How To Start Your Own Compost Pile

If you’re planning your fall garden this month why not add a compost pile to the mix? Composting is a natural way to dispose of organic waste by breaking down organic material and transforming it into a nutrient rich soil additive, known as compost. Compost is a great, eco-friendly fertilizer for your garden. It loosens heavy clay so plants can thrive and helps sandy soil hold onto nutrients and moisture. Compost also encourages beneficial microorganisms that help your plants grow strong and healthy.

Getting your compost pile started is easy. Dolphin Blue has put together an easy to follow guide to help you take your fall garden to the next level!

Choose a spot. Select a warm, sunny spot for your compost. The composting material you put in will break down more quickly if the compost pile is warm and higher temperatures will help kill off any weeds that try to grow.  The microorganisms at work in your compost breaking down organic materials prefer warm temperatures as well.

Build your compost bin. You can create a successful compost pile directly on the ground but many people choose to keep a compost bin because it looks neater, can discourage animals from getting into food scraps, and also helps to regulate moisture and temperature. Your compost pile or bin should be at least 3 x 3 x 3 feet. A pile this size will have enough mass to decompose whether in a bin or on the ground.

Gather your composting material. Start by gathering two shovel-fulls of garden soil to help introduce the correct bacteria to start the compost cycle. Then collect a balanced mixture of “green stuff” and “brown stuff” for your compost pile.

  • Green stuff is high in nitrogen and helps to activate the heat process in your compost. These materials include young weeds, barnyard animal manure, grass cuttings, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, teas leaves, and plants.
  • Brown stuff is high in carbon and helps to serve as the fiber for your compost. These materials include autumn leaves, dead plants and weeds, sawdust, cardboard, dried flowers/straw/hay, and animal bedding.

Fill your compost pile.
Start by spreading a layer several inches thick of dry brown stuff, like straw or leaves, where you want to build your pile. Add a layer of several inches of green stuff on top. Then add a thin layer of garden soil and another layer of brown stuff. Moisten the layers with water. Continue layering green stuff and brown stuff with a little garden soil mixed in until the pile is 3 feet high. Aim for a mixture of anywhere from 3 parts brown stuff to 1 part green stuff to half and half, depending on what composting materials you have.

(Click here for a list of things you can and cannot compost.)

Turn your compost pile every week or two. The goal of turning your compost is to keep air flowing inside the pile which encourages aerobic bacteria and decomposition. Anaerobic decomposition will smell very sour (like vinegar) and decomposes materials more slowly than aerobic bacteria. Turning the pile helps to encourage the growth of the right kind of bacteria and makes for a nice, sweet-smelling pile that will decompose faster.

  • Move your composting material from inside to outside and from top to bottom. Break up any clumps. Add water or wet, green materials if it seems too dry. Add dry, brown materials if your pile seems too wet.
  • Take the opportunity while you turn your pile to introduce new composting matter and mix it well with the older matter.

When you first turn your pile, you may see steam rising from it. This is a sign that the pile is heating up as a result of the materials in it decomposing. If you turn the pile every couple of weeks and keep it moist, the center of the pile will turn into black, crumbly, sweet-smelling “black gold”. When you have enough finished compost in your pile to use in your garden, shovel out the fertilizer you have created and start your next compost pile with any material that hadn’t fully decomposed in the previous one.

Composting Tips:

  • For faster break-down, shred leaves or clippings and crush egg shells
  • Add some red worms to your compost pile to aid in the decomposition process
  • Keep a mini compost bin indoors near your meal preparation area that is easy to fill up, transport daily to the compost bin, and keep clean
  • Collect the grass trimmings when you mow your yard to compost, unless you have a mulching mower
  • Cover your compost pile with a black garden cloth to help raise the temperature. If you live in town, this keeps the area looking tidier while still allowing the necessary airflow
  • Don’t add materials to the compost pile that are marked as “never compost”
  • Add more garden soil to help reduce any smells coming from the compost pile
  • Keep your compost heap moist, but not soggy or wet. The precious microorganisms can die if they dry up and the composting process will slow down

For eco-friendly gardening products such as organic fertilizers and seeds, be sure to check out the lawn and garden section of DolphinBlue.com!

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Infographic Friday: Let Nature Inspire you

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator. He founded a philosophy known as organic architecture, in which he believed it possible to design structures in harmony with humanity and the environment. Fallingwater, Wright’s best known work, is a Pennsylvania home he designed that sits partly on top of a waterfall and is considered to be one of the top pieces of American architecture.

In 1991, Wright was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as the greatest architect of all time. He drew his inspiration from the world around him and from the beauty he found in nature and perhaps that is why his art continues to inspire us today.

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6 Natural Ways to Keep Your Home & Garden Pest Free

Catnip

Most cats adore catnip but this herb has been found to be very effective in repelling mosquitoes.

There are many ways to keep your home and garden pest free this summer without the use of harmful chemicals found in common pesticides. Check out Dolphin Blue‘s eco-friendly solutions below and let us know what you think!

  • Basil. Keep flies away by planting this great smelling herb in small pots along windowsills and doorways. Don’t forget to keep some of your basil in the kitchen in case you need to add some to your next meal.
  • Catnip. Add some of your cat’s favorite plant to your garden to keep mosquitoes away. Studies have shown that catnip can repel mosquitoes more effectively than the controversial pesticide DEET. You can also crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin for added protection.
  • Citrus. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice with water and spray along your windowsills and doorways to keep out pesky spiders. Spread the remaining citrus peels out in your garden to keep spiders at bay.
  • Vinegar. Fill a small dish with vinegar, a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap, and water to trap and kill fruit flies. You can also use vinegar to create a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water to wipe along surfaces in order to destroy the scent trails that ants use to navigate.
  • Cinnamon Bark Oil. Mix several drops of this essential oil in a 1:1 solution of water and denatured alcohol to help control dust mites in your home. Spray the mixture wherever dust collects.
  • Irish Spring Soap. You can hang, spike or sprinkle this soap near the areas of your yard that fall prey to hungry deer. They don’t like the smell and will stay away from your tasty lettuce, beans, and pansies.

Dolphin Blue’s lawn and garden section is ripe with sustainable products for your indoor and outdoor garden. Check them out on DolphinBlue.com!

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Infographic Friday: Guerilla Gardening

Ron Finley is an inspiring gardener in South Central Los Angeles. He plants vegetable gardens in some of the most unlikely places: abandoned lots, traffic medians, even along the curbs of neighborhood streets. Why does he do it? Check out the infographic below and then follow this link to watch his TED Talk. Maybe it will inspire you like it inspired us at Dolphin Blue.

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Party Time: How to throw the greenest bash on your block

Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste — each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.

SeptPoolParty-2

But you don’t have to be a part of those negative statistics — green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:


Invitations

nlg_bbqpoolpartyIf the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted — it makes for an invite that your guests won’t soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out Bloomin’s seed paper, which contain wildflower seeds in every sheet.

Food
Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food Preserve TableWarepossible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods — that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there’s no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic). Try these black bean and corn quesadillas from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; see more green recipes here.

If it’s a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America’s site.

Décor and Centerpieces
Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plantsgrp_edr_centerpiece_april, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting.

Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party’s at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work — anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.

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A Green Halloween: The scariest holiday doesn’t have to be scary for the earth

halloween_pumpkinHolidays can wreak havoc on the planet with their travel, treats, and trimmings, and Halloween is no exception. Fortunately, there are plenty of small steps you can take to reduce the impact of this spooky day on the environment. Read on to find out how to keep Halloween a treat for Mother Earth.
 
The Costumes
Instead of buying a new costume, make one from items you already have in your home, trade last year’s costume with someone else for the night, or rent an outfit. Homemade costumes are creative and often more memorable than store-bought ones. If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, don’t worry — there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects out there for the domestically challenged. Get some ideas from iVillage and about.com, or try a thrift store for vintage finds. If you do decide to go the store-bought route, look for something that may be useful later on, like for a theme party, your kids’ dress-up chest, or even for everyday wear.
 
The Trick-or-Treating
When trick-or-treating, walk instead of driving from house to house. If it’s too cold or houses in your area are spreadtrick-or-treat-766190 apart, drive to one central location, like a mall that offers trick-or-treating. This is also a great alternative when rain or frigid temperatures make going outside difficult. If you do go outdoors, outfit your flashlight with rechargeable batteries.
 
And, of course, give the kiddos a recyclable bag to use. The old standard of a pillowcase still works well for this function, or they can take a reusable shopping bag or a paper bag they’ve decorated.
 
For something more outside the box, have your kids participate in Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign, a kind of reverse trick-or-treating. Instead of just taking candy when knocking on doors, kids hand adults a sample of vegan-friendly, fair-trade dark chocolate with a card that details the poverty and child labor problems in the cocoa industry that affect mainstream candy enjoyed at Halloween and year-round.
 
The Candy
When trick-or-treaters come to your door, show off your eco pride with candy that’s at least kind of good for them. (For an alternate idea, hand out non-edible trinkets, like stickers, pencils, and temporary tattoos.) Here are a few candy ideas:
 
The Organic Trick or Treat Candy Mix from NaturalCandyStore.com has 100-plus pieces of USDA-certified organic goodies, including mixed fruit lollipops, root beer float candy, and cinnamon rocks.
 
Green & Black’s Organic Miniature Bar Collection has everything from cocoa-rich milk chocolate with crunchy butterscotch or roasted almonds to bittersweet dark chocolate with sour cherries or crystallized ginger.
 
Chimp Mints Chocolate are bars of vegan chocolate sure to satisfy sweet tooths. All profits support the Jane Goodall Foundation.831-L
 
Candy Tree Lollipops are made from all-natural, organic ingredients in cherry, lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry flavors.
 
Sjaak’s Fair-Trade Organic Chocolate Mini-Bites are vegan chocolate bites packed with a punch in the middle — either caramel, mint, açaí berry, orange, or ginger.
 
The Decorations
Don’t forget that nature offers up plenty in the way of fall decorations — think pumpkins, bales of hay, and gourds, which all can be composted when you’re done. When buying pumpkins, look for organic and pesticide-free choices. The pumpkin seeds inside can be a good treat for humans and birds alike. If you buy a few decorations, try to get things that can be reused from year to year or are easily recycled. Set the ambience with soy-based candles and scary music.

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Party Time: How to throw the greenest bash on your block

SeptPoolParty-2Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste — each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.
 
But you don’t have to be a part of those negative statistics — green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:
 
Invitations
nlg_bbqpoolpartyIf the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted — it makes for an invite that your guests won’t soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out the innovative designs from Twisted Limb Paperworks, which offers the option to insert flower petals or wildflower seeds into the paper.
 
Food
Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food Preserve TableWarepossible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods — that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there’s no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic). Try these black bean and corn quesadillas from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; see more of his green recipes here.
 
If it’s a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America’s site.
 
Décor and Centerpieces
Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plantsgrp_edr_centerpiece_april, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting. 
 
Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party’s at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work — anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.

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A word from the CEO

sunThe swelter of summer is officially here — in Dallas, we’ve been experiencing triple-digit temperatures more days than not lately. There’s no better way to cool off — or, at least, brave the heat — than with a summer soiree for your friends, family, or the neighbors. The great outdoors is the best background for such a shindig, and you can easily incorporate earth-friendly principles into your party.

Don’t miss our Industry News, where you can learn about one airline’s step toward reduced carbon emissions, find out about an innovative program in Japan, and see the latest in green motorcycle manufacturing.

Enjoy the opportunity to throw a backyard bash while it lasts — sometimes, there’s nothing like those lazy, hazy days of summer.

Tom Kemper
President & Founder
Dolphin Blue

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