Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Grass, Butterflies, Rain Barrels, and Composting?

Guest post from compost-fanatic, Jenny Lohmann.

Grass: I’m not talking about the grass you mow or the grass some states have legalized. I am speaking of ornamental grass, the tall reedy type. I never cut my pampas grass back in the fall. I love the way it looks in comparison to the stark winter landscape especially when blanketed in snow. Of course this year, I never got the chance to gaze upon a snowscape and it is time to cut the dead as new life emerges from the soil.

Butterflies: Little did I know I have been helping the butterfly population in this yearly routine. According to a recently read article on butterflies, some butterfly chrysalis overwinter in ornamental grasses as well as perennials therefore we should not cut them back in the fall. I’ve been a butterfly hero without even knowing it!

Rain Barrels: As a devout re-user, I have installed a few rain barrels to my downspouts. I use them to give my plants and compost non-chlorinated drinks during the growing months. During the winter, they go into storage as do my other garden tools. I recently pulled one out to assist in yard clean up. They’re perfect transport for the tall grasses I just cut back.

My rain barrel came from Save Local Waters' rain barrel art project auction. You can get one for your home too either by bidding online or going to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Party for the Planet on April 20. If you do go, please stop by and say hi.  We set up every year at this fun and free event.

Composting: Back to my pampas grass and composting. If you’re a seasoned composter, you know these types of reedy plants are not quick to breakdown but they do offer “fluff” or air pockets in your compost bin. However, sometimes you just want to get rid of the reedy plants and twigs from your property. If you happen to live in a community that picks up your yard trimmings and composts them then congratulations. Mine does not L

Fortunately, this great county organization (us) has contracts with private companies so you can take unwanted yard trimmings to a drop off where they will be composted and guess what? It opens this weekend! You can find all the details here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Confessions of a Soon-To-Be Composter

Guest blog post from future composter, Karli Wood
Prior to starting work at Hamilton County, I had admittedly never composted. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed confusing and labor-intensive.

After starting to work here, I can safely say that it’s neither.

40% of food in America is tossed in the trash, clogging landfills, not feeding people who need it, and not maximizing the power of food.

When you eat fresh produce, scraps are inevitable. Avocado skins, banana peels, and much more are part of the daily output when you make your own meals.

Separating Food Scraps is Easy
I always felt wasteful throwing these items away, but never realized how simple it was to divert them.

Each day at work, when I have a banana, I save the peel until I return to the lunchroom. Then I simply drop it into our kitchen collector.

When I bring in avocado to top my lunch, I drop the skin into the collector.

When I’m suffering from all-too-common Cincinnati allergies, I toss my tea bag into the collector.

Our Small Actions Create Big Change
These small actions may seem insignificant, but imagine over the course of a year how those everyday items add up.

It’s one thing to throw food scraps into the collector, but I can’t wait until the weather (consistently) warms so I can jump into the composting fun. I want to directly see where my food scraps are going, and what they’re turning into.

Thanks to working at Hamilton County Environmental Services, I can fully see that “small” tasks can have a large impact.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
-Vincent Van Gogh


Friday, February 17, 2017

Is Mother Nature in Menopause?!

If you know personally or have heard about the symptoms related to menopause, then you probably understand where I’m going with this. Last weekend I was out turning over my compost as I did three weeks before. I’ve been cleaning out garden beds as well, happy to be outside in the dead of winter.

Typically I never turn my pile in the winter and even if I wanted to (I don’t) it is frozen solid, but not this year. Mother Nature has kicked Old Man Winter out. Sure, he’s been allowed to come back here and there but not without a price to pay. Mother has been wreaking havoc with tornados and flooding while old man winter pays her back by dumping huge amounts of snow.

Moldy pineapple and birthday flowers in the center.

Luckily for our area, we haven’t been in the middle of their fight, just on the fringes. The hot flashes affecting us have allowed my compost pile to cook even though the calendar says February. My pumpkin from Halloween is but a mere stem and a bit of orange mush, there are a couple old hollowed out corn cobs to be found, as well as moldy skin of a pineapple, but the peels of other fruits and veggies as well as my coffee grounds have been transformed into what we all seek: that lovely organic matter-compost.

Pumpkin stem at the bottom. Can you find the millipede and worms?

Like a frightened child I wonder what Mother will do next and if it will have a negative impact on me. Will her banishment of Old Man Winter (except for a few short visits) and hot flashes lead to a change in what insects I have to deal with in my garden this summer, or other issues? Dear readers, if you have knowledge of what we can expect, please do share. Meanwhile, I’m going out to play in my compost pile.

Guest Blogger,

Jenny Lohmann

Friday, February 10, 2017

Compost Experiment: Can You Compost Paper Muffin Liners?

Guest Post from compost-lover Cher Mohring

I love a yummy lemon poppy seed muffin!

But what about the paper liner?
Can you compost it?  Let’s see . . .
First, I put the liner in a plastic mesh bag and buried it in the office worm bin.

Five days later...
When I check on it 5 days later I found some hungry worms in the bag. And the liner was noticeably smaller. So I reburied it.
Then, five more days later...
Not as many worms, but a little bit of liner left, so I decided to bury it for a third time.
By day 14: no worms, and no liner!
The answer to my question . . .YES you can compost paper muffin liners!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who Else Wants to Build a Compost Garden?

If you are like me, you spend a fair amount of time in the winter dreaming of the warmer days to come when you can get out in the garden and get your hands dirty. Recently, I visited a community garden in Walnut Hills that included a really cool garden I had never seen before: an African Keyhole Garden.

Why is this special? This type of garden bed has a compost bin in the center to provide water and nutrients to the surrounding plants.

A compost bin in the center of a raised garden bed. Brilliant!

We all know the fantastic benefit compost has for our soil. But I never considered actually building a garden around a compost bin.

African Keyhole Gardens originated in (you guessed it) Africa as a way to provide families with small-scale vegetable gardens. The climates where these gardens flourish are hot and dry and the soil is very poor quality. With African Keyhole Gardens people build a circular bed around a compost bin. By adding food scraps and other materials to the bin, the surrounding bed receives a steady supply of water and nutrients.

The “Keyhole” piece comes in because the bed is not a complete circle. A keyhole walkway gives access to the center compost bin.

Here are a few photos of the garden in Walnut Hills.

A shout out to Gary Dangel, community garden enthusiast and fellow composting nut with Elevate Walnut Hills  for giving me the tour! It was Gary's idea to weave the compost bin out of grapevines with a very pretty result.

If you want to build your own African Keyhole Garden, I recommend checking out the creative and varied designs here.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I am Frozen Just Like My Compost Pile

Guest Blogger Brad Miller

Winter has fully arrived and both my compost pile and I are frozen.  Since your pile freezes during the winter and goes dormant, the food scraps tend to build up uncovered.
One trick I learned was to save a bag or two of leaves from the fall. As my layer of food scraps build up on top of the pile, I then spread a layer of leaves over it. Based on how long winter lasts I can have many alternating layers of food scraps and leaves.
Once spring arrives and the compost pile warms up, having the leaves layered with the food scraps will help the materials break down until you can turn your pile. Just remember as you look outside at the frozen winter wonderland and your frozen compost pile, spring is only a few months away.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

World Soil Day

With all the hustle and bustle of the major holidays, you probably overlooked a very essential yet little known holiday just around the corner. December 5th is World Soil Day!

Of course we love soil! As composters we do our part to replenish the soil so why not take part in the celebration and raise awareness on the importance of soil to life on earth?
Perhaps you can give the gift of homemade compost to a gardener in your life, or share the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations videos, posters, infographics, and even t-shirts to help spread the joy of soil. You will also find great information on what we can do to help reduce the threats to our soil.