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From Kitchen Scraps to Garden Gold

Continuous Composter Makes the Process Easy

Janet Lembke
Janet Lembke hopes to expand her garden so that she can eventually get rid of all the grass around her 1/8-acre lot.
Janet Lembke has been a vegetable gardener all her adult life. However, when she married her second husband, a retired Navy man, he had a truck-farming background and took charge of planting all the vegetables around their Virginia home. Janet focused on growing flowers, and on canning, freezing and cooking of all the great produce they grew. But when her husband passed away two years ago, she took on the vegetable garden and is now responsible for everything, from the soil to the kitchen.

Janet's mission has been to expand the garden and eventually get rid of all the grass around her 1/8-acre lot. "All the grass is now gone from the front yard and half of the back," she says. Once the grass was gone, the first challenge was the red clay soil. It was hard as a rock and not the best soil for growing vegetables and flowers.

Janet's soil improvement solution started in the kitchen and ended in the garden; she has used Gardener's Supply products to get there. She collects all her kitchen scraps in her Kitchen Compost Crock. The 3-1/2 quart ceramic pot is attractive, yet practical. The scraps get dumped into her pride and joy, the Pyramid Composter. "All I need to do is feed it with leaves, grass, kitchen scraps, and even woody tomato vines and behold, great compost pours out," she says. The best part is she doesn't have to turn it at all. The funnel system collects rain and keeps the compost moist, side vents keep the pile from over heating, and the compost is easy to remove through the front door of the bin. "I just mix in some shredded newspaper and lint from the dryer to soak up the moisture once in a while and that's all it takes," says Janet. After a season of making compost, Janet started spreading it on the garden beds. She used Raised Bed Corners to create a perfect bed for the carrot seeds she was given for free. "That raised bed filled with compost really produces," she says.

So what else does Janet grow? Her front yard is a blend of flowers such as sedum, daylilies, and yucca and vegetables, such as peppers and cucumbers. Out back are the pear trees, currant bushes, tomatoes, lima beans, green beans, sunflowers, broccoli, and more peppers.

Janet cans many jars of pickles each year and dries peppers. She loves the 'Godfather' pepper because "it doesn't spoil (rot) as it's turning red on the vine." She also grows five different kinds of hot peppers. "I dry them and give them away at Christmas. Plus, I love to add some dried pepper to the soups I cook," she says. Janet also grows 19 butternut squash plants. What's a woman to do with that many squash? "I have a 10-cubic-foot freezer where I store frozen vegetables. Butternut squash is a great addition to all kinds of dishes in winter," she says.

The garden keeps Janet busy spring through fall. In the winter she writes. She's authored one gardening book and is working on another about her "grass extermination" project, folklore about gardening, uses and history of garden tools, and other topics that fit the general theme and title of the book, "Let There Be Gardens." She likes to share her gardening tips, like putting the bird feeder where you want sunflowers next year. "The birds just plant them for you," says Janet. Another is to put up birdhouses to encourage house wrens to nest. They eat harmful insects in the gardens, and serenade Janet as she works.

The garden is Janet's life and brings her endless joy. "Gardening is the most natural thing to do," she says. "It has a certain energy to it. There's something magical about gardening."

Last updated: 10/24/15