Ask me your burning composting questions!

It’s the Fall season, and it’s time to start gathering all the leaves you can- it’s your fuel to keep your compost pile going through the winter when it goes below freezing.

I’ve been doing this a long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m unaware of some common questions people may have about composting.

Is it simply getting started?  Unsure of what you can compost?  When to compost?  Where to compost?

Let me know what you’d like to learn more about, and I’ll try my best to help you out.

Bottomless pit composter?… or just a lot of grubs?

I thought i was overdue on starting my second trash can composter… the first one has had a bottomless pit for the last few months.

I was certain it would have been at capacity awhile ago, but then I took a closer look.

Not only were there a ton of red wigglers in there breaking it down, but also gobs and gobs of grubs- excellent!

They’ve been a huge help for sure- the pile has been steadily cooking along at a mellow 80 to 90 degrees since its inception, which wouldn’t be hot enough to break down the contents so swiftly.

Once the temperature drops a bit more, I’m going to try transferring as many of the worms over to the big pile as I can…hoping that it’s thick enough to insulate them through the winter- we’ll see!

An indicator of a working compost pile… worms!

Looks like the trash can composter is doing well- red wigglers are reproducing here, meaning the environment is hospitable for them.

I water mine once a week (half a watering can) after I add my food scraps and cover with leaves.

A dry compost pile has a hard time working- keep it damp and you’ll keep it moving… and keep the worms around, too.

Campus Compost (article)

Campus Compost

What is that smell? It is not the paper mill, and it is not the football team practicing on the fields. If students have caught a strong odor walking over on the north side of campus by the Reserve, odds are, it is the campus compost pile.

The compost pile equates to about 15 cubic yards of material. About 15 dump truck loads, explained Chris Brindley, director of the facility services.

“There are three piles of compost that facility services maintain,” said Brindley. An active pile, which has material added daily, the second which is left alone as it breaks down to its final product, the third is the finished pile that is ready to be used whenever.

“It takes 12 months and then we start a new pile,” said Brindley. “Then the first and second piles become the second and third piles and a new active pile is started.”

“All the compost is put back on campus,” said Brindley. “We also use it to amend our athletic fields, as well as in the flower beds throughout campus.”

Campus top dresses the fields when they need to seed them as well, said Brindley. They put a thin coat of the soil over the field which provides the seed with soil contact for germination plus a great source of nutrients for the newly germinated seed.  It allows facility services to use one less application of a synthetic fertilizer on our fields.

“We use this soil that we create with the compost in all our landscaping projects as well,” said Brindley. Usually two parts sands to one-part compost and it makes the most beautiful topsoil one could ask for.

Compost bins can be found around campus in the academic buildings. Photo courtesy of Dalen Dahl.

Compost bins can be found around campus in the academic buildings. Photo courtesy of Dalen Dahl.

“Students get involved with composting when they use the compost bins throughout campus, in their residences and in the academic buildings,” said Brindley. With all the food scraps and compost collected from campus helps make the best compost possible.

“We need the food source to help create a well-balanced product,” said Brindley. “Residential living has always been active in this program and it ties into student involvement.”

 Items such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products are acceptable to add to compost according to the Facility Services website.

According to the website, “If it can be eaten, grown on a farm or field garden, then it can be composted.”

From July 2014 to July 2015, around 125,870 pounds of compost were collected from Debot, the Dreyfus University Center, the Trainer Natural Resources building and the College of Professional Studies building. All of that waste equates to 62.9 tons according to facility services.

Professor Rob Michitsch teaches soil science and waste management. The class has students do numerous experiments and research on the food waste from campus Brindley explained.  They take the food waste that residential living provides for them and do different experiments on it to find ways to break the products down more efficiently.

The composting process makes a complete circle on campus.  Students  can breathe easy knowing that the scent near Schmeeckle means campus is working hard on composting materials and reducing waste.

Aaron Zimmerman

Aaron. J.Zimmerman@uwsp.edu

Reporter

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This is a refreshing article to read- my main question for them is how much contamination they have, and how they handle it.

For a college campus, if you build an ongoing course around the composting program, it’ll be a surefire success.

For all the students out there- ask your school how they can start a composting program.   It’s skills like this that will lead us in the right direction going forward.

How to Build a Trash Can Composter with a Door

I made another trash can composter today- this time with a nice door upgrade.  What for?

Now that my first composter is filled up, it’s going to be tedious to empty out the finished compost 6 months from now.  With the door at the bottom, I hope to remove the finished material much easier.

All in all, the project cost me less than $30 and about an hour of work… better yet, it was a cinch to make.

I picked a trash can that had a relatively flat side so it would be easier to attach hinges flush to the surface.

Here’s a close-up of the door at the bottom:

To build the door, I drilled the holes for all three hinges and screwed them in place first (don’t mount the washers and nuts yet).

Second, I used a boxcutter to cut out the door…I made it a good 10″ tall to give my hand some clearance to fish around and remove finished compost.

Next, I threaded the nuts on the screws on each of the hinges and tightened them down.

Finally, I used a 3/16″ bit to drill aeration holes on all sides of the bin plus the lid.

Clean up and dispose all of the plastic shavings from the inside and the outside.

That’s it!

Now you’re ready to divert organic materials from the landfill-  Feels good, doesn’t it?

Equipment List:

-Phillips head screwdriver
-Drill
-3/16″ drill bit for ventilation holes
-Socket wrench (or adjustable wrench)
-2 hinges
-1 latch
-Nylon insert lock nuts
-Lock washers
-Stainless steel screws

Here’s a video I made to show you how to add materials to the bin:

Cheers!

Learn how to make composting a breeze! Free course and new e-book are now available.