Photo: Robin Kraut, The NYC Compost Project volunteer
I stopped by the The NYC Compost Project table at the Maker Faire this weekend and was lucky enough to talk with to volunteer Robin Kraut, who attached an “I Heart Worms” folded paper shirt on me.She got me really interested in composting as a way to be more environmentally friendly, minimize waste, help save money, and give much needed help to my garden.
The NYC Compost Project was created in 1993 by the NYC Department of Sanitation, to show that composting is easy and can even be done in a NYC apartment.
Compost is a dark nutrient rich material that resembles topsoil and is naturally made from decaying organic materials. It can improve soil texture, water retention, suppress plant diseases, weed growth, and adds essential nutrients to soil.
A leaf decomposes naturally in about two years with help from worms, insects, and microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, but by creating the ideal conditions of heat and moisture, composting can accelerate the process to as little two weeks. In the picture Robin snapped of me above, I am aerating, or turning the compost pile, which helps speed up the process.
Materials that can be composted make up 24 per cent of U.S.’s municipal solid waste, Robin said. We can reduce the amount of trash that goes into landfills by composting stuff like:
- Plants and garden trimmings
- Small twigs
- Leaves and flowers
- Grass clippings
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Manure from plant eating animals
- Cornstarch and other organic packing materials
- Straw and hay
- Pine needles
- Bread and grains
- Egg shells
- Paper towels and napkins
- Sawdust, wood ashes and shavings from untreated wood
If you have outdoor space you can use a compost bin. The bin is a container you can buy or make for your compost pile to keep it warm and moist, and to keep pests out.
If you live in an apartment and don’t have an outside space, you can compost indoors using a worm bin, Robin suggested. Worms transform food scraps and decaying plant material into vermicompost, which is just like regular compost, but made by worms. You can make your bin using a container 8 to 12 inches deep by adding about 10 quarter inch air holes, bedding for the worms (moist news paper works well), your composting material, and finally your worms.
These aren’t your average worms that you can round up at the park. Robin told me those worms like to live deep under ground so they wouldn’t like the loosey-goosey nature of the bin. For the best composting experience we need to “love our worms and want them to be happy,” she said.
So, the best option is to buy composting worms that like to live in shallower soils. You need about 2,000 worms per pound of food scraps a day.
A major concern I had about composting was a smell. Whether inside or outside, I don’t enjoy the stench of rotting food. Robin assured me it does not smell if done properly, and their website has information on troubleshooting any issues that may arise, like if your bin starts to smell or attract fruit flies.
Robin convinced me to start composting. I’ll reduce my waste, save money on topsoil and fertiliser, and hopefully the nutrient material will help me get a better yield of tomatoes from my garden next summer.
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