Compost happens

Glenn Babinat, left, and Wil Carew, master composters
Glenn Babinat, left, and Wil Carew, master composters

One of the most informative presentations for gardeners at Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show last weekend was by Linn County Master Composters Glenn Babinat and Wil Carew.

    Master Gardener Deb Walser also discussed vermiculture, or worm composting done in your home. In Walser’s case, the vermiculture is in a 10-gallon Rubbermaid container, now in her basement, but formerly under a table, until her husband discovered it:)
   Indoor vermiculture uses red wiggler worms, found at several online sources or at bait shops. The worms decompose food scraps, such as vegetable peelings, as well as newspaper.
   For every half-pound of food collected, you need one pound of worms.
  Shredded newspaper (not the colored kind) makes good bedding material. The worms like temperatures between 50 and 75 degrees, so basements are ideal. Deb advises against using orange peels and notes that some of her worms drowned from watermelon overdose. The composting takes about two to four months and the castings can be harvested in about six months.
   Outdoor composting doesn’t require any special containers, but most people use a bin of some sort to keep the materials contained. Wil and Glenn showed a prototype (see photo) of a 3-bin system. Compost is decomposed plant material with greens, or moist materials, and browns, such as newspapers or dried leaves.  Adding compost to garden soil improves the soil structure and increases productivity.
  Vegetable peels, grass clippings, leaves, egg shells and sawdust can all be used in compost. Avoid animal products such as bones, meat or fish. Herbivore (cow, horse) manure can be added but avoid using carnivore (cat, dog) feces.
   Keeping the compost turned and adequately, but not overly, moist helps speed the composting process. Using three browns (dry material) to one green (veggies, etc.) helps prevent that rotten egg smell. Wil and Glenn said there is really no wrong way to compost and because it’s free, it’s a great way to add organic organisms to your garden and help keep more items out of the landfill.
  
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