recycle

Recycle: Rainwater

It’s hard to believe right now that we will ever see a week without rain, but with a little preparation now, you can still have happy plants during our rainless summer months!  Harvesting rainfall, storing it, and using it during periods of drought is a practice as old as time, but its implementation for landscaping in urban areas today helps with many North Texas issues, specifically:

●      Reduces pressure on city water

●      Shrinks your water bill

●      Captures salt- and mineral- free (ie. chlorine) water for plants

●      Reduces urban erosion and contaminated run-off in stormwater systems

While there are many methods of varying complexity and expense to collecting, storing, and using rainwater, all have the same basic components: catchment surface, distribution, and holding area.   Our two favorite methods below are some of the easiest and most cost-effective in an urban residential setting.

1. UTILIZE A RAIN BARREL

○      By replacing your downspout with a rain chain, or diverting your existing downspout into a 50-gallon water barrel, you collect a significant amount of rain from a fairly small amount of rainfall.  The barrel can then be attached to a pump and hose or a regular spout for hand watering and used in your landscape.

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Rain Barrel.jpg

○      For those more mathematically-minded, there are Supply calculations that will help you determine your required storage capacity based on catchment surface runoff coefficients, the storage capacity of the rain barrels, and roof surface area.  For example, 1 inch of rain on a 1000-square foot wood shingle roof can produce 85-gallons of water. 

○      The collected water is NOT potable water, as there can be trace metals, pesticides,  and microbial contaminants from animal droppings.

2. MAKE A RAIN GARDEN

○      A rain garden is a shallow, depressed landscape feature that collects rainwater run-off from impermeable surfaces.  During a storm, rainwater is immediately diverted from a catchment area like a roof or paved parking lot and collected here where it will soak into the soil within 24-48 hours. 

○      Typically the rain garden will be downhill on a small slope from the catchment area, and small berms will be placed on the downhill perimeter of the rain garden to contain the rainfall. 

○      Plants selected to be planted in the rain garden should be native and able to tolerate both waterlogging for 48 hours and 3 weeks of drought. 

○      This method requires minimal upkeep, and can be an easy source of color in your yard in the form of native perennials and wildflowers!

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Recycle: Grass

Cue the Vivaldi and Rolling Stones…Spring has officially arrived! Your plants are waking up after their long winter nap, and so is your landscape grass. You are also probably scheduling your home yard service to start cutting your grass again on a routine basis (or perhaps you’re flexing your muscles and doing it yourself – good on ya!).

In this Garden to Table to Garden blog, we’d like to remind you of two important things:

1.     If you are using the right mowing height and frequency, you don’t need to bag your grass clippings. They can be mulched right back into your grass, which will help it retain moisture and nutrients. To further chop up long clippings, use a mulching mower or run the lawnmower over an area twice. Read more about that here from our friends at Texas A&M Water University.

2.     If you DO choose to bag your grass clippings, remember that fresh cut grass is a wonderfully important nutrient in your backyard compost. Green grass is a pure source of nitrogen in your backyard compost pile. Reminder, the four main ingredients in compost are: brown stuff (carbon sources like mulch, leaves, pine, and branches), green stuff (nitrogen sources like grass, food scraps, and coffee grinds), air and water…Even if you just saved your brown leaves and fresh grass clippings and layered them at home in an outdoor container, you will have easily created a rich compost for your soil by recycling what nature provided you.

Most of us are used to thinking about bagging grass clippings and leaves as waste for the landfill. We want to challenge you to rethink these natural resources in your home landscape.

PS, does your landscape turf need a little TLC after winter? sprinkling a fine layer of compost (called “top-dressing”) will surely help. Read more about that here.

Cook: Winter Greens

January is a great time to buy and cook local winter greens - broccoli, chard, kale, spinach, collards…we hope you sauté, or braise, or steam these beauties at home for your family.

However, if you don’t think you will be able to cook them in time before they go bad, here’s a quick tutorial on how to blanch them and save them for a future date!

Blanching is a culinary term that means, “to cook an item partially and very briefly in boiling water or in hot fat.  Usually a pre-preparation technique, as to loosen peels of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, to partially cook French fries or other foods before service, to prepare for freezing, or to remove undesirable flavors.” [Source: “Professional Cooking”, Wayne Gisslen]

That’s a technical way to say: quickly cook at high temp, then chill immediately.

Here’s what you do:

1.     Chop up the greens. While chopping, put a pot of salted water on the stovetop and bring that water to a rapid boil.

2.     Once water is boiling vigorously, put the greens in and let them cook for 1-3 minutes. It is important to not let them boil for too long, as you will lose more nutrients and texture the longer they cook. Wait for them to turn a bright color and soften slightly…for thicker greens, boil slightly longer – more delicate greens only need 1 minute or so.

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3.     While the greens are boiling, get another bowl and fill it with ice water (this is your “ice bath” for the greens – yes, they’re getting a little spa treatment…)

4.     Drain greens in a colander, and quickly move them to their ice bath. Let them cool to room temperature. Drain them again in the colander.

5.     Put greens in Ziploc freezer bags and label with the date you cooked them. Store them in your freezer.

Blanch away, friends!  Don’t waste those good greens.