Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Unintended Consequences of Composting

Contributed by compost-lover Jenny Lohmann

If you’re reading this blog it is because you are one of the brilliantly enlightened individuals on our planet. You already know all the reasons one should compost but what about the consequences of composting?

Green Guilt
For example, you are on vacation and eat a banana. What are you to do with the peel? Throw it away?! This will lead to feelings of extreme guilt. 
You’re sister’s kids never eat their bread crust. It causes you great anxiety because:
a) she allows food waste and
b) she doesn’t compost the crust!
If these feelings have entered your mind, get to your compost pile ASAP! Composting will set your serotonins into “aahhh” mode.

Volunteers of a Different Variety
Another consequence I have encountered deals with volunteers. No, not my kids who gladly rake leaves and pick up sticks (as if). The volunteers I speak of are those tomato plants that pop out of my newly potted plants and amended garden beds.
Do I scowl and curse? No, I greet them as a new mother welcomes new life.
Proof of healthy soil, I transplant them when space allows. Some of my volunteers have produced better than my intentional plantings.

Obviously, my compost pile does not heat up enough to kill the seeds or perhaps I’m too impatient to let it “season.” Just another reason I choose not to compost weeds with seeds. I wouldn’t have those new mother feelings if dandelions were volunteering.
Has anyone else felt the unintended consequences of composting?

Unintended Consequences Can Be Delicious :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why do we need the rain anyway?

Today's post is from guest author Joy, one of Michelle's coworkers

It seemed like it rained or stormed every day in July except the Fourth. By mid-month, I found this old Sesame Street song running through my head: “It’s a rainy day, it’s a rainy day. It’s raining outside and I can’t go out and play. Why do we need the rain anyway?

As the song wisely points out, every living thing needs water and that includes our compost piles. While you may associate your compost with decomposition, it’s actually a vibrant, biological community of greens, browns, bugs, oxygen, sunshine - and yes – rain. All those elements work together to create that rich compost that can be used to fertilize your garden or mulch your landscaping.

Like most everything in nature, your compost pile needs balance.

Too much of one element is not a good thing. My compost pile had compressed nicely this summer due to all the moisture. However, it became too saturated which can lead to an anaerobic pile.

To help your compost pile maintain its job, now is a good time to add dry, carbon rich material. Some composters keep bags of fall leaves handy for just this reason. I save the dried out leaves from my ornamental grass that I trim back each fall. Shredded paper works just as well. Be sure to mix it into your pile thoroughly; the process of turning the pile while “stirring” in the shredded paper will create air pockets within the pile.

While rain is a vital ingredient to your compost cocktail, don’t let it water down your pile. Counteract the moisture with dry carbon. Happy composting!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How Superhero Compost Reduces Chemicals in Your Home

We all know compost kicks ass. It saves us money and helps us burn calories. But compost has real life super powers you should know about.

Holy Compost, Batman!

According to the U.S. EPA, compost can reduce or eliminate your need for chemical fertilizers. Compost provides humus to your soil, increasing the nutrient content and encouraging beneficial microorganisms. All that great compost can drastically reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers.

The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District recommends testing your soil after adding compost to determine if you need to anything else.

Compost SMASH!

Compost has been shown in studies to suppress plant diseases and pests. I would like to see the Hulk do that (and keep the plant alive).

Up, UP, and Away!

It may not be bullet proof, but compost has been shown to cleanup and remediate soils. Compost absorbs odors, treats volatile organic compounds (VOCs), binds heavy metals, and prevents them from being absorbed by plants. KAPOW!

Here I Come to Save the Day!

Compost prevents pollutants in storm water from reaching surface waters. It has also been shown to prevent erosion and turf loss.

All with no cape or leotard.

At least not on the compost, what you are wearing is none of my business.

Happy composting, superheroes. J

How great is this clip art?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bins in Action

Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes. Here are several bins in action from the backyards of me and my coworkers. They are all different but yield the same wonderful black-gold results.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dog Waste Causes Composting Woes

Because you asked, let’s talk about dog poop.

Hi, I’m Cher, a guest blogger for today. I am the human caregiver of two large dogs and the resident dog-lover in the office where Michelle and I both work.

It’s not a pleasant topic, but one that comes up often. What to do with all that dog poop? We are often asked whether dog feces can be added to backyard compost.

The quick and dirty answer is, no.

I hate waste and it always bothers me to throw anything away – including dog feces. But what bothers me more is the possibility of polluting ground water, spreading diseases and parasites to other dogs, and introducing harmful pathogens to my garden. These are all possibilities if dog feces are added to your backyard compost.

Your backyard compost bin/pile would need to reach certain temperatures to ensure harmful pathogens are killed, and these temperatures are difficult to obtain and maintain.

A quick Google search on “composting dog feces” will provide you with amateur advice and products to do so. I am not a scientist, and do not feel comfortable endorsing any non-scientific advice. So after my research, and careful consideration, I still say don’t do it. It's not worth the risk.

My best advice is to do your part to reduce dog feces by getting your furry friend spayed or neutered. (Fewer dogs = less poop!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Making Organic Compost Infographic

Here's a handy infographic on Making Organic Compost that a reader shared with me. (Be sure to click on the link rather than the picture to view the full-size image.)

Sam is a gardening enthusiast who recently started growing a mini organic garden in his apartment. His inspiration for gardening came after looking into ways to boost his own environmental sustainability efforts. You can learn more about his gardening progress by checking out his blog, the Organic Lesson

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ode to the Compost Pile

(This blog post is from guest author, Joy Landry)

For International Composting Week, we found ourselves waxing poetic about our favorite green hobby.

Ode to the Compost Pile

“Hope springs eternal,” once said a poet,
So do dandelions and other weeds, wouldn’t you know it?

A windy spring has scattered the leaves,
And twigs aplenty have been cast off by the trees.

These natural materials don’t belong in the trash,
And burning is wrong – too much smoke and ash!

You want to help the environment, it’s true
So what is a homeowner going to do?

We suggest composting – it’s not very hard
First find a good place in your backyard.

A few small stakes and a bit of wire,
You can build it yourself, no contractor to hire.

Collect all those yard trimmings to start your pile,
Then go back to the kitchen, just for a while.

Consider your garbage, I know it sounds strange,
Your way of thinking just needs a small change.

Go bananas, and grab your discarded fruit,
Apple cores, orange peels, and berries to boot.

Limpy lettuce and spoiled spinach are perfectly green,
To add to your compost pile – it’s a biology machine!

Mix in your grass clippings if you like,
Coffee grounds and tea bags are also all right.

Be sure to turn your compost with zest,
Rain and sunshine will all do the rest.

By the time fall arrives, what have you got?
Rich moist compost and there’s a whole lot.

It’s perfect for flower beds and trees,
Mix it in with potting soil if you please.

You can continue to compost year round,
You’re putting back what first came from the ground.

Composting is fun, we hope you agree!

And it all started with a mere pile of leaves.