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Home Composting Slide Show, Part IV

Thomas Richard, Robert Kozlowski, Nancy Dickson and Roger Kline
July 1989

IV. Systems

Yard wastes can be composted using a varity of systems including holding units, turning units and mulching. Food composting systems include incorporation, vermicomposting (composting by earthworms), and turning units.
Many different options are available to contain your compost. One option is a holding unit in which wastes are accumulated. After materials are added to the holding unit they are left undisturbed to slowly decompose. Snow fence can make a simple and movable holding structure.
Another option is a wire cage made from fencing or chicken wire. This bin works well for light materials like leaves.
Used pallets are often available for free from manufacturers. Tied or nailed together, they effectively contain compost in a stable structure.
A wooden frame lined with hardware cloth is lighweight and attractive. As with other holding units, the frame can be removed from the completed pile and used for the next material to be composted. (Special thanks to Seattle Tilth Association).
Moving compost from bin to bin on a weekly basis will make rapid compost and provide considerable strenuous exercise! The turning unit method is used to make compost quickly and is more suitable for food wastes. Compost is turned frequently to provide aeration.
Rotating drums take some of the work out of turning, and are available from garden supply stores. Such units often represent considerable investment for the volume of material composted.
Perhaps the easiest way to compost food waste is to bury it in the garden or yard. Bury food waste at least six to eight inches deep to keep animals from digging it up. Care should be taken not to damage the roots of nearby plants.
Recycling food and yard waste can provide a host of benefits for the garden. Compost incorporated in the soil provides limited nutrients to plants. However, the organic matter it provides can significantly improve soil structure, allowing better drainage in heavy clay soils and improved water retention in light sandy soils. (Special thanks to Seattle Tilth Association).
Screened compost can be blended with soil and peat and used as a growing media for containerized plants. A simple screen can be made with hardware cloth and a wood frame.
Coarse, partially decomposed compost can also be used as a mulch. Mulches are useful for water retention and weed control, but have a cooling effect on soil and will delay maturity of warm weather crops.
Fresh compost should not be used for germinating seedlings. The use of sterilized soil is preferred because many seedlings are susceptible to disease pathogens. Compost that has aged for at least a year is less of a problem, and may prove beneficial in preventing damping off disease. (Special thanks to Nancy Trautmann).
Home composting provides households with the opportunity to efficiently convert waste material into a valuable soil amendment. The ultimate result of the process is a healthier, more productive and easier to maintain garden. Our challenge is to change residents' values toward waste disposal and make them aware of alternative disposal practices. Home composting offers the opportunity for residents to contribute to the solution themselves and receive a beneficial product for their own gardens.
Credits Credits for Web Slideset Credits for Slideset Purchased from Media Services
Seattle Tilth Association Seattle Tilth Association
David Emerson David Emerson
Nancy Trautmann David Dindal
David Stern David Stern

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