Co-op marks Compost Awareness Week May 2 to 8

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It may surprise you to know that the average U.S. household generates 650 pounds of compostable items yearly, according to the National Composting Council. The items include paper, food scraps and yard waste.

In 1988, Oneida and Herkimer Counties adopted solid waste/recycling laws requiring the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority to compost collected green yard waste. Today, they sell processed compost by the bag or by the truck load.

As we celebrate Compost Awareness Week May 2-8, join Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County, the NYSDEC and other agencies as we continue to educate the public about the ease and importance of composting.

Families and individuals can be a part of reducing what goes into the landfill by composting at home. Home composting has a rich return called Humus, also known as “Black Gold,” a dark, crumbly organic matter formed by the decomposition or composting process.

Decomposition is the break-down of leaves and plant materials through a process where soil microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and other microbes) feed on the leaves and disposed plant material. Oxygen, water, and maintaining specific temperatures also aide in the composting process. The humus, or end result of composting, are an added boost of important nutrients to our garden soil, lawns and landscape.

Although not a new concept, there is a resurgence in the world to educate people on building healthy soils. Compost is one important part of this healthy soil.

Compost improves soil structure while helping to maintain proper soil pH. Healthy, well balanced soil has a better chance of withstanding attacks by disease or pests. Compost also helps retain moisture and to control erosion. There is also the positive ripple effect. Composting reduces landfill space and helps prevents air pollution by reducing fossil fuels used in transporting the wastes.

Now you ask how do I start composting? Here is the Basic Compost Recipe:

Find an area in your yard to create a 3’ x 3’ x 3’ compost pile. Another option is to purchase a similar size compost bin or build your own. A google search will bring up loads of ideas and a bin can be elaborate or built on the cheap. Make sure to place your home composting unit in an area that receives plenty of sunlight and close to a water source.

The length of time it takes to make compost’s end-product humus depends on: weather, the size of your unit, type of materials added, moisture, and aeration. The soil microorganisms function best or do their best work when compost materials are moist (material should feel like a wrung-out sponge), and it has aeration. The soil microorganisms need to breath as they travel through the compost pile passages. You can turn your compost materials on a regular basis with a garden fork which helps with aeration and speeding up the composting process. As the soil microorganisms work in the pile to break down materials the pile will produce heat. The hotter the pile, the quicker the materials will decompose.

Your compost pile should include “Browns” – Carbon Rich: Leaves, wood chips, shredded paper, sawdust. These are most available in fall and winter. You can stockpile extras browns to be added in the spring and summer to the compost pile.

“Greens”- Are Nitrogen Rich: Hay/straw, grass clippings, livestock, horse, or rabbit manure, (do not add dog or cat manure may contain parasites), and vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee and/or tea grounds, and eggshells. Never add fat, meats, bones or dairy these will attract rodents and wild animals to your compost pile.

Also always bury your scraps and materials into your pile so you don’t get bad odors or varmints visiting you.

For more information on composting visit Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County’s website under Home and Garden and select Composting Resources at http://cceoneida.com/home-garden/gardening/compost-resources

Are you interested in learning more about gardening, while enjoying shared tips, tricks and camaraderie with other gardeners? Consider training to be a Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County Master Gardener Volunteer. For more information visit our website cceoneida.comor phone 315-736-3394, Ext 100. Be sure to like us on Facebook (and check out our YouTube channel.)

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