Thursday, May 29, 2014

Composting Canines

Guest post from Joy Landry.

I confess. I was one of those people who was hesitant to compost. My head was full of what ifs: What if it’s smelly? What if it doesn’t actually decompose? What if my neighbors find the compost pile unsightly? What if the compost attracts wildlife?

I wasn’t too concerned about wildlife pillaging my new compost pile as my two intrepid golden retrievers had chased all the birds, squirrels and rabbits from my yard.

The one “what if” I didn’t really consider was what if my dogs get into the compost?

I thought I had that covered. I used a four-foot high plastic coated chicken wire to construct my compost pile in the corner of the backyard. Historically, my goldens respect barriers – even the two-foot baby gate they could easily vault to get into the guest bedroom. So for the first few years, I had no problems. Although they would often escort me to the compost pile, noses in the air, checking out what I was throwing away, Rocket and Duke generally ignored the compost pile. Chasing wayward squirrels or running the fence-line with the neighbor’s boxer was more fun.

One lazy summer afternoon, I carried the reusable compost container filled with chopped up cantaloupe shell and unceremoniously threw it atop the compost pile. I was in a hurry and neglected to cover, much less bury, the discarded fruit. Gravity had its way and slowly, some of the cantaloupe slid to the bottom of the pile, landing tantalizingly along the inside of the compost fencing.

Later that evening, when the dogs uncharacteristically didn’t come running with their floppy ears flying when I called, I took a stroll to the backyard to see what kept them.

There was Duke, craning his long skinny neck, muzzle shoved through the wire, desperately and yet happily licking at a chunk of grass-covered cantaloupe shell. Rocket pranced nearby, tail wagging, impatiently waiting his turn.

If you are a composting dog owner, you should know that compost can be poisonous to your canine companion so it is best not to tempt them with fresh, unburied treats such as apple cores, banana peels and cantaloupe shells. For your dog’s health, and to discourage wildlife from visiting your compost pile, be sure to completely cover your food scraps. You may wish to save a bag of fall leaves for just that purpose.

How do you keep pets out of your compost bin?
Mmmm, is that melon I smell?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Composting with Kids

In this guest post Mary Dudley from the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati explains how less is more when teaching children about composting.
As the Youth Education Coordinator at the Civic Garden Center I have a bit of experience gardening with children. Inevitably, when you garden the pulled weeds and spent flowers have to go somewhere and a compost pile is born. The concept of time is rather abstract for most young children and the thought that when they toss their apple core into the pile worms will eat it, digest it, and the result will be nutrient rich compost they get to TOUCH and add to the garden sparks an excitement that is contagious.
Photo provided by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati

I leave out the fact that this process will take months if not years to complete. But our compost bins have been going strong for a decade so there is always something to dig into. Many people ask me what sort of bins and methods we use with the children and I suppose they expect some grand design to be described. When I tell them we really just toss it in a pile and start a new one the next year, I tend to get some cocked heads and furrowed eyebrows.
“You really just pile it up? No tumbler shaped like an animal? No fancy viewing area?”
While these products do exist and I’m sure are a big hit with children, I like to go old fashioned and use the compost area as a model of what happens in the forest. The leaves fall and no one rakes them. Bacteria, fungi and microorganisms feed on the dead leaves and moisture is added when it rains. The breakdown of leaves happens fairly rapidly in our Ohio forests with our humid weather.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that COMPOST HAPPENS whether you have a fancy tumbler or just toss your garden scraps in the corner.
As an environmentalist I secretly revel in the act of tossing unwanted items in the pile, it almost feels like I’m doing something naughty. When teaching children, I stick to the simplest method and they can take that lesson home and start their own pile, no materials needed! Keeping our plant waste out of the garbage is our gift to the Earth and there’s really nothing stopping all of us from doing our part.
If you have children who are interested in gardening or a teacher who may enjoy taking their students on a Compost Kids field trip, feel free to contact me at and we’ll connect you with information on our free programs.

Happy Gardening!

Mary Dudley

Photo provided by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Well amigos, it is time to celebrate all things May: poles, flowers, horses, heritage, mothers, service members, and compost!

When you are chowing down on your guacamole, don’t forget to give your compost critters the avocado peels and seeds. While drinking your julep, throw those mint stems in your pile (but eat the muddled leaves at the bottom of your glass and proclaim “I did eat my greens today”).

It is International Compost Awareness Week, the first full week each and every May! Share the joy of this wonderful, beneficial, soil amendment. Shout it from the roof tops, “I love compost and I’m proud of it!”

Here are some ideas for you to share during this week honoring the humble yet impactful compost:
  • When peeling an onion for dinner, pull-off one of the thin inner membranes and tell your family, “This represents all the soil on the earth. Aren’t you proud we compost?”
  • When joining co-workers for a coffee break ask them, “Did you know even if you don’t compost, coffee grounds can be dribbled all around your plants as is?”

  • While dining out with friends, ask them if you can take home their uneaten pizza crust as it is a valuable resource for your garden (then explain why).
  • Ask the riddle, “What’s better than one apple pie?” When they answer “Two apple pies” you can tell them, “No! The apple peels and cores I compost. Instead of throwing them into the landfill, I am adding nutrients to my soil to grow more apples.”
  • Instead of saying “hello” to people this week, try greeting them with the word “compost” in different languages, it’s a great way to start a conversation about compost!

Can you think of other ways to celebrate composting? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Komposti Awareness Week!
Post from Guest Blogger Jenny Lohmann