Posts Tagged ‘water conservation’

There are several things to keep in mind when setting up your composting station:

  • Sun or shade?

A worm bin is best placed in the shade. The worms will not fare well in hot temperatures or during a deluge of water during a rainstorm. By placing them in the shade, they will be more protected from the elements and less likely to dry out.

As for a regular compost bin, direct sunlight does not cause the compost pile to heat up. The microbes working busily inside the compost are why the pile heats up. With this in mind, keeping your compost bin in the shade will decrease water evaporation. Also, people are more likely to turn their pile if they do not have to go out into the hot sun to do it.

  • Dirt or cement?

For a compost bin, it is best if it is placed on the dirt. This allows the beneficial insects to crawl up into the bin.  These insects will speed up the decomposition process and are naturally occur in a healthy compost pile. Put hardware cloth or wire mesh underneath the compost bin to prevent the larger animals from digging underneath and into the bin. If a compost pile is set on cement, it is likely that the cement will be stained.

For a worm bin, it does not matter if it is placed on cement or on dirt. It is more important that the bin is in the shade. People often even keep worm bins inside their garage, under their counter, or in a closet.

  • How close do I want my compost bin to the house?

Most people do not want to put their compost bin directly up against their house because of smell and pest attraction fears. If you are composting correctly, neither of these problems should be of issue. How close you put your bin to your house should more so be determined by hose length (if your bin is further away than your hose is long, you’ll be lugging buckets over to your pile!) and ease of use. If you don’t see yourself hoofing it across the yard to dump out your kitchen scraps, then you probably shouldn’t put your bin all the way across your yard. As for the pests and smells, err on the side of caution. If something goes wrong in your pile and it starts to smell or you get an unwanted visitor, it’s better away from your house than directly under your kitchen window.

  • How much room will my compost bin need?

If you plan on being an active composter and turning your compost pile, it is important that you have a space twice the size of your compost bin. This allows you to turn and then rebuild your bin directly next to where it was previously sitting. Turing your bin increases air flow and allows the microbes to break down the material more quickly. If you plan on having a more passive bin, this is obviously not necessary, though you probably want a little room around the bin so it can be accessed from all angles. Worm bins, on the other hand, do not need extra space.


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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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wb27The best method of harvesting varies depending on the type of bin you are using. Some bins, such as the Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin, are designed with two tiers so the worms climb to the next level. This tends to work really well but for bins without an extra tier or for bins with worms that just won’t migrate here are a couple of harvesting methods our Master Composters suggest:

1. Fruit Method: Worms go crazy over avocado and melons. Place the food on one side of your bin. Within a couple of days the worms will swarm over to the food. Then, you can either collect the castings behind them or physically move them to another tier. This method is especially helpful if you want to start another bin.

2. Relocation Method: Move all of the contents of your bin to one side. Add a new layer of bedding on the far side of the bin and begin feeding in only that area. See photo above.

3. Cone Method: Place a tarp on the ground in a sunny area. Dump the contents of your bin onto the tarp. Build cones with the contents of the bin. Because worms do not like the sun, they will move towards the ground and you can collect the tops of the cones. You can continue creating cones until you have the amount of vermicompost you desire.

4. Slurry Method: Dump the contents of your bin into a bucket filled half way with water. The water will help separate the worms from the vermicompost and you can reach in and go worm fishing!

5. Screen Method: Use a 1/4 inch screen to sift the vermicompost. The vermicompost will fall through the screen and the worms will remain on top.

Can’t get all of the worms out of your finished vermicompost? Don’t worry. Worms reproduce very quickly (8 redworms can produce up to 1,500 babies in just six months!).

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There are many reasons why everyone should compost. Here are a few that we find most important.

1. Saves you money. Not only does using compost help conserve water but it reduces the need to purchase fertilizers and soil amendments.

2. Benefits your yard and garden. Compost improves soil health and fertility. It can also help prevent erosion. Compost is also great because it can be used instead of harmful chemicals that often run off into our waterways.

3. Conserves water. Compost helps the soil hold more water and reduces the need for frequent watering.

4. Helps the environment! Not only do organic materials take up an unnecessary amount of space in landfills but they also decompose extremely slow. When organic materials decompose in a landfill, they decompose anerobically (without air) which creates methane, a greenhouse gas. By recycling our organic materials, we reclaim them as a resource and greatly minimize the amount of trash we send to the landfill every week.

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MPj04372760000[1]Concerned about how to garden in these water-challenging times? Call The Water Smart Pipeline!

866-962-7021 ext. 17
8:00 – 12 p.m. Tuesday mornings and 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoons

Nan Sterman, instructor of “ByeBye Grass” class, author of California Gardener’s Guide Vol. 2, and host of the gardening television program “A Growing Passion” will answer your questions about water smart landscaping.

Provided by the Water Conservation Garden until the end of 2009.

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1. Conserves water by slowing evaporation.

2. Reduces erosion by protecting soil from heavy rains and increases the water-holding capacity.

3. Suppresses weed growth by blocking sunlight from reaching the soil’s surface.

4. Adds organic material and nutrients to soil as it slowly decomposes.

5. Helps maintain temperature by retaining heat during colder months and keeping soils cool during hotter months.

You can make your own mulch by chipping yard trimmings, leaves, and tree limbs. To purchase mulch try El Corazon Composting Facility in Oceanside or Miramar Greenery in San Diego.

For more information about the benefits and uses of mulch visit the City of San Diego Environmental Service Department website.

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The workshops are free but reservations are required. Please call 760-839-4076 for more information or to enroll.

The City of Escondido and Rincon Del Diablo MWD are hosting the Protector del Agua Landscape Training for the Professional Landscaper. The workshops are in English. Although the focus is water conservation, the purpose of the workshops is to educate the landscaper on irrigation system, including trouble shooting to increase efficiency and eliminate runoff. It is recommended that the landscaper attend all four days. Vista Irrigation District is hosting the same series of workshops in Spanish.

CLASS #1 – Irrigation Principles
January 7, 2009
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

CLASS #2 – Irrigation System Troubleshooting
January 14, 2009
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

CLASS #3 – Controller Programming
January 21, 2009
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

CLASS #4 – Irrigation Scheduling
January 28, 2009
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

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