Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bounty of a Lazy Composter

Hi, I’m Cher your guest blogger for today.

Anyone who has heard me talk about composting will confirm that I readily admit to being a lazy composter.

I do not chop my food scraps into tiny pieces to help them decompose faster. I do not worry about monitoring my compost for moisture – if it looks dry I take the lid off before it rains. I do not turn my compost every two to four weeks. 
 
And between you and me, I am not even avid about covering up my food scraps with carbon rich material. I just got myself two compost bins so I always have room (my lazy composting takes a little longer than active composting).
 
I may be lazy, but I’m no procrastinator.  I knew I was going to need room for my fall leaves, so I harvested one of my compost bins for the first time in two years.  The result:



I had so much finished compost I had to find innovative ways to store it until I could use it. I utilized my old recycle bin (I no longer need now that I have a 95 gallon recycling cart). I also used empty cat litter buckets and some old plant pots. And when I got really desperate, I repurposed a sturdy bird food bag.

Buddy was impressed.
Mission accomplished! Look at all the room I created for my leaves.


To conserve room and energy (my energy) I set my mower to bag the leaves and just emptied the chopped up leaves into my compost bins.   


Cher is a Program Specialist for the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ever Composted 70,000 Pounds in a Year?

Guest blogger Catherine Walsh

We have a couple of gems in our area – composting gems, that is. Two venerable institutions have taken matters into their own hands, so to speak, and addressed a large waste stream for each of them through on-site, in-vessel composting (composting in a very large, metal contraption).

Findlay Market, located right smack in downtown Cincinnati, is special for many reasons – it’s an historic landmark, it has continuously operated in the same iron-framed building since 1855, it’s an economic driver for the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and it’s a really fun place to do your grocery shopping or just walk around. On top of all that, Findlay Market operates the first Class II composting facility in an urban area in the state of Ohio.

Class II composting facility, you ask? Well, that’s a designation that indicates it’s not a backyard composting pile (like the one at your house), but a regulated and managed operation that is permitted to accept and process food scraps from a business, in this case from Findlay Market itself.
Since it started managing food waste in 2010 by actively composting it in the Earth Tubs, Findlay Market has kept an average of about 70,000 pounds per year from going into the landfill. That's something to crow about! 


In-vessel composting system at Findlay Market.

Up the hill from Findlay Market is another long-lived institution that provides our region with education, community service, and some pretty darn good basketball. Xavier University, located in Norwood, Ohio, is home to more than 6,000 students, many of whom live and eat on campus. In fact, in a week during the school year, 30,000 meals are served and, about 3,500 pounds of food scraps are generated at the main student dining hall.

In 2013, Xavier installed in-vessel composting equipment and began to work toward the goal of keeping all organic waste out of the landfill. With the help of grant money from Ohio EPA, Xavier purchased special equipment they use to dehydrate cafeteria food scraps before processing that material in their in-vessel composting units.

The magnificent compost that this generated throughout the school year is the "X factor" that groundskeepers use to keep the 189-acre campus healthy and looking beautiful.

Thanks to all you regular readers and backyard composter for doing what you do. And thanks to these two major institutions for committing time and money to turning food scraps into a valuable resource for a healthy community.

Earth Tubs used to compost food scraps and yard trimmings at Xavier University.






Thursday, August 18, 2016

Compost Garden

A few weeks ago John and Amy Duke, composters and gardeners extraordinaire, gave me a tour of their very special and very fun garden. They have filled the garden with beautiful plants, well-tended beds, and whimsical statues and signs that leave you feeling plain happy.

John is a master gardener and a master composter and Amy (the boss) says she spends at least 20 hours a week just working in the garden. They have an impressive composting area and actually name their compost bins (Grateful Dead, A Frond Farewell, Leaves of Thyme). John and Amy credit the health of their garden to all of the compost they add.

Here are a few of the photos I took. I felt like I needed to snap one everywhere I looked!



Samples of different types of bins.

Making compost tea to boost the microorganisms in finished compost.

 
The Anheuser Bush (ha ha) 

Yes, that is an adorable pot man using the john.
 
Fairies have taken up residence.

Part of the children's garden.


This squirrel thinks I am the paparazzi.
Don't you just want to wander through?
 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Aerate Your Compost with No Work?

For years I have thrown all sticks landing in my yard into our backyard fire pit. Aside from loving a good campfire, I know any stick larger around than my thumb will take a very long time to decompose in my bin. I even try to break other materials up to make decomposition faster.

But recently I started deliberately adding sticks to my compost hoping to provide something every compost pile needs: AIR.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Adding a small layer of sticks every so often, especially when you are starting a new pile, helps the material from becoming too dense for air to move through. Keeping air in your pile helps encourage our friends the aerobic microorganisms to break down our compost even faster.

Of course you can also aerate your pile by turning it but I’m experimenting to see if sticks offer the same effect with little to no effort.

Another material with a similar effect to sticks would be straw. Last fall after harvesting my compost, I piled some old straw in the bottom to help air flow through the bin.

Free As A Bird

Other composters have tried different methods to add air into the pile without having to turn.

PVC pipe with holes drilled in it 
Stalks from plants
Bunched up cardboard or egg cartons

Feel free to air your opinion: do you use anything else to keep air in your pile?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top 10 Signs You Are a Compost Geek

You know you're a compost geek when you find yourself nodding in agreement to at least half of the following...

10. You have 3 or more compost sites on your property.

9. You instantly like someone more when you find out they compost.

8. You keep a bin of worms so you can compost year round.

7. Attending a compost class is the highlight of your week.

6. You ask for composting accessories as gifts.

5. You carry a banana peel home in your purse.

4. You find yourself talking about compost at parties.

3. You get excited when you see your compost steaming.

2. You constantly find new things that can be composted (my most recent is soymilk).

1. You light up when you see an "I heart Compost" bumper sticker on a car.




Are you a compost geek? Tell us how you know.


Post written by Compost Geek Cher Mohring, with help from all of her compost geek colleagues at the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Compost Like Jack Johnson

In this video produced by Sustainable America, musician Jack Johnson takes us to a special zero waste elementary school in Hawaii to learn how they compost.

 
Good music
Adorable kids
Beautiful setting
Composting-loving artist


Do you need any more reasons to watch this video?

 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Just Mow It

Most “green” habits people ask you to adopt require more work, not less. Bringing your own grocery bags (check).  Riding a bike or walking instead of driving (check). Installing a rain barrel (check). All which I’m happy to oblige since my tree-hugging, granola-eating, hippie side is generally most dominant.

But when I learned there was a way to feed my lawn and avoid fertilizers that required less work than my current method of raking up grass clippings for the compost bin, my lazy side almost did a back flip. Almost, meaning she considered it while lounging in a lawn chair and sipping a home-grown mojito.

Let me introduce you to my new best friend: Just Mow It.

Just Mow It is the simple practice of leaving your grass clippings on the lawn. Yep, you just leave them there and they quickly break down to fertilize your grass and add biomass to the soil.

Just Mow It requires three important steps:
  1. Keep your grass at about three inches. 
  2. Mow twice per week in spring and fall. You should remove about 1/3 of the grass’s leaf surface each time. Any more and you hurt the grass. Ouch.
  3. Mow when the grass is dry so you don’t get clumps.

If you are interested in learning more about this lovely and slightly lazy “green” method of maintaining your lawn, check out our website. You too can be sipping mojitos, watching your lawn fertilize itself.