The houses are lined up in perfect rows like cars on a factory lot, some with manicured lawns and colorful landscaping, others with chain-link fence, beware of dog signs and weeds in the sidewalk cracks. This is a well-lived-in neighborhood on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area where neighbors span the economic spectrum depending on street address. There are gangs of neighborhood kids riding bikes and playing with sidewalk chalk. And there are neighborhood gangs of kids carrying dangerous weapons.
But you can grow lots of fruits and vegetables here.
While traveling up and down the West coast this month on the annual Weekndr family vacation, we made a stop in the East Bay and witnessed an agrarian science project in full swing. A collection of raised bed gardens, cobbled together with scrap lumber, discarded containers, and other creative solutions, was alive with fruits and vegetables blooms.
There were tomatoes planted in a soil bag, peppers of several variety lined up in rows. The heads of lettuce that hadn’t yet been clipped were thick and bushy. Even shoots of corn sprung from two planters after the resident amateur gardener discovered how to start a plant from seed (in this case a corn kernel).
We started composting at the Weekendr house a few weeks ago. This year our yard will feature a sizable vegetable garden and common sense dictates that we recycle the organic scraps from the kitchen to make our own compost.
It’s a stinky endeavor, but we’re told by our gardener friends that it will pay off in spades. Everything from banana peels to kiwi skins to egg shells get put to good use.
After a few weeks of collecting kitchen waste in a mixing bowl on the back deck, it was apparent that we needed an industrial-strength compost bin to hold the rotting organic matter. I browsed the garden catalogs but prices for commercial compost bins are steep. You can expect to pay $250 and up for a good plastic tumbler compost bin.
I decided to save a buck and make my own with a trip to the hardware store. Here’s how I did it for under $50:
- 20-Gallon Buckets (2)
- Stainless Steel bolts, 3 in. long, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
- Stainless Steel nuts, 1/2 in. dia. (8)
- Rubber grommets, 1/2 in. dia. (16)
- Metal Conduit, 4 ft. long, 1/2 dia.
- Duct Tape
- 2×4 Saw Horses (2)