this option to be a rewarding experience.
Wire Bin Composting
Wire bins are one of the quickest and easiest homemade bin styles. This bin weighs very little and does not need a lot of material to set up. It can be made from chicken wire or wire fencing. Since this style does not allow for much movement, homeowners should confirm that they will be able to access the compost from above. People interested in this option can take the following steps to put it together:
Homeowners who wish to keep the compost tightly contained may want to choose wire with smaller holes. This will also help to reduce pest access—although covering the bin with a tarp can accomplish this as well.
Homeowners who are looking for the simplest, low-technology composting options may prefer to dig a trench. This approach is one of the most basic and can be done in almost any outdoor space where gardening is allowed. This is a great option for people in communities or neighborhoods in which composting bins or piles may not be allowed. Trench composting involves digging a long trench right into the garden space. This cuts down on the square footage needed to manage the compost, because it is not kept separate from the garden. Deeper trenches with at least 12” of soil on top will serve as effective pest prevention, as well. Homeowners can do these tasks:
People like trenching because they do not need to maintain the compost or wait until it is ready to use. Given its position inside the garden, the plants will access the nutrients as soon as they are available. It will require some patience, however, as one may need to wait a while before they can plant directly on top of the trench.
Trash Can Composting
People who have an empty garbage can made out of plastic or resin might wonder if they could use it as a composting bin. With a few slight modifications, trash cans may be a viable choice for a contained composting setup. There are a couple of choices people need to make before they begin. Every can needs holes for aeration. Larger holes will promote better air circulation, but need protection against mice or rats. To accomplish this, owners may follow these steps:
Those who need a lot of compost may want to set up more than one can, rather than using one big one. Bins made out of plastic may not be strong enough to support the weight of the soil inside, especially if it is full, so that will have to be kept in mind.
Finding the Right Spot to Compost
The ideal place for composting depends on weather, moisture level, access to the gardening space, and proximity to the home. Compost needs plenty of warmth to rot, especially during the colder months. Homeowners should track the sunlight in their yards and choose a spot that will help them get what they need. Areas in full sun will break down the scraps more quickly, but may dry out faster. Shady spaces usually call for less water, but take longer to compost.
Although compost needs water for the process, moisture control is important. This aspect may be more complicated for people choosing an open environment for composting, rather than an enclosed bin or tumbler. Too much water will increase odors. A dry compost pile will slow the decomposition process. Once users get the setup working, they may only need to add water to moisten dry additions.
Additionally, one may want to select a location that offers extra convenience for them. Composting near the garden minimizes lugging heavy compost from one place to another. People could also opt to set the bin a few dozen feet from the home, to avoid odors traveling indoors. A well-kept compost pile should not smell like rotting waste, but it can attract pests people want to keep away from their house.
How to Compost
Every composting setup needs the following aspects to thrive:
The way people can achieve these depends on the system they prefer to use. Some bins are designed to make aeration easy, and provide an extra layer of insulation in the winter. People should consult manufacturer recommendations for their particular setup, to confirm they can use it properly.
To get started, homeowners need a selection of ingredients that they can layer one on top of the other. Using layers in the right way will promote an ideal environment for decomposition. When first building the pile, homeowners should aim for thin layers of a wide variety of materials. The more variety, the better. Compost needs a fair bit of waste in order for the design to work well, usually at least a few cubic feet. People should look to add carbon-producing waste and nitrogen-producing waste each time they contribute to the pile, along with water for the new materials.
There are a few reasons that composting takes a variable rate of time to create compost ready for use, and the size of the waste plays a big role. Even the best composting materials may fail to work as expected if they are not broken up appropriately before placement in the bin. The bigger it is, the longer it takes to decompose, typically. A huge mat of lawn clippings will stick together. A whole piece of fruit will take longer to break down than a few peels or slices.
The pile needs plenty of aeration to promote healthy microbe growth. One can achieve this through mixing the heap regularly. Tumblers are easy to turn or rotate to aerate quickly. Stationary bins may need people to mix manually using a trowel. People may wish to add materials that help to preserve air circulation. Something bulky and lightweight but fairly small, like bark mulch, can create air pockets.
The last component is time. Some homeowners put in a compost activator to help them get started. It can take months to get a healthy system of microbes living in the compost, especially if people begin toward the end of summer or fall. Regular attention to the pile can give people a better sense of how the compost is working, and whether they need to make any adjustments to their routine.
What to Put in Compost
Putting the right ingredients into the compost is an important aspect of its success. Experts recommend using a combination of what they call “browns and greens.” Browns involve waste from trees and bushes, like leaves or twigs. They create carbon for the soil. Greens cover everything else, such as:
Greens provide nitrogen that plants need for healthy growth. In many cases, households may also be able to use other waste from the home, such as shredded newspaper and cardboard, hair combings and (sometimes) dryer lint. Note: Dryer lint is only compostable if clothing is 100% cotton, linen, or wool — drying commonly-used plastic materials such as nylon, polyester, etc will accumulate microplastics in lint, rendering it unusable. Although animal waste is usually not considered good for composting, eggshells may be a useful addition. In order to work appropriately, the compost pile needs layers of materials that receive plenty of aeration. People should avoid putting in too much of any one thing at a time. Balance is key.
What NOT to put in Compost
Households may be able to put much of their waste into the compost bin, but a number of items should typically be left out. Some waste materials are less likely to break down over time, or may create odors that attract animals or insects. Others could affect the soil and damage the plants grown out of the compost. As a general rule, people should avoid using:
At first, households may want to be more selective about what they choose to put in. If people are not sure about the condition of certain yard waste, they might prefer to leave it out. Over time, users will get a better understanding of how composting works and feel more comfortable making choices.
How to use Compost
Homeowners should make sure that they know when the compost is ready and how to use it correctly, for greatest efficacy.The compost pile or contents of the bin changes appearance as it breaks down. It will deepen in color until it is brown or black. Like soil, it will be relatively smooth in consistency, with the scent of fresh earth. These conditions indicate that it is at the right state for use in the garden.
For many people, compost may have several states in the same pile or bin. Households that contribute to the setup regularly should make sure they can separate ready compost from parts that are not quite finished. Pre-built bins often have a door at the bottom to bring out finished compost without unsettling the pile. Otherwise, a lot of people decide to buy or set up a compost screen to filter out larger materials, as well as rocks and other things that may not work well in the garden.
Once people have separated the compost from the pile, they can use it in a few different ways. The most common is to apply it as mulch on top of soil for planting seeds or seedlings. The compost helps the soil retain more moisture and provides food for the growing plants. This process may be repeated a few times throughout the season.
Compost can be overly strong in nutrients and chemical makeup, so people should use it somewhat sparingly. Households may choose to combine it with soil and sand to create the perfect potting mix for indoor or outdoor plants. In this case, they want to use mostly soil, some sand and a little compost. People can also soak the compost in water for a day, then use the liquid called “compost tea” as part of their irrigation routine.
Regular Compost Upkeep/Maintenance Tips
After households start a compost pile, they have to keep an eye on it regularly to make sure that it is working well. In many cases, good maintenance can help complete the process faster and more effectively. The microbes that break down the food scraps and yard waste need a regular supply of food, water, and heat.With proper care, a fresh pile should naturally develop these microbes. However, some people prefer to use a compost starter with the microbes needed to start or speed up the process.
Homeowners may have an easier time understanding the importance of maintaining a “hot pile” if they think about how they manage other kinds of bacteria, beneficial or otherwise. Water usually needs to be heated to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill most kinds of harmful bacteria. Temperatures below about 100-110 degrees tend to slow down the culturing process for beneficial microbes. As such, people typically want to keep their compost piles around 130-150 degrees (Fahrenheit) for optimal decomposition.
Temperature maintenance relies on a mix of activity and rest periods. When people turn the pile after adding new material or as part of a maintenance plan, they could help or hinder the breakdown. Experts recommend shifting aside the top few inches of the pile every few days to take the internal temperature, especially at first. Leaving a pile to sit while it is still increasing in temperature will promote microbe development. Once the pile cools down, turning can restart the heating. People may not need to turn the heap more than once every few days.
The amount of moisture in the pile can alter the rate of heat accumulation. Dry piles tend to be cooler. Piles that get too much water and inadequate aeration will promote growth of bacteria that can cause odors or slow the breakdown of plant matter. Areas with heavy rainfall may need to be covered with a tarp to help maintain the right humidity. Given how long compost takes to make, people can take the early weeks and months to learn the right balance for their individual heap. The experience of doing it can be an excellent informer, sometimes as much as the initial research.
There are a few things that can go wrong in the composting process. Thankfully, most of them are fairly easy to correct and should not permanently damage the pile. As a general rule, most issues relate to the progress and composition of the setup. Although homeowners do not need to attend to the pile daily, they should invest the time to look at it at least a couple times a week.
Usually, people know something is off when they can smell the heap at a distance. Good compost should smell earthy. Although not everyone loves this scent, it is much better than the strong odors of ammonia or rotting garbage. When homeowners notice this, they should inspect the pile and get some information:
Wet piles are prone to odors, as are heaps with too much nitrogen. This is why experts suggest mixing more carbon (brown) matter than nitrogen (green) into the pile, and always putting them in together. Adding straw or shredded newspaper can help to re-establish a good balance. It is important to keep contributions as small as possible. The larger an item is, the longer it takes to break down and the more likely it could contribute to problems. People should keep in mind that messing with a pile too often can be as problematic as neglect. A pile that is not progressing properly may be turned too often. This disrupts the microbe development.
When the heap is not developing as expected, households should consider the moisture and the kinds of waste they add. They may need to add water more frequently, especially if it is in an area of the yard with a lot of sun. Prompt attention to these issues can help get the pile back in working order, and shorten the amount of time needed to complete the compost.
Hazards to Avoid - Health and Safety
Although compost is a necessary and useful component of any garden, it has a number of components that homeowners need to treat with care. Regular upkeep should prevent or minimize most concerns about the spread of mold spores or harmful bacteria. This is more likely in piles that contain animal waste. To ensure that they protect themselves first, people should:
Keeping a pile of a moderate size, about one cubic yard, can help achieve the right temperature range without increasing the heat too much. Fire from compost is rare but not impossible. People should monitor and turn the contents before the temperature reaches over 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Households may have to deal with periodic infestations of the pile, but there are ways to prevent this issue. Mammals like rats and raccoons are attracted to fresh food scraps just put into the pile. They will also come for fats or animal products, which is partly why many generally recommend against these additions.
People should try to keep the heap as contained as possible. If they do not use a specially-designed bin or tumbler, they should cover an open pile with tarp or build a fence. Once animals find the waste, it can be much more difficult to keep them out. Insects can be benign or harmful to the decomposition process. Typically, insect infestation inside the pile indicates that the temperature is not hot enough. Adding water, increasing the nitrogen content, and turning the pile may raise the temperature sufficiently to force the pests out.
Composting is a great activity for households of various ages and abilities, and nearly any property. From a sprawling 10-acre lot to a home with only a tiny yard, compost has the potential to cut down on waste production and put scraps to good use in gardening. Expert gardeners know that this addition to their efforts can increase produce output and quality. People do not need a lot of knowledge or practice to get started. They only need to get a grasp for the basics, devote a proper amount of space, and have the tools and equipment to make it a success. The biggest contribution is time and patience to let the ingredients do their work. Compost heaps can begin at almost any time of year, depending on the region and the investment homeowners are willing to make. People who are interested in learning how compost could change their gardens for the better can start as soon as today.
A big thank you to John Quinn from REMAX Experts for sharing this composting blog post with us! A link to the original blog post can be found by clicking below!
Hello, kind krafters,
We Haligonians are a lucky bunch. Not only do we have three large farmers’ markets to choose from across our municipality, but the Halifax Seaport Market will be celebrating its 270th birthday next year. This makes Halifax, Nova Scotia, home to the oldest farmers’ market in North America. Our somewhat mild seasons sustain many long-established farms and their farmers in Nova Scotia, especially along the fertile Annapolis Valley.
Over the years, like many of us, I visited the market. These markets seemed like ivory towers: inaccessible and expensive for a student. I saw these visits as a treat and wandered around wistfully. But in 2018, I became engaged in sustainability efforts. The further I delved into the subject of community sustainability, the further I began to realize how deep and misinformed our cultural perceptions of farmers’ markets are. That’s how my New Years’ resolution came to be: I challenged myself to shop exclusively at farmers’ markets from January 1, 2019 to April 30, 2019. So, today, I wanted to share a couple of things I’ve learned and unlearned.
1. Fresh produce at farmers’ markets is expensive.
I agree – no matter what someone on the internet argues, for most people, food prices at markets match supermarket prices or are much higher. During this challenge, I had the privileged opportunity to not think about food vs. rent, and so I was able to dedicate my monthly budget to food purchases. If you’re purchasing food from a vendor at a farmer’s market or an independent store, you will not be seeing sales on onions or cucumbers or the same prices a corporation can set with their buying power. That said, a lot of this has come down to how we view food and our ability to purchase it. We all expect food not to take up too much of our budget. This expectation has only grown with the amount of convenience food and the globalization of mono-cropped produce. It’s also grown due to rising housing costs and expenses. We now pay for cell phones, wifi, transportation, and frequent social outings. As students, many of us leave school burdened with tens of thousands of debt. We all want to eat well, but when you’re stressed over bills or over life in general, stopping by the supermarket sale can take a little bit off your plate. In fact, that brings me to my next point.
2. There’s nothing fresh at the farmers’ market between December and May.
I don’t agree with this. There may not be the same selection as the summer months, but there’s still plenty, just not what we think of as ‘plenty’. I think part of this stems from how globalization has transformed our perception of food. When we walk into the supermarket, we expect to see plenty. That’s part of the consumer psychology that corporations spend millions to get us to keep going back – which I did! (More on that in my next point.) Seeing tomatoes, blueberries and corn in store all year round can disconnect us from understanding what food is. Yes, it may be disappointing to see that all that’s in season is leeks, cabbage, and carrots, but it makes seeing the first new vegetables of spring that much more exciting. Importantly, that excitement can be a grounding experience. Just as establishing relationships with farmers and vendors at markets can strengthen our sense of community, an awareness of the seasonality of food can ground us in the present and create a future we can look forward to. Here’s a handy guide to Nova Scotian seasonality: https://www.selectnovascotia.ca/seasonal-availability
3. If you shop at a farmers market, you’re cheating if you drop by the supermarket.
I don’t agree with this either. Because a few weeks into my challenge to eat exclusively from the market, I failed. I hadn’t had any fruit for weeks. A few friends of mine had brought fruit for lunch. The supermarket was having a sale. And so, I bought some strawberries at the beginning of February. I spent my time at the market the following weekend anxious and paranoid, like the strawberries had stained my hands berry red for all to see. There’s a certain cultural cache to being a farmers’ market frequenter: you care about the environment, sustainability, and ethics. For some, being a frequenter signals that you want everyone to know that you care. I’ll admit I felt like I was finally doing something for sustainability by eating asparagus only come late April, when it’s one of my favourite vegetables. That was a victory! But that fleeting moment of moral superiority was nothing compared to the guilt I felt over a few strawberries. My friends influenced me into buying them. It was a moment we bonded over food that would look similar to how a few friends might have bonded over the first strawberries of spring a hundred years ago. We’re social creatures. We don’t want to pay more for our food, but it’s still a massive aspect of our social life. My challenge never felt as though I had deprived myself, but it was restrictive at times, in that sense. What’s more relatable than bonding over super sales while miserably grocery shopping? Not to mention, I bought strawberries for cheaper than I have from the market in July. Even at that price they were a treat, as strawberries are now. So, I froze them, and they kept me going through that long winter.
When possible, when able, I believe shopping at farmers market should be first on everyone’s list. It’s still a far off world for me. In an ideal world, there would be no massive corporations running supermarkets. Our food system would be one with our growing seasons, and our new scale of relatability revolves around over upcoming produce – the first Valley peaches! The tomatoes, sun-grown vs. hothouse! Winter greens vs. spring greens! But for now, and as always, we work with what we’ve got.
What are your thoughts on accessibility and farmers markets, Kind Krafters?