Tuesday, May 1, 2012

International Compost Awareness Week: May 6-12

Let this picture help you see the benefits of composting: the field on the left has utilized compost, the field on the right has not.  

Many farmers are weighing the financial benefits of switching from manmade fertilizers to natural compost.  In an article on composting rules in the Southwest, one farmer reports saving nearly $100,000 on his fertilizer bill because of having switched to compost.  

This May 6-12 is National Composting Awareness Week.  Although there are several varieties, "compost" is a general reference for decomposed organic material.  We have put together some compelling reasons to compost, a quick guide to getting started, and a fun activity for the next generation of conservationists. 

  • replenishes nutrients from food waste back into food-growing Earth
  • improves soil pH
  • provides beneficial microorganisms to the soil which helps suppress plant diseases
  • improves soil structure to make a better environment for roots and prevents erosion
  • manages moisture by reducing need for irrigation
  • creates more drought resistance 
  • mitigates climate change
  • reduces water pollution through pollution prevention, bioremediation, and stormwater management 

Howtocompost.org gives some great tips for the new composter.  Here are a few they recommend:
  • "Gather all grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the "brown" materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both, but if you only add grass clippings your pile will compact and start to stink.
  • Do not compost meats or pet droppings. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
  • Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
  • Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
  • Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
  • Add compost to your garden a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil. Try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
  • Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok. No need to go crazy trying to keep bugs out of your compost.
  • Since the compost process works best at temperature between 120 and 150 degrees composting in the warmer months is easier to do, if this is your first attempt at composting best to try in the summer."
For the serious composter, check out this article on composting toilets

Cut a recycled 2 liter bottle in half and fill the bottom portion 1/4 way up with water (enough to emerse the upturned other half).  Turn the top half of the bottle upside down and place two wicking strips in the bottom, then fill it with damp, soil-less potting mix and a handful of organic fertilizer.  You can plant seeds or start with a seedling and water from the top.  The wicking fabric will pull water up to the plant, conserving water. 

The United States Composting Council offers a multitude of resources for people wanting to know more about composting.  They provide a compost locator map to illustrate where to find quality composting as well as educational webinars, training and certification.  They are a national non-profit organization dedicated to the composting industry.  Green Fern Events is proud to be involved with the USCC's 21st annual conference and trade show in January of 2013 as the conference manager.  

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