Composting for Your Vegetable Garden

by Shawnda on April 16, 2015

in Garden

Composting for your vegetable garden

Let’s talk about decaying organic material. Yum, right?

Whether you’re just now thinking about how to prep last year’s beds for the new season or you’re thinking about fertilizing your existing garden, you’re really thinking about composting.

As your garden grows, the plants take nutrients from the soil and you’ll get a little settling/dirt compaction. You’ll want to replace those nutrients and bring the soil levels up by adding additional compost.

What is compost? Decaying plant materials. Where do you get it? Your kitchen and your back yard. (Or the home improvement store.)

First a little history.

Composting for your vegetable garden

I started with a homebrew composter – I took a large plastic garbage can, drilled holes all around it, and bungee-corded the lid on. When the yard was mowed, I dumped the bagged clippings in the bin. As I weeded the garden or pulled half-eaten tomatoes off the vine (&^%$#@! squirrels), I put them in the bin. If I transplanted a small potted plant to the garden, I added any leftover potting soil to the bin.

Composting for your vegetable garden

The holes allowed for aeration – I would turn the crazy-heavy bin on it’s side and roll it around to mix things up. And because we were in the middle of a drought, I had to remember to add water since yard clippings didn’t add enough moisture. To get the compost out, I essentially had to dump the entire thing to get to the “good stuff” at the bottom. It was a total PITA to deal with.

Composting for your vegetable garden

So last year, I upgraded to this rotating composter for my birthday. (25-years-old-Shawnda would straight pass-out on the floor if she knew that she’d be asking for a glorified trash can for her birthday just 10 years in the future.)

How I Compost

Getting started: Since my bin has two sides, a “cooking” side and a “feed me” side, I started by filling just one side of the bin completely cram-packed full. Since we mow our own lawn, I just emptied the mower bag into the bin – it didn’t take but a few weekends to get the first side full enough so that it didn’t settle very much. Then I simply moved to the other side.

Compostables: Lawn clippings, obviously. Kitchen scraps – but only uncooked vegetable scraps. Nothing that has been coated with oils or cooked, no animal products, no meat leftovers, no cheese, no breads – just raw plant scraps. We’re talking banana peels, apple cores, stem-end of jalapenos, tomato cast-offs, carrot peelings, a bag of shredded coleslaw that you bought and then forgot about, etc. Oh, and plenty of juiced citrus halves :)  I keep a gallon zipper bag on my kitchen counter and collect scraps and then regularly take the bag to the bin, empty it, rinse it out, and start all over again. If the compost bin is looking a little on the dry side, I’ll empty the bag into the food processor with some water and make a (sorry) Compost Smoothie. (Sorry again) Slurry. No, let’s stick with smoothie.

Maintenance: Give the tumbler a whirl 1-2x a week. You also want the compost to stay relatively (sorry) moist – dry, dusty compost does no one any good. During the peak of the Texas summer, just regularly adding “wet” compostables usually isn’t enough. I also usually wet the compost a with the garden hose ~once a month, which leads us to…

Composting for your vegetable garden

Compost Tea: When it’s garden-hose time, I put two Styrofoam coolers (GO TEXANS!!) under the bin to catch the run-off. Because what comes out is pure liquid fertilizer. I usually spray in enough water to get ~2 gallons of tea. Then I cut the tea with an equal part of water, pour it into the watering can, and water the garden with it. World’s happiest tomato plants, I tell you.

Using the compost: I slide the door halfway open, rotate the bin door-side-down, and use a small garden spade and a spare garden pot to catch the compost. Then I take it to the garden and spread it out.

And the next time I mow the lawn, I simply start all over again with the empty side.

Alright, now. Who else is far more excited than they should be about dirt?

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Sweet & Spicy Salmon Tacos with Mango-Cucumber Salsa

There are 8 words – 8! – in that title so by the standards of internet food, you can be certain of one of two things: it’s either complete and utter garbage or it’s totally amazing.

And since we have eaten it 3 times in the last 2 weeks, I probably don’t have to convince you that it’s not complete and utter garbage. (I keep wanting to type ‘udder.’) ([giggle])

I don’t have the time or the budget to blow on complete and utter garbage.

Sweet & Spicy Salmon Tacos with Mango-Cucumber Salsa

This dish combines some of my favorite things: fruit + protein, Spicy Honey-Glazed Salmon, tortillas, and the last of the crumbled goat cheese I could bang out of the bowl. (Note to self: time to buy more goat cheese.)

(Note to your self: If you’ve never made the Spicy Honey-Glazed Salmon, you have to. Like, tonight. It’s the fastest, easiest clean-up recipe that might ever exist.)

Sweet & Spicy Salmon Tacos with Mango-Cucumber Salsa

Add a grilled pineapple margarita and take your plates to the back patio and you’ve got dinner perfection. Because as a native Texan, I know we only get 11 of these picture-perfect beautiful evenings a year before Mother Nature realizes she’s being too nice and fires up the broiler and unleashes the Hell-Hound Mosquitos.

Sweet & Spicy Salmon Tacos with Mango-Cucumber Salsa

Dry-rubbed salmon is broiled and then glazed with honey and lime before being topped with a fresh salsa and wrapped in a tortilla.

Ingredients

  • For the salmon:
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder (for much less heat, use standard chili powder)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (I use smoked)
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Several grinds black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • ~1.25 lb of skinless salmon filets
  • For the salsa:
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium cucumber, seeds removed and diced
  • ~1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 diced jalapeno (seeds removed for less heat)
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salt
  • For serving:
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Crumbled goat cheese
  • Small flour tortillas

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler and move the top rack to ~4-5 inches below element.
  2. Mix dried ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. In another small bowl, mix honey and lime juice together (a 10-second trip through the microwave is helpful).
  4. Line a pan with foil and lightly brush with olive oil or cooking spray.
  5. Place salmon on foil and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle the spices over the top of the salmon, rubbing over the top and sides of the fish.
  7. Broil for 5 minutes, brush with half of the honey mixture, and broil 1 more minute.
  8. Brush with remaining honey mixture and broil 1 minute.
  9. While the fish is cooking, toss the diced mango, cucumber, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and a pinch of salt together in a bowl. Squeeze 1-2 lime wedges over top.
  10. Remove the fish from oven and let sit 5 minutes before flaking with a fork and assembling as tacos.
  11. Serve topped with a generous scoop of salsa, crumbled goat cheese, and additional lime wedges on the side.

Notes

Yields: ~8 tacos

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 25 minutes

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Asparagus Carbonara

That bowl of creamy, carby heaven is the fat-pants counterpart to the zucchini noodle recipe that I posted last week.

It’s our favorite carbonara recipe, slimmed down, and then bulked up with a bunch of asparagus.

Asparagus Carbonara

When the first wave of spring asparagus hit the market at .98/lb, I hoarded stocked up. I roasted two pans on the weekend for side dishes throughout the week and breakfast. Because wo eggs over a pile of asparagus is one of my favorite breakfast ever.

And while you’re drooling over asparagus carbonara, be sure to check out this version if you’re a goat cheese fan.

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus Carbonara

Asparagus replaces half of the pasta in this lighter, spring carbonara recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch asparagus (~1.25lb)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining.
  2. Trim woody ends from asparagus stalks and cut the remaining stalks into ~3-inch pieces.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook bacon pieces to a crisp and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  4. Add black pepper and cook for two minutes.
  5. Add asparagus and cook ~5 minutes, until fork tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Whisk egg, yolk, 2/3 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup very hot pasta water in the bowl with the bacon.
  7. Add drained pasta, scrape the contents from the asparagus pan into the bowl (oil, pepper, and asparagus), and toss, adding splashes of reserved pasta water to create a creamy sauce.
  8. Serve topped with extra Parmesan.

Notes

Yields: 4 servings

Adapted from Zucchini Carbonara

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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