Tuesday, August 8, 2017

King of the Compost

Guest Post by Joy Landry.

It was a rare August day in Cincinnati – unseasonably sunny, dry and comfortable. Perfect composting weather! As I approached my backyard compost pile, shovel in one hand, rake in the other, something flitting about the pile caught my eye. As I drew near, its majestic deep gold and black coloring was unmistakable – a monarch butterfly had alighted on the compost, declaring the pile its temporary throne.



I was mesmerized by the insect’s simple beauty and its regal purpose as one of nature’s pollinators. As it flexed its wings, I hoped it planned to stay, at least long enough for me to capture its photo. Alas, when I returned less than a minute later, the monarch had floated away to my neighbor’s backyard, no doubt attracted to his native wildflower patch, awash in the colorful glory of the fading summer.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the monarch butterfly is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration like birds do. These beautiful insects need milkweed, their primary food source, to fuel their long flight to Mexico where they overwinter.

Would you like to attract the monarch butterfly to your backyard? Now is the perfect time of year to invite this lovely insect to visit your compost pile, garden, and yard next spring. Take advantage of the fall weather to plant milkweed in your yard. The Cincinnati Nature Center has a wonderful partnership with Graeters and Jungle Jims   -Milkweeds for Monarchs - where residents can pick up a free packet of milkweed seeds. You can also request a packet of seeds online. By providing its necessary habitat in your own backyard, you can help save this special insect from extinction. And perhaps a monarch butterfly will declare itself King of your Compost Pile, if only for a few moments.

 

Joy Landry is the public relations specialist for Hamilton County Environmental Services. Photo courtesy of National Geographic Kids website.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Composting Tip for the Dead of Summer

Y’all, I get super lazy this time of year (and apparently take on a nice, southern drawl). In Cincinnati the weather is hot as blue blazes and only welcoming if I am walking straight to a swimming hole. I will admit, I do not want to work in the garden or in my compost bin. I do not want to exercise, unless you count lifting an icy sweet tea to my lips.

But what is a composter to do? Work needs gettin’ done. My compost bin is especially wet and heavy with all of the watermelon rinds and fresh fruit and veggie scraps I have added over the last month. That bin needs air.

It is time to aerate my compost bin.

I have discovered my summer power hour. Right after the sun comes up, before everything is hot as Hades. Before the mosquitos wake up. Power hour is where it's at.

I have always been impressed with farmers who wake up super early and get more accomplished before breakfast than I do typically all day. Or those amazing people out running before the sun comes up with motivation I never imagined I could possess. But now I get it.

Just do it.

When those first sunrays start peeking through the curtains, get out of bed before your brain convinces you to roll back over. Swallow a drink of juice or a cup of coffee, put on your shoes, grab your aerator, pitch fork or shovel, and walk to your compost bin. It will take less than 10 minutes to plunge that aerator in and send vital air to the microorganisms breaking down your compost. They will whoop with delight and start eating your banana peels, watermelon rinds, and old plants twice as fast.

Then you can sashay back to your house with the satisfaction that your microorganisms will spend the rest of the day working on your compost while you lounge by the pool.

Stay cool out there, composters!

This cow and I have a lot in common.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Master Composter Class Opportunity in August


Do you love composting? I mean really, really love composting? Do you love learning? Then you should consider taking the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati’s Master Composter class in August.

The class spans four Wednesdays in August (2, 9, 16, and 23) with class from 9 am to 3:30 pm each day. You will learn both in a classroom setting (at the beautiful Civic Garden Center location) and go on fun field trips. You’ll take a deep-dive into the world of composting, and by the end you will be able to offer sound composting advice to everyone you meet at parties.

For additional information contact Kylie Johnson or call the Civic Garden Center at (513) 221-0981. Or check out the Civic Garden Center’s website.

Bonus: Michelle Balz and Jenny Lohmann from the District will be teaching a few segments of the class. We hope to see you there!


 
 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kiss the Ground

Do you have any friends or family who refuse to see the natural beauty and regenerative benefits of composting? Share this amazing video from Kiss the Ground, a California non-profit dedicated to promoting composting and soil regeneration.

The combination of easy-on-the-eyes celebrities and simple graphics make this a very convincing video. Watch it and feel good about your own composting efforts. Share it to convince others to join the revolution!


  

Check out Kiss the Ground's website for more information.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Secret Ingredient for Speeding Up Leaf Bin Compost


You know that feeling when you have found an amazing, tucked-away restaurant but you worry if you tell anyone about it, it won’t be so secret anymore. That is how I feel about this secret, but since I like you all so much, here it goes...

Coffee grounds and leaves make magic. They are a match made in heaven. I am not talking about the small amount of grounds you create with your home coffee pot. To really make an impact, you need to source your grounds from places that make enough coffee to caffeinate hundreds of people a day.

Your friendly neighborhood coffee house.

Recently, a friend of mine made a trip to a Starbucks for her daily sweet coffee fix and asked if they had any used coffee grounds. Instead of the usual neat package of grounds, they gave her a huge garbage bag full. Luckily for me, she was willing to share and dropped off half the bag for my leaf bins.

I’ve been thinking about “cheating” with my leaf compost bins for a few months now. I have mostly oak leaves and while they are showing a steady progression, I want to speed it up.

Coffee grounds just begging to meet up with my leaves.


Bulk coffee grounds add a condensed punch of nitrogen to very carbon heavy leaf bins and will speed up decomposition of the leaves. I layered the grounds in one leaf bin with leaves I moved from a smaller bin. Amazingly, there were enough grounds to also spread on my other leaf bin. As a side bonus, now my leaf bins smell like delicious coffee.

I added the grounds in layers with my leaves and weeds.
So, next time you want to give your leaf bin compost a boost, stop by your local coffee shop and politely ask it they have any used grounds they could give you. Just save some for me, please. J

Monday, May 22, 2017

The 411 on Compost Tea


Post courtesy of Guest Blogger Mike Lee, author of the Compost411.com blog.
 
A batch of bubbling compost tea.
 
Generations of gardeners have used compost teas to benefit plants and soil. Making your own compost tea can stretch the impact of your compost on your yard and garden, bringing different benefits to plants and soils.

Let’s start with the basics: what is compost tea and how does it work? Simply put, compost tea is water that has been exposed to compost. Compost teas in the past were made by letting compost soak in water. Gardeners then strained out compost debris from the water, using the liquid to water gardens or spray on plants. Today’s organic farmers, gardeners, and scientists studying plants and soils have discovered making compost tea with “active aeration” (in short, bubbling) helps release even more beneficial bacteria from compost into the liquid. Sending air bubbles into the compost tea brew increases the amount oxygen available in the water. This means the aerobic bacteria that seem to most benefit plants and soils can thrive while the compost tea is brewing.
 
That brings us to how compost tea works to benefit your plants and soils: “Steeping” compost in water releases microbes and water soluble nutrients into the liquid. These can benefit soil fertility (with vitamins and nutrients) and plant health (some compost teas sprayed on plants seem to help control diseases and create healthier plants). There are many possible benefits from the mix of nutrients and microbes in compost teas; in fact, farm and garden researchers continue cutting-edge scientific studies to figure out exactly why many plants seem to so greatly enjoy their compost teas.
This type of sack is perfect for brewing homemade compost tea.
 
Home gardeners have long brewed compost teas by letting compost steep in water, usually with the compost kept in some sort of “teabag.” Some gardeners continue this method, using materials as simple as a mesh bag to hold the compost and a five-gallon bucket to hold the brew. Small, bucket-sized aerators are available for home gardeners wanting to add more air while the compost tea is brewing; this is the most recommended brewing method by today’s garden researchers and organic farming experts. Certified organic farmers follow certain restrictions for applying compost and compost teas to edible fruits and vegetables; if you would like to use compost tea in the home garden, check with your local garden center or university extension office for compost tea application recommendations.

The gardener wanting to make her own compost tea for the first time can locate many compost tea kits with instructions for proper brewing. These kits usually include the essentials for making a good compost tea: compost tea bags, buckets, and aerators. If you decide to brew your own compost tea, remember that compost is still one of the most important ingredients; be sure to use your best, high-quality compost. Compost made from vermicomposting (worm bins) is often recommended for brewing up your own compost tea.

A lot of resources checked for this one, including:
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/sam/nl/16-spring.pdf
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/soils/vermicompost-tea/
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/sites/default/files/documents/hort/WhyUseCompostTea.pdf
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/horticulture/documents/25gallonRubbermaidbrewerplans_2_.pdf

Monday, May 8, 2017

Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food

Oh happy day, fellow composters! It’s our holiday – International Compost Awareness Week.

International Compost Awareness Week is celebrated each year in the first full week of May and is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the compost industry. This year, the theme is Healthy Soil, Healthy Food and centers on the need for compost as a component of healthy soil.
 
 

If the saying "you are what you eat" is true, I want to grow my fruits and vegetables in soil amended with compost. Compost provides nutrients and helps plants pull minerals from the surrounding soil. Read more on how compost heals you soil here.

Here are five other reasons to love compost:
  1. Compost will cut down your watering requirements.
  2. Compost helps maintain healthy plant growth.
  3. Compost helps improve the structure of clay and sandy soils.
  4. Using sustainable soil-enriching composts helps prevent erosion of valuable topsoil without depleting wildlife habitats.
  5. Compost reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

So raise a glass of (compost) tea and toast with me to our favorite pastime, composting!
 
Visit the Composting Council site for more information on International Compost Awareness Week.