Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Landfill To Veggies, One Boxspring At A Time

My facebook status this weekend generated some curiosity among friends and acquaintances, so I thought it might be beneficial to post details and photos of my latest project. As many of you know, I am very concerned with reducing our eco-footprint, and saving items from landfill. I'm also all about frugality, health, and making things from scratch. And, I love food. I have wanted to have my own veggie garden for the last two years, but have been stuck in ruts along the way.

Two years ago I bought a bunch of seeds, and never got around to planting them. Last year I bought seedling starter pods and had my wonderful husband till a plot of ground in our backyard for me to plant. Unfortunately my seedlings damped off and failed to thrive, and the tilled ground required more prep work than I had the energy to do (breaking up lumps, removing stones / grass / weeds). Finally this year I discovered raised bed gardening, which eliminated the tilling issues, and "lasagna gardening" which cheaply produces great nutrient-rich soil and inhibits weed growth.

This year my husband's job was to pick up a boxspring and mattress I found on Freecycle, and I also managed to score some landscaping fabric and plastic hardware netting at yard sales, to make my garden even more weed and critter proof. Here are the basic steps I took:

Step 1, rip fabric off top and bottom of boxspring. (Remove any springs...but in this case cheap boxsprings that are mere wooden slats work best.)

Step 2, choose a location with full sun, position mattress on ground with boxspring on top (slats down) to form a raised garden frame. (At this point I laid landscape fabric down around the perimeter to smother weeds and grass, and also used a staple gun and more landscape fabric to cover the somewhat ugly frame.)

Step 3, layer the following materials in this order: grass clippings / weeds / dew worms, leaf mulch / pine needles, fresh unrotted compost, wet newspapers (thick layer), rotted compost, leaf mulch, topsoil or potting soil.

Step 4, plant seeds or seedlings. (I also staked netting around the garden to discourage critters from nibbling on my freshly planted seedlings.) Watch them grow, with high yields and little or no weeds! :)

I planted 4 cherry tomato plants, 4 beefsteak tomato, 2 broccoli, 3 cauliflower, 4 celery, 4 head lettuce, and 4 mesclun greens, and needed to buy 4 bags of black earth topsoil. My total cost for the garden was $27 and change, including tax. Keep an eye out for updates on how our garden succeeds!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Recipes: Quick Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This recipe was born of urgent necessity. A lazy Saturday turned into evening without any plans for dinner, and hungry kids waiting on mom. This mom put on her improv hat and pulled out a pot... a short time later everyone was slurping this delicious soup happily. Eater beware: No claims are made regarding fat content. Hey, this is convenience comfort food!

Quick Loaded Baked Potato Soup

3 cups chicken stock or broth
4 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled & finely diced
2 handfuls finely chopped green onions (reserve 2 tbsp)
1 generous handful real bacon bits
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp corn starch (mix with cold water to make slurry)

salt to taste

Bring chicken stock and water to a boil, add potatoes and green onions (reserving 2 tbsp for garnish). Boil rapidly until potatoes are tender. Turn down to medium-low, add bacon bits, milk, cream, and mozzarella. Stir well until cheese is melted. Add corn starch slurry, stirring briskly. Bring back to a boil, stirring rapidly until soup is thickened. Add salt to taste. Cool slightly before serving.

Serves 6.