22 July 2009
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
"I am signing the nations first mandatory composting law. Its the most comprehensive recycling and composting legislation in the country and the first to require residents and businesses to compost food scraps."
That was the June 23rd, 2009 pronouncement of Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco. To say that this is the wave of the future is an understatement.
As of this writing there are 9,030,000 Google&tm; results for the word compost. If you prefer your information in video form, there are 6,750 results just for the word compost on You Tube&tm;. Then theres the local library, which will get you unusual books on the topic if their collection doesnt exhaust your interest.
The U.S. EPA says, "Organic material management is regulated (i.e., siting, permitting, and management) at the state level, except for biosolids and animal manures," which have been regulated at the federal level since 1993.
Compost is not just a regulated industry; its a movement, a belief system, a passion, a way of life and now a legal obligation in San Francisco.
But before you explore all the sources out there, remember that the most reliable, research-based information is found at web sites ending in .edu with a Cooperative Extension Service link and the EPAs web site. http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/rrr/composting/index.htm. Books, too, should cite these kinds of sources.
Composting can be as simple or as complicated, as you make it. Think of this brief article on the basics as the beginning of your composting journey.
In a purposeful compost system, microorganisms at the center and larger creatures like worms and maggots at the perimeter, decompose organic material. Accelerate the process by turning the material every 6-10 days to maintain a 130-160 F interior temperature.
Maintain a balance of browns, shredded leaves, for example - to greens, your yard trimmings. Keep the pile moist like a wrung out sponge. Locate on a shady, level surface with good drainage. Bury food scraps in the center.
The simplest compost system is a 3 x 3 to a 5 x 5 foot outdoor pile. This size range will produce the rich humus as rapidly as you turn it or as slowly as you neglect it, anywhere from 30 days to 2 years, with more rapid decomposition in hot weather.
For the home compost system, never include animal products such as grease, dairy, eggs, meat, fish scraps, pet wastes, ashes, dryer lint, or vacuum cleaner dust; no diseased plants, nothing from a walnut tree, shiny paper, or yard trimmings treated with pesticides or herbicides. There should still be plenty of yard waste and kitchen scraps for the pile, the smaller the pieces, the faster the process.
Foul odors are corrected with absorbent materials like shredded leaves and paper. Critter invasions are avoided with a bin or caged pile, and food scraps buried deep within.
There is no documented research to support the use of aerated compost tea as a pesticide; however, some diseases on some plants may be controlled by non-aerated compost tea. For a research-based, reliable result, mulch with mature compost. Dont waste your time or water making compost tea.
Tip of the Week
David C. Haak of the University of Washington in Seattle reported June 14 at the Evolution 09 meeting, that chili fire extinguishes the invasion of fusarium in moist settings but makes the chili intolerant to drought and vulnerable to ants. Choose mild chilies for drought tolerance and hot chilies for wet zones.