Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Compost Like a Pro

Earlier this month, I was able to attend the US Composting Council's Compost Conference in Daytona Beach, FL. As the newest backyard composter of the bunch, I felt overwhelmed by the scale of these massive composting operations, but still left feeling more motivated than ever after being surrounded by such a passionate community. On the airplane back to Ohio (which was somehow just as warm as Florida? In February?!), I "broke down" a few takeaways that I could apply in my own backyard.

  1. Find your why. Every person who composted had a motivation that drove them to consistently put in the extra effort. Some were motivated to compost in order to restore soil health. For others, it was to reduce food waste in the landfill and slow the impacts of climate change. Many stated that they started their compost operations because they wanted to do everything they could to maintain a healthy and thriving community for themselves and for their families. What drives you?
  2. Know your limits. One of the scariest things a composter can do is grow too fast. Accepting more materials than you can handle can lead to odors and mismanaged piles. Pace yourself. In your backyard, start with just vegetative scraps. As you get more and more comfortable, you can try out other compostables such as grains, eggshells, or other surprising things you could compost, without getting overwhelmed or fatigued. 
  3. Team Up! Partnerships and community go a long way! Find backyard composters near you to discuss ideas, celebrate wins, and problem solve with. Collaboration can come in all sizes, and composting doesn't have to be a solo sport. 

And with these thoughts, I leave you with a final question: Is it time to turn your compost? 

Guest Blogger: Sam Plante

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Difficult to Compost Compostables: Christmas Trees

Are Christmas Trees compostable? If they are not artificial trees, then of course they are! They are organic material, so they are going to decompose over time. But are they a good fit for your backyard compost? Let’s break down the components of your Christmas tree.

Are your decorations compostable?

Take off your ornaments, your ribbon, your garland, and your lights. If you opted for natural decorations, like a popcorn or cranberry garland or some dried oranges as ornaments, you can put those straight into your compost pile! Be sure to check if the thread is compostable, and if not, deconstruct before adding. Your lights can be stored for next year, along with any other non-compostable items. If you are not looking to keep these items, drop them off at a local reuse center if possible!

Do you want to compost your tree needles?

There are positives and negatives to composting tree needles. Christmas tree (and other evergreen) needles have a waxy coat over them. This keeps them from clumping together and extends the time of breakdown. If you need better aeration of your compost pile, adding a few may not be a bad idea, but keep in mind that your compost pile’s decomposition rate is already much slower because we are in the mostly dormant, winter months. You CAN use needles as a mulch, especially for acid loving plants. Pine needles also can be repurposed as a fire starter, drawer freshener, soap, or more.

What can you do with your tree?

Christmas trees can be substantial in size. You want material that goes into your backyard compost bin to be small enough to break down (usually within the season). If you don’t have a chipper in your backyard, it could take years for a tree to fully break down, and you may just not have enough room in your compost bin to wait that long. Check with your local community to see if they have Christmas tree pick-up or drop- off programs. If not, Hamilton County is still accepting trees at these drop off locations on Saturday, January 13th, 2024, from 12-3pm.

Hopefully these tips will help you best manage your tree as you are starting your new year. Speaking of New Year, don’t forget to set up some compost resolutions using tips from some of our past New Year blogs here:

My New Years Composting Resolution

New Years Resolution: Feed my Soil

Happy Composting!

Guest Blogger: Sam Plante

Monday, December 11, 2023

A Composter's Christmas Carol

 As the holiday nears, I love spending time going over some favorite festive movies, and how I can apply lessons from the characters to my own life. A classic Christmas tale: A Christmas Carol, uses the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to teach us lessons. But what advice could these ghosts have for Confessions of a Composter?

Well, the Ghost of Christmas Past has a few reminders about your compost pile from last year. You remember? That finished, turned, compost that’s been curing in your bin? It may be a good idea to find storage for this compost, as composting takes longer in the winter, so you may need some extra space in your compost bins to accommodate the extra material. 

The Ghost of Christmas Present reminds us to make choices during the holiday season that keep materials out of the landfill and to make mindful purchases, while still enjoying the holiday season and celebrating. Buy wrapping paper that is compostable: without glitter or foil. You can also make all sorts of compostable decorations. Stick to natural garland, and try out making decorations from dried orange peels or from cranberries, which would be welcome additions to your compost pile after the holiday comes to a close.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is planning ahead, but is still keeping the Christmas spirit by thinking of others. Would someone that you know want to receive a compost bin as a Christmas present this year? It may be a good idea, but maybe isn’t the best to keep as a surprise. If you are considering gifting a backyard compost bin to a friend, ask to make sure they are ready to commit to taking care of it- but if they are, you just helped a friend begin a new, eco friendly practice that keeps on giving.

Guest Blogger: Sam Plante

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Your Compost Pile's Uninvited Thanksgiving Guests

 Thanksgiving is a time to gather with the people you are closest to, but when it comes to your compost bin, there are some guests that you would rather NOT see. Here’s how to avoid some of your uninvited visitors.

  1.       .   Racoons, rats, and squirrels love to feast on uncovered foods. Specifically, any meats and creamy or buttery dishes that you may put in your compost pile. As a rule, avoid putting your leftover turkey or bones in your compost bin, as well as your creamy and buttery dishes, to let the critters know your compost is not on their holiday menu. 

  2.       .   Fruit flies  may not harm your compost, but they can be a nuisance to have around. If you do not want to mingle with them every time you take out your compost, bury your food waste with leaves or paper scraps. Fruit flies won’t burrow to lay eggs, so a nice layer of carbon should prevent them from settling in.

  3.       Anaerobic bacteria is another guest, that while it doesn’t directly harm the compost, isn’t a sign of a healthy compost pile. It can create a swampy smell that you (and your neighbors) may not appreciate. Remember to turn your compost to aerate your soil! Having a healthy balance of greens vs browns, maintaining balanced moisture levels (you want your compost to be lightly damp but not drenched), and frequently turning your compost will keep your compost bin from being the host with the most.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving! Please reference our previous articles on other tips to keep your Thanksgiving compost-friendly:

Top Ten Turkey Day Tips

How to Train Your Thanksgiving Guests

Save the Food’s GUEST-IMATOR is Thanksgiving’s BFF

Sam picking blackberries
Guest blogger, Sam Plante

Monday, November 6, 2023

An Abundance of Thanks…. and of Leaves


While students are making turkey hats and local farmers are capping off their annual fall harvest, we like to take time to give thanks in the abundance of good that has come in the last year. For many of us, we see an abundance of leaves around this time as well. If you were able to make enough upcycled leaf bins referenced in the previous post, you may be all set, but for many, the trees just kept giving. What can you do with what’s left?

basket of fall leaves

  1. Mow them down and leave them. The leaves make a great home for local pollinators that need a warmer, insulated habitat through the winter. Mowing the leaves down may help them decompose faster before spring and prevent them from taking over your yard. The leaf matter that is left will help your yard or greenspace the following year, as it keeps nutrients in the soil and helps suppress weeds.
  2. Check if your neighborhood offers a local yard waste collection program. You can check your neighborhood website, and if not, feel free to drop off your excess leaves at one of the Hamilton County Drop Off sites!
  3. Share the wealth! Do you know any composters looking for some extra carbon for their compost pile? Check with a neighbor, a community garden, or a local business that may be composting to see if they could use your leafy matter.

This is also a great time to appreciate all the community composters and neighborhood groups who work hard to keep natural materials out of landfills and return nutrients to the local soil. For many of you- that’s you! So, thank you.

Sam picking blackberries
Guest blogger, Sam Plante

Friday, October 27, 2023

Addams Family Composting

 "Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” -Morticia Addams

Who better to share their composting secrets this Halloween than a spooky and kooky family with a literal cemetery in their backyard?

We interviewed a few members of the Addams family and pulled together their top three tips for creating beautiful, crumbly compost for your garden.

  • Wednesday: “I don’t bury hatchets. I sharpen them.” A nice sharp spade will do wonders whether you are digging a grave or harvesting compost. Having the right tools for the job makes a big difference.
  • Uncle Fester: “My name is Fester. It means “to rot””. Every day we create food scraps such as apple cores, banana peels, and coffee grounds that we can collect for composting. Every little bit adds up to an important source of energy for the microbes “rotting” our scraps into compost.
  • Addams Family Motto: “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us.” Ignore the naysayers and keep on composting. You know the value of all of the yard trimmings and food scraps breaking down into an important soil amendment for your garden.

Now snap twice and get composting.

Wishing you all a spooky Halloween and Happy Composting! If you love Halloween as much as me and want to check out the previous year’s posts, see the links below.

·                  Did the Boogeyman Snatch Your Compost Blogger

·                  Fall Composting Tips from a Mummy 

·                  The Headless Horseman’s Guide to Backyard Composting 

·                  Compost Lessons from the Swamp Monster 

·                  Three Reasons Werewolves Make Terrible Composters 

·                  Compost Ghost 

·                  Was Frankenstein an Outstanding Composter? 

·                  How to Practice Compost Witchcraft 

·                  Compost Like a Vampire 

·                  Three Warning Signs Your Compost is a Zombie 

·                  Smashing Pumpkins 



Friday, September 1, 2023

The Seasons are Turning and So Should Your Compost

This is not a drill, people. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte’s are peeking around the autumn-hued corner and before you know it, we will have more leaves than we can we handle piling up in our yards. This year, I am planning to be ready by taking a few steps now.

  1. Aerating my compost bins. I prefer a pitchfork or a wingdigger to add air to my compost pile. Adding air gives those microorganisms a boost and speeds up decomposition, which means more room for those fall leaves.
  2. Finish off those leaves. Still have crispy leaves from last year? I do. I am going to add water to those leaves and stop at a local coffee shop to pick up a latte for me and a large bag of spent grounds for my compost. The infusion of water added with nitrogen from the grounds will further speed up the composting.
  3. Make upcycled leaf bins.  Last year I ran out of space even with three seasonal leaf bins so I plan on stopping by a local reuse store to see if they have any fencing material that might do the job.

Maybe my excitement for sweater-weather is going to my head, but I am looking forward to completing my September Composting To Do List. What are your fall-time resolutions?