Friday, May 20, 2016

When Composting, Reuse, and Tomatoes Collide

I love reuse. I love growing tomatoes. And, of course, I LOVE COMPOSTING. That is why I'm sharing one man's genius idea of growing tomatoes.

James Bryan had the fantastic idea to use an old garbage can with holes drilled in it as a way to deliver water and fertilizer (via compost) to four tomato plants surrounding the garbage can.

Here are his photos from when the plants were first planted and then at the end of June.

Check out the final photo (those are big plants!) and his full yet very simple instructions at Hometalk.

And then get out there and use that compost!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wanna Call Yourself a Master Composter?

Be honest, are you considered a master of anything?
Well, you can learn everything you ever needed to know about composting (and brag to your friends with a cool new title) by attending the Civic Garden Center’s Master Composter training in June.

The four week Master Composter Series is the most intensive composting training available in Cincinnati. You will become a whiz-bang virtuoso on a wide array of topics including: where to locate a compost pile, how to build a compost bin that is best for you, how and when to turn your compost, the fascinating biology of a compost pile, and how to incorporate compost into your existing garden.

Whew, I feel smarter already.

You will also learn how to make a vermi-composting bin. Classes are Wednesdays June 1, 8, 15, and 22 from 9am to 3:30pm. Visit this site for more information and registration details:

Class size is limited, smarty pants, so register soon!



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Composting in Paradise

Guest blogger Cher Mohring

I love my job so much it’s hard to even take a vacation without thinking about reducing waste. That’s why during a recent trip to the Bahamas I discovered I had as many pictures of compost as I did of the beach!  Because most of my Facebook friends are not that interested in seeing compost pictures, I decided this was a good place to share them.

Here in Southwest Ohio, we use compost to loosen our clay soil for better root penetration, improve its capacity to hold water, and add essential nutrients. 

Grand Bahama Islands soil is very sandy.  Sandy soil has large air spaces between particles, allowing water to drain very quickly and microbes to consume organic matter quickly.  For this reason, amending their soil with compost is essential to hold water and add nutrients for plants to grow.  

Wish you lived in the Bahamas? Me too! Let’s live vicariously through these Bahama residents and see how they compost in their backyards.

Mary has a beautiful, eclectic landscape.  She has a constant supply of palm tree leaves to feed multiple compost sites.

This three bin unit is overflowing with material.

Piles of palm leaves.

Karl and Eva have amazing vegetable gardens that require lots of compost.  As you can see from their pictures below, they are also excellent at reusing!
One of three compost bins made from old skids.

Check out the size of this bin!


They like to sift their compost before using it in the garden.

Here are some of their container gardens where they use the compost.

Tom and Marilyn have piles of palm leaves like Mary, but they are just getting started with composting food scraps.  It will be interesting to see how long those coconuts take to decompose...

Ol’ Freetown Farm grows papaya, bananas, sugar cane, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and various other vegetables and herbs.  They also keep chickens, horses, and goats. What a great combination to make and use compost!
Compost pile of horse manure and sugar cane.
Finished compost pile with volunteer potatoes growing in it.
One of their sources of compost material.
Just in case you’re not as much of a compost geek as me, here’s a picture of the beach.
This guest blog is written by Cher Mohring, Program Specialist at Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.  Cher assists schools, events, and multi-family residences to set up waste reduction programs.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Composting Coffee to Make Your Garden Grow

Reposted with updated information.

I have to admit, I’m not a regular coffee drinker. It’s tea for me, but I love, love, love the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Every once in a while, I’ll cheat on my tea habit and splurge on some frou, frou chocolaty mocha deliciousness with lots of whipped cream. Of course, my coworkers then make fun of me as I uncontrollably bounce around the office and speak in caffeinated double time.

But there is another reason to love coffee besides its delightful aroma and jolting
caffeine high. Spent grounds from your cup of joe make a fantastic addition to your compost bin and provide plants with important nutrients. The used-up grounds contain loads of nitrogen which speeds up the composting process, giving you finished compost sooner (cup of steaming hot nitrogen booster, anyone?). And, while we may love the smell of coffee, many animals do not, so mixing the grounds with food waste will actually deter raccoons and other nosey critters from messing with your compost bin.

Compost Buzz
Gardeners in the know covet finished compost for its ability to improve soil structure, retain moisture, and create healthy productive gardens. Spent coffee grounds “sweeten the pot” even more by adding phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper, all minerals your plants need. And, after the grounds decompose, they release oodles of the nitrogen your plants love.

If you’re a regular java drinker, you probably have enough spent grounds to satisfy a backyard compost pile. Simply throw the grounds, filter and all, into the bin. Us non-coffee drinkers have to go about getting our coffee ground fix creatively. You can pilfer the coffee maker at work, sweet talk your neighbor, or even ask a local coffee shop. Most cafes will gladly set aside some spent grounds for you, and some even package the used-up grounds for people to take for free.

Coffee Emporium would love to share their coffee grounds or check with your local coffee shop.

House Blend
Of course, don’t get in over your head. If you add enough grounds to keep your compost bin awake for a week, make sure to add plenty of carbon based material, like dead leaves, to balance out the nitrogen. Otherwise, you risk the pleasant coffee aroma being replaced by a far less pleasant rotting odor. Not the sort of smell you want to wake up to, trust me.

Other than remembering to add leaves, the process of composting coffee grounds is super simple with definite rewards for your garden. Now, if you’ll excuse me, a tall iced mocha is calling my name.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why I Squirrel Away Leaves

I have a confession: I am way too emotionally attached to my leaves. Every year the story goes like this: First, these 100+ year old beauties dump mounds and mounds of leaves in the fall and winter. 


Then every fall and again in the spring we rake them up (leaving some for the critters). While my husband bags away, I desperately try to find places to compost them in my yard.
I could fit some more on that pile.
But there are just too many! Even if I shred the leaves I still have way more leaves than I can handle. So sadly we bag up the remainder of the beautiful brown leaves and with a heavy heart I wave goodbye as they ride off into the sunrise in the city’s yard waste truck.
I didn't have quite this many. Thanks Mary's Veggie Garden for the photo.
Oh, I know they will see a new life in a commercial-sized compost pile. But, alas, the lost potential in my own yard fills me with regret.


I pile up leaves next to my compost bin and pile more in another corner of my yard. Those leaves will be perfect for balancing out and burying the food scraps I add throughout the year.

Reminder! Now that spring has arrived you should aerate or turn your compost bin. Add some extra leaves if your pile is too wet from all the winter food scraps.

Happy spring and happy composting!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring Awakening

Doing the happy dance on this warm winter day! Getting outside and cleaning up the yard feels like fun rather than a chore.

The cold earth is showing signs of spring awakenings: bulbs are pushing through; snowdrops are in bloom; as well as those pesky wild onions. Another sure sign of spring includes our annual compost seminars.

Get your neighbors on the bandwagon. Preach the magic of this organic matter then send them this link to sign up for one of our workshops. There are four dates and locations to choose from, they only last one hour, and the first one is March 31. Whether new to composting or just need a basics reminder, this workshop is for you (or them). Are you a member of Nextdoor? Share our event in your community as well.

Those of you who are ready to become “masters”, our friends at the Civic Garden Center have an opportunity especially for you. Click here for more information on their Master Composter Series.
Note to deer: feel free to eat wild onions
guest blogger: Jenny

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Let Compost Hibernate

Guest post from Susan Schumacher.

Well, bears, skunks, prairie dogs, and bats do it, right? Let your compost hibernate for the winter.

I would love to be one of these creatures that can stay warm and sleep all winter. But, that thing called work/life gets in the way. One thing I don’t do in the winter is turn my compost pile (OK, so I don’t use a bin and you don’t have to either. That aside, the material is frozen anyway!)

Take all your compost goodies and freeze them in some sort of re-sealable bag, plastic container, etc. Yes, I realize they will get freezer burn but you weren’t going to eat it anyway. It’s much easier (and warmer) for me to put the compost scraps in a plastic bag and throw in my freezer.

Usually in February, there is a somewhat “warm” day that I can tolerate the time it will take for me to be outside long enough to use my pitchfork and lift up (or maybe I should say “pull the covers back” on) the compost bed enough so I can throw the frozen banana peels, coffee grinds, potato skins, apple cores, etc. into the center of the pile.
A lovely winter compost pile, but unfortunately it's not mine.
Check out our friends at Organic Gardening 365.

Once it finally turns spring, your pile will have a great head start to “working it’s magic” to create a beautiful lawn, flower garden, or vegetable garden (the food scraps from this will go where?).