De-Mystifying the Urban Composting Process with Stewart Martin

by Emily Kloeblen

I met Stewart Martin of Providence Gardenworks last summer when he came to prune my trees. He noticed my compost bin and inquired about my experience composting. I admitted that I had taken on composting as a pandemic project and was not very confident in my composting abilities, as evidenced by the flies swarming around my bin. After spending an hour with Stewart for a dedicated composting consultation, I realized that my setup needed an overhaul. I contracted with Stewart to install my animal-proof system last Fall and became a student of his composting process. 

Stewart has become a trusted resource that is fully committed to my composting success, often stopping by on his walks around the neighborhood to check on my compost and to give it an extra mix. Following his guidance has greatly improved my results and sparked my passion for reducing my environmental footprint through composting. If you are interested in composting, I highly recommend a consult with our neighborhood composting guru!

What motivated you to master the art and science of composting?

I have been composting and gardening for years at home. The realization gradually dawned on me that this process was so important for our environment I began to refine it and put a business together. I’ve stuck with it all these years –19 and counting– because it’s so necessary environmentally and so darn satisfying. I feel like I’m making a positive difference in the world. In the twenty years that we’ve lived on the East Side, we haven’t contributed so much as a scrap of food waste to the Providence waste stream. Just our efforts alone –one household– has diverted 14 tons of food waste from the landfill and created 20 cubic yards of compost, for our local gardens. Both our vegetable and perennial gardens are thriving.

Why should anyone consider composting?

Anyone who gives a wit about the environment should be thinking about composting. The impact of methane produced by food waste putrefying in our landfill is staggering. Many people don’t realize that methane is 30x stronger than CO2 as a heat-trapping gas and that the average American family wastes nearly one-third of all the food they buy. Composting is well within the realm of ‘I can do this.’ It’s a simple, yet powerful way we can take action to reduce our environmental impact and produce a useful substance, technically referred to as a ’soil amendment’, for our gardens.

What are the most important considerations when starting to compost in an urban environment like Providence?

Having the right setup and learning how to do it correctly are the most important considerations. I’ve seen many failed composters littering the urban landscape because people get information from the internet that doesn’t thoroughly explain the involved how-tos of the process. They gave up in frustration. This does not need to be the case.

How difficult is it for someone to get started?

It’s relatively easy to get started once you have the right setup and begin to understand the process. It is, however, a process that needs to be followed. Like anything else one may care about, composting requires one’s focus and attention.

What are typical misconceptions about composting?

It smells and attracts animals. It’s hard to do during the winter months. Too much compost will be created to actually use.

These issues are easy to avoid. More brown matter and adequate aeration/mixing alleviates the formation of volatile compounds, which produces unwanted odors. Composting during the winter months is also an easy affair. Where you place the bin is key. As far as making too much compost; everyone has a few shrubs, trees, and neighbors to give any extra compost to. I have yet to meet anyone who could not find a use for their compost.

Three key tips:

  1. Make sure you have enough brown/carbon on hand. The process depends on it. The general ratio is 3 parts brown (leaves) to 1 part green (food scraps).
  2. Mix/aerate regularly. This is an aerobic process. The bacteria depend on this to thrive.
  3. Cut food into pieces which; promotes quicker composting. Doing this also provides more surface area for the bacteria.

Why did you start Providence Gardenworks?

Because I realized my experience composting in an urban environment was of real value to our community, city, and environment, and wanted to share it. Unfortunately, our city and the state government have failed to address this critically important, burgeoning problem. However, the good news is solutions are well within the abilities of all Rhode Island residents and municipalities. 

What types of services do you provide?

We teach, train, and inspire urban dwellers to compost all their food waste on-site and garden in any full sun space they may have. We provide consultative services to existing composters to improve their process and turnkey services installing new composters, which includes on-going training and technical support. We also provide pruning services for ornamental and fruit trees.

If someone wants to consult with you, how should they get in touch?

For more information please go to our website or contact me directly. Thank you so much.

www.providencegardenworks.com

Stewart Martin- providencegardenworks@icloud.com

Avenue Concept Mural Announcement

New Mural Site next to Not Just Snacks on Hope Street.

By Torin Mathieu

SNA is excited to announce a collaboration with the Avenue Concept! We will be bringing a mural to the south-facing wall of Not Just Snacks (abutting the parking lot for Eden Park Cleaners) on Hope Street within the next few months! We are excited for this creative collaboration to beautify our beloved Hope Street. 

More on the Avenue Concept: https://theavenueconcept.org/

The Business of Changes

By Sam Burgess

Plenty of things have changed in the last year, even the local businesses that service the Summit Neighborhood. As they try to navigate the balance between commerce and safety, restaurants have reduced capacity, shops have gone fully online, and businesses have set up no-contact deliveries. However, these changes aren’t preventing new businesses from popping up, expanding, and flourishing!

Notable restaurant Avenue N of Rumford, RI opened its new branch on Hope Street in Providence last April. It has a diverse menu featuring items like Nashville hot chicken buns, Point Judith calamari, free-range organic chicken with local mushrooms, and incredible pizza specials! Check them out on Instagram @avenuenamericankitchen. 

Another restaurant opening, Little Sister, is an all-day café & bakery on Hope Street turning out Bolt coffee and breakfast & lunch dishes. They are inspired by tropical comfort foods from the owner’s childhood growing up in Puerto Rico and the bounty of living in New England. This is reflected in house-made pastries like Cubano empanadas, coconut bread pudding, and shakshuka Verde. Check them out on Instagram @littlesisterpvd. 

A new salon recently opened on Hope Street: Salon 951. The stylish space has a variety of services including root color, men’s haircuts, and Brazilian Blowouts! Check out their website for more information at salon951ri.com. 

We were sad to see Davis Dairy close in May of 2020 due to water damage from an upstairs fire. Davis Dairy had been a Hope Street mainstay for almost seventy-five years and was the last Jewish deli remaining in the neighborhood. On a positive note, we were excited to learn that a new Jewish kosher prepared foods and grocery will soon be arriving! Bubbies Market and Deli is scheduled to open March 1st, in time for Passover, at 727 Hope Street.

After 15 years of serving the neighborhood, fabric and interior design center Kreatelier is expanding its space on Hope Street. It will take over the storefront that ACT 2 used to occupy next door. The expansion will allow Kreatelier to create a display space to showcase wall coverings, home fabrics, and other creative interior decor ideas. Kreatelier has seen a big boom of home improvement projects since everybody is at home and wants to brighten their spaces! Check them out on Instagram @kreatelier. 

Even with so many changes in the way they operate, the momentum hasn’t stopped for all the excellent neighborhood businesses. Keep calm and take-out with grace! Are there any other businesses that have opened or closed? Reach out on Instagram at @SNAProv 

Summit Businesses Innovate in Covid Era

By Jackie Delamatre & Torin Mathieu

It has been a challenging few months for many in the Summit neighborhood and beyond. Yet, many local businesses have met the Covid era with inspiring creativity and generosity. From new products to fresh takes on dining to donations, Summit business owners have found ways to keep the lights on all while helping neighbors feel the love.

At Chez Pascal, owners Kristin and Matt Gennuso decided from the beginning not to open for indoor dining until it was safe for their staff and their customers. Instead, they have created a take-out menu that draws customers to their curb every night. They have also recently launched a creative twist on outdoor dining. Dubbed “Apres Ski” dining, their set-up includes Adirondack chairs made from old skis donated by neighbors complete with outdoor heaters, blankets, and warming seat pads. 

Kristin said their customers had been up for outdoor eating through the mild start of winter, but it was beginning to get chilly. She and Matt knew they needed to find a solution that would keep people comfortable. They thought about how after skiing everyone wants to eat something warm, and “we just took the whole theme and ran with it.” Instead of multiple courses in freezing weather, they focused on quick, simple, one-pot items. Matt researched foods and drinks found in the Alpine regions, and their menu now includes Tartiflette and Herb Spaetzle as well as a sampler of “very warming” Amari from Italy and Switzerland.

“People have just embraced it so much,” Gennuso said. “The other night Jan,” the owner of Stock, “and her husband came by all decked out in ski gear!”

Four blocks away at India Restaurant, owners have also been ramping up their take-out business — all while donating 100 free meals a day to those in need.

But it’s not only restaurants that are innovating and inspiring. Local Hope Street store, Frog and Toad, had a smash hit of a product at the beginning of the pandemic with its t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Knock It Off” – in honor of Governor Raimondo’s admonishment. Later, the store’s owner, Asher Schofield, pledged to donate one mask to Providence’s schoolchildren for every “PVD Love” mask sold.

At Kreatelier, Summit’s local fabric concept store, they knew immediately how they could be helpful. Mask-making fell squarely in their wheelhouse. Owner Line Deams and her team of nine seamstresses made 25,000 fabric masks. For every ten masks sold, they donated one. A total of approximately 3,500 masks went to Amos House, Dorcas international, local schools, and the elderly. They even gave orange child-size masks to local trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

It’s been a long few months here in Summit, but the local businesses have brought smiles to their neighbors’ faces. We know they are there behind the masks!