Photos from US Composting Council’s “Demo Days” in Los Angeles

The US Composting Council hosted its 25th annual conference in Los Angeles.  Harvest was a proud sponsor of the conference, and provided safety gear for the legendary “Demo Days” event at the City of Lopez Canyon Compost Facility. Ops attendees included Ted C., Chris F., Brent B., and Stewart M. Check out the beautiful scene in the following photos (photos thanks to Ted):

USCC 2017 - looking over windrows USCC 2017 - scarab turning and steam USCC 2017 - screeners USCC 2017 - spreading USCC 2017 - windrow close up USCC 2017 - windrow cover and steam USCC 2017 - windrow turning USCC 2017 - windrows and hils in distance USCC 2017 - windrows wtih scarab USCC 2017 - windrows USCC 2017 in front of Komtech USCC 2017

 

Rethink Methane: Getting Above the Crust

rethinkmethane-header-logo-logistics-850x100The “Rethink Methane: Removing the Fossil from the Fuel” conference in Sacramento hosted leading policymakers and businesses to discuss a key ingredient to a sustainable future: methane.  Historically we’ve used “prehistoric” methane created millions of years ago. It is time to shift to “contemporary” or “renewable” methane made in current-day times via the treatment of wastewater, organic waste, and other biological feedstocks.

DSC_1889 Chris Kasper at Rethink MethaneWhat we know:

  • Methane is a critical energy resource and will continue to be for the foreseeable future
  • Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas, and reducing emissions of methane is central to any strategy to address climate protection
  • CA has recognized the importance of reducing methane emissions, and has laid out a strategy to do so in the recently published Proposed Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy
  • As the vast majority of the state’s methane emissions come from the decay of organic matter, in order to achieve a significant reduction in the contribution of methane to the state’s GHG inventory, these biological sources of methane need to be captured, harnessed and beneficially reused

The challenge that we face is how to, in the face of historically low fossil gas prices, develop a system of policies, programs and incentives that help address the legal and regulatory barriers that impede the development of renewable gas resources and encourage the production and consumption of this valuable energy resource in CA.

DSC_1916 Chris Kasper and Mary Nichols at Rethink MethaneThis is the purpose of Rethink Methane – to explore the impediments to harnessing renewable gas – the fugitive emissions of which have been identified as a major contributor to climate change – and to identify the actions that CA policymakers can and should take to discourage fugitive emissions, encourage beneficial reuse, encourage the substitution of renewable gas for fossil gas as much as possible, and encourage the substitution of renewable gas for fossil diesel wherever possible.

Highlight of the Day: Harvest CEO Chris Kasper introducing the “Queen of Green” and Chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols.

 

Pumping Value out of Pumpkins: Food Waste Growth Markets

Pumpkins and Other Food WasteThe growth strategy firm, Innosight, published a piece, “The Food Waste Opportunity: How Experiments Can Open New Growth Markets.”  It explores the burgeoning food waste industry and highlights Harvest as a leader in providing organic management solutions.

Here’s one slice of the story:

This Cinderella transformation of discarded food is just one example of how marketplace experiments can help spur new growth markets. Venture capitalists are believers: Harvest Power has raised more than $350 million, making it one of the best-funded startups in New England.

And another bit:

Because food is an organic compound and readily biodegradable, one might assume that all this waste is not a major problem. However, consider this. Food takes resources to produce-water, land, fertilizer, energy. It’s heavy and expensive to transport. As food lies in a landfill, it decomposes and emits methane – a gas 25 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide. Lastly and certainly not least, there is a high social cost.

Read the full article.

3 Easy Tricks to Love Your Lawn Naturally

Everyone likes a lush, green lawn that is safe for people, pets and children to lounge and play. Here’s a video with a few easy tips for you to love your lawn naturally.

Natural Lawn Care, So Pets and Children (and You!) Can Play Safely

As the video shows, there are three (3) easy things you can do to keep your lawn lush, naturally.

3 easy tricks to love your lawn naturallyTRICK #1: Trim the Top

Set your lawnmower blades on the highest setting. Also, aim to only cut the top 1/3 of the grass blades at any one time; otherwise the grass gets stressed.

TECHNICAL CORNER
Different grass species actually have preferred lengths. For example, cool season grasses (Fescues, Kentucky bluegrass) range from 1-4” high. Warm season grasses (St Augustine, Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia) vary from 0.75-3” high. Learn more about ideal heights to mow grass.

TRICK #2: Grasscycle!

Let the clippings land and return to the soil. Those tiny little bits can actually help nourish the soil: they typically break down within one to two weeks, and provide 15 to 20% or more of a lawn’s yearly nitrogen requirements. Learn more about grasscycling.

TRICK #3: Support Your Soil

Every fall and spring, spread a ¼” layer of compost or lawn soil. This layer – called a topdressing – helps support the soil structure, promotes good drainage, and stimulates microbial activity (that’s a good thing).

 A Few Other Tips for Natural Lawn Care

First, remember the four key components of healthy soil composition:

  • Mineral Soil (~45%)
  • Organic Matter (~5%)
  • Water (~25%)
  • Air (~25%)

Next, check out this case study of the lush soccer fields in Haddam, Connecticut – impressive root structure, all from topdressing with compost!

Finally, use these easy tips to keep your lawn happy:

watering your lawnWATERING YOUR LAWN: Use the Tuna Can Trick

If you’re going to water your lawn (or, ahem, frolic in a sprinkler), use a tuna fish can to roughly gauge how much water has fallen: place a tuna can on the grass when you turn on the sprinkler(s), and turn off the sprinkler(s) when the tuna can is full.

A few other tips around watering:

  • GO FOR DEEP, LESS OFTEN: Try to water well once per week rather than a few shallow sprinkles throughout the week. Then let the grass dry out completely over the week until you water deeply again. The roots will actually get more sturdy and robust during the dry period by searching for water compared to if you give them a few light sprinkles.
  • WATER IN THE MORNING OR EVENING: You’ll lose less water to evaporation.

screwdriver test for lawnsAERATING YOUR LAWN: Use the Screwdriver Trick to Test

If you’re curious about whether or not your lawn needs aeration, try the screwdriver trick: Wait until the soil is relatively dry – but not completely dry and hard – and test it with a screwdriver. If you can depress the screwdriver an inch or two easily, the soil probably has sufficient aeration. If it takes some bearing down, your lawn could probably use some “aerifying”. Learn more about how to aeate your lawn.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Biocycle – San Diego

BioCycle is not only the trusted trade journal of the organics recycling industry, but also hosts two conferences each year – one on each coast – that bring together experts, thought leaders, and innovators. These photos capture some of the scene from this year’s conference in San Diego.

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CEO Chris Kasper, Lorraine Paskett, and Ashwani Kumar at Harvest’s booth

BioCycle 2016


CEO Chris Kasper answering questions and connecting with industry experts

 

 

BioCycle 2016

BioCycle Editor Nora Goldstein kicking off an educational session

 

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David Hitchcock and Chris Kasper flash smiles

 

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EcoSafe‘s signage for multifamily and educational facilities

 

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Mingling in the exhibit hall

 

 

Harvest Welcomes Joanna Rees to its Board of Directors

Rees_Joanna_Profile_Pic_BODHarvest’s board of directors just got even more robust with the addition of Joanna Rees, a dynamo with expertise in driving growth in nationally distributed, branded consumer products. Joanna has served on the board of more than 25 companies across a broad range of industries including Stonyfield Farms, the first nationally distributed organic yogurt brand in the U.S.  Welcome, Joanna!  Read the full announcement.

Five Steps for Successful Raised Bed Gardening

Benefits of Raised Beds

First, you might be wondering why not just stick plants in the ground; why bother with raised beds? Raised beds are an excellent design for a number of reasons.

  • Raised beds improve drainage. In general, while plants need moisture, they don’t appreciate “wet feet”. Raised beds ensure good flow and drainage.
  • Raised beds improve aeration. An important component of good soil structure is air. Indeed, air comprises 25% of an ideal soil composition (25% air, 25% mineral soil, 45% mineral soil, and 5% organic matter). A raised bed allows you to fluff up the soil each season.
  • Raised beds add a sense of containment and order. Whether or not you have a raised bed within a structure, or with a natural border, they add a sense of order and organization to your landscape.

Raised Bed Inspiration

Next, let’s get some raised bed inspiration. As you can see, you can create a raised bed out of many materials and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on your space and needs.

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These raised beds, in the center of a community space, are thigh-high to keep animals out and ease harvesting of vegetables.

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These raised beds, along the Fraser River in British Columbia, have benches around them to sit and enjoy the scenery.

raised beds within lawn

Not all raised beds have a border; these backyard beds were mounded up within the existing lawn.

This raised bed full of tasty herbs is located just off of a kitchen, making it easier to grab a fresh sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, or whatever flavor is required.

This raised bed full of tasty herbs is located just off of a kitchen, making it easier to grab a fresh sprig of rosemary, thyme, sage, or whatever flavor is desired.

5 Steps for Creating a Raised Bed

Now that you recognize the benefits and are inspired, how do you go about creating a raised bed garden?

1. Pick a spot.

Full sun, or a mix of sun and shade, typically works best.

2. Pick your design / material. 

Use materials that are locally available to you. Wood (cedar typically lasts the longest), bricks, pots, and poured concrete are some ideas; the material should make sense for your space (and wallet!).

3. Fill the Space with Top Quality Soil

Generally speaking, a raised bed is at least 6”-10” higher than the existing soils. Also, you’ll want a soil blend that has both mineral soil (the existing soil) mixed with organic matter (e.g. compost or some other form of soil amendment). Harvest offers pre-blended mixes, such as Garden Soil in Connecticut, Garden Blend in British Columbia, and a range of bagged soil products (Potting Soil, Potting Mix, Soil Amendments, Peat Moss, and compost-based products) available from our retail partners.

4. Plant

Seeds or starts, veggies or flowers, plant what makes sense for you! Your local garden center will have tips. Our advice:

  • Start out small and build from your successes.
  • Have fun! Grow what you know. Also feel free to experiment! Gardening is a forgiving activity that provides an endless opportunity for exploring and learning.

5. Maintain

ON THE SIDE: It can be nice to maintain the border of your raised bed by applying a 2-3” layer of mulch, or rock, gravel, or pavers to keep down weeds.

SEASON TO SEASON: Your soil will get depleted over time. We suggest adding a 2-4” layer of soil amendment, such as compost or a potting mix, and mixing it into the top 6” of the bed every couple years. Of course, as with everything, remember to water.

NOTE: With watering, plants typically prefer a few long drinks (a couple deep water sessions per week) over short sips (many short sprays of water per week).

Let’s get back to some raised bed inspiration.

This raised bed is outside of a school: each class gets one plot. Also, check out the easy-to-maintain mulch that keeps the weeds at bay.

These raised beds are outside of a school: each class gets one plot. Also, check out the easy-to-maintain mulch that keeps down weeds.

Looks like the garlic (with a light mulch of straw) and kale (background) overwintered in these beds.

The garlic (in the foreground with a light mulch of straw) and kale (in the background) overwintered in these beds.

Yum: Strawberries, a great, simple snack on the way to class.

Yum! Strawberries, a great, simple snack on the way to class.

Ahoy! Who says raised beds need to be square.

Ahoy! Who says raised beds need to be square.

Looks like this gardener is going to try out square foot gardening.

Looks like this gardener is going to try out square foot gardening.

A raised bed at a Harvest site in Connecticut.  It's like a blank canvas waiting for gardening art.

A raised bed at a Harvest site in Connecticut. It’s like a blank canvas waiting for gardening art.

Note the weed deterrent strategy: cleared ground, covered with cloth, covered with a layer of mulch.

Note the weed deterrent strategy: cleared ground, covered with cloth, covered with a layer of mulch.

Simple, productive, orderly, and beautiful raised beds. What fun!

Simple, productive, orderly, and beautiful raised beds. What fun!

Do you have a raised bed?  If so, what style worked for you? What have you grown?

Making the Most of Rainwater: Commercial Applications

The Issue: Stormwater

Bioretention_DDOT_DDOEIn an increasingly paved world, stormwater management is the name of the game for municipalities and businesses looking to reduce costs, improve water quality, and enhance performance of their existing infrastructure.

Stormwater is the rush of water that occurs during a rain event, especially during the initial stages. Imagine rain falling in two different scenes: a gigantic forest and a paved city.  In a forest, streams and rivers rise, lower spots in the ground fill with puddles, and the earth gets saturated for a period of time as the water slowly percolates back down into the groundwater.  In a city, gutters gush, basements flood, highways get slick, and drainage systems discharge water into rivers and bodies of water. This article highlights a key tool – green infrastructure – that helps paved cities behave more like spongy forests, thereby decreasing the negative impacts of stormwater.

Green Infrastructure and Its Impacts

Bioretention_Montgomery_CountyGreen infrastructure refers to many tools and products – soils, filters, plants, pervious surfaces, green roofs, bioswales, and retention ponds to name a few – that help typically paved environments absorb more water. Green infrastructure serves two bioretention purposes:

  1. It slows down the first flush of runoff by increasing the amount of surface area where water can get absorbed.
  2. It increases the quality of runoff by intercepting pollutants closer to the source.

Key Components

When embarking on a stormwater management project, a few key factors can influence the outcome. Entire courses and forums are devoted to this topic.  A quick overview includes:

  • Size: Evaluate the catchment area. A gutter that gets disconnected from the downspouts will have different needs than a parking lot.
  • Medium: Identify the ideal characteristics of the planting medium.  If it’s a green roof, you’ll need a lightweight, engineered blend. For example, if it’s a backyard bioswale, you’ll likely want a mixture of soil with a high organic content (compost) and strong filtration properties (sand).
  • Plants: What conditions will the plants need to endure?  Conditions will vary depending on the depth of the depression and typical weather patterns.
  • Flow: Identify the slope and where the flow will need to be managed or controlled.

custom_designed_blendsAt Harvest, specifically Harvest RGI, we have qualified experts that help guide and shape soil selection.  Commercial contractors depend on us to meet their engineered soil specifications for erosion and stormwater control. Residential customers also get involved: several homeowners may work together in a community effort to manage rainwater on their properties, benefiting from the economies of scale associated with purchasing a 15-20-cubic yard truckload of soil together.