Composting – Sarah P. Duke Gardens Thursday, October 24⋅7:00 – 9:00pm Sarah P. Duke Gardens 420 Anderson St, Durham, NC 27708 Composting by Georgeanne Sebastian and Darcey Martin
Discover the basics of successful composting and vermicomposting. Learn how to transform food scraps, leaves, and other organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil conditioner that will benefit your lawn and gardens.
Description: “Backyard composting” — Discover the basics of successful composting and vermicomposting. Learn how to transform food scraps, leaves, and other organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil conditioner that will benefit your lawn and gardens. Classes are free. Registration at the SRL is required. Register online at the Durham County Library website durhamcountylibrary.org. Click on “Events” to find the full calendar of events. Go to the date of the class and sign up. You can also call the Information Desk at South Regional Library to register: 919-560-7410.
A few years ago I decided to begin composting, again. I had tried twice before in different places I had lived. Neither of those first two attempts were successful. There must be something to the saying: ‘Third time’s a charm,’ because I have fallen in love with composting.
Composting is the act of creating compost in your own backyard. Compost is decayed organic matter that once fully broken down makes an outstanding soil amendment for all kinds of plants, shrubs and trees.
Benefits of Composting Compost improves the physical properties of the soil: its color, texture, structure, depth, and water capacity. Compost also supplies the soil with essential nutrients, mainly nitrogen and carbon. Nitrogen supports foliage growth and green color; It easily leaches from soil so it is important to replenish it. Carbon improves soil aeration, and water drainage and retention.
Composting is easier than I imagined it would be and helpful in so many ways. It is an excellent way to recycle yard trimmings and natural kitchen scraps year round. I no longer feel guilty about fruits or vegetables going bad before I have a chance to eat them; What does not feed me will feed my compost pile and, ultimately, my garden.
Home-made compost saves money. With a little effort and consistent attention, the pile builds up and breaks down quickly. Thus, I almost always have compost when I want it. Each spring I treat perennials and shrubs by working a shovelful in to the top few inches of soil under the plant canopy.
Siting and Building a Compost Pile There are two ways to start backyard composting. You can purchase a commercially-manufactured bin or build your own enclosure. I have tried both types and much prefer the DIY approach as it is easier to maintain, especially when it comes to balancing moisture and aeration levels which are important components to a productive pile. A 4×4 cubic-foot enclosure is ideal. The sides must not be solid so air can pass through and around the pile.
Choose the right site for your composting. The first time I tried composting I placed my pile at the rear of a long, narrow acre. Its distant location, behind a shrub border no less, turned out to be inconvenient and, therefore largely ignored. My current pile is just behind a detached garage, out of sight yet still easy to access.
It takes about three to six months to produce finished compost using the “hot pile” method. The “cold pile” method will take about a year or longer. The difference being the temperature and moisture of the pile. Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown, has a light and crumbly texture similar to potting soil, and has a pleasant, earthy scent.
Feeding a Compost Pile Ideally, begin with a layer of twigs and small branches to provide some structure and ventilation at the bottom of the pile. On top of that, add a layer of dead leaves and then a handful of soil to initiate microorganisms.
Contributions to the compost pile are commonly characterized as “browns” and “greens.” Browns are sugar-rich carbon sources that provide energy to microorganisms. Greens are protein-rich nitrogen sources that provide moisture to microorganisms. Composting works because microorganisms in the pile (such as bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and nematodes) feed on this brown and green matter, converting it to what we recognize as soil.
Materials I often add to my compost pile include: coffee grinds and tea bags, dryer lint and floor sweepings, fruit and vegetable peelings, stems from herbs, flower stalks and dead blossoms, egg shells, and twigs that litter the ground. Since Durham County has a very good curb recycling program, I route my newspapers, cardboard and other paper scraps to the recycling bin. The nitrogen content of paper is low and would slow the pile’s decomposition rate, so it is best not to compost paper. Avoid pine needles, too; their waxy coating resists decay. I err on the side of caution and do not add weeds to my compost.
Tips for Composting Success
Piles three to five feet high stay hot best.
Smaller pieces compost faster; Take the time to cut deposits into two-inch pieces.
Turn the pile weekly to aerate it and hasten breakdown of material. If it is too difficult to turn, at least poke holes in it. I use a pitch fork, but there is such a tool as a composting fork that may be easier/better.
Add a handful of soil every now and then to initiate microorganisms.
Occasionally, I add water to the bucket of household waste before dumping it on the pile; approximately 40 to 60 percent moisture is needed in the pile. (Water in the bucket also helps to fully empty its contents.)
Rinse eggshells and set them aside. Once fully dry, crush them to hasten their breakdown.
Pour a layer of dead leaves or rotting twigs (‘browns’) over fresh vegetable trimmings (‘greens’) to dissuade critters from entering the pile.
Strive for a ratio mix of 2:1 “brown” to “greens.”
Conclusion I love having a compost pile for its utility in providing nutritious soil for my garden and a place for the recycling of vegetable trimmings, egg shells, and other organic household waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere. I can, and do, compost year-round. During cold weather the pile is unlikely to get hot enough to break down new additions. No worries though; Being North Carolinians, we know that warm weather will soon return.
Sunday, Jun 7, 2015 3:00pm – 4:00pm
Where: Durham Public Library, South Regional Library, 4502 South Alston Avenue
Seasonal selections of reliable plants to keep your garden colorful from spring to fall. Deer resistant varieties for both your sunny and shady garden.
Presented by Cathy Lambe and Ann Barnes, Durham County Extension Master Gardeners. Free/Registration required.
Contact: Cathy Starkweather, firstname.lastname@example.org 919-560-7410
June 9: There’s Gold in Your Kitchen Scraps – Getting Dirty Radio Show
Many of us live with small yards or have HOA restrictions which prevent us from having a compost pile. Lise Jenkins discovers some options for managing scraps and creating valuable soil amendments. Broadcast at 2PM on Tuesdays on WCOM 103.5 FM, at 8AM on Saturdays on WDFC 101.7 or anytime at http://gettingdirtyradioshow.org/
Drip Irrigation Systems for Container & Raised Bed Gardens Thursday, Jun 11, 2015 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Where: Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street
Tired of hand watering your containers and beds all summer long? Join us for a hands on presentation and learn to assemble a simple automated and water_ efficient drip irrigation system for your home garden. You will walk away confident enough to do it yourself!
Free/Registration required. Contact: 919-668-1707