Composting is one of the healthiest means of Organic Gardening.

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1 Master Gardeners Nearly 30 years ago Washington State University began a program of training volunteers to help instruct members of their communities about proper gardening practices. That program has spread to all states, here in Virginia the program is maintained by VT. Among the ideas that they wished to teach all gardeners were: Limit the use of chemicals in gardening. Rely on organic gardening methods instead. Chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphate (found in fertilizers) can leach into the water system and lead to problems like fouling up the Chesapeake Bay. Organic gardening means that you only use materials in your garden that once were alive. Composting is one of the healthiest means of Organic Gardening.

2 THE BENEFITS OF COMPOSTING Composting transforms organic waste into humus a dark, crumbly product resembling rich soil, and when you incorporate this into your garden, you: Improve your garden soil. Reduce materials (& taxes) entering the general waste stream. Supply what your garden needs and save transportation and disposal costs of garden wastes. Reduce the need for store bought ($) fertilizers in garden.

3 FACTORS IMPORTANT TO COMPOSTING All vegetable material eventually breaks down. The time for this process depends on a number of factors: Ingredient size: The finer the chop the better. Mix: Best 6-8 inches of dry leaves to 1 inch of grass clippings. Avoid pine needles (too acidic) Moisture: Lightly damp (not wet) Turning frequency (from daily to twice a week) you decide how much work you want to do and when you need it. Exothermic: Should produce heat (when turned may smoke or may look like ashes inside. This is good!) Volume: (3ftx3ftx3ft is sufficient)

4 1. Chop or shred coarse materials to increase surface area. 2. Begin with 3-4 inches of coarser materials twigs or cut up corn stalks or shucks, these should be 6-8 inches long. 3. Then a 6-8 inch layer of kitchen refuse (vegetable material - no meat or dairy), leaves straw, weeds, coffee grounds, or tea bags crushed egg shells etc. 4. Now a layer greens: 1 inch if only grass clippings, 2-4 inches if other green garden materials or manures (horse, chicken or other, no dog or kitten droppings) included. 5. Repeat steps 2-4. Until the pile reaches 3x3x3-or larger, but not higher than 4 feet. 6. If you run short of greens you can replace that layer with ½ cup of fertilizer. 7. Dampen the mixture. 8. Tarp or plastic cover is optional to retain heat. 9. Turn with pitchfork every few days to aerate mixture. 10. Add additional materials in layers as pile cooks down.

5 Carbon-to-N it rogen Rat io A blend of high carbonaceous material and high nitrogen material to give a steady 30:1 C:N ratio is ideal. Materials with high nitrogen values Vegetable Waste 12-20:1 Coffee Grounds 20:1 Grass Clippings 12-25:1 Cow Manure 20:1 Horse Manure 25:1 Poultry Manure 10:1 Pig Manure 5-7:1 Material with high carbon values Foliage 30-80:1 Corn Stalks 60:1 Straw :1 Bark :1 Dried leaves :1 Paper :1 Wood chips :1

6 Fast composting: Have a good mix of browns (6-8 inches dry leaves, shredded paper, dry garden waste, coffee grounds) to greens (1 inch grass clippings, fresh garden cuttings). Daily turning 3-5 times. If using a bin or simple heap a tarp or plastic cover can shorten composting period. Compost can be ready in as little as 4 weeks during the summer.

7 Slower composting: Same mix of browns to greens. Less frequent turning, once or twice a week. If using a bin or simple heap a tarp cover can shorten composting period. If kitchen waste is included, turn pile and/or cover with soil to reduce odor and varmint problems 5-X FEET

8 Incorporation Composting involves burying waste well below the ground surface and is the simplest method. Incorporation compost method Waste will break down to fertilize existing or future plants over time. Burying to 8 in will prevent varmint problems. Recipe same as the other pages

9 TROUBLE SHOOTING INFO: Rotten odor Turn pile and/or add dry material such as leaves. Ammonia odor Add browns/ dry material such as straw, dry leaves or sawdust. Low temperature or pile not cooking down Make the pile larger, turn pile, add green materials. Pests rats, raccoons or insects. Remove any meat or fatty food scrapes from pile. Add another layer of dry material such as leaves/straw. Add a layer of topsoil or peat moss. Source: Clemson University

10 Vermi-Composting involves using worms to transform waste into compost. All animal life forms need to eat, breathe and eliminate waste. Worms eat garbage and their manure is good compost. To the right is a homemade worm motel. Note the small holes in the two upper stories. The worms live in the top two levels the bottom level is for drainage. The liquid there is a good fertilizer.

11 To the right coffee grounds and filters supply food, and shredded newspapers are the bedding. COMPOSTING FOR HEALTHY GARDENS The worms have needs: Food: newspaper apple cores, banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, but not orange or other citrus peels (too acidic.) Bedding: damp shredded newspapers are great. Not colored pages.

12 The worms need to be small red worms which are not native to USA and can not be released into the soil. The worms will be inactive at temperatures below 45 deg. F and above 80 deg. F. These worms are migrating to the new upper level.

13 So how does this work out over time? Place food (coffee grounds, banana peels etc.) in the top level under damp shredded newspapers. Add 5 lbs of food a week and bedding as necessary. Over time the worms will eat the food and bedding. When the upper level is full of worm manure, then reorder the upper two levels. Continue to place food and bedding in the new top level in a week or so the worms will migrate to the top level and the middle level will be compost.

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