Thursday, August 16, 2018

Becoming a ‘Text-Book’ Composter!


Guest blogger Angela Rivera

As summer comes to an end, it’s time to snuggle up with a composting book to prepare for your next garden season. All three of these books are available at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

Worms Eat My Garbage; How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System by Mary Appelhof (2017)


You have seen it on the blog many times, but still haven’t started a worm bin yet? Well, everything you need to know about vermicomposting is found in this book. Learn all about your new friends (the Red Wigglers), how to maintain and troubleshoot with your worm bin, and how vermicomposting has the potential to transform communities to be zero waste in their own homes. Are you an educator? Check out Appelhof’s classroom activities book about integrating vermicomposting in your classroom.

Let it Rot! The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell (1998)



Unlike some composting books, Campbell’s guide goes beyond the “how to’s” and teaches its readers more about the science behind composting. Don’t fret, this isn’t a college textbook, but a useful and relatable  guide for anyone who is interested in composting. I found it most interesting when Campbell describes some of the things that you can compost which I never thought of before, including leather dust and seaweed. Check this book out from your local library to find out more.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin (2008)



Each of us compost stewards need our go-to composting book, this one could be yours! With a focus on various methods of composting, this will give you a lot of ideas of how you can create and use compost. The colorful graphics and photography caught by eye when choosing a book to read. Also, the book provides a gardening guide in the back, sharing how to use compost when growing various vegetables, fruit, and flowers.

Did we miss your favorite composting book? Leave the title and author’s name in the comments.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Three Ways to Compost at Schools


Guest Blogger Cher Mohring

Thinking of composting at school? Well you have options:  

1. Compost Onsite
Onsite outdoor composting is probably the easiest and least expensive option. Now when I say “easy”, I don’t mean totally maintenance free. You will need to turn the compost, make sure you have a good balance of carbon and nitrogen rich material, monitor for moisture, and most importantly teach your students and staff what should (plant based material) and should not (animal products and oily food) be composted. 

My advice to any school wanting to compost onsite is to think of it as a teaching tool and not a waste reduction activity. Start small by just collecting fruit and vegetable scraps from one grade; or garden trimmings, leaves and coffee grounds. You can always increase collection if everything is going fantastic. Check with your local government on zoning restrictions, keep it away from streams and storm drains, and make sure it does not exceed 300 square feet.

Compost Kids Field Trip at the Civic Garden Center

2. Vermicomposting (with worms!)
Vermicomposting uses special worms in a container to compost fruit and vegetable scraps. Some of the advantages are that you can actively compost year round, vermicompost is superior to just about any other compost, you can use the vermicomposting system for all kinds of experiments, and you have enough class pets for each student to name one (good luck telling them apart). Some challenges are that you need to buy worms to get started, you need to separate the finished compost from the worms when you harvest, the finished compost should be used inside, and if not managed properly you could get fruit flies.

Learning about worms is fun


3. Offsite Composting
Having organics hauled away to a commercial composting facility diverts the most material from the landfill because you are not limited by space and you can usually include animal products (meat and dairy). Before you get too excited, I feel obligated to tell you that there are limited commercial composting facilities in Southwest Ohio right now, so it will likely cost you more to have the material hauled away for composting than landfilling it.   

Whatever option you choose, be sure to educate your students about composting. If your school is in Hamilton County, Ohio, consider one of our classroom program or Compost Kid’s field trips.

We Are Here to Help
Before you get started, check out our Composting at School web page . Email or call (513-946-7737) Cher Mohring for important information about local regulations and assistance starting composting at your school.


Compost Science

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Become a Master Composter!


Guest blogger Kylie Johnson

As a fellow compost enthusiast, it’s an honor to be a guest blogger for Michelle. My love for composting began when I lived at the Ohio University Ecohouse during grad school. However, I had been composting for years before that without even realizing it! Growing up on a farm, we would throw our food scraps in a pile over the hill. I noticed that the pile would break down, but it wasn’t until grad school that I learned those food scraps were being transformed into “black gold.” 

At the Ecohouse, we had a simple 3-bin compost system made out of pallets and a worm factory for vermicomposting. The process of composting fascinated me so much that I dedicated my graduate thesis to the topic. Thanks to funding from Georgetown University and the USDA Forest Service, I was able to conduct research in Edinburgh, Scotland, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland focused on the viability of composting in urban areas.

Fast forward to today. As the Green Learning Station Coordinator at the Civic Garden Center, it is a dream come true to share my passion for composting with the community by teaching basic backyard composting classes, leading field trips, and now managing the Master Composter Certification Program. Little did I know when I was first introduced to composting that there’s so much to learn that you can fill entire books on the topic! If you have basic composting knowledge and a desire to dive deeper into the topic, the Master Composter Series is for you.

Students in the 2017 Master Composter class learn to screen compost in Walnut Hills.


The Master Composter Series is a unique opportunity offered once a year at the Civic Garden Center to gain a more in-depth understanding of the composting process. Through a combination of lectures, demonstrations, and field trips, attendees are trained to become composting ambassadors in their communities. A sneak peek at some of the topics covered include:
  • In-vessel composting
  • Vermicomposting
  • Bokashi
  • Chemistry of compost
  • Biochar
  • Much more!
This series includes 20 hours of intensive composting instruction during Wednesdays in August (1, 8, 15, 22) from 9 am – 3:30 pm. Wednesday morning lectures will be complemented by afternoon field study sessions that will introduce participants to different types of composting operations in the Cincinnati area. The final piece to obtaining certification as a Master Composter is the completion of 30 volunteer hours in which participants pass on their knowledge and contribute to local composting projects.

A small fee of $40 includes 10 hours of classroom instruction, 10 hours of field study experience, and the opportunity to earn certification with perfect attendance and successful completion of 30 documented volunteer hours. Please note that this is an advanced course, some basic composting knowledge is expected.

Ready to sign up? Follow these two easy steps: 1) Register for the course on our website. 2) Complete a simple application and pre-test which will be emailed to you once you register online.

Don’t miss your chance to join this unique opportunity! Contact Kylie Johnson at kjohnson@civicgardencenter.org for more details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Compost Impacts More Than You Think


Sometimes we need to step back from our day-to-day drudgery to really appreciate the impact of our actions. A new infographic from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) helps us see the big picture of the importance of composting. 

Go ahead, pat yourself on the back and learn how composting your banana peels and dried leaves:
  • Enhances soil
  • Protect watersheds
  • Sequesters carbon
  • Creates jobs

And much more! Wow, you really are a super hero.



The above infographic comes from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (www.ilsr.org), a national nonprofit organization working to strengthen local economies, and redirect waste into local recycling, composting, and reuse industries. It is reprinted here with permission. Should you wish to include this infographic on your website, please visit https://ilsr.org/compost-impacts/ to download the original content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Technology Meets Food Rescue


Guest Blogger Karli Wood

If you're already composting, you know the immense amount of food that can go to waste. Thanks to ever-evolving technology, you can now make an even bigger impact on wasted food, often from the comfort of your own home.

Take a look at these three apps that are changing the game when it comes to reducing wasted food, rescuing food, and feeding people.


USDA FoodKeeper - This app offers multiple tools to reduce the food you waste in your home. Considering the fact that the average American family wastes approximately $1500 a year in uneaten food, you'll be saving money and resources. With food storage guides, cooking tips, and more, you'll be a pro in no time.

Olio - Picking up steam in the US, this app connects community members who have surplus food. Did you grow too many tomatoes? Post them on Olio and rejoice as your neighbors claim them for their summer dishes.



Food Rescue US - This app connects food donors with volunteers who transfer surplus food to community kitchens and food pantries. If you volunteer to transfer food, you are directly participating in feeding hungry neighbors!



While there are many similar apps on the market currently, these three are available and ready-to-use in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas. So, what are you waiting for? Download them today and expand your food rescue horizons.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Ode to a Worm



Digging in the dirt, I am reminded of your beauty
You wriggle quickly away from my spade
Please stay!
You are the air in my soil
You make it loose and richly brown
You add the nutrients my baby plants need
Thank you, my garden friend
And Happy Mother-Father’s Day!


You know your garden soil is healthy when it is alive with worms, but did you know the micro-nutrients produced through their castings are the true stars of compost? The earthworms in our yard tunnel through the soil providing vital air while increasing the micronutrients available to our plants.



If you can’t get enough good compost, perhaps are landlocked in an apartment or condo, you may want to try vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is done inside with special worms called "red wigglers." These worms are different than our earthworms and cannot survive in the heat of our summer or our frigid winters.  Their home is a bin you can make. The worm casting they provide are dense with microorganisms that in-turn provide an abundance of micro-nutrients our plants need to grow strong and fight diseases.

If you’d like more information about these special composters, please join us at the Civic Garden Center the evening of Tuesday, June 19. We are partnering with the Civic Garden Center to hold a special worm bin workshop where you can learn how to vermicompost and can even build your own worm bin if you choose. Learn more when you click here.


Post by guest-blogger and compost-lover Jenny Lohmann


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Children’s Books to Spark Composting Curiosity

Guest blogger Angela Rivera


As parents, grandparents, teachers, and neighbors, we hope the children in our lives carry on some of the habits we teach them growing up. Composting is no exception. In today’s blog I suggest three books to share with your young ones to inspire passion about, and get them helping with, composting! All three of these books are available at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.



The Little Composter by Jan Gerardi (2010) is a great resource to engage your toddler. With flipbook pages that allow for even the youngest child to partake in the book, this book reviews a few of the items we can put in the compost bin. And for those kids beginning to read, the story is written in rhyme! Although simple, if you remember back when you first started to learn about composting, answering “what should go in the bin?” was where we all began!



Compost Stew: an A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary Mckenna Siddals (2010) makes an excellent book that lists items we can compost for each letter of the alphabet. The reading level is for upper elementary, but the content is aimed at younger elementary aged children, making it a great read-aloud story! With this book, you can encourage children to take responsibility for where they should put their food scraps.



Garbage Helps our Garden Grow: A Compost Story by Linda Glaser (2010) follows a group of children on their composting endeavor. The book explains how composting can divert organic material from the garbage and make something useful out of it. This is a great nonfiction text that demonstrates for your child not only what goes in our compost bin/site, but explains the entire process of how to make compost and what we can do with it!  This book is intended for upper elementary age students.

As you embark on your summer of composting, get youth involved! They are our future composters after all!

Did we miss your favorite children’s composting book? Leave the title and author in the comments. Be on the lookout this fall for a blog post about great composting books for adults!