Joy’s Happy Garden
An Artist's Passive Aggressive Search for Sustainability in the Desert


FOOD/COMPOST/GARDEN making more food.
Food comes into my kitchen, kitchen trimmings and yard waste from four properties fill 7 compost bins of first stage composting (approx 55 gallon size containers). I then use another 7 bins that have second stage compost with food gardens growing on top of the aging compost. I covered the bins with old fabric and painted them to match the decorative brick that faces my neighbor's yard. The painted fabric additionally conserves moisture. I was honored to serve as the volunteer desert composter representative for two years for a Cal Poly Civil and Environmental Engineering department project to determine produce label compostability. I have 4 chickens that eat food waste, and give me eggs to eat, manure, and feathers for the compost process.

I want to present a Low Water, Low Labor, Composting in the Desert workshop for every community garden and gardening group in Tucson and encourage more sustainable COMPOSTING TECHNIQUES. I'm passionate about conserving water and diverting good yard and kitchen waste into good earth and soil building materials rather than methane generating land fill. Imagine NO yard or kitchen materials in the land fill and you make your own soil with minimal water. Tucson can be full of locally produced top soil with a vegetable garden in every yard. Click here for composting presentation

COMPOSTING AND GARDENING soil and food production

I bought plants or seeds and grew them in commercial potting soil; I bought organic foods at Farmer’s Markets... My compost was dry and took 2-3 years to make soil.

I used every piece of non poisonous yard trimmings and rake ups to fill compost bins friends gave me when their efforts to compost in the desert weren't very successful. I rehabbed compost bins that were designed for wetter climates to bins that conserved moisture. I added a few inches of soil to the tops of four bins and planted vegetable seeds. By the time the roots grow deep the compost under the soil will be mostly soil itself. I grow more than enough vegetables for myself and I sell bags of greens or feed the excess greens to the chickens. Some plants I allow to flower and go to seed to the delight of polinators and birds. Then I harvest seeds to plant hext year.

Each compost bin produces great growing soil for earth about every four months. After the compost materials have processed into soil I sift the contents of bins. The large chunks that haven't finishing composting into soil are added to the next compost mix and reloaded into an empty compost bin. The larger chunks are filled with the live microorganisms that serve as compost activator for the fresh materials.

I produce more good soil than I can use; I sell the rest. Friends donate their yard trimmings for my compost bins and their kitchen scraps for my chickens. More and more folks want their kitchen and yard waste put to good use for either animal feed or compost instead of producing methane in the landfill.

The unfinished compost in the bins under the gardens continues to decompose into soil as I water the crops above. composting and gardening but I feel so peaceful and happy working in my garden.