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Home Composting101 Dana Ecelberger Jefferson County Conservation District Manager February 28, 2015.

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Presentation on theme: "Home Composting101 Dana Ecelberger Jefferson County Conservation District Manager February 28, 2015."— Presentation transcript:

1 Home Composting101 Dana Ecelberger Jefferson County Conservation District Manager February 28, 2015

2 Conservation District Shold Business Park (360) Shold Business Park (360) Special purpose, non-regulatory government agency Special purpose, non-regulatory government agency Established in Dust Bowl era to assist farmers in protecting valuable soil. Has evolved to include water quality, agricultural Farm Planning, many best management practices, cost share and habitat restoration and protection Established in Dust Bowl era to assist farmers in protecting valuable soil. Has evolved to include water quality, agricultural Farm Planning, many best management practices, cost share and habitat restoration and protection Supported through grants: federal, state, county and competitive grant process Supported through grants: federal, state, county and competitive grant process

3 Services Soil testing Soil testing Forestry technical assistance Forestry technical assistance Native plant assistance and Tree Sale Native plant assistance and Tree Sale Farm Planning Farm Planning Water quality monitoring and fish expertise Water quality monitoring and fish expertise Resource Library Resource Library Cost share Cost share Stormwater and Low Impact Design Stormwater and Low Impact Design

4 Dana Ecelberger 23 years an organic farmer in Northern California 23 years an organic farmer in Northern California 10 acre, bio-intensive, market garden and orchard 10 acre, bio-intensive, market garden and orchard Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science Master’s in Sustainable Development/Project Management Master’s in Sustainable Development/Project Management Native plant fanatic and landscape designer Native plant fanatic and landscape designer Community gardener & organics consultant Community gardener & organics consultant

5 The Magic of Composting

6 What is compost? Manure from herbivores, food scraps, fallen leaves, garden waste, soil, newspaper, branches and just about any organic material Manure from herbivores, food scraps, fallen leaves, garden waste, soil, newspaper, branches and just about any organic material Combined with time, water, oxygen and organisms Combined with time, water, oxygen and organisms To create a substance that: To create a substance that: Conditions the soil Conditions the soil Adds nutrients Adds nutrients Kicks off chemical reactions that make available even more nutrients Kicks off chemical reactions that make available even more nutrients Increases water holding capacity Increases water holding capacity Helps strengthen plants so that they can survive less than ideal conditions and fight off disease and pests… Helps strengthen plants so that they can survive less than ideal conditions and fight off disease and pests…

7 How Nature does it…

8 Why compost? Compost is a free soil amendment and a good way to dispose of food and yard wastes. Compost is a free soil amendment and a good way to dispose of food and yard wastes. Compost is cheaper and easier to apply than chemical fertilizers. Compost is cheaper and easier to apply than chemical fertilizers. You don’t need to worry about burning your plants with good compost. You don’t need to worry about burning your plants with good compost. Compost does more than add nutrients. Compost does more than add nutrients. It conditions the soil, making it capable of holding more water or of draining more efficiently, It conditions the soil, making it capable of holding more water or of draining more efficiently, it increases biological activity which contributes to the long- term health of the soil and plants and it increases biological activity which contributes to the long- term health of the soil and plants and it helps preserve our bank of healthy topsoil which we are losing at a rate of 1% annually. it helps preserve our bank of healthy topsoil which we are losing at a rate of 1% annually.

9 All roads lead to compost

10 The Recipe 3:1: 3 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen. 3:1: 3 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen. This is where the energy comes from. High carbon materials tend to be brown and dry like leaves, straw, shredded newspaper and branches. 1:3: 1 Nitrogen to 3 Carbon. 1:3: 1 Nitrogen to 3 Carbon. This is where the organisms come from that “cook” the carbon. High nitrogen materials tend to be green or colorful, like food waste, grass clippings and plant trimmings. Oxygen: This aids the decomposition process. Turning the pile helps to keep it aerated. Oxygen: This aids the decomposition process. Turning the pile helps to keep it aerated. Water: The pile should have as much water as a wrung out sponge. The water keeps the biological activity alive and well. Water: The pile should have as much water as a wrung out sponge. The water keeps the biological activity alive and well.

11 How to build a compost pile 1.Clear a piece of ground the size you want your pile to be, or the size of your compost bin. 3 feet wide by 3 feet across by 3 feet wide is a good start. Over 8 feet tends to be too big. 2.Start your pile with some pliable branches or shredded clean cardboard to get air circulation from bottom. 3.Alternate layers of “brown” and “green”. Remember 3 browns to 1 green so if you have 3 inches of leaves, use only 1 inch of grass clippings. 4.Add some llama, goat, rabbit, sheep, gerbil or chicken manure to help heat the pile. Some native dirt is a good way to get mycorrhizae into the pile. 5.Lightly water each layer, if needed. 6.Keep building until your reach your desired height. Cover with a layer of browns. 7.For fastest decomposition, turn pile every 3-4 weeks.

12 Mycorrhizae Mycorrhizae are fungal “roots” that exist with vascular plants in a symbiotic, generally mutualistic relationship where the mycorrhizae make plant roots essentially longer and therefore able to access more water and nutrients than they would otherwise be able to do and the plant provides sugars to the fungus.

13 Cross section of a home compost pile

14 What can go into my pile?

15 Do’s Browns to Compost: Fallen leaves (B) Fallen leaves (B) Finely chopped, woody Finely chopped, woody prunings (B) prunings (B) Pine needles (B) Pine needles (B) Untreated wood sawdust (B) Untreated wood sawdust (B) Shredded newspaper & Shredded newspaper & non glossy cardboard with non glossy cardboard with tape removed (B) tape removed (B) Greens to Compost: Breads and grains (G) Tea bags & coffee grounds(G) Egg shells (in moderation)(G) Lawn clippings (G) Young weeds WITHOUT flowers or seed heads (G) Vegetable & fruit scraps (G) Manure from non-meat eating animals (G)

16 Don’ts Don’ts Meat, fish & bones Meat, fish & bones Dairy products Dairy products Greasy foods Greasy foods Plywood or treated Plywood or treated sawdust sawdust Diseased plants Diseased plants Dog, Cat, or bird feces Dog, Cat, or bird feces Poison oak or ivy Poison oak or ivy Rhizominous plant material BBQ or coal ashes Plastics or other non-organic materials and compounds, including tape and glue Weeds with flowers or seedheads Avocado & egg shells take a long time to decompose so use sparingly Don’t compost

17 Maintaining and nurturing your pile Keeping the ratios of carbon to nitrogen, air and water at an optimal level is the key to making good compost. Remember 3 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen, damp as a wrung out sponge and enough air flow to keep life respiring. Keeping the ratios of carbon to nitrogen, air and water at an optimal level is the key to making good compost. Remember 3 Carbon to 1 Nitrogen, damp as a wrung out sponge and enough air flow to keep life respiring. Turning your pile every 2-6 weeks will speed up the composting process. Having 2-3 piles in process is a good way to keep them turned regularly. Just turn the 1 st one into the 2 nd one and so on. Do this twice and you are probably ready to roll with beautiful compost. Turning your pile every 2-6 weeks will speed up the composting process. Having 2-3 piles in process is a good way to keep them turned regularly. Just turn the 1 st one into the 2 nd one and so on. Do this twice and you are probably ready to roll with beautiful compost. Heat is an indication of biological activity. Having adequate air circulation will assist in creating adequate heat to properly “cook” your compost, as will adding some herbivore manure. Goat, sheep and llama manures are some of the least weedy. Horse and cow manure can be full of weeds. Be aware of animals which have been wormed and given antibiotics. Heat is an indication of biological activity. Having adequate air circulation will assist in creating adequate heat to properly “cook” your compost, as will adding some herbivore manure. Goat, sheep and llama manures are some of the least weedy. Horse and cow manure can be full of weeds. Be aware of animals which have been wormed and given antibiotics.

18 3 Pile system

19 Compost Pile Vitals Take the temperature of your pile to test if it is ready or not. You can do this with a compost thermometer or you can just plunge your hand in up to your elbow. When cooking, it should get hot enough to steam. When done it is cool to the touch. Take the temperature of your pile to test if it is ready or not. You can do this with a compost thermometer or you can just plunge your hand in up to your elbow. When cooking, it should get hot enough to steam. When done it is cool to the touch. A cold pile may take up to 6 months to turn into usable compost. A hot pile can be done in as little as 6 weeks, if turned regularly. A cold pile may take up to 6 months to turn into usable compost. A hot pile can be done in as little as 6 weeks, if turned regularly. If it smells bad it is not getting enough oxygen and/or is too wet. Add more browns. Keep it covered in the rainy season. If it smells bad it is not getting enough oxygen and/or is too wet. Add more browns. Keep it covered in the rainy season. If you are getting ANY kind of animal activity (rodents, raccoons, etc) in your pile then freeze food wastes for a week before adding to the pile. If you are getting ANY kind of animal activity (rodents, raccoons, etc) in your pile then freeze food wastes for a week before adding to the pile. Break woody debris into smaller pieces to speed decomposition. Break woody debris into smaller pieces to speed decomposition. Layer grass clippings sparingly. Big clumps of grass will break down slowly and will begin to smell rotten. Layer grass clippings sparingly. Big clumps of grass will break down slowly and will begin to smell rotten.

20 How do I know it is “done”? Finished compost should look and smell like rich, dark soil. Finished compost should look and smell like rich, dark soil. The baggie test: Place some of your compost in a ziploc bag in a cool, dark place for a few days. It should smell good when you open the bag. If it smells rotten or strong then your compost needs to keep working for a while yet. The baggie test: Place some of your compost in a ziploc bag in a cool, dark place for a few days. It should smell good when you open the bag. If it smells rotten or strong then your compost needs to keep working for a while yet. Large bits of decomposed food (especially avocado shells), or woody debris can be sifted out as long as the majority of the compost is completely decomposed. These bits can be added to a newer pile. Large bits of decomposed food (especially avocado shells), or woody debris can be sifted out as long as the majority of the compost is completely decomposed. These bits can be added to a newer pile.

21 Vermiculture/Worm Bins

22 What to expect…

23 Vermiculture is a great way to do urban, or small scale composting. Although worm bins are “easy”, there are a few things to keep in mind to have a successful experience. The worms used in worm bins are “Red Wrigglers”. These are not the same species that we commonly find in garden soils. Worm bins should not be allowed to freeze, dry out, overheat or become water logged. Raccoons are mad for worms so keep your worm bin coon free with a secure lid. Keep the bin filled to the top to discourage fly larvae.

24 How to build a worm bin Shred newspaper into 2 inch strips. (Use black and white, not color or glossy) Shred newspaper into 2 inch strips. (Use black and white, not color or glossy) Make a deep “nest” of newspaper that comes up to the top of your container. Make a deep “nest” of newspaper that comes up to the top of your container. Add a little garden soil. Add a little garden soil. Lightly water with a sprinkler type attachment until the paper is evenly moistened. It should be damp but not water logged. Lightly water with a sprinkler type attachment until the paper is evenly moistened. It should be damp but not water logged. Add your worms. Add your worms. Worms like to eat: Coffee and tea grounds Bananas and other “sweet” fruits Vegetable scraps. Avocado (they will scrape the insides of the shells but not eat the shells themselves…or at least not quickly. The inside of egg shells but the shells break down very slowly so add sparingly. They don’t eat/like Grease or fats Dairy Meats Citrus or spicy foods Plastic

25 Compost tea A great way to use your compost or worm compost is to make compost tea. This can be applied to houseplants, garden plants and even your kids if they aren’t growing fast enough! Well, not really but you get the idea … Compost tea Recipe: pounds compost 2.1 ounce liquid kelp 3.1 ounce soluble unsulphered black strap molasses 4.2 ounces cane sugar 5.1 tablespoon mycorrhizae Put the compost in a cheesecloth bag or burlap bag and then with other ingredients all together in a 32 gallon trash can and fill with water. Cover with a lid and place in a warm, not hot, location. Stir several times a day until it starts to bubble slightly. Scoop out with a watering can or pump out with a sump pump, if applying to a large area.

26 Questions?

27 Thank you! See our website for :www.jeffersoncd.org More resources on composting Resources on pruning, native plants, organic farming, and much more To sign up for our digital newsletter and notification of classes, workshops, volunteer opportunities and special events Call or us for information on: Soil testing ($25 a sample with recommendations) Farm planning Cost share programs Our annual Tree Sale (360) or


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