Make Your Own Compost

Make Your Own Compost

Compost can make an excellent fertilizer for your home’s garden, but this readily available and simple option is often overlooked. Yes, watering your garden and using store-bought fertilizers and plant food is a great way to get started, but if you want to grow healthy, natural, and tasty vegetables inexpensively, composting is the way to go.

Chances are that there is already a compost pile somewhere in your community. These places take organic waste and allow it to break down into a form that can be used to fertilize anything from small gardens to large fields of crops. Most community compost heaps allow residents to take as much compost as they need. Available and accessible as these may be, however, creating and maintaining your own personal compost pile is both more fulfilling and easier; doing so may sound difficult to the inexperienced gardener, but it’s much easier than you think.

Make Your Own Compost

Backyard Composting

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, backyard composting is actually quite simple. It requires three major ingredients:

  1. “Brown waste,” such as dead leaves and tree branches
  2. “Green waste,” such as grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps and coffee grounds
  3. Water

Your compost pile should contain equal amounts of all three ingredients. The brown waste will provide carbon, while the green waste will provide nitrogen, both of which are essential to keeping a garden healthy. The water will help break down the organic matter.

To make your compost pile, find a cool, dry, shady spot near a water source and add both types of waste as they are collected. Chop up the larger pieces and moisten anything that looks too dry. Once your compost pile has grown to a decent size, bury more green waste—from sources such as grass clippings or fruit and vegetable scraps—under about ten inches of extant compost. You can cover your compost pile under a tarp to keep it from drying out if you wish, but as long as you are near a water source your pile should remain sufficiently moist. The compost is ready once it has the look, consistency, and smell of rich, dark soil. This normally takes between two months and two years.

You can continue to add waste to your compost pile until it is ready. Most organic waste can be added to a compost pile, but the following materials should be avoided:

  • Black walnut leaves and twigs
  • Meat scraps
  • Bones
  • Animal droppings
  • Dairy products
  • Diseased plants
  • Any plants treated with pesticides

There are a number of reasons why these materials should be avoided, but the primary one is that they all contain harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by the plants they are used to fertilize, making your home-grown fruit and vegetables potentially harmful to you and your family.

Indoor Compost Bins

Most composting is done outdoors for obvious reasons, but not everybody has the space to make and maintain a large pile of compost. Fortunately, composting can just as easily be done indoors with a compost bin. These bins can be purchased at most hardware or home and garden stores, but one can also be made just as easily by following these easy steps:

  1. Drill holes ½ inch in diameter in the bottom and sides of a plastic garbage can.
  2. Place a brick surrounded by wood chips or soil at the bottom of a larger garbage can.
  3. Place the plastic can with the holes inside the larger can on top of the brick. Insulate the outer can to keep the unit warm, and keep it covered with a lid.

As with an outdoor compost pile, most organic wastes and shredded paper products can be kept in a compost bin. Remember to avoid the wastes listed above for outdoor composting, and avoid the smell by keeping the compost bin covered with a lid at all times.

As you can see, composting can be a great way to turn most of your waste into something useful. It does take some time and effort, but before long you will have a renewable source of nutrient-rich plant food for your garden.

Jennifer Carrigan is a freelance writer who uses her compost daily to make her planet healthy. To ensure she stays healthy, she can get a quote for life and critical illness cover and learn what is covered under critical illness policies.

Low Maintenance Landscape Design Ideas

Low Maintenance Landscape Design Ideas

With so many great things in this world, who has the time to maintain a yard or driveway? When you’re out having fun with friends, partying the night away, or having a romantic picnic, the last thing on your mind is taking care of the weeds in your backyard.

With low-maintenance landscape design, you won’t have to worry as much about pruning, mowing, planting, or cleaning, giving you more time to enjoy yourself. San Diego landscape design experts can personally help you with all your landscaping needs.

Low Maintenance Landscape Design Ideas

Rethinking Focal Points

In San Diego, outdoor kitchens are pretty common. They are a means of taking advantage of the great weather all year round. After all, there aren’t many people who dislike a good barbecue. However, barbecues and outdoor kitchens act as a focal point, giving you and visitors something to focus on aside from the grass, trees, and other elements of the yard.

There are numerous ways to develop focal points, including:

  • Pathways: Pathways are functionally a means of getting into a space, but visually, they lead eyes into, through, and around the landscape. Pathways act as a good transition between the street and your home. They can be the first impression a visitor has of a homeowner’s personality.
  • Outdoor water fountains: Water fountains and bird baths create a naturally welcoming ambiance, making an elegant statement about a person’s home. Many times, water fountains add to the architecture of a home. Outdoor water fountains often mask the hum of traffic and lawnmowers with the gentle sounds of trickling water.
  • Lighting: Like any film or photo, lighting in a landscape is very important. Landscape lighting gives you complete control of your yard, allowing you to highlight your trees and garden while leaving other, less-attractive elements in the dark. Lighting is an inexpensive way to add value to your property while also providing practical safety and security.

When It Comes to Plants

In landscape design, plants tend to take up the most maintenance time. While you can’t usually do away with plants completely, you can make decisions on the types of plants you want in your backyard.

When choosing foliage, go with drought-resistant plants like succulents, which require less water to thrive. Avoid plants that need frequent pruning and are susceptible to diseases and insect problems. Instead of mulching, consider using gravel, which cuts down on weeds and helps to retain soil.

Sam is an avid follower of San Diego landscape design and writes about low-maintenance landscape design regularly. He’s been working on his and his friends’ houses and designs for the past 25 years and loves sharing information with people who are looking to improve their homes.design plantslandscape design ideaslandscape lighting , lawnmowerslow maintenancemaintenance landscapeoutdoor water fountainsphoto lighting

The Practicality of Having a Raised Flower Bed

The Practicality of Having a Raised Flower Bed

The raised flower bed can be aesthetically pleasing in virtually any environment. Nearly anything can be planted within it giving the area a great deal of functionality. Whether you are planting trees, bushes, or flowers, these beds can be versatile for your specific landscaping ideas. While raised flower beds can be very attractive, have you ever stopped to think of the practicality they provide aside from just aesthetics? There is more to one of these constructs than what you may be realizing.

1. Cleanliness – A raised flowerbed has less chance of collecting tidbits of garbage that could blow into your yard. While these bits of trash may collect to the side of the bed, you have less trash to physically pluck out of your flowers and bushes unless someone places an object and forgets to remove the trash. Businesses that have raised flower beds outside of their establishment could actually see an increase of random trash – until a trash can is placed nearby.

2. Easier to Weed – Instead of being hunched over your flowers on all fours, you could sit on the edge of your raised garden and pluck intruding weeds. This is aside from the fact that a raised bed is less likely to accumulate weeds due to the lack of ability that the seeds have to invade the soil. While it’s not impossible to have a few unwanted guests taking up root in your garden, the odds are significantly reduced that they will.

3. Animal Invasion – It’s not often you’ll see a dog jump into a three-foot-high raised flower bed to relieve him or herself. Raised beds help to prevent the invading animal kingdom from destroying your hard work. Female dogs have a way of killing plant life with urine and keeping her away from the gardens can help them live longer. While cats are still able to reach even the tallest of beds, there are many ways you can thwart their efforts as well.

4. Children – A raised flower bed has less of a chance of being trampled by children. Flowers that are ground-level are subjected to all kinds of violence from various elements. Playing children can demolish a beautiful bed of marigolds if they are able to walk through them. Although they may be innocent of malicious behavior, children are well known to not pay attention to what they are doing. While it may be an accident to ride a bike through the garden as they learn how to ride, the risks are still high.

The Practicality of Having a Raised Flower Bed

5. Flooding – It is quite easy for a ground-level flower bed to experience flooding whether it is from nature or human design. Raised flower gardens can be designed to spill off extra water when there is too much. Although flowers require some water, they can still drown and die.

There are many ways to design a flower garden for your home. When developing your plans of how to organize your yard, keep in mind the surrounding elements. While building for aesthetics is the primary goal, you should have a plan for being practical as well. Otherwise, you could be spending a great deal of time repairing your garden from the ravages of life. In what ways do you protect your garden from being subjected to damage?

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

Tips For Designing A Backyard Fire Pit

Tips For Designing A Backyard Fire Pit

The light breeze over the vacillating fence posts: good company, wine flowing freely, the sun setting just over the horizon.

For those with a backyard fire pit, this can be an everyday experience. There is comfort, relaxation, and simplicity in an outdoor fire – Not to mention a certain primal beauty. Below are a few tips for those looking to create a lasting outdoor space to complement their home design.

Types Of Fire Pits

There is an assortment of different shapes, styles, fuel, and materials to consider in store-bought fire pits: from wood burning, propane, or natural gas systems to chimineas, porcelain, cast iron, and steel. There are even brands of portable fire pits.

Depending upon the look that appeals to you, the price level, and the location, with so many choices, you can find a perfect complement to match your objectives for yard and garden improvements and the architectural elements of your home.

Determine the location of your fire pit and entertaining area. The pit itself is usually around four or five feet across which means the rest of the area should be an additional six feet on all sides. Place your fire pit where there is enough room to safely accommodate both the apparatus, seating, and design elements.

Understanding the prevailing winds in your yard is another factor to consider, as a continual breeze in one direction may impact the effectiveness of your fire pit, making half your company warmer than necessary while the rest huddle for warmth. A windbreak may be necessary for strong crosswinds. Placing your fire pit on one side or the other of your home may allow for a break in wind patterns.

Proper Safety Measures

The first step in the process of designing an outdoor fire pit is to mitigate any potential fire hazards in your garden and yard. For landscaping efforts and set-up around the fire pit trench, it’s good to plan ahead.

  1. Clear the grass which runs around your fire pit; dig a 2-inch deep perimeter around the device which extends approximately 4 feet from the edge of the fire area.
  2. Place landscaping fabric at the bottom of the dug hole. Landscaping fabric is used as a barrier against weeds and other such garden invaders; it allows the soil beneath it to breathe, letting in air, water, and nutrients from above. Simply secure the fabric with staples or stakes at approximately 4-foot intervals into the ground.
  3. From here, the home owner can choose to fill the 2-inch deep dig area with gravel, brick, concrete pavers, or flagstone. Arrange the fill over the landscape fabric in whatever design or style you think adds the best flavor and visual panache to the area.
  4. If choosing pavers or flagstone as fill items, pour in an inch of sand and then sweep the sand into the cracks in order to help with stabilization. Spray water in order to lock the sand in place and then apply pressure to pack it in completely.
  5. Now, for the chair placement: it’s important to create a barrier for your guests from the actual flame. Use common sense, but a placement of seating 2 to 2-½ feet from the outer edge of your fire appliance is smart and safe.
  6. To enhance the beauty of your fire pit, try adding color and texture with flowering plants at the perimeter of the area. Lavender or rosemary creates visual splendor and adds fragrance that elevates your fire pit to a sophisticated setting for gathering to eat, drink wine, and chat the night away.

Coordinating With Patio Decor

Adding a fire pit to an existing (or soon-to-be-built) patio can be a great way to incorporate beauty and comfort into your yard or nearby spaces. Visit your city or municipal building department to check building codes to find out if you need a permit. Determine if there are restrictions limiting the placement of a fire pit on your property.

Landscape designers often consider the design principles of feng shui when planning a backyard. The balance of objects in the space is highly important. For example, to create optimal feng shui, a water fountain or other water element should be placed across the yard from a fire pit. Water balances fire, and injects complementary elements into your backyard design.

To tie the design of your fire pit into the look of your patio, use the same brick as the home’s foundation. Try stucco in a color similar to the siding or trim. If your property has a rustic vibe, flagstone – discussed as one of the layering options above – can be used to create a country look to your back area.

Seating shouldn’t go completely around the fire pit protrusion. Instead, install a bench about halfway around and additional chair seating in the nearby vicinity. A “half-pit” design is an interesting option, which is created by placing a water fountain or wall behind the seating. This adds a distinct flavor to the area and creates a truly elegant space.

The key element in planning your backyard fire pit is to design a space that is as comfortable as possible. Consider the size of your fire element, traffic flow, and plans for repeated use. Incorporate the principles of feng shui and your personal taste in natural elements to create a visually appealing retreat.

A fire pit should fit your space and look as if it were meant to be there. A backyard fire is about comfort, friendship, relaxation, family, and good times. In the end, your new area is really what you make of it. Long after the design process has come and gone, you will be sitting out with friends and family, quite simply enjoying the night.

About the writer

Bryce Hammonsis an award-winning screenwriter and avid freelance writer covering a wide range of topics from education to technology and home improvements. Bryce writes for a variety of websites, including Catalogs.com.