How Does Your Garden Grow?

April 9, 2017

The Wellness & Arts Center’s “Wellness Gardens” use compost from Iona’s own food scraps and paper clippings.

Last fall, Iona’s Food Access Coordinator Ashlea Steiner restored the raised beds in the Wellness & Arts Center and launched our very own “Wellness Gardens.” Though gardening has always been a part of our enriching adult day program, it was difficult to stay on track with the upkeep for maintaining our raised beds. But, with Ashlea’s help, today the Wellness Gardens feature nutrient-rich soil (we’re even composting at Iona!), tomato cages, a special storage bench, and seat cushions for our older participants.

Best of all? We enjoyed a bountiful harvest of cucumbers, beans, pumpkins, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, carrots, chives, eggplant, bell peppers, lettuce, broccolini, kohlrabi, parsley, mint, and beets.

Participants helped plant the seedlings that grew in our sunny windowsills throughout Iona from January – May, and enjoyed special food demonstrations, nutrition education, and tastings of the fresh produce during their harvest. And, we’re happy to report that the garden will continue to blossom this year. In fact, we even have 50 gallons of dark, moist, and nutritious compost made from Iona’s own food scraps, paper shredding, and yard waste to fertilize our beautiful gardens.

When You Garden, You Grow!

Did you know that April is National Garden Month? It’s a time for communities, organizations, and individuals to come together and celebrate gardening and all of its benefits — from health and nutrition to a greener and more liveable space.

And what better way to celebrate National Garden Month than by starting your very own compost. We did it at Iona, and we know you can do it too.

Composting is a great and simple way for you to improve the growth and vitality of your garden, increase nutrients in your soil, and benefit the environment. What’s more, composting is an easy, responsible way to dispose of your food waste, and it’s completely free.

How can composting benefit me and my garden?

  • Enriches and conditions soil
  • Allows for recycling kitchen and yard waste
  • Introduces beneficial nutrients to the soil
  • Is a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers
  • Is good for the environment
  • Reduces landfill waste

Composting introduces vital nutrients to soil that help increase plant growth and the health of the surrounding environment, by cutting down on landfill waste.

What steps can I take to begin composting?

At Iona, we started our composting by filling coffee cans with food scraps. There are many ways that you can get started with composting. Some simple steps include:

  1. Start compost pile on bare earth, or in a trash barrel (helps with critters!)
  2. Lay twigs and straw first
  3. Add compost materials in layers
  4. Add manure to compost
  5. Keep compost moist
  6. Cover compost with wood or plastic sheeting
  7. Turn compost pile every few weeks

What can I compost?

While most food waste can be composted, certain items such as meat, bones, or fish waste can attract pests. Additionally, some fruits and other vegetables can hold traces of disease and pesticides, which can be risky when using compost soil to grow food. Still, there are many foods, organic materials, household items (like newspapers), and even weeds that can make for good compost.

Find a complete list of what is acceptable to compost (and what to stay away from) here.

Find more specific information on how to start your first compost pile, as well as different composting methods here.

Read about how to compost weeds without spreading them around your garden here.

Nurture your garden, and nurture your soul this April: get out there and start composting today!

Have you started composting in your home or office? Let us know your tips for starting this environmental-friendly process in the comments below.

By Ali Perry

Ali Perry is a Communications and Marketing Intern at Iona, and a former volunteer at our Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s. She is a senior at The George Washington University studying Human Services and Social Justice, and intends to pursue a career in Nonprofit Management. 


2 thoughts on “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

  1. I cut off the top of a plastic gallon jug at an angle (keeping the handle) and store my kitchen scraps in that until I can add to my compost barrel. Storing the jug in the freezer gets it out of the way and eliminates odors and pests. Also, cutting the scraps in smaller pieces helps them break down faster.

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