Minimizing Kitchen Waste

If the best way to keep a neat and tidy house is simply having less stuff, I’m failing miserably because of my desire to use “waste” rather than throw it away.  This is especially difficult in my tiny kitchen because I’ve been trying to find a use for every food scrap.  My entire kitchen windowsill is full of herb cuttings and the root ends of vegetables that I am trying to sprout.  Whatever we can’t eat or use in some way goes into either the worm bucket or outdoor compost.  Besides not buying more food than we can eat and letting it go bad in the fridge (I let a sweet potato rot recently and was so sad), I’ve been consciously trying to minimize the amount of food that ends up in the compost.

My most recent waste reduction project was inspired by this post from the Kitchn on how to regrow food scraps.  I just happened to have many of these particular veggies in my fridge already! Continue reading

DIY upcycled wine bottle “watering can”

Have you every accidentally crushed seedlings by watering them too forcefully? I certainly have, and it makes me sad every time. But never fear! I have created a simple alternative to clumsily trying to water plant babies with a drinking glass.

My lettuce is very fragile

My lettuce is very fragile

At first, a plastic water bottle with holes poked into the top seemed like the perfect solution to my seedling watering woes, but I don’t want to feed my lettuce water that has been stored in plastic any more than I want to drink bottled water myself.

 

 

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My Organic Urban “Guerrilla” Container Garden

Living in a rented apartment with only north facing windows has made gardening a little difficult, but my plant babies are off to a good start for the summer.

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I’ve tried to start simply, but it’s hard not to try to grow everything.  I’ve got a variety of herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, green chile, and cucumber started, as well as a spider plant and a small sick avocado tree. (Help, anybody?) They’re all growing in pots on the cement back patio of my apartment building.  When we move to our new condo in July, I intend to put the tomatoes and other sun loving plants on the rooftop deck, where they will hopefully get full sun and not bother anybody (this is the guerrilla part). The rest will go on our little west-facing balcony.

Tomato baby!

Tomato baby!

We started our seedlings indoors with a grow light, which we still use to grow lettuce. We chose a fluorescent T5 lamp with a reflective housing. Fluorescent lights do contain mercury, but they are the most affordable, and the T5 is the most efficient of them all.

We used Burpee’s Growing Pellets for our seedlings, and we hated them because they dried out and compacted easily, harming the roots of the plants.  They’re ok for very young seedlings started in eggshells or other similarly small containers, but growing herbs or anything in them for more than a few weeks is bad news.

To keep my plants happy in their big containers, I mixed my own soil using a combination of organic potting soil from Home Depot, worm castings from Whole Foods (will hopefully be able to use my own soon!), and perlite.  I tailored the contents of the soil to the preference of the plants.

My go-to guide for container gardening has been Gayla Trail’s Grow Great Grub: Organic Food From Small Spaces, which I have had checked out from the library for at least three months. It’s an amazing book. I love that it tells you which kinds of plants grow best in containers, and which you can plant together.

Creeping Red Thyme from a local garden market

Creeping red thyme from a local garden market

I think my two favorite aspects of container gardening are that I can move my plants around easily and that there is no weeding.  We had a late frost last weekend and just moved the plants indoors for two nights.  It’s also pretty easy to repurpose containers as pots, such as our lettuce growing in Earthbound Farms Organic salads greens bins (first picture, on the left).  10-12″ plastic pots are only a few bucks at Home Depot, but I’ve found quite a few discarded by the side of the road.

Any advice for my first urban container garden?