Posts tagged Solid Waste Agency

Using (free!) compost to restore flooded yards

 

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

   Stacie Johnson, compost expert extraordinaire, sent me a note about getting flooded yards back in shape. Stacie, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, said owners of flood-damaged homes have been calling the agency about using compost as fill as they begin work on their yards this spring.  Last June’s floods wiped out the vegetation of thousands of homes in Eastern Iowa, especially in the Cedar Rapids area. One caller wanted to put compost 4 inches deep on her lawn, but Stacie advises against using compost as fill or topsoil. The grass might sprout, but would have long-term problems growing. Also, it would make a very soft spot in the yard, as compost is mostly organic matter with little mineral content. 

      The Agency is giving away free compost for Linn County residents and Stacie wants it to be used so it’s most beneficial to these homeowners.

Here is what she says:

    Compost is a good source of soil organic matter and shouldn’t be used as you would topsoil.  The three compost applications recommended by the Solid Waste Agency are mulching, amending and top-dressing.

Mulching: add one inch of compost as a mulch layer, no need to work in and can be topped off with wood mulch for a formal landscape.

 Amending: (most likely the best approach for flood homes)  work one to two inches into the top six inches of existing soil.

 Top Dressing – spread 1/4 to ½-inch layer of compost over existing lawn; best to aerate before top dressing and reseed after.

A rule of thumb for how much compost is needed to complete a project:  square footage x depth x .0031 = cubic yards needed for your soil amendment project.

The agency’s Web site: www.solidwasteagency.org has more information on hours and where you can pick up the compost. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for the soil.

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The Lorax

CR/Linn Solid Waste Agency tour
CR/Linn Solid Waste Agency tour

   The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, is one of my all-time favorite books. The film was part of the Environmental Film Festival on Saturday at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. Technical difficulties prevented a dozen viewers from watching it, but Stacie Johnson gave a good synopsis and an even better tour of the facility at 2250 A St. SW, in Cedar Rapids.

  

   Stacie said the agency is offering free compost from the compost site this year for Linn County residents. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for gardens.

 

  Stacie also noted that Linn County residents can bring unwanted metal items and drop them off for free in the facility’s scrap metal pile. So that old metal swingset, aluminum windows, treadmills and other metal items can be recycled as scrap metal, rather than adding to the landfill. And residents won’t have to pay the $35/ton tipping fee. The same is true for bikes and lawn mowers.

 

   The site is also collecting TVs, computers and other electronics that are recycled. Residents are charged $5 for each TV (or $10 for larger ones) and computer monitors dropped off, while VCRs, I-pods and other smaller items are free to drop off. Lead acid batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs are also collected for free at the site.

 

   The next movie in the film festival is Tuesday, Oct. 14. “Winged Migration,” will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Indian Creek Nature Center. All the films are free. For the complete listing, click on the “gardening events” tab on this blog.

 

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Brucemore photos

  Executive Director Jim Kern kicked off Brucemore’s Garden and Art Show by happily announcing that we’d get through the day without rain. He was so right. Not only a rainless day, but a gorgeous one. Head gardener Deb Engmark and her crew had the grounds looking beautiful, befitting the weather.  I’ll try to get as many photos as I can of the event here, and will add more later in the week.  Visitors to the show could buy plants and artwork, including jewelry, paintings, sculpture and more. New this year, the Solid Waste Agency gave away FREE compost – a gardeners delight:)

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, at Saturday's show at Brucemore

Pat Nosbish of Kansas City, right, and Mary Corkery, of Cedar Rapids, look at daylillies from K&K Gardens of Hawkeye, Iowa, on Saturday

 By the time I was there, the Agency’s Stacie Johnson had filled 99 bags of compost to hand out and I’m sure many more followed. Thanks Stacie!! Shannon Ramsay of Trees Forever and her crew posted the value of a few of the towering oaks and maples on the Brucemore Estate. One large oak had a “price tag” of $81,580, meaning the tree could offer that value – by absorbing stormwater, reducing the need for electricity and filtering pollutants – over its lifetime. And a good-sized crowd chose to sit under that tree for shade. Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens flower shop demonstrated floral arrangements and made it look so simple. Their boss, Chad Rummel, uses bonsai clippers instead of a knife to cut the flowers. Anyone know where those can be found?

Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens
Michelle Adams and Myra Hall of Brucemore Cutting Gardens

Brucemore was luckily spared during the historic flooding in June that devastated downtown Cedar Rapids and beyond. But it has been fully supportive of rebuilding efforts and demonstrated its partnership with the rest of the area’s cultural/art world with a panel discussion at the garden show on the importance of art.

Janelle McClain, past owner of CornerHouse Gallery, Joe Jennison of the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance and head cheerleader, art therapist Joan Thaler and Stephanie Kohn, curator of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, poignantly described the value of art, especially in light of the floods. By lifting spirits, acting as therapy in overcoming grief, conducting fundraisers and giving people a reason to stay in Eastern Iowa,  the arts and cultural events are needed now more than ever, they said. Jennison noted that 35 of the 140 organizations in the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance were directly affected by the floods and others, indirectly affected, such as losing Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City as a performance venue for some of the Alliance’s members. Very fitting that Brucemore offered this panel discussion in what has been a rough summer for many in Eastern Iowa.  
I also attended Lori Willett’s “Cooking with Herbs 101” session and “Compost Happens” by the Linn County Master Composters. Look for more on those, including one of Willett’s herb recipes, later on this blog.

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