Tag Archives: soil

Zero Waste: coffee grinds for your garden

The key to being zero waste is finding all the little ways to avoid throwing things out. And sometimes that means taking things in too. Which is exactly what I do with coffee grinds. The little bit I create at home gets added to the garden, but it’s never enough. Every month I make a run to Starbucks for a commercial-size bag of coffee grinds. And that allows me to skip buying fertilizer at the store.

The science behind coffee grinds in the garden is pretty simple. It’s a rich source of nitrogen and minor amounts of other soil nutrients – phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. The same items you will find in a bag of fertilizer at the store. But do be careful when adding coffee grinds to plants, as it might interfere with growth. It is best to place in the soil – tilling 6-8 inches deep – before or after planting.

And that’s perfect for me. I can avoid throwing away coffee grinds, avoid buying fertilizer at the store, and take in trash from other places. The local coffee shops throw away their grinds unless someone asks for them. And the baristas love handing them over because it means they don’t have to take out the trash.

It’s just one partĀ of zero waste but it shows how easy it can be. Not to mention money saving – no more fertilizer – and helpful for the community. Can you believe I’m reducing the trash that Starbucks creates?

 

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MESSENGER sends first data back to Earth – uncovers ice on Mercury

For several years scientists have been begging to test their theories about Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. You see, the radar signals come back showing ice exists on the planet, but how could ice exist on a planet so incredibly hot?

NASA sent the spacecraft MESSENGER to orbit the planet and figure the mystery out (among other things). It turns out that ice exists at the planet north and south poles and possibly underneath some “dirt-shielding”.

All of this was uncovered by Professor David Paige, who has previous experience with Mars and the Moon, as he explains in his own words:

 

“I was able to use the Mercury laser altimeter in conjunction with a three-dimensional ray-tracing thermal model that I built to study ice on the moon, Paige said. “Using these models, I calculated the average temperature on the surface of the planet and concluded that the surface temperatures were too warm to permit the long-term stability of ice. The only possibility was some sort of thin layer of cover that allowed the ice to survive.”

This thin, dark layer is called a regolith and is probably made of organic substances like the Earth’s soil, rich in hydrocarbon compounds that may have come from the comets and meteorites that struck the planet over time. The comets and meteorites may have also contributed the water that seeped under the soil cover to form the icy patches.

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MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Its goal is to collect better data about the composition and atmosphere of the planet, and it just completed its first year of information gathering.

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While the mix of water and organic compounds on another planet may raise the possibility of extraterrestrial life for some scientists, this is not what excites Paige. For him, the discovery of ice on Mercury is the triumph of science.

“We’re getting a good agreement between models and observations,” Paige said. “What we thought was true is true. The most exciting part of this? We may not know lot of things, but on Mercury we have things under control.”

via UCLA Today

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The benefits of raised bed gardening

It’s springtime and I’ll be out doing some planting today. Yesterday, at the farmers market, I picked up four seedlings: Pepper, Heirloom Tomato, Thai Basil, and Mexican Squash.

Before getting started I looked up what a ‘raised bed’ was. I had been hearing a lot about them and was wondering why they’re so popular. Turns out they have several endearing features:

  • Conserve water
  • Extend the planting season
  • Reduce weeds
  • Reduce the need to use poor native soil
  • Higher yields
  • Serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails
  • Can be planted earlier in the season because the soil is warmer when it is above ground level.

Raised bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3 – 4 foot wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately 6 inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost.

The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved.

Additionally, waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them.

via Wikipedia

 

// Photo via mccun934