It’s spring in a garden in Georgetown (actually this reporter’s garden). The robins and blue jays take turns bathing in the cleaned bird bath. The camellia tree pops with dozens of beautiful flowers. Almost all of the new azaleas purchased last year survived. The flower beds and very spotty (well, bare, really) lawns were raked and cleared. Sacks of grass seeds and pots of annuals are waiting to be planted.
Now is the time to uncover the latest and most environmentally friendly home gardening projects that have been cooked in the garden area for almost a year: homemade compost to enrich the soil and increase the production of everything grown in the garden.
“Compost is a living soil improvement, a dark, crumbly, earthy smelling material that is created by the natural decomposition of organic materials,” say experts without waste. Stefan Roha, Brenda Platt, and Linda Brolis have mentored dozens of DC residents who signed up for an intense two-hour online workshop on making your own compost last spring.
The handout materials (PDFs) were abundant and well illustrated. Participants who built or bought any of the various types of composters were rewarded not only with an immediate supply of abundant composting material, but also with the virtuous feeling that their food waste, garden and lawn waste, dead leaves and the like were being used in extremely environmentally friendly ways Wise. Your efforts could also result in a discount check from DC for up to $ 75.
The composting process can be a bit overwhelming at first as there are many initial decisions to be made: where to reserve an area for composting, whether to follow the “slow cold” or the “faster hot” process, and what type of composter to use . Would a framed structure, a covered container, or a variety of store-bought composters – either sturdy or a manually rotatable “cup” – be best? There are also many types of containers that can be used to collect food waste, from covered buckets to really cool little buckets with inlaid decorations.
Then there is the recipe for putting the waste together: green and brown. Simply put, there should be many, many shades of brown (leaves) in relation to freshly cut greens (lawn cuttings, plants, and food waste, including uncooked vegetables and eggshells). Some newspapers and cardboard may also be included as greens. Several formulas were offered; 30: 1 was recommended.
Some recipes call for the waste material to be stacked in layers. Others say they should dump the food waste in a leaf nest. All require that the material be regularly watered – less on the cold method, more on the hot method – and rotated with a shovel or mug (some recommend five rotations per day). With the hot method, the temperature should be measured regularly and the humidity adjusted with more leaves or more water.
Passing the “squeeze test,” which involves hand-squeezing a handful of the developing compost to see if it is damp and compacted, can take about a year on the cold and six weeks to three months on the hot. The finished compost should then be used or stored and the composter prepared for a new supply of raw materials.
In the district, the 2018 Home Composting Incentives Amendment Act provides that the owner “may compost on their homeowners; provided the composting … does not promote the development, attraction, or transportation of vectors, or cause any public nuisance. “
As for this reporter’s project, opening the compost cup, which I had filled but rotated erratically for most of the year, was like taking a cake out of the oven during a baking process. Let’s just say that the product produced this year was a good learning experience for the next year.
Information about the workshop can be found at zerowaste.dc.gov.