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Urban composting


When we moved to California from Massachusetts, we traded our stunning half-acre yard for a concrete patio with a raised garden bed – and we were pretty lucky to get that! We had a massive compost bin in Massachusetts, and I learned to really appreciate that nutrient rich soil for gardening! Our raised garden beds here have really poor soil (most of the soil in our area isn’t very good), and I wanted some of that richness but didn’t have the space for a compost bin. Our indoor space is also limited, and I didn’t want to use it for a worm compost bin – although those look really cool – especially with a very curious toddler on the loose!

So, I decided to speed up the compost process with a little help from our very sturdy (Vitamix) blender! Any time we have compostable food, it goes in the blender. I fill it with water, and we create nutrient-rich plant juice. This works really well in California, where it rarely rains (it still hasn’t rained properly, and we have been here almost two months!) I got pretty spoiled in Massachusetts, where it rained so often that rarely needed to water my garden. This urban method of composting helps me remember to water my plants!

What are your best tips for urban or small space living? I’ll be posting about how we’re making four kids in one room work, sometime soon. I’m just hoping to finish part of the kids’ room before I take pictures!

Do you have a garden in California or a similar climate? What do you recommend that we plant? I need to take advantage of the gorgeously mild weather here! We don’t get a lot of sunlight in our yard, so I need plants that do well in shade or partial sunlight.



MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

23 thoughts on “Urban composting”

  1. Great idea! Could you e-mail me your new home address? Thanks a lot! We’re doing great, most of the time. :) This Christmas season I want to spend quiet and homey… as every year actually. It’s just that so often appointments just sneek in.

  2. LOL on cursing us! We do have a small veggie garden. Chives and tomatoes are doing well for us, and now in winter salad and other herbs are doing quite well. Even our scorched parsley recovered, and I enjoy being able to snip herbs from outside when I need them for cooking.

    1. We had curbside composting when I lived in Vienna (Austria). It was great for the planet, but my siblings and I hated when it was our turn to take the compost out, because those bins really stunk!

  3. I was told to blend our compostable food before feeding it to the worms in our worm farm, but I haven’t taken the time. I just pop in the scraps and pour some water over. The kids collect the resulting worm tea in the mornings and dilute it in their containers for watering their plants.

    We had good success with broccoli this past winter, but only on the plants that had plenty of sun. We are currently growing tomatoes which call for full sun, but the sun is so strong here (near a hole in the ozone?) that the plants with partial shade are doing better than the ones in the sunny spots where the broccoli did so well. The most successful tomato plant so far (with fewer leaves but more tomatoes and flowers) is the one we are growing upside down, in a specially-designed container hanging from a hook.

    Chives, kale, parsley, and lettuce are doing well with little sun, but the lettuce seems to need more water than I’ve been giving it this spring. Rosemary is very easy – just have to watch out it doesn’t grow too big. Is your soil sandy? Ours is and we need to add clay and manure (cow, sheep, or chicken) to make it work.

    1. We have a HUGE rosemary bush in our raised planter that the previous owners grew – it definitely grows well! Our soil is sandy – thanks for the tips on making it work! I really appreciate your sharing how your garden is growing, since your climate is similar (although ours is cooler than yours!)

      I didn’t realize (or had forgotten?) that you have a worm farm! I would love to learn more – miss your blog!

  4. You cursed us! It usually starts to rain the week after Thanksgiving. Luckily, my bike commute this morning was dry and there was a break in the evening rain for me to get home relatively dry. We use Miracle Gro for our plants. I’m too impatient to compost in our small place. Our garden gets lots of sun. I didn’t have good luck with partial sun gardens in the past. I guess I wasn’t planting the right thing.

      1. Ya, I think I’ll suck it up and drive tomorrow. Running up a mud hill lugging 70 lbs behind me ~18 wks pregnant doesn’t seem like the best idea.

  5. What a great idea. How does that work? You just blend the compostable food together and you can pour it on plants? Would that be ok for indoor plants or does that get smelly? I’m intrigued! We don’t compost but I’d love to try on a small scale.

    1. I blend it with quite a bit of water – so it’s similar to juice in thickness, at the most, rather than a normal smoothie. I think it could work indoors, if you fold some soil over it after you pour it on. If you just pour it on, you might end up with fruit fly or smell issues.

  6. That sounds like a great idea! I can not imagine having to place four kids in the same bedroom. We used to live in a tiny house in Sacramento but were blessed three years ago with the opportunity to move up to Washington State. The cost of living up here is much, much less and we live in a beautiful two story home on a corner with a nice big yard. I am so glad we got out of California when we did. Even though we have family down in Sacramento my husband and I don’t want to ever live down there again.

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