Falling For Composting – Part 2 of 2

Regina shares her composting recipe with us so that we can help create our own Black Gold. The to-do’s and the don’ts of what goes into your compost. Yes! Composting in your kitchen made simple. Kind of reminds me of Ruth Stout, a 90 year old gardener that would kick dirt over her potatoes and feel certain that her garden would reap what she sowed.  The dirt was back gold.Composting Leaves For Breast Cancer

By Regina M. Dlugokencky: Garden Coach
Recipe for Success
What will go into the mix are simply two types of materials composed of nitrogen (greens) and carbon (browns). Layer these up as you go. By shooting for a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio of 30:1 youʼll be providing your micro-herds the right food in the right balance to break down organic matter. There are many great resources on what can be composted and what canʼt, but here is a quick rundown of them. Remember to keep your pile moist like a wrung out sponge and youʼll be on your way!

Do Compost:

  • Brown Matter or Green Matter
  • Leaves, straw (not hay!)
  • Grass Clippings
  • Brown Paper, Paper rolls, newspapers
  • Vegetable + Fruit trimmings
  • Spent Potting mix or soil
  • Coffee Grinds/Tea Bags
  • Crushed Egg shells

Donʼt Compost:

  • Aluminum, tin or other metal
  • Glass
  • Dairy products (butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) & eggs
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
  • Greasy or oily foods
  • Meat or seafood scraps
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)
  • Soiled diapers
  • Plastic
  • Stickers from fruits or vegetables (to prevent litter)
  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
  • Roots of perennial weeds
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Fire starter logs
  • Treated or painted wood

Rather than making numerous trips out to the compost to dispose of your kitchen scraps, there are many styles of compost containers that let you build up a stash for a week or so. Choose one that you can easily fit under your sink, or one you wouldnʼt mind on your counter and youʼll be set to begin collecting.

A well-balanced compost pile with sufficient airflow through will be odorless and the resulting finished compost will be soil-like in texture with an aroma of good earth.Gimmie Shelter For Breast Cancer Composting

Leave ʻem There
Before you run out and get your hands dirty, I must make this last appeal. Have you ever stepped into a woodland setting and wondered why these natural places are so lush with plants and life? Once we acknowledge that no “gardener” weeds, waters or fertilizes, we are naturally left to wonder how this happens?

Hereʼs how: leaves, those awesome solar energy collectors are full of nutrients, and are dropping to the ground right about now serve as wonderful mulch to the trees and shrubs that they once adorned. Besides insulating root systems from winter chill, fallen leaves temper both high and low temper extremes and also maintain a level of moisture, and the thicker the mulch, the better protection. Like all things once living, when the leaves come into contact with the soil (and its attendant micro-herds), they begin to decompose and release nutrients back into the soil, creating truly fertile ground for the root system to re-uptake when the Treeʼs winter slumber is over. Simply put, leaves are natureʼs blanket and are a valuable addition to your landscape.

So whether you are of the mind to work your micro-herds, or simply let them be, remember that compost, leaves and mulch are among the greatest gifts for an organic gardener.

Go forth and compost!
More information on composting and the benefits to your garden, the environment and your health is abundant here are a few to get you started:
Dig in to more resources: General Composting info
DIY Compost Bins
Kitchen Garden International

Falling For Composting – Part 1 of 2

Regina Shares Her Two Part Compost Series
Yes, Composting is healing and great for recovery. Mother Earth is always vibrating at a low hertz level creating calm and purpose for us. It is such a gift to participate in the process of our food production or our visual gardens of love and labor. Enjoy what Regina shares. She does so with such love and respect.Falling For Composting For Breast Cancer

Falling for Composting

By Regina M. Dlugokencky: Garden Coach
Itʼs November and like most of us gardeners, you might be one of those that did not get to every thing on your gardening “to-do” list. Maybe it was building those raised beds, edging that border, planting those perennials. Whatever it was, the autumn is still a good time to put your nose to the grindstone and get gardening!

Okay, with the shift in daylight hours you may be more inclined to crawl under the blankets and settle into much-deserved winter hibernation, and I wouldnʼt blame you. While you are snug as a bug under the covers, your garden is bare, desolate, and woefully in need of a blanket, one made of compost (or at the very least, some autumn leaves).

If you donʼt already compost, here are a few great reasons why you should, and the fall is the perfect season to begin!

Black Gold or Why Compost is King
Compost is an amazing thing. It is teeming with micro and macro organisms, bacteria and fungi. According to the website Compost Heaven (http://www.compostheaven.com/compost.html) one single teaspoon of the stuff is inhabited by “up to a billion bacteria, 440-900 feet of fungal hyphae, and 10,000 to 50,000 protozoa.” Dubbed by soil science experts as “micro-herds,” they work together to breakdown organic matter, recycle nutrients, and create humus. Humus (not to be confused with Hummus) is a dark colored, super stable, nutrient rich material that is essential to soil fertility.

High quality compost is among the best things you can work into your garden beds; it can remediate soil, improve drainage as well as increase nutrient and water retention. It has also been found to help suppress diseases and pests, and best of all reduce the need for fertilizers. Add to these reasons the concept of keeping valuable organic “feedstock” such as vegetable scraps, grass clipping, leaves (yes leaves!) out of landfill and youʼve got some powerful incentives to begin to compost yourself.

Compost Happens
Itʼs just a matter of time when your compost is ready, and from personal experience, one could layer your compost up, sprinkle it with water every week or so, and get compost even if one never turns it. Not even once! With time, hose hardworking micro-herds will do all the work. If you give them a little more oxygen (by turning your pile), then theyʼll work a bit faster. If not, then theyʼll work at a natural pace–either way youʼll end up with some amazing rich compost in the end.

Build it and They Will Come
Similar to making a seven layer dip, but with a lot less effort, a compost pile or bin is easier to make than you might otherwise think. All you need is a space that is reasonably close to a water source, out of the blazing sun (part shade is perfered), and out of sight. A four by four space is the perfect dimension to start your pile, bin, or what have you. Bigger is not better, so if you think youʼll really be digging this composting thing, plan your space for two or three. A four by four bin will build up sufficient heat to get your compost cooking, while bins of larger or smaller dimensions will not.Soil Food Web Composting For Breast Cancer

The “structure” you use can be as low tech as simply alternately piling up each layer in a mound, or you can get fancier with sides made out of wire, wood or cinder blocks or buy prefab compost bins that neaten things up. There are many types of bins to choose from, but for a long-term investment, avoid wooden bins, which (by necessity are untreated) will eventually rot. If you worry about rats or other varmints, you can reduce their presence by keeping those foods on the “donʼt” list out of your compost and by keeping the pile wet like a wrung out sponge. Remember to bury the latest kitchen contribution within the pile and adding some compost from last season or ordinary garden soil, to make it less appealing.

If you think about it, even a rat wouldnʼt find a damp space like your compost pile hospitable enough to take residence in. Also remember that rats and all other four legged critters we share this planet with are an integral part of the food web. Owls, hawks and the other wild critters that prey on them will keep the odd rat or two in check with no problem.

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