Urban Gardening in Denver

About three or four years ago I bought a juniper bonsai, at the Mile High Flea Market, and it was all over. Since then I have raised a few bonsai, and killed a few more. I now have five different, healthy bonsai. They all have their quirks and temperaments and it’s super cool to watch them change and adapt; to the edge of life and back in some cases. Because of the close, careful attention you pay to keeping plants like these, I developed a closeness to and understanding of growing.

Keeping these little guys alive has made me incredibly interested in growing plants and using accessories like a dust collector could be helpful to keep your little garden free. It seemed such a natural thing to do, however I knew so few people who did it. When I moved into my place on Capitol Hill, I planted a grand garden in the two and a half foot strip of  dirt in front of the building. By the end of the summer I had -no lie- 12′ tall sunflowers with 8″-10″ faces, brown-eyed Susan climbing the walls, tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, corn and even a pumpkin patch.

My freshly planted city garden. 11th and Clarkson Street Denver, Colorado; Spring 2006

In 2009 I did a 5 month SEO internship with nationally recognized SEO strategist, and all-around great dude to know, Everett Sizemore. Besides being a search engine optimization wizard he was also the original organizer of the Greater Denver Urban Homesteading Group, had a hooked-up backyard garden and hopped town to go back to simple living at his own farm in Virginia.

That did a bunch for my plant bug, and I knew that growing greens was going to be part of what I did for now on…all I needed was a new apartment…and all I needed for that was a new job.

Then I got all that… I have a new job (newer then my last crappy job) and also a new apartment. The job I have happened to be a really great resource for not only home and urban gardening but also sustainable living and solar products & information. So here I am, stoked to have a sweet job working in an industry that A) has a lot of cool shit that I’m into, but also B) has spent the last 30 years providing eco-friendly options for consumers who choose to reduce their impact on the world they live on…or because it’s trendy…or because they’re our stockholders. The truth is, I really don’t care why as long as it’s clean and fair.

I digress…

When I mentioned to my boss that I was going to start a vermicompost bin in my new place, she took me to the product shelf and showed me a Worm Factory Home Composter and told me I could use it. Vermicomposting is composting with worms. It is touted as clean and odorless, so you can do it indoors. I’ve never been afraid of a little dirt and worms, however I can’t say I’m the best at keeping things clean. I suppose it will be a learning experience in a handful of subjects.

Worm Factory on my porch

Currently my compost bin is set up on my balcony. The instructions said that the worms do best in temperatures between 40-80 degrees. The week after I set it up Denver had a string of 98-100 degree weather. I put the bin in the wrong corner of the porch, in the direct sun. A week later I think I killed all of my worms. I have since found a more suitable, shady corner of the porch for the worm bin. The first batch of kitchen waste I put in there has been mellowing in the sun for a week, but there is still no odor. It started to become dry, so I added a glass of water to add moisture. Next week I’ll go back to the garden store and get more worms.

Since I have no compost, and likely no live worms left, I don’t have a lot to say about composting. Getting ready to compost is pretty awesome though…

I love to cook tasty food. If you know me, you know this. As I was learning how to cook I was cognizant about how much plant waste you throw away. All the carrot peels, onion heels, herb stems and everything else I don’t use now go into the compost bag. The secret to not having a stinky compost bin is to not use anything fatty or any animal by products. I don’t eat a lot of meat so it’s pretty easy to keep the waste separate. Currently when I fix meals I keep a paper bag lined with produce bags. I’d love to get a sweet bamboo kitchen compost collector, but this will do for now.

My makeshift kitchen waste collector

What are my plans for this big bucket of worm shit? Plants! Bonsai, container gardens, herbs…it’ll be epic.


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