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Less Lawn, More Butterflies!

Compost Turns Bland Yard into Pollinators' Paradise

Tamra Linquist
Tamra Linquist likes her Tumbling Compost Mixer because it allows her to make compost quickly.
When Tamra Linquist began gardening, her suburban Chicago yard was nothing but a sea of lawn. Over the past 11 years, Tamara has turned that 6,000-square-foot-lawn into an oasis of colorful gardens. "With little gardening knowledge, I'd take whatever plants friends and neighbors had to offer and combine them in the island beds with no set design in mind," she says. Learning through experience, she has created beds that combine perennial flowers, wildflowers and vegetables. "In my gardens," she says, "it's not unusual to see bee balm growing near tomatoes or Queen Anne's lace growing beside cabbage."

"I'm not interested in production and design as much as creating habitat," says Tamra. She has a special penchant for plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Butterfly bushes, sunflowers and coneflowers grow alongside her new passion, ornamental grasses. The grasses in particular provide feed and nesting material for her feathered friends. The seed heads and foliage also add winter interest to her landscape. "I enjoy the look of the grasses during the fall and winter months, then cut down them down in spring in time for the new growth to emerge," she adds.

Tamra's secret for keeping all these plants healthy is compost. Not wanting to purchase compost each year, she produces her own. "At first I tried composting in rubber bins, but found they were too small and it took too long to get usable compost. Then I tried using homemade, open bins, but my dogs would get into the piles and make a mess," she says. Two years ago Tamra tried the Tumbling Compost Mixer. The enclosed bin is mounted on a frame that allows it to tumble, mixing the compost ingredients. "I love it. The black color absorbs heat, so in one month I can take raw organic matter and turn it into finished compost," she says. "I even put shredded paper in it. It's a great way to recycle old bills and credit card offers," she adds. Tamra finds the bins need little attention other than a few spins every other day and watering during dry spells.

Butterfly bush
In her new gardens, Tamra grows butterfly bush, as well as other plants that attract pollinators.
Tamra's composting system now includes the Kitchen Compost Crock to collect kitchen scraps indoors. Even though her kitchen scraps, grass clippings, and old vegetable and flower debris yields enough compost to keep most of the gardens fertilized, Tamra's always looking for ways to make more. "I've also tried the Super Hot Compost Starter and it definitely makes a difference in the speed of composting," she says. "The faster I can make compost, the more batches I'll fit in in one year," she adds. "My next step will be getting more tumblers and perhaps creating some new gardens. I still have more lawn than I want, so I'm looking at building a water garden," she says.

Last updated: 10/24/15