Composting:Black gold for Gardens
June 23, 2007
To Insa Riepen, ‘dirt’ is a four letter word. The executive director of Recycle Utah a master of composting, and the end product of the process she stresses is SOIL.
Riepen details how composting results in rich, black living soil, which when mixed with unconditioned soil, over time, will greatly reduce the amount of water a homeowner needs for a yard, greatly reduce weeds, greatly reduce yard wastes and produce beautiful plants in the process, turning clay soil into a rich, cool growing environment.
Riepen holds up a baggie of composted soil, as dark as coffee grounds. "They think it’s the stinky stuff. Not at all," she said.
Riepen explained what goes into making a successful compost pile. The first requirement is location, location, location. The composter has to be in an area that can be built up to a height of three to four feet, out of direct sunlight. It has to be accessible to the home, so kitchen scraps materials can be added to the compost without having to trudge through winter snows. She said composting generates heat, and despite cold temperatures, it continues during winter months, although more slowly.
Next are compost materials.
The base of the pile should have a layer of branches, leaves or dried grass, to allow air in from underneath. Several inches (no deeper than six inches) of mulched leaves, several inches of soil, and enough water to dampen the mixture should be added so it has the moisture of a wrung out sponge.
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The secret to composting is all in the recipe: one part green, two parts brown, Riepen said.
The green can include garden plants, weeds, dry grass (wet grass clumps and produces odors). Uncooked fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters can be added to the pile.
The browns contain nitrogen, such as soil, crushed egg shells, and tea bags wood chips, saw dust, and leaves or shredded newspaper.
Riepen stressed that no dairy products, cooking oils, pet waste, meats, fats or bones should be added to the compost pile.
Next a composter needs to be built. It can be as simple as chicken wire formed in a three foot high cylinder, to hold materials, yet breathe, and allow turning over the compost often, to quicken mulch formation. Riepen sells compostpors, which she said she sells for her cost, to get people composting.
The mixing and turning over of compost material can be once a week, once a month, or not at all, she said. More turning allows more air, which speeds up the process. The compost pile will shrink over time as it becomes mulch. The finished product will be fine rich and dark brown, a process which, depending on the work the homeowner is willing to put in, will take from several months to a year.
The mulch can be mixed in with soil to condition it, and prevent mudslides and soil run-off, or placed on top of soil to prevent water loss, and keep soil and plant roots cool, and hold in water.
The homemade mulch will contribute to a lush, healthy garden.
Riepen holds a handful of rich mulch. This is too valuable to give up. It’s too good to throw away. You need to keep it on your property, where it belongs."
For more information on composting, or for information on the composters for sale, contact Recycle Utah at 649-9698.