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As an avid organic gardener for more than 40 years, I have been composting for almost that entire time. I have made them with chicken wire, old fence boards, recycled broken rain barrels, pallets, broken wine barrels, trash cans or whatever materials that I could find. I have also purchased compost bins from various farm supply stores and gardening supply companies. When I lived in Northern California 20 plus years ago, they already had a free composting program. So I am extremely happy that my city of these last 13 years is launching this program. They even have a downloadable composting guide.

I signed up for it immediately-about 2 weeks ago-even though I bought a very small one a while back. With all of my gardening & cooking, I filled it up very quickly. Just yesterday I received an email stating that “so many St Petersburg residents are interested in composting. Due to the demand for compost bins, it is taking some time to get them all delivered. Yours should be delivered before the end of next week. Thanks again for your interest (and patience), The St Pete Composting Team”.  I’ll gladly wait. I am so happy that SO many residents signed up!!

From the City of St Pete’s website:

Composting 7-2019

Did you know that kitchen and yard waste make up about 30% of what is thrown away? Composting helps divert these materials from landfills to deliver nutrients back into the soil.

Composting is the natural process of recycling organic material, like kitchen and yard waste, which breaks down to form a usable, nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Residential Composting Program

St. Petersburg’s residential composting program supports the sustainability initiatives of the City and empowers residents to minimize their environmental impact. Residents in single-family homes who are interested in composting are invited to sign up the free and voluntary program.

Participants in the composting program will receive a composting bin from the City to use in their backyard. The bin is approximately 33″ wide at the base and 33″ tall. There will be no collection service, but the resident will be responsible for feeding and maintaining the bin and will reap the benefits of the nutrient-rich compost by spreading it on their lawn or garden or even donating to a local community garden. For more information about composting, see our composting guide .

Next Steps

  1. Complete the form to request a composting bin.
  2. Start composting!
  3. Participate in periodic surveys to help improve the composting program.

http://www.stpete.org/sanitation/composting.php

In many places, spring got a late start this year. So it’s no surprise if you’re just now getting outside to look around at what Mother Nature left behind and decide on what you need to do to tune up your home for summer.
Here are a dozen to-dos to make certain that your home is in top shape – healthy, attractive, and performing well.
1. First impressions. Take a hard look at the impression your front entrance makes, especially if your house is on the market. Look at places like Pinterest and HGTV for ideas on how to make a better first impression. Some examples include adding a pop of color by repainting your front door, changing door hardware, adding lights, installing window boxes, and ensuring that your steps and railings are sturdy and look fresh. Learn about the value of doing outdoor upgrades and the projects that bring the greatest joy and ROI.
2. Winter damage. Do an exterior walk-around and check for winter damage. For example, be certain gutters aren’t clogged with leaves and debris. Inspect your foundation for cracks and openings that could allow bugs and vermin to get inside. Check decks and porches for loose boards, rot, and unstable railings.
3. Clean air. Tune up your air conditioner to keep it working at ideal capacity and save energy.
4. Leaks. Check your faucets, toilet flapper, and valves and fix any leaks. According to the EPA, a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year – the equivalent to 180 showers. Also, turn your shut-off valves on and off to be sure they don’t get frozen in place.
5. Keep cool air inside. Check your weather-stripping to be sure it’s not dried out or falling down. Though it’s thought of as a winter project, weather-stripping also helps you keep cool air in and hot air out during the summer.
6. Purge chemicals. Hunt through your garage, basement, and cabinets and round up all the toxic chemicals, paint strippers, weed killers, toxic cleaning products, and so forth. Find a local recycler.
7. Lawn alternatives. Letting go of the lawn eliminates the need for maintenance and mowing, which buys you more leisure time. By replacing a chemical hungry lawn with native plants, you can save water (and money spent on your water bill) and eliminate pesticides and fertilizers, which is better for your family’s health and the environment. Learn more here.
8. Plant trees. Strategically placed trees on your lot can provide shade that reduces your energy costs by up to 25%, according to U.S. Department of Energy’s computer modeling. Learn to pick, plan, and maintain trees here.
9. Compost. Build a compost center and to reduce your garbage output and create a free source of rich nutrients for your garden.
10. Harvest water. Reduce your water bill by installing a rain barrel to capture rainwater that can be used for watering plants and flowers. Buy rain barrels or take a DIY approach.
11.  Mold. Maintain your house in a way that prevents mold growth. According to the University of Georgia, mold sources include:
Plumbing pipe and fixture leaks
Roof leaks
Flooding
High humidity levels from:
        o clothes dryer that is not properly vented
        o non-working exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms
        o a large number of indoor houseplants
        o unvented kerosene or gas heaters
        o water collection in crawl spaces or basements
12.  Leave your shoes at the door. Look closely at the sidewalks you walk on. Do you want to track dust, pesticides, cigarette ash, and dog waste into your house and on the floors where pets and kids play? See the University of Arizona study to learn about the gross, unhealthy things that come inside on the bottoms of your shoes.
Article written by Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

Gardening can help decrease stress, improve physical health, better your nutrition, and help you socialize. Here are the health benefits of gardening.
— Read on www.marthastewart.com/gardening-health-benefits

Nice to come home & be greeted in the driveway by these lovely beauties. Two weeks of daily rain & sunshine has doubled the size of my hibiscus 🌺. After a super busy-long day, the sight of all of these flowers made me smile. I needed to stop & appreciate the bright colors on a such gray day. 😎

 

deck3

Houzz

1. Poolside lounge. If you have a pool (lucky you!) why not steer away from the usual plastic deck furniture in favor of something sleeker and more chic? A sea grass daybed, linen-backed deck chairs and a Moroccan tea table create a light, airy feel in this poolside space. Unwind under the shade of an oversize umbrella with a tall glass of something on ice and your favorite trashy novel. No pool? This look would work equally well on a backyard deck— I would surround
the seating area with big pots of fragrant plants, like lavender.

eclectic porch

Houzz/Sarah Natsumi Moore

2. Patio hangout. Who says only kids get to have fun on swings? Juice up your patio with a colorful indoor-outdoor hanging chair and a few big potted plants with interesting foliage, and swing your worries away.

traditional deck

Houzz/Hunter Design

3. Secret reading nook. If what you love most is to escape with a good book, a tucked-away reading nook is what you need. In a corner of this garden, a cushioned bench gets extra privacy from hanging vintage shutters and vines trailing down from overhead.

farmhouse porch

Houzz/Moontower Design Build

4. Napworthy porch. A covered porch is the perfect place for napping — the fresh air and gentle breeze soothe, but the roof is there to protect you if a sudden shower springs up while you snooze. Any daybed makes a fine napping spot, but I think the rocking motion of a hanging bed is especially restful.

eclectic deck

Houzz/Vuong Interior Design

5. Backyard hideaway. Make a simple pergola in the backyard feel like an exotic getaway by stringing up white curtains all around and placing a cushy outdoor sofa or daybed underneath. The curtains not only create privacy but can also be adjusted to block the sun on a hot day.

contemporary landscape

B. Jane Gardens

6. Classic hammock. If you have nice, big trees in your backyard, why not put them to good use? String up a hammock and let the relaxation commence. Come home from work, kick off your shoes, grab something to drink and make a beeline to the backyard. No trees? You can also find hammocks that come with their own stands.

mediterranean patio

Houzz/Esther Hershcovich

7. Private dining area. Whether you want to dine al fresco or just bring a glass of wine outdoors on a pleasant weekend, having a welcoming table for two is essential. Find a place blocked from the wind — a corner of the garden would be ideal — and make it feel even more private by surrounding it in lush plantings. Keep a stash of fresh tablecloths indoors and carry one out with you when you want to hang out at your table — it’s the quickest and easiest way to keep your table looking fresh.

tropical porch

Houzz/Ashley Camper Photography

8. Tropical retreat. Deep, dark tropical and reclaimed wood furniture, moody lighting and a hammock converge on this porch to make an irresistible hideaway. Whether your idea of R&R involves pouring cocktails and playing cards with friends, or enjoying a little peace and quiet solo, a setup like this will have you covered. On a deck that gets a lot of sun, curtains or blinds can make the space much more comfortable. For a tropical look, try hanging simple (and inexpensive) bamboo blinds.

modern deck1

Houzz/Churreria Photography
9. Rooftop refuge.
 A chill-out zone like this one is essential for city dwellers. Even if your space is small (and the budget is limited), you can pull together a cute retreat with a café table for sitting and a blanket-covered futon and burlap pillows for lounging.

modern landscape

Houzz/EPT DESIGN

10. Simplicity. Sometimes all you need is a place to get away. Tuck a pair of chairs (butterfly chairs are always stylish) and a small table into a hidden area of your garden — perhaps even in a side yard. Surround the seating area with native grasses that will rustle in the breeze, and hang a wind chime for gentle sounds that help release stress.

This article originally appeared at Houzz. Copyright 2014. Follow Houzz on Twitter.

By: Amanda Abrams

Making little lifestyle changes will do a lot to enhance sustainability for the planet—and make every day Earth Day.

alt tagOne good way to lessen your environmental impact is to eat food grown near your home. Image: Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market

It’s a great feeling every Earth Day to bike to work and show your love of the planet. But sustainable practices—managing how you use resources to ensure that there will enough for future generations—doesn’t have to be limited to once a year. With a few adjustments, sustainable practices can easily become a part of daily life and save you money while you help improve the planet.

What is sustainability?

Sustainable living is an umbrella term that covers many different ideas and programs. It can be as simple as recycling and using less water or as complex as changing state and federal policies to promote wind and solar power and high-speed rail transportation. Local planning commissions can promote sustainability by allowing higher density housing that uses less land.

If you want to support some of these public sustainability programs, you can contact your government representative to express support. You could also support a nonprofit group like the Edible Schoolyard program, which teaches kids how to grow and eat locally.

Opposition to sustainable practices

Not everyone is a fan of sustainable practices. Some people worry that conservation efforts produce more government regulation, increase living costs, and reduce corporate profits. Not sure where you stand on these major policies. Why not start small and see?

Eat locally. One of the biggest impacts a family has on the environment is what it eats. It takes around 10 calories of fossil fuel—in the form of fertilizers, processing, and transportation—to produce a single calorie of supermarket food, according to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Cut down on your food’s energy impact by eating food grown near your home.

A 2001 study conducted by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, found that the cost of transporting food from the region or the local area was four and 17 times less, respectively, than buying from national distributors.

Finding local food isn’t difficult

* Local Harvest will help you find farmers markets as well as farms in your region that offer subscription programs. Signing up for a subscription means you pay up front, so there’s a risk if the harvest fails. Costs vary depending on the size of the share and your part of the country. A good estimate from Local Harvest is that you’ll spend about $600 to cover produce for a family of four during a four or five month growing season.

* Keep food even closer to home by growing your own, either in your backyard or in a shared community space. Expect to spend several hours a week seeding, weeding, and harvesting. Gardening is also a great way to teach kids about healthy eating.

The downside of eating locally is that food from a farmer’s market often costs more than the same from the supermarket. And in winter, you may eat a lot of cabbage and potatoes if you stick to local eating.

Buy gently used

Everyone likes something new once in a while—and fast-growing kids require it. Consumer spending is also a big contributor to a healthy economy. But producing and transporting new products from the factory to you also uses lots of resources. One way to get new stuff and still promote sustainability is to trade something you no longer want for what you need.

* Freecycle is a 7 million-strong global network of people who share their possessions—for free. Once you join online, you’ll receive regular email about used items that you can request and pick up. Eva Schmoock, a student nurse and mother of two in Carrboro, N.C., is an avid user. She’s found new homes for everything, including paint and kids’ bathing suits.

* A low-tech option: Organize swap meets with neighbors to lessen your environmental footprint without opening your wallet. Get your kids to put flyers in mailboxes to promote the swap. Or try a consignment shop.

Reduce trash by composting

It isn’t just what you buy that has an impact on the world’s resources, it’s what you throw away. The average American is responsible for almost 5 pounds of garbage a day, 12.5% of which is food scraps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That trash clogs landfills and pollutes ground water.

Want to reduce waste? Consider composting. Just put those peels and pods (but no meat or dairy products) in a separate container instead of the garbage can. When the container is full, carry it to your compost pile.

A $10 plastic bucket with a lid will work; fancier models have charcoal filters that cut down on smells but cost two or three times as much. Let your kids scrape plates into the compost pail or empty the full container.

You’ll find a compost bin for every budget. You can fence off a small (out-of-sight) section of your yard with less than $50 worth of mesh wire and poles. Plastic bins and barrels are neater, but can cost several times more. The best part of composting: In six months, nature will convert your waste into terrific fertilizer to sustain your vegetable or flower garden.

Amanda Abrams is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who spent many years planning to be an organic farmer. Now she writes about how to make the world a better place for papers like The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/articles/3-small-steps-to-more-sustainable-living/#ixzz1AVLIYmBR

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon  Published: 2011  HouseLogic NAR

Labor Day through Halloween is your window for preparing lawns for a lush spring.

“I’m already thinking about next year,” says John Dillon, who takes care of New York City’s Central Park, which features 200 acres of lawn in the middle of Manhattan. “The grass I grow this fall is what will be there next spring.”

Fall lawn care is no walk in the park. It’s hard work, and Dillon guides you through the four basic steps.

1. Aeration

Aeration gives your lawn a breather in autumn and provides room for new grass to spread without competition from spring weeds. Aeration tools pull up plugs of grass and soil, breaking up compacted turf. That allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach roots, and gives seeds room to sprout.

If kids frequently play on your lawn, plan to aerate twice a year — fall and spring. If your lawn is just for show, then aerate once a year — and maybe even once every other year.

A hand-aerating tool ($20), which looks like a pitchfork with hollow tines, is labor-intensive and meant for unplugging small sections of grass. Gas-powered aerating machines (rental, $20/hour) are about the size of a big lawn mower, and are good for working entire lawns. Bring some muscle when you pick up your rental: Aerating machines are heavy and can be hard to lift into your truck or SUV.

Depending on the size of your property, professional aeration costs about $150.

2. Seeding

Fall, when the soil temperature is about 55 degrees, is the best time to seed your lawn because turf roots grow vigorously in fall and winter. If you want a lush lawn, don’t cheap out on the seed.

Bags of inexpensive seed ($35 for 15 pounds) often contain hollow husks, weed seed, and annual rye grass seed, which grows until the first frost then drops dead. Splurge on the good stuff ($55 for 15 pounds of Kentucky Bluegrass seed), which resists drought, disease, and insects.

Water your new seed every day for 10 to 20 days until it germinates.

3. Fertilizing

A late fall fertilization — before the first frost — helps your grass survive a harsh winter and encourages it to grow green and lush in spring. Make your last fertilization of the year count by choosing a product high (10% to 15%) in phosphorous, which is critical for root growth, Dillon says.

Note: Some states are banning phosphorous-rich fertilizers, which are harmful to the watershed. In those places, look for nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which promote shoot and root growth. Check with your local extension service to see what regulations apply in your area.

4. Mulching

Instead of raking leaves, run over them a couple of times with your mower to grind them into mulch. The shredded leaves protect grass from winter wind and desiccation. An added bonus — shredded leaves decompose into yummy organic matter to feed grass roots.

A mulching blade ($10) that attaches to your mower will grind the leaves even finer.

By:  Lisa Kaplan Gordon  Published: 2011  HouseLogic NAR

Here are some great pointers for your gardening adventures.

By: Oliver Marks from House Logic

Even veteran gardeners make rookie mistakes, like giving plants too much water and too little space. Here are common garden blunders. Consider yourself warned.

It’s easy to misjudge and make a mess out of your landscaping. Here are seven common garden blunders, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Too many changes, too soon

The excitement of buying a new home, plus a stretch of warm spring weather, often creates a passion for yard work. But don’t just do something, stand there! What looks like a spring weed might be a fall-blooming vine; that bare spot in March might reveal tulips in April.

Try this instead: Live with your land for a year. Observe how many hours of sunlight each part of your garden gets. Test the pH of your soil to determine if acid-loving or alkaline-loving plants will be happy in that particular patch of heaven. Observe when your lawn greens up in spring and becomes dormant in late summer.

The money and time you save by watching and waiting will be your own.

Mistake #2: Too much togetherness

Trees and shrubs that look properly spaced when you plant them will crowd each other and compete for water, sun, and nutrients in a few years. If you’re lucky, you can transplant some bushes; if you’re not, you’ll have to throw away starved shrubs.

Try this instead: Before digging, read spacing instructions. Give trees plenty of space–you can always fill in later. Stagger bushes and plants and create two rows, which will create more breathing room. The results will look absurdly sparse at first. But live with it. In a few years, your shrubs will fill empty spaces without suffocating each other.

Mistake #3: Planting without a plan

Planting new garden beds without a long-term landscape plan is like pouring a house foundation without blueprints. Your haste results in a waste of time, money, and muscles.

Try this instead: Draw a simple sketch of your yard–what’s there now and what you might add later, such as patios, outbuildings, and pools. Bone up on the trees and shrubs that grow best in your soil and climate. Go online and click around landscaping sites that help you pick plants and design beds.

Visit your local nursery or home improvement center where design staff can answer questions and make suggestions. Or hire a professional landscape designer to create a starter plan for as little as $250 to $500. Find a professional at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers or the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Mistake #4: Neglecting the root of it all

Even the hardiest plants need a little help putting down roots in new locations. Sprinkling the foliage doesn’t nourish the roots, the plant’s nerve center. You must deliver water to the root ball below the ground, or your plants will be stunted and short-lived.

Try this instead: Place the hose at the base of new bushes, trees, and plants and let the water trickle out for 20 to 30 minutes, twice a week (more during hot spells), for 4 to 12 weeks. Or snake a soaker hose ($20 for 50 feet) through your beds, which will deliver slow and steady water to roots.

Mistake #5: Forgetting the sun

Too many gardeners pick plants based only on looks, not the growing conditions plants require and the conditions that exist. Rookies will plant sun-loving perennials under an old oak tree or sun-shy hostas in the open. They look great for about a week, and then die.

Try this instead: Observing the spot where you’re going to put the plant and estimating the amount of sun it gets over the course of a day during the growing season. To translate that into the language on plant labels, use this key:

Full Sun 6 hours a day or more
Part Sun/Part Shade 3 to 5 hours
Full Shade Less than 3 hours

Mistake #6: Over-watering

An automatic irrigation system is a luxury that keeps your landscape hydrated throughout the growing season with almost no effort. Unfortunately, auto-watering can bring disease, root rot, and a premature death to plants; it also wastes water.

Many gardeners set watering timers for 15 to 20 minutes each morning, which wets the surface but doesn’t soak deeply to nourish roots of large trees and shrubs.

Try this instead: Water for 40 to 60 minutes only two to three times a week. Check with the company that maintains your irrigation system for local recommendations. A deeper soak also helps lawns develop deeper root systems. (***Also check to see if there is water rationing in your neighborhood due to droughts this year before you set timers.-Annalisa)

Mistake #7: Budget blunders

Your landscaping can fall victim to construction bulldozers that park on lawns and dig too closely to trees and shrubs. New construction also demands rethinking your landscape plan to accommodate additions.

Unfortunately, many home owners don’t include landscaping in their construction budget. They end up with a beautiful new family room, screened porch, or solarium, and a few lonely azaleas planted around the foundation as an afterthought.

Try this instead: Allocate 10% to 20% of your construction budget to the landscape—both hardscaping and plants. If your construction spreadsheet can’t stand another line item, make a plan to landscape–in stages, if necessary–as soon as possible after construction is completed.

Oliver Marks is a former carpenter and newspaper reporter who has been writing about home improvements for 16 years.

By: Julie Martens

An edible garden featuring vegetables and herbs can save you a bundle if you keep it simple and raise plants that offer high yields.

How much can you save?

A backyard edible garden will trim costs from your grocery bill while providing you and your family with the freshest produce possible. According to Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, a well-maintained garden can produce a half-pound of fresh vegetables for every square foot of garden space. At average market prices, that means a garden returns about $1 per square foot.

Studies conducted by W. Atlee Burpee Co., a mail-order seed company, are even more optimistic. According to Burpee, the average cost-to-benefit ratio of home-grown produce for those who have established gardens is better than 1 to 25. That means every $1 spent on seeds and supplies yields at least $25 worth of vegetables.

Even first-time gardeners will benefit. George Ball, owner of Burpee Co., says that a $10 investment in seeds for tomatoes, beans, bell peppers, lettuce, peas, and carrots, plus $80 for soil, fertilizer, and the cost of building several raised beds, can yield more than $250 worth of veggies and herbs—a substantial portion of the approximately $3,465 the average U.S. family spends on a year’s worth of groceries.

For families that save the harvest, either by freezing, canning, or drying, the cost-benefit ratio climbs even higher. Martha Garway, who tends a 10×10 plot in a Providence, R.I., community garden, freezes much of her summer produce, such as okra, tomatoes, and peppers.

That summer harvest, which costs her $20 for the plot plus the cost of seeds (and she tends to save her own), enables her to “buy only meat and fish through winter—no vegetables,” she says.

Top plants for great returns

For the average gardener in most regions of the country, here are some of the most cost-effective vegetables to grow, and an estimate of what you’ll save over store-bought produce. These figures reflect veggies harvested for fresh eating only; if you freeze or can produce to consume beyond the harvest season, your savings will multiply.

Slicing tomato
Seedling cost: $2.00/plant
Yield: 10-15 pounds tomatoes/plant
Savings: $15-$23/plant
 

Bell pepper
Seedling cost: $2.00/plant
Yield: 6-8 peppers/plant
Savings: $9-$12/plant

Cucumber
Seed cost: $2.95/packet of 240 seeds
Yield: 10-15 pounds of cucumbers per plant
Savings: $5-$7.50/plant

Bush green beans
Seed cost: $2.95/packet of seeds
Yield: 2.5-3 pounds/5-foot row
Savings: $3.75-$4.50/row

Pole green beans
Seed cost: $2.95/packet of seeds
Yield: 4-5 pounds/5-foot row
Savings: $6-$7.50/row

Leaf lettuce
Seed cost: $2.00/packet of mixed lettuces
Yield: 16 oz. of salad every 3-5 days after leaves mature
Savings: $4 per week

A few vining vegetables, like squash or Malabar spinach, produce abundant yields for the price of a packet of seeds ($2.95). Winter squash types in particular are easy to cure and store, lasting well into spring and offering savings of up to $10-$15 per vine.

Herbs

Herbs offer amazing return. For $1.50, you can buy a 3-inch pot of parsley, chives, oregano, mint, or basil and harvest leaves all season long. With the perennial herbs, like oregano and mint, the harvest continues for years with little maintenance action required. Compare that to “fresh” herbs you’ll get at the grocery for $3 for a 3-ounce packet.

What not to grow

Some vegetables aren’t cost-effective in an edible garden. For instance, you could spend $20 for organic seed potatoes that will yield 15 pounds of spuds from a 20-foot row planting. Compare that with the average price of white potatoes in the supermarket at $1 per pound. Then again, you can’t find Russian Banana fingerlings or Purple Viking potatoes at the grocer, so if you want a specialty spud, grow your own.

Other veggies that don’t pay to grow are ones that are finicky, like celery or asparagus. Both are labor intensive. Onions are relatively cheap to purchase, and it can be difficult to get a large yield of good-size bulbs without a massive garden.

Try growing shallots instead, a gourmet-style onion family member that produces green tops you can harvest like chives and mild flavored bulbs that cost up to $4 a pound at the store.

How big an edible garden?

The median size of an edible garden is about 100 sq. ft., according to the National Gardening Association. For a family of four, a growing space of 200 sq. ft. should keep the family in veggies all summer long. Plan to spend 4 hours a week tending your garden, with 8-12 hours for preparing the planting area in spring, shopping for seeds and seedlings, and sowing crops.

Julie Martens is a writer with 21 years’ experience in the field of gardening. Her bylines appear in magazines such as Nature’s Garden, Country Gardens, and Garden Ideas & Outdoor Living. She recently moved into a renovated 1915 home and is busily working on a new garden.

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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