Romancing the garbage: composting 102 from Nancy Swenson

Last week Nancy Swenson, DUSD School Board President, gave us a practitioner's view of composting. She detailed, in answer to questions posed by this writer, that she composts food, plant, and a certain amount of paper waste outdoors. (Composting can be done indoors as well. Food waste is limited to vegetable and fruit waste. Meat scraps and animal waste don't compost well.)Nancy also outlined a routine of saving food waste in a metal canister, and taking it to the composting tumbler every few days, along with the occasional dead potted plant. She also explained that she continues to add waste and take out compost as needed in a tray with holes "to filter out the big chunks." And she responded further that, after an unsuccessful first attempt at worm composting, she has begun to worm compost again, and expects to put kitchen scraps into the worm composting, allowing her other composting tumbler to finish its job uninterrupted. Following are her answers to the remaining questions asked. 7. How often and how much fertilizer material do you get? "It can take a few months to get the material to become useful. The tumbler was advertised as 75 gallons." 8. How do you use it? Outdoors? Indoors? "I have very little plants inside so I only use it outdoors." 9. What kinds of commercial fertilizer materials are you able to avoid purchasing by composting? "I still occasionally buy bags of potting soil when I need it, but not as much as I used to. I was able to use my compost (mixed with sand and vermiculite) to start 12 Plumeria cuttings of various sizes and it really came in handy when I got my new raised vegetable garden planter last year." 10. Can you estimate the cubic footage of trash and/or yard waste you're able to eliminate by composting, or the percentage reduced from your previous waste stream? "I've never measured that." (This was a loaded question, by the way, because, as we shall discuss in future articles, volume measurements become important when dealing with waste management for an entire community.) 11. What got you started composting in the first place? "I had been recycling and returning bottles and cans for years and when I heard about a Saturday class on composting it just seemed like the next step in recycling. I went to the class at Wilderness Park and that is where I bought my worm composting kit. I received my 75 gallon composting tumbler as an Easter gift...the rest, as they say, is history." 12. What reasons would you give to encourage others to compost? "I started composting for the same reason I recycle, it's about reducing waste; however, the additional benefit of composting is that I get to see the results of my efforts in my own yard. I put items in the composting tumbler that a few years ago I would have thrown away. After a few months I get good rich soil for my garden. I can use it in planters, pots and around my trees. It's good for starting new cuttings or getting the planter ready for vegetables. I realize that not everyone has the space or need for their own composting tumbler but neighbors can get together and pool their resources. Once you get started it's easy." Please add any other thoughts or comments you might have. "Don't be afraid to try, and be patient. In the beginning I read quite a bit about what should and should not go into the compost tumbler and the ratio of green to brown material and I was reluctant to get started. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't get the mixture quite right but in the end it was about trial and error. The first time you smell that good rich soil and you put it in your garden area you'll be hooked."

********** Published: June 14, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 09