Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Year in the Life of a Leaf Bin

Every year massive oak trees blanket my backyard in a crisp, brown mat of leaves. Usually, I squirrel away as many as I can in my compost area. The remainder I squish into brown paper leaf bags for curbside collection. Lots and lots of leaf bags.

Last year I finally got sick of sending all of that beautiful compost fodder off to someone else and decided to try and compost it myself. I ended up building three leaf bins in addition to my black plastic beauty to hold all of the leaves. They were still overflowing so I sent a few bags to the curb. Progress comes in strides...

What better for a photo documentary than a leaf bin, right? Here we go:

November 2016:
It's raining leaves. Hallelujah, it's raining leaves. Hey, hey...


February 2017
The leaves dropped about two feet over winter. After cleaning up all of the surrounding leaves...

February 2017
...the bin is nearly full again.



May 2017
The pile shrank to half its original size. Keep on keeping on, leaf compost.

June 2017
I added the contents of another leaf bin to make room. I also added a super secret ingredient to speed up composting

September 2017
The compost is nearly finished. Like a custard filled doughnut, my compost is hiding a "delicious" secret surprise.


November 2017 Harvest Time!



Up close and personal with the leaf mold compost. A perfect mulch.

Any leaves not finished composting went into the new leaf bin (mostly those on the outside). All of my leaf bins are full again and I am happy to report no leaves went to the curb this year!

Do you compost your leaves? If you have any tips or tricks, leave them below.




Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Happy World Soil Day!

Of course we are the type of people who celebrate a day dedicated to soil. Here’s why:
  • Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate.
  • 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but we can mitigate this through soil.
  • 95% of our food comes from soil.
  • 33% of our global soils are already degraded.

Facts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

What’s the best action you can take to give back to our soil? You guessed it: compost in your backyard.


Learn more about how compost heals your soil

Happy World Soil Day!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Save the Food’s GUEST-IMATOR is Thanksgiving’s BFF


The vast majority of us make too much food on Thanksgiving. Of course, while preparing, we have visions of all of the wonderful leftover dishes we will make. But after a solid week of turkey sandwiches and turkey soup, most of us are ready to toss everything and buy a round of burritos.

Enter the Guest-Imator

A fantastic tool developed by the Save the Food campaign to help us figure out how much turkey, stuffing, and everything else you actually need to make for your guests. The tool allows you to customize your planning based on the types of eaters, the type of meal, and how much leftovers you want.

The best part, it is EASY and FUN to use. Give it a try.

www.savethefood.com/guestimator 


Of course, even perfect planning will likely leave us with scraps we need to compost. Check out our past Thanksgiving posts for tips on what you can and cannot compost on Thursday:



Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Three Reasons Werewolves Make Terrible Composters

ARH-WOOOOOOOOO….

Werewolves may be able to smell prey from miles away, tear through the forest with impressive speed, and rip their enemies to shreds but, unlike vampires, werewolves do not make great composters. 

1.     They eat only meat. Usually raw, sometimes while it is still alive. As we know, meat does not play well in our backyard compost pile.
2.     They are not civilized. Werewolves are too busy howling at the moon and stalking prey to carry a kitchen pail of food scraps to the bin.
3.     Their strong sense of smell and dog-like behaviors would likely lead to the werewolf rolling around in the compost pile rather than tending to it.

Never fear, though! We can learn a few tips from their legendary lack of domesticity. Like our monster canine friends, composters do have a pack. (I see you driving around town with your I heart compost bumper magnets.) And I would love to borrow those lycanthrope claws and strength to turn my whole compost pile in a matter of seconds.

Maybe we have more in common with werewolves than I originally thought. I may not have bulging hairy muscles ripping apart my flannel shirt or sharp canines dripping with infectious saliva, but I can howl at the moon with the best of them.

Happy Hallooooweeeen!

If you are like me and love Halloween and composting, check out our other posts based on the best holiday of the year:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wolf_Man_(1941_film)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Impressive Volunteer-Powered Composting

Do you have 12 free minutes to feel inspired? 

Check out this video from the Red Hook Urban Community Farm composting operation in Brooklyn, NY. An army of volunteers “walk turn” a major windrow compost pile. Seeing so many people working together at a community compost site not only makes you feel good, but it will also make tackling your backyard pile seem like a cake-walk.



Trouble viewing the video? Check out this link

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Composting Chicken Poop

Chicken poop straddles the line between manure you can compost and manure you need to avoid. Since chickens will eat anything (and I do mean anything) they are omnivores so you need to follow special rules if you want to compost the manure of your domestic avian friend.

Cock-A-Doodle Do’s and Don’ts
If you decide to add chicken manure to your compost, follow a few basic precautions to make sure any pathogens in the manure do not make you or your family sick.

  1. Wear gloves when handling manure.
  2. Practice hot composting techniques with manure to ensure the pile heats up enough to kill pathogens.
  3. Only use fully composted manure on your plants (nothing fresh).
  4. Wash all vegetables planted in soil that you amended with compost derived from manure.
  5. If you are susceptible to food borne illness (e.g., very young children, pregnant women) avoid eating raw vegetables planted in soil that you amended with compost derived from manure.
  6. Do not use chicken manure in vermicomposting.


Chicken-Out
Each chicken will create about two cubic feet of manure in a year. Even with a few chickens, all of that poop and associated bedding really adds up! Of course, like other birds their manure is mixed with urine in a gross weird mess (sorry to get so graphic, but what did you expect?).

If you keep chickens, you know the smell of ammonia all too well and know that you must clean up the fowl droppings often (pun intended).  

Which Comes First?
Fresh chicken manure is way too strong to apply directly to plants or even work into soil as an amendment. It would damage the plant roots and possibly kill the plant. However, chicken manure makes an excellent addition to your compost pile since it has higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than most other domestic animal manures. The organisms in your compost bin will break the manure down into a soil amendment your plants will love.

After the manure has fully composted, give the compost plenty of time to cure (at least two months). Although a little extra work, composting chicken manure creates a beautiful, black crumbly material high in nutrients for your plants.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Red in My Roses

Guest Blogger, Brad Miller

I am seeing red in my roses this year and it is not from what you would think. This spring, I mixed some compost with the soil around my garden. In late May, all of a sudden, I had tomato plants popping up between my roses. 

These volunteer cherry tomato plants sprouted from seeds put in my compost. Sure, I could have pulled them as weeds, but then I would have missed out on the bounty. So far, I have picked over 50 tomatoes. 


Tomato, pepper, melon and other seeds sometimes persevere during the composting process, especially if you do not turn your pile often. Cold composting (not turning your pile) is easier although it does take longer and, as I learned, can result in an unintended surprise from using the finished compost.

If you want to prevent seeds from staying viable in your compost; try hot composting. But if you are like me and don't mind a little extra fruit and veggies, sit back, relax and let compost make its magic.

Compost-enthusiast Brad Miller is the Assistant Director of Hamilton County Environmental Services. He also maintains our office garden and compost bins.