Fall: A great time for compost. Try leaves.

Fall is possibly the best time of year to APPLY compost to your landscape: it’ll have a few months to settle in and nourish the soil with all of its magical properties.

Fall is also possibly the best time of year to try out MAKING compost because very easy materials to compost – leaves – are abundantly available.

In mid-October, I gave a lecture to a garden club in New Jersey – an ideal venue given its status as “The Garden State” – and encouraged the audience to get further along on the compost learning curve.

A 3-Step Guide to Composting in Your Backyard

To help nudge the group we created a simple quick-start guide to backyard composting. On the front, it provided a simple directions in three steps to help get momentum: 

  1. Choose a compost container style
  2. Collect materials
  3. Manage the compost (as much as you want)

Download the simple guide to backyard composting.

The response was fantastic: different conversations indicated shifts. For example, after the lecture a group of four women in line for lunch said, “We were just talking about where we’re going to put our bins at our homes. It has to be far enough away from the back door to fit into the landscape, but close enough so that we actually use it.” Another member of the audience emailed, “You’ve successfully nudged me to do more composting. I’m collecting leaves this weekend for my new bin.”

Indeed, leaves are the perfect training wheels for a novice composter: You put them into your bin and poof! Three- to six- months later you have lovely leaf litter: a fluffy, nutrient-rich mulch that breaks down into the soil beautifully.

The audience posed a few questions about what materials were appropriate for composting. Eggshells? Lobster shells? Banana peels? Avocado pits? In general, you want to add organic materials such peels and floral trimmings. At Harvest, we put together a quick video to illustrate:

At the end of the day, it’s your compost party: the composition of your decomposition is entirely up to you. Want more details? Check out this awesome composting guide.


*NOTE: A similar version of this story has been cross-posted on our sister site, harvestorganics.com

Supplying Soil for Stormwater Management Success

When people think of stormwater management, they might immediately jump to thinking about the health of rivers and streams. But a key ingredient in improving water quality that many people often overlook is soil.

Harvest routinely provides custom soils blended for bioretention and rain gardens. We were especially honored to provide the soil for three stormwater management containers – two at-grade precast concrete bio-retention planters and one above grade planter, all supplied by Olcastle Precast-Chesapeake Region – at the U.S. Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Maryland.

Specially formulated soil, rich in organic matter, will help achieve two ideal outcomes:

  1. It will slow the flow. Ideally water that falls to the earth has a chance to get absorbed by the earth and return to the groundwater table, as opposed to getting whisked away by sewers and drains.
  2. It will filter out pollutants. Ideally water that reaches surrounding lakes, streams and bodies of water does not have debris or pollutants. Healthy soil can act as a natural filter for water.

These ingredients – thoughtful engineering and healthy soil – will help make the world greener and the water cleaner.  Contact us today for your bioretention/stormwater/rain garden/bioswale/soil needs.

Community Service: A Spotlight on New England

We wanted to shine a spotlight on a few of our recent community service activities in New England.

Soggily Supporting Earth Day

On a soggy April day, our corporate office team helped spread compost and plant seeds at a local farm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Fun (and wet socks) was had by all.

Donating Compost, Changing Lives

Our customer service team at Harvest New England always goes the extra mile when it comes to delivering great products. More than that, we want the world to be a better place. Check out some of these awesome, local non-profits that we’ve supported for many years.

Herbs of Vision

A self-described “start-up social enterprise” called Herbs of Vision reached out for compost. Here’s what happened next, as described by Sharon in Harvest’s customer department:

“In January, I received a phone call for a compost order. When I discovered the compost was going to an Alternative School in Hartford, I offered it as a  donation. Yovel Badash explained who the students were and how they ended up at the program. This program is basically the very last option for these kids, the choices are slim, jail or there. Long story short, I decided to continue the relationship and basically offered the manpower and resources to help them expand the gardens. This year they will add outdoor gardens to grow the vegetables. We met with them, toured the school, spoke with the Principal and will send a donation next week. The students will be responsible for all the planning, layout, and all the hard work that goes in to creating them.”

Learn more about this neat Herbs of Vision program through Hartford Schools or through the Herbs of Vision Kickstarter campaign.

Growing Great Schools

This program – Growing Great Schools – is operated in West Hartford, Connecticut, and provides cooking classes for ages 5-11 that connect food, heath and the environment. Harvest New England has delivered soil to them for the last 10+ years, before they were even a non-profit.

New Britain Roots

Yet another awesome program, New Britain Roots makes healthy food accessible and affordable to low-income neighbors. Harvest New England has been donating soil for about 4 years, watching them grow and have an even greater impact in the community through partnerships with Connecticut farmers, food artisans and healthy food advocates.

Auer Farm

We were honored to provide Auer Farm with soil. They have a 4-H Education Center that connects people, agriculture, and the environment through education and recreation. Our relationship with their team goes back 18+ years. Our customer service team reports:

“They love our product and customer service so much that we were asked to supply the Hartford Court House with compost. They had the inmates build garden beds to grow food and donated it to the shelters.”

Haddam Garden Club

Local garden clubs such as the Haddam Garden Club benefit from our top quality soil products as well. Just in from a leader of a group:

“Well, we dodged the rain today while the Haddam Garden Club did our civic garden projects.  The compost you donated was a big hit – everyone commented how wonderful it was to work with! We probably used ¾ of the pile so far, and there are still a few small gardens to do. I helped out at the Library gardens where we expanded the butterfly garden, and amended the front garden; and also at the transfer station where we are gradually filling in the “island” with plantings.  I’ve enclosed a few photos of our work parties at these two locations.  There were many others working at the rest of the gardens around town…I just couldn’t get to all of them.” ~KC

It is so wonderful to hear the stories of how our soil improves spaces, and provides smiles!

Annie Fisher Montessori

The six-and-a-half acre campus at Annie Fisher Montessori in the northwest part of Hartford Connecticut provides fertile ground for students. It’s another excellent school program that keeps growing.

Seeds of Change

We’re a partner with Seeds of Change, a “seed to plate” organic company.

Raising the (Legal) Bar

Some of our community service comes in a different flavor than soils and mulches and recycling. For example, the Massachusetts Bar Association recently honored our Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Christopher Mirick, for his pro bono work with underserved communities seeking due wages and proper housing. We are so proud of you, Chris. Keep up the great work in and out of the office!

Make Your Bed!

Mothers (and fathers) around the world are known for saying, “Make your bed!” This time of year, especially in honor of Mother’s and Father’s Day, we like to interpret that statement as a request to make a raised bed. Here’s an update on that topic with some support and inspiration.

First, for support, common questions include:

Second, for inspiration, here’s a few styles of raised beds we’ve recently seen around town.

 

Long, tall beds make for easier weeding. And check out that thick mulch: keeps everything nice and tidy around the beds.

Strawberries! Yum.

Strawberries along the perimeter, plus asparagus (a perennial as well) in the inside. This is a bed that will be a springtime favorite for years to come.

Who says a raised bed needs to have boards around it? These earthy mounds achieve the same goal, with tidy paths in-between each bed.

We support healthy soil!

 

What are you growing in your raised bed this year?

If you carrot all about soil health, these puns walnut let you down

Have you been wining about low yields? Citrus down on that chair and let me squash your problems.

If you carrot all about soil health, lettuce almond your soil by raisin the bar for healthy soil.

So water your waiting for?

You butternut say it’s too expensive, because with the cashew make back on your increased yields, you can berry those costs in the dirt.

Like a bee puts nectarine in its hive, compost put nutrients directly in your soil. If your barley hanging in there with these puns, compost your comments on our website.

We walnut let you down.

~Created by Adam Pescatore

What’s the return on investment (ROI) for mulch?

It’s tax season. It’s also the time of year we refer to as “mulch madness.” These two seemingly unrelated events dovetail into some earthy calculations.

The query: What’s the return on investment (ROI) for mulch?

We know, inherently, that mulch is “good”: it reduces weeds, maintains soil temperatures, retains moisture, and enhances the soil. But what is its value?

Well calculations will vary depending on a range of factors (e.g. amount of time to initially prune, cost of mulch, time it takes to apply it, appreciation for beauty, seasonal and product variation and how it interacts with the landscape, etc). But let’s toss those quibbles aside, make some assumptions, and try to provide some shape around this notion.

First, let’s look at the scope of the case study in the following video of a “Tree Pedicure”:

It took about 20 minutes to do a tune up on this tree: trimming suckers, removing vegetation to the drip line, and adding a 3” layer of mulch spread evenly away from the trunk. This includes pulling out supplies and tools and getting organized, and putting away tools.

Next, let’s refresh our memories on how to calculate return on investment, or ROI. In short it’s the (gains – investment costs) / (investment costs). Written out, it’s the gains minus the investment costs, divided by the investment costs.

So, for example, if I sold orange juice for $8 (my gains) and it cost me $4 to make it (my investment costs), my ROI would be ($8-$4 / $4) = 1, or a 100% ROI.

Finally, let’s dive in and look at this case of applying mulch. Using really broad and fast brushstrokes, here are the background metrics for the calculations.

Investment Costs:

  • Time (20 minutes, with time valued at $60/hr to make math easy): $20
  • Materials (2 bags of mulch, with a very generous budget): $10
  • TOTAL INVESTMENT COSTS: $30

Gains:

  • Time (since the mulch will repress weeds, one gains back the time not needed to weed throughout spring and summer, estimating 5 minutes per month for the next six months: $30
  • Look (how much one would pay to look out over a pretty landscape; say $0.10 per day for six months): $18
  • Nutrients added to soil slowly over time (yikes. With no idea how to calculate this. Let’s give it a small value): $2
  • TOTAL INVESTMENT GAINS: $50

So the ROI on this particular project is…drum roll please… [($50-$30)/$30] = 66%.

A 66% ROI is stunning.

This example is, of course, an example. It’s an illustration. It’s a way to think about the time and money that you could spend this spring tuning up your landscape and applying mulch – while weeds are still small! – and how much gain, or return, you could experience from that investment.

Have tips on how you would tweak these calculations?  Please share!

Want to learn more? Related articles include:

The Soil-Health Connection

Have you noticed the increased awareness around the interlocking connections between soil, nature, and wellness?  We have.  While doctors don’t yet prescribe bags of soil or mulch – take two and call me in the morning! – communities are increasingly recognizing that nature provides boundless benefits.  Here are a few examples:

  • Soil Health ConnectionSOIL HAS SURPRISING HEALING PROPERTIES:
    Healthy soil has lots of micro- and macro-bacteria, and interacting with that dynamic environment develops your own biosphere. Read about how dirt heals us.
  • GARDENING IS EXERCISE!
    Bending, scooping, weeding and planting burns 200-400 calories per hour.
  • FRESH AIR IMPROVES YOUR HEALTH.
    Seriously: Doctors are now prescribing visits to parks.  Skip the visit to the doctor and go straight to your backyard, park, or playground.
  • NATURE CAN MAKE YOU MORE SUCCESSFUL:
    Noticing your surroundings makes you more present, more mindful, and arguably more successful. Take a moment to notice your surroundings and you’ll get better at staying calm and focused.
  • NATURE MAKES US HAPPY.
    The author of Nature Fix spent three years researching how nature impacts our brains.

Have you noticed a connection between how much time you spend in nature and your level of wellness?

How Bulbs are Like Pop Up Meat Thermometers for Spring

There you are, strolling down a sidewalk or park path, when you happen to notice that things are pushing up at your feet. No, not dogs. Rather, little sprigs of green. They’re shooting up and making way for beautiful bulbs that “turn on” as natural bulbs tend to do: with blooms of beauty. White, purple, yellow, red: the earliest ones – snowdrops and crocuses, then daffodils and tulips – signal a turn of season and gently usher us into warmer temperatures and longer days.

Like the “pop” of a meat thermometer signaling the readiness of a cooked bird*, I see the “pop” of a bulb as a signal of warmer soil temperatures. With meat, you open the oven and get greeted with a blast of warm air. With bulbs, you can nod at the color, turn your head towards the sun and say, “Welcome, spring.”

Related links:

*As remembered from childhood.

Purple is the New Green: How Harvest’s 30 Cubic Yard Roll Off Containers Help Landscapers Recycle Green Waste

Purple 30 Yard Roll CanDriving around the Washington-Baltimore Metro Area, you may see gigantic purple dumpsters. Here’s the scoop.

What are these purple dumpsters?

The purple beauties are 30-cubic-yard roll-off containers, also known as dumpsters or cans. Harvest manages approximately 40 containers through year-long lease agreements providing ‘switch-out service’ described below and one time ‘wait to load’ service for tight spaces.

Who uses them?

Landscaping and golf course customers primarily use them to store yard trimmings, leaves, brush, grass, and any other vegetation. We will leave an empty container in the customer’s shop yard then when it is full they call to have a switch-out done. We then bring another empty container, drop it alongside the full container, and haul back the full container of green waste to be brought back to our Woodbine yard for further processing into compost and high quality organic products.

Why use purple roll off cans?

In short, these purple roll-off containers represent tremendous savings to customers that generate green waste.

  • Saves time. Landscapers go out to a job and come back to their yard with a truckload of yard trimmings and debris. Instead of going to the landfill they can just unload into the purple can, easy peasy. Same with golf courses.
  • Saves fuel. Instead of driving all the way to the landfill, they have their collection and storage right on site.
  • Saves labor. Harvest provides a convenient “switch-out service” meaning whenever the container is full, they call and we come and switch it out with an empty container. In busy seasons, some customers fill up their container in just 2 days. Instead of sending a crew to deal with the trimmings, they call Harvest up to take it away.
  • Saves space. These bins and service are perfect for clearing divisions on smaller or limited space projects where a walking-floor tractor trailer would be impractical or unnecessary.
  • Saves the planet. We allow landscapers to easily divert yard trimmings from landfills. Not only does this reduce greenhouse gases associated with organic waste in landfills, but we also further process the greenwaste into mulches and compost and organic products. Note: behind the container is our top quality aged double shredded hardwood mulch.

Contact us today for a roll-off can service for green waste in the Metro-DC-Baltimore Region

  • CALL: 410-795-7666
  • VISIT: Harvest Mid Atlantic’s Webpage

Flower Power: 3 Tips to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, wedding season, or simply a lovely bouquet to brighten up a space, here are our favorite, fast and easy tips for how to make cut flowers last longer.

  1. GET EDGEY: Before placing the flowers into water, cut the stems at an angle instead of directly across. The increased surface area will allow more uptake of water and nutrients.

cut flower stems at an angle

 

  1. THE SOLUTION IS PART OF THE SOLUTION: Add the little packet of nutrients that come with most bouquets (it’s basically sugar). NOTE: If you don’t have a little packet that came with your cut flowers – perhaps you picked your own bouquet – you can make your own. Mix into the vase water:
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (to reduce bacteria growth in the water)
    • 2 tablespoons sugar (to provide energy to the cut flowers)
  1. HIT REFRESH. Change the water (with fresh vinegar and sugar, if possible, and freshly cut stems) every few days.

OTHER IDEAS: Some say to add a copper penny and a cube of sugar to the vase water; that the copper in pennies is thought to act like an acidifier, which prevents the growth of bacteria. Other suggestions from Readers’ Digest include adding a few drops of vodka plus a teaspoon of sugar. They also tried aspirin!  What do you find works best to keep your flowers in tip top shape?

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