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Posts Tagged ‘greens’

Saturday, January 22, 2011
10 – 12 noon
San Diego Botanic Gardens
230 Quail Gardens Dr.
Encinitas, CA 92024

Saturday, February 5, 2011
10 – 12 noon
Water Conservation Garden
12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West
El Cajon, CA 92019

Monday, March 14, 2011
2-4 p.m.
Welk Resort Farmer’s Market
8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, CA 92026

Saturday, March 19, 2011
10 – 12 noon
Summer’s Past Farm
15602 Olde Highway 80
El Cajon, CA 92021

Learn about the ins and outs of backyard composting and vermicomposting at this free workshop! Workshop will include information about selecting a bin, maintenance, harvesting, and more! A limited number of compost bins and worm bins will be available for purchase after the workshop.

Click here to pre-register now or to view a full list of upcoming workshops!

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What ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen should I use in my compost pile?

The ideal Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (“browns” to “greens”) in a compost pile is somewhere between 25:1 and 30:1, depending on who you talk to and what you are planting. Some composters take the more laissez-faire approach, throwing in whatever they have when they have it, letting the C:N ratio be whatever it is going to be. Other composters strive for C:N perfection, researching the C:N ratio of certain materials and measuring the amounts of those materials that enter to pile to ensure the desired ratio.

Many of us do not have the time (or patience) to spend the time figuring out the perfect ratio for our pile, but still want to guarantee a great finished product. No need to fear, the “Compost Calculator” is here! This great resource allows you to enter how much of what type of material you have and then will tell you your C:N ratio! Easy as compost!

For example:

1 bucket of fresh cut grass + 1/4 of a bucket of fruit scraps + 2 buckets of dried leaves = 30:1 C:N ratio!

mix it up a little and add:

1/4 bucket coffee grounds + 1/2 bucket of food waste + 2 buckets of wood chips = 26:1 C:N ratio!

Compost up your own recipe by visiting: http://www.milkwood.net/content/view/47/30/

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by: David Emmerson, LCCHS Science Teacher and Solana Center Master Composter

Kitchen waste, yard clippings, paper, coffee grounds, and other organic materials that are produced in the home are all considered “biodegradable”. This term has a positive connotation, especially to us environmentalists. It means that they can be broken down into their raw materials by a variety of living organisms such as microbes (helpful bacteria, protozoa and fungi), earthworms and many different arthropods. Many of our choices at stores are based on purchasing materials that will biodegrade or “rot”.  The theory is that the materials will then be reincorporated as plant nutrients and find their way back into the food chain in a healthy ecosystem.

Leslie turns a Biostack compost bin.

In the United States and in many other developed countries, we over-produce and generate a lot of waste. We have become a throw-away society, keeping our homes neat and tidy by either rinsing things down our drains or putting wastes in plastic bags out on the curb where it all goes out of sight, out of mind. The illusion is that we have solved our problems and shouldn’t worry because the waste will biodegrade on its own. We sometimes further the cause by putting “green” waste into special bins to be picked up separately to be kept out of landfills. However, most of us don’t realize is that almost all of the biodegradable material that we flush, rinse or throw out is going to end up breaking down in an anaerobic environment either as sewage sludge or in most cases in landfills. The separated green waste most often gets used as ADC, “Alternate Daily Cover” to top off the day’s trash which is then layered over the next day, so it gets buried anyhow. Locally, the cities of San Diego and Oceanside have composting facilities where green waste collected at the curb can be taken to be composted or mulched. But if you do not live in those cities or in an area where composting facilities are available, you do not necessarily keep it out of the landfill by separating it.

When organic material decomposes without oxygen, the microorganism can only partially break it down. One of the major end products of this type of decomposition is methane gas (CH4). Methane makes up a little over half of the gas that comes from landfills. Global methane emissions from landfills are estimated to be between 30 and 70 million tons each year. Most of this landfill methane currently comes from developed countries, where the levels of waste tend to be highest. The EPA indicates that methane is about 10% of the green house gases released in the US each year. But it is 72 times more effective (over a 25 year period) at contributing to global warming than the better known greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). Landfills are the second largest source of human-related atmospheric methane, almost one fourth of the methane we release now comes from landfills. Landfills provide ideal conditions for methane production, with lots of organic material and anaerobic conditions. The huge amounts of waste that are buried in landfill sites means that methane is produced for years after the site is closed, due to the waste slowly decaying under the ground. Having the waste we produce at home shipped to landfills means further greenhouse gas produced from the fuel burned.

The Solana Center garden abounds from the compost ammended soil.

By properly composting kitchen waste and yard clippings you can ensure that the waste will not sit in a landfill producing methane. Instead, it will go to work at creating healthy soil and reducing amount of water runoff. Several very effective composting methods are available for domestic use, with vermi-composting (using worms) being particularly effective at quickly converting kitchen waste into good quality garden compost.

Even if you are not serious about gardening, you will improve the water retention of your soil and improve the health of the lawn, shrubs, trees or other landscaping if you turn your organic wastes into compost and put it back into the ground. Healthy soil is an important factor in protecting our water resources. Compost increases soil’s ability to retain water and decreases runoff. Runoff pollutes water by carrying soil, fertilizers and pesticides to nearby streams and sewer drains. Compost encourages healthy root systems, which also decrease runoff. Healthy root systems mean healthy plants and thus better growth and carbon sequestration. If we use compost, we can reduce or eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers (which come from petroleum). Many people add fertilizer to flowers or lawns even if they are not gardening. Only a 5% increase in organic material quadruples soils capacity to hold water. Not too interested in back breaking work with a shovel to turn the compost into the soil? Don’t want to pay for a roto-tiller? Good news for you. It has been shown that simply top dressing soil with compost helps retain the mycorrhizal fungi nets that assist plant roots. It may actually be the most effective way to assist the plants you already have around your house.

Whether you are trying to grow award winning tomatoes or simply want to help the environment around your own home, composting is the thing for you. You will also contribute to the health of the general community in which you live and cut the amount of pollutants that go into the atmosphere from the wastes you’ve generated. Thanks in advance!

http://www.ars.usda.gov US Dept. of Agriculture website

http://www.ghgonline.org/index.htm a green house gas (GHG) website

http://www.epa.gov/ US Environmental Protection Agency website

http://www.globalchange.gov/ the US Govt. website for Fed. Research on Climate and Global Change

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It is a common misconception that a compost pile heats up because of the sun. Sure, if it is hot outside, the pile will be warmer than if it is cold outside, but the sun is not what causes a compost pile to hit the triple digits.

Thermophilic microbes are happily munching away in this 150 degree F compost pile

The microorganisms residing inside of the compost pile are what cause the increase in

temperature.

  • Psychrophiles arrive during the first stage of decomposition. They exist in the pile mainly between 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit (F). The psychrophiles start to digest the material and release carbon dioxide, water and heat. This heat causes the pile’s temperature rise whichattracts the mesophiles.
  • Mesophiles thrive between 70 and 90 degrees F.  The majority of the decomposition in your pile is performed by these microorganisms.
  • Thermophiles will be found in your compost pile when the temperature rises above 104 degrees F. These temperatures will kill off almost all harmful organisms and weed seeds that may reside in your pile.

If a compost pile rises in temperature, it is an indication that the composting process is going well. When the thermophiles run out of things to eat, the temperature will steadily drop. This is a good time to turn your bin, add water, and add more nitrogen-rich green material into the center of your pile. The addition of material that is nitrogen rich, like coffee, manure, or fresh cut grass, will heat your pile right back up as the thermophiles go to work.

Compost thermometers are great ways to tell which stage of decomposition your compost pile is at. These can be purchased at the Solana Center for $20.

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It is pumpkin season, but now that you don’t need your carefully carved pumpkin any more, don’t throw it away! Pumpkin is a great addition to both your compost and worm bin!

To add pumpkin to either bin, it is important that it is broken down into smaller pieces. Chop, cut, or saw the pumpkin into smaller pieces. If some neighborhood hooligan has already smashed your pumpkin, they saved you some work!

In the compost bin:

Pumpkin is a “green.” It is very high in nitrogen. Make sure to bury the pumpkin or follow the addition of the pumpkin with a layer of browns to detract pests. It is important that the pumpkin is cut into smaller pieces. If a whole pumpkin is put into a compost bin, it will take a lot longer to compost. Also, next time the bin is turned, you’ll inevitably get the whole pumpkin stuck on the pitchfork (and who wants to resurrect a partially decomposed pumpkin on a pitchfork?).

In the worm bin:

Worms will love the variety of pumpkin in their diet. Remember – worms have small mouths so it will take them a long time to work through a giant chunk of pumpkin. Smaller pieces will disappear from the worm bin more quickly. If you want to give the worms a special treat, blend the pumpkin into a slurry, pour it into your bin, and then cover with bedding. The worms will go crazy over this easily eaten treat!

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It is very important to consider the possibility of extreme temperatures that may occur while you are gone if you have a vermicomposting bin.

Make sure your worms are safe from any extreme conditions that may occur while you are gone (hot/cold temperatures, etc.)

With holiday season approaching, we have received a lot of questions about what to do with your compost bin while on vacation. No need to hire a compost bin sitter!

If you have a backyard composting bin (Biostack, tumbler, etc.) your bin will be fine while you are away on a trip. Your bin will continue to decompose on its own. You may find when you return that the temperature dropped and the bin is dry but this can be fixed very easily. Just turn your bin, add water, greens and browns and your pile should heat up once again.

If you have a  vermicomposting bin (WrigglyWranch, etc.) your bin should be able to manage on its own for an extended amount of time. The most important thing to keep in mind is the possibility of extreme temperatures. Be sure that your worms will be safe from any extreme temperatures that may occur while you are gone (heat waves, etc.). Make sure  you leave your bin with plenty of moisture.

If you just started your bin, make sure you leave plenty of food and bedding to keep your bin going. If your bin is nearing harvest and has lots of vermicompost, less food is necessary. The worms will continue to process the vermicompost while you are gone. Our Master Composters suggest adding carbon rich bedding and coffee grounds or vegetables that take longer to break down (carrots, brocoli, etc.).

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If you put too much "green" material in your bin, it will not heat up and it will become malodorous.

If you put too much "green" material in your bin, it will not heat up and it will become malodorous.

Sometimes, composters find themselves lacking in browns (carbon rich materials like straw, mulch, shredded paper, etc.) and having a surplus of greens (nitrogen rich materials like kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, freshly cut grass, etc.). But is it bad to have too many greens? What happens if you have too many greens in your compost bin?

You will probably be able to smell your compost bin if you have too many greens. Your compost pile will get slimy and start to smell as the green material begins to putrefy. In addition to the malodorous quality of the bin, the compost pile will probably not heat up because it will not have the correct carbon to nitrogen ratio. The preferred carbon to nitrogen ratio is 30:1. This equates to about 50% of both green and browns by volume.

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