Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Practice Compost Witchcraft

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I.

Of all the Halloween “spooks” I wager us composters most closely resemble witches. You know, when you’re out at your compost bin dancing barefoot in the moonlight holding a stick overhead…oh, I’m the only one that does that?...Well…ahem…let’s see what we can learn from those witches.

1. Follow the Spell Recipe with Care. 
A good witch knows what disaster an extra “eye of newt” can bring just as any good composter  knows too many food scraps or not enough water can lead to an unbalanced pile.

2. Don’t be Afraid to Add the Gross Stuff.
Slippery black banana peels, slimy carrots, rotten potatoes; composters know this stuff is compost gold. And, hey, at least you don’t have to add “wool of bat” or “poison’d entrails.” Compost witches have it easy.

3. Communing with Nature Creates Magic.
Sometimes the best place to clear your head is with a pitchfork in hand out in your backyard. Witches understand the power of nature too whether dancing around a bubbly cauldron in the woods or flying over treetops on a broomstick.
 

The magic we create by changing food scraps and yard trimmings into a rich beautiful soil amendment is the most rewarding and powerful spell of all. Except maybe the time I turned my ex into a toad, that was pretty rewarding (cackling).

Here’s my compost remake of Shakespeare’s witch scene from Macbeth
 
Round about the compost go;
In the slippery banana throw.—
Carrot, that in fridge unknown,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Rotten flesh of apple therein,
Decay thou first i’ my charmed bin!

Okay, I’ll stop. 

Here are some of our other ghoulish Halloween posts to celebrate the best holiday of the year!
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs You Compost Pile is a Zombie
Smashing Pumpkins

 
Happy Halloween!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Harvesting Compost from a Simple Backyard Bin

Guest blogger Joy Landry

It’s compost harvest season so now is the perfect time to reap the benefits of your summer composting efforts before winter arrives.

This was my challenge last weekend as I surveyed the fallen oak leaves and a pile of straw in my front yard from a recent gas line repair. My compost pile was getting close to capacity and was going to need room for all that natural material scattered about the yard.

My compost pile is not very fancy – it’s a small square of plastic-coated wire fencing in the corner of the backyard. However, it allows for easy access. After shoveling away the top layer of recent grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, apple cores and banana peels, I uncovered that wonderful, rich dark compost. Another year of natural materials quietly decomposing now yielded the perfect mulch for the shrubs I had planted in the spring.

I made five trips around the house, lugging loads of compost in the old Red Flyer wagon (yes, it’s 30 years old: reuse, reduce, recycle!). As a result, my shrub bed was insulated for the winter and the compost pile was ready for the next season of leaves. After an hour of raking, the compost pile was a nice mix of oak leaves and straw, all first mulched up by the lawnmower.
 
I felt quite pleased with my composting yard work – too bad the maple in the backyard still has to drop its leaves. Well, that’s a project for another weekend!

Happy composting!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fast and Furious or Slow and Easy?


Guest blogger: Jenny Lohmann

Some people like it slow and easy, others fast and furious. It’s the yin and yang of life. What’s this got to do with composting, you ask? Well like life, sometimes the way you treat your compost pile changes with the times.
Your leaves are ready to come down and you can happily collect them for a year’s worth of brown stuff (carbon). What you do next is up to you-slow and easy or fast and furious.
photo courtesy of
thebikegarden.com
Any seasoned composter knows decomposition occurs quicker when leaves are shredded and food scraps chopped. This type of composting is for those who fit the fast and furious type. When you decide raking is all you need, not bothersome shredding and chopping, you’re of the slow and easy persona.
Either way, you’re guaranteed to generate compost, it’s just a matter of how quickly. I get frustrated with my slow decomposing oak leaves, so I’ve taken to running them over with the mulching mower to shred them. Others have nice chippers and shredders but until I come upon one at a flea market or the like, it’s not in my budget.
Besides the size of your leaves and food scraps, turning and watering are other factors which will determine the rate of decomposition, but please remember not to turn in the winter .
No matter your type or if you fluctuate between the two, in the end you will create an organic, microbial love fest for your soil.

 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When Garden Season Winds Down, Compost Season is Just Beginning

It’s official. Garden season is winding down. Although I’m sad that the fresh and juicy tomatoes are gone and the abundance of zucchini is finished, fall is actually my favorite season. Not only do we get to wear sweaters and enjoy pumpkin-flavored everything (seriously, is anything not pumpkin-flavored right now?) – compost season is just beginning!

Five reasons composters love the fall

  1. Leaves – Soon the leaves will be falling and these are the perfect addition to your compost bin. Leaves add essential carbon and if you shred them and save them, they can be available throughout the year. 
  2. Decaying plants – Removing spent crops can be therapeutic. They’ve given you delicious produce all summer, and now you can give the decaying plants new life in your compost bin. They will live on in your garden for seasons yet to come.
  3. Pumpkins – Old jack-o-lanterns and other fall decorations can decorate your compost bin when the season is over. 
  4. Rainfall – The Cincinnati area has experienced a lot of rain this summer, but typically we have hot days with lots of dry spells. The fall brings a welcome reprieve with rain to moisten compost piles.
  5. Active living – Composting is a great activity and easy way to be healthy. It’s much more active than other fall past times like watching football, eating pumpkin pie or bobbing for apples.

So put on your sweaters, grab your pitchforks and get outside for some fun fall composting!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

(Compost) Tea Time

I’m thinking about making compost tea. I like tea and I like compost so it seems like a natural next step. Compost tea helps make the benefits of your compost stretch farther in your garden (yay), provides soluble nitrogen and beneficial microorganisms to your plants immediately (yay), and it seems very easy to do (double yay).

So I steeped myself in compost tea videos and compost tea articles. Lots of great information out there but with one problem  there are as many different ways to make compost tea as there are flavors of Celestial Seasonings (that’s a lot for you non-tea drinkers).

In lieu of how-to, step by step instructions, I’ve prepared a piping-hot list of the most common tips to consider when making compost tea:

1. Use de-chlorinated water. Set your bucket of water out for at least a few hours before adding the compost.

2. Add compost. Vermi-compost is best but you can use regular compost as well. You will want a good shovel-full for a five gallon bucket.

3. Only use sweet-smelling finished compost.

4. Stir in about 2 tablespoons of molasses (a spoon full of sugar helps the bacteria grow, the bacteria grow-oh…)

5. Aerate. Either stir it occasionally or buy an aerator to get it nice and frothy.

Oh, and the best tip of all, don't drink compost tea. Even with two tablespoons of molasses, it will still taste like dirt, literally.
 
Most sites I looked at said to give it 24 hours and then use it on the plants. One video had the great idea of using an old pair of pantyhose to hold the compost in the water like a tea bag. Another explained in detail how you should use a garden stake to create a whirlpool vortex to stir the compost tea every twenty minutes.

I couldn’t find one video I really loved, so I would recommend you peruse and choose your own method.

Well, let’s get this par-tea started! Is anyone going to try making compost tea with me?


I pity the fool who doesn't enjoy compost tea.
http://www.thatsnerdalicious.com/accessories/would-you-care-for-a-spot-of-mr-t-t-shirt/
 
 

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Location, Location, Location

Guest post from Belinda Bankes Frykman

Several years ago I decided to venture out and start backyard composting. My backyard is rather small and I wanted to make sure to keep any furry friends out of the compost, so purchased a compost bin. I cleared out a level space behind my detached garage that was discrete and protected from winter wind. I kept a pathway through the small wooded area next to the bin maintained so I could get to the bin. The first year or so, it worked well. I didn’t have a lot of material to put in the bin, but felt good not wasting what scraps I did have.

Then, as does happen, I got busy. I started clearing the path less often, didn’t take scraps out to the bin nearly enough and my kitchen collector got really gross. Like furry mold and maggot-filled gross. (I kind of forgot I sat it on the steps next to the back door.) I tossed the putrid kitchen collector and vowed to start fresh in the spring.

Only spiders can access this compost bin!
This spring brought lots of beautiful new growth in the wooded area behind my garage. My postage stamp-sized yard became my own little slice of heaven. The problem was, my compost bin was also surrounded by lush greenery, literally. There were several vines wrapped around the bin and access to the little door on the side was impossible. Not that I needed to harvest the compost—after neglecting it for over two years, there wasn’t much going on in there. It was basically a spider hotel. Behind the garage is a great location for a spider hotel, but not for an accessible compost bin.

So last weekend, I grabbed my garden gloves and pruning shears, and got to work. I cut the vines from around the bin, pulled back the ground cover, trimmed honeysuckle branches out of the way, and carefully avoided the poison ivy. The thick ground cover didn’t give me easy access to the plastic screws that secure the bin to the earth, but I kept trimming until I found them. Once the screws were removed, the bin lifted easily. I rinsed the spiders off from the inner walls (sorry guys) and scouted out a new location for my cleaned-up bin.

Two 8 oz. glasses of juice produce all these scraps!
After years of neglect, my compost bin deserved a good location for it’s new home: shaded, level, somewhat protected from wind. And this time around, I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t get swallowed up by my little slice of heaven. More than anything, I wanted easy access to my bin. I’m making my own vegetable and fruit juices, which tend to have a decent amount of unusable scraps, and I just can’t send all those colorful scraps off to waste in the landfill!

It's super easy taking scraps out to my compost bin now!
I chose a spot close to the edge of my property line, near my green space, but not in it! I can see the bin from my kitchen window—a good reminder to use it. And now the bin is only a few yards from my back door. No more hacking through a small wilderness just to drop a few rotten berries into the bin! I know my compost will be happier and healthier in its new location. And so will I—now that I can juice with abandon and not feel guilty generating a mound of unusable scraps every day. My compost bin will certainly welcome all the vegetable and fruit scraps I have to give…along with other yard and food scraps, of course.

Now I’m off to the farmers market to gather the ingredients for my next delicious juice creation. Cheers!
Delicious and nutritious!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Composting Helps Fight Food Waste

I’m Megan and I’m a food waste fighter. I hate wasting food. Hate it. It breaks my heart to see food that was once perfectly good, get trashed. And it’s not only the food – all the resources it took to grow, water, transport that food was wasted too. I know, I know, this is a blog about composting, not food or waste reduction or anything else. But for me, composting and food waste go hand-in-hand.

Once I started composting, I really began to pay attention to my food waste. All those moldy and slimy fruits and vegetables past their prime were there, staring at me from the compost collector. I just can’t bear it.

I’ve learned to pay attention to my fruit bowl and crisper drawer. I’m using up odds and ends for salads and casseroles. Anything that’s really starting to go gets tossed in the freezer for use in soups or smoothies. Food waste 0. Megan 1.

Most of you smart readers are already doing this though, right? Well, here’s my favorite way to avoid food waste and also add material to my compost pile.

Vegetable stock.

Plain and simple.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Save all the odds and ends from veggies such as onion and garlic peels, ends of carrots and celery, mushroom stems, parsley stems, etc. Keep them in the freezer until you have enough to fill a pot. 
  2. Put your vegetable scraps in a pot and fill with water. Add a bay leaf and some salt and pepper if you’re feeling saucy. 
  3. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about an hour. 
  4. Strain.
  5. See all the vegetable mush left in the strainer? Add it to your compost pile!

Food waste 0. Megan 100 million. Victory!

Vegetable scraps make some delicious stock to use in soups and stews, but also add nitrogen to my compost pile to keep it balanced. Once it breaks down, I add the finished compost to my vegetable garden. Those vegetables eventually end up in the stock pot and then … you guessed it – more material for my compost pile!