Friday, April 6, 2012

Preschool Easter Eggs

The Arbor Heights Coop Preschool contributed a big crate of eggs today.  Yea!

Thanks to Teacher Karen for having the inspiration for this.  You can read the full story at the West Seattle Blog.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Easter Egg Pickup April 9

I will be picking up Easter eggs on Monday, April 9 in the morning (West Seattle only).  If you have eggs to donate, please email me and let me know your address and where you will leave them for pickup.  Please set them out by 8am.   I will use the eggs to fertilize our garden the following weekend.

I don't advocate using edible food for fertilizing gardens.  However, most food handling guidelines state that hard boiled eggs should not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.  Also, if they've been in the grass or handled by multiple people, its probably wise not to eat them.

Please don't buy a quantity of eggs just to fertilize your garden.  There are cheaper and more sustainable options to choose from.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't you need to compost food wastes first? Doesn't it smell?

If you have a fertile garden soil that has organic matter (e.g. added compost) and a balanced pH (not too acidic or alkaline), you should be able to add food wastes in moderate amounts and let the soil ecosystem take care of it.  If the soil is low in organic matter, there might not be enough life in the soil to rapidly breakdown the influx of protein into nitrogen.  If the pH is too high or low, that would also affect the ability of the soil critters to respond rapidly.

A key component to this is mixing the wastes in well so that they don't smell and the neighborhood varmits don't have a chance to get a mouthful of the stuff.  So that's the other part of this.  Don't do it if it can be turned in or soaked in.  I have done this with sour milk, raw eggs and hard boiled eggs.  I have never noticed a smell from the decomposition process.  On the other hand, when I use commercial fish fertilizer, THAT smells!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How do you do it? One formula.

A large egg has 6 grams of protein. Egg protein is 15% nitrogen.  Therefore each egg has about 1 gram of nitrogen.

Our soil test came back with the recommendation of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet.  I think that's too low.  I've seen fertilizer recommendations come in double or triple that.  But this gives a range to work in.

There are about 450 grams per pound.  So this gives you a rough idea of how many eggs we are talking about (lots!)  One garden bed that is 20 feet long and 5 feet wide needs a minimum of 45 eggs.  One hundred would be better.  That's eight dozen eggs per 100 square feet, or about 1 egg per square foot.  Convenient, no? 

How I do it.  First, if I am going to turn the soil or add compost, I do that ahead of time during a dry stretch.  When I am ready to fertilize, I wait until the soil has had a chance to dry out a bit (not on a rainy day like today!) I make small, shallow furrows in the soil about 1" deep and 6" apart.  I locate a blender and set up eggs and blender operation in the garden. 
side dressing garlic.  First I make shallow furrows.

I put about 6 eggs in the blender and cover them with water.  I blend them up thoroughly and add more water until I have a pourable liquid.   Right after I turn the blender off, I move quickly to the garden bed and pour the blender contents along the furrow while the solids are still well suspended. The six egg mixture should be spread about 10-12 feet down a furrow, so be sparing. 
6 eggs in the blender

After the egg mixture is all spread, I would wait for a few minutes so the water can drain out of the soil surface.  then I would take a hoe and work egg mix into the furrows gently and then smooth the soil surface out.  If the soil is dry, I water lightly then. 
applying the egg mixture in the furrow

I think that the soil microbes will start to work on the nutrients right away.  I would wait a few days before planting.  That way, the microbes will do their thing and thecarbon:nitrogen ratio will have a chance to settle down a bit.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Examples of wastes that are good nitrogen sources

Here are some of the types of waste that are good sources of nitrogen.  They may also contain other nutrients as well that your plants may need.

  • Milk - I have used sour milk as fertilizer for many years.  My first experiment was as a teenager using it in windowboxes planted with geraniums at a rental beach house.  The ones that got milk were visibly more vigorous.  That sold me on the idea.  I dilute it 1:4 with water and water around the plants. 
  • Eggs - Last year, I experimented with fertilizing with expired and hard boiled eggs.  Both worked well.
  • Beans - I have used beans as cover crop, but never used cooked beans so far.  Should work if there is not too much salt.  I will have a future post on what is "too much" salt.
  • Lean meat, lightly salted - usually not canned or prepared meats.  
  • Yogurt - as long as the fat content is not too high.  Look at calories from fat versus total calories.  It should not be more than half.  Some low and no fat yogurts are especially high in protein from added milk solids.  Those are the best.
  • Tofu - a great protein source and therefore a great fertilizer, too.

Examples of bad sources:  Cheese, high fat meats, most canned foods, soups, other foods that are mostly water.
In my next post, I will discuss how to use these raw materials.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What is Urban Nitrogen

Food that contains protein contains nitrogen.  Nitrogen is the most common component of fertilizer.  It is usually the factor that determines crop yield in a garden.
I am fairly careful about wasting food.  However, I still end up with the carton of sour milk, the brick of tofu several weeks past date, a can of beans that were opened for a burrito but got lost in the back of the fridge.  These are all excellent sources of nitrogen for the garden.  
Not all high protein foods are good fertilizers.  High fat foods are not good because the soil flora and fauna have a hard time digesting fats.  High salt foods are not good for the soil either.  So cheese, salty canned things, and many preparations of meat are not good candidates.
One very good candidate is the annual batch of dyed Easter eggs that you or your neighbor might have.  They are high in protein, low in salt, reasonable in the amount of fat, and they come at the right time of the year for gardening.  In my next post, I will describe how to use hard boiled eggs as garden fertilizer.