"Compost;" not exactly an inspiring word - to most folks. But to Quesada Gardens' own Master Gardener, Tony Tarket, a.k.a. 'Green Goatee,' compost is a beautiful thing.
Tony shed some light on the subject, something that is a mystery to the average person, when Footprints caught up with him last Saturday morning setting up the food table for the Every Saturday Volunteer Day at Quesada Gardens.
FP: Why compost?
TT: Composting is great because it uses vegetable peelings, lawn clippings, newspaper and other things you would normally throw into the trash bin. It turns them into fertilizer. So you don't have to buy expensive fertilizer with all kinds of chemicals in it, and you don't have to throw all that stuff into the landfill.
FP: What are some benefits of composting?
TT: Composting is great because it uses vegetable peelings, lawn clippings, newspaper and other things you would normally throw into the trash bin. It turns them into fertilizer. So you don’t have to buy expensive fertilizer with all kinds of chemicals in it, and you don’t have to throw all that stuff into the landfill.
FP: Can I compost anything I would normally put in the City’s green bucket, or are there certain things I’d throw in there that I can’t use in my home compost?
TT: There are some things you should never put in your compost such as meat or anything with meat residue on it, and diseased clippings or weeds. Also you probably don’t want to put as much paper in the compost as you might throw away. I like a 50/50 mix of green (vegetable peelings, grass clippings, plants) and brown (wood, sawdust, branches, paper). Make sure you cut all clippings and wood and branches into small pieces so it will break down faster. Anything with chemicals, like wood that’s been treated, shouldn't go in the compost.
FP: Is composting complicated? What are some different methods?
TT: No. It does not need to be complicated at all. You can start with a ready-made compost container, which come in several varieties. Barrel composters, or plastic ground composters are great and easy, and there’s even one that’s really easy to use if you have a disability. All you need to do with those is to start putting the compost in and crank the handle to turn it. These and other types are all available at garden centers like Lowe’s.
If you want to use a compost heap, that’s fine too. One good way is to use four posts with chicken wire around them to contain the compost. Then make the front so the wire rolls up from the bottom so you can take the bottom compost out when it’s finished. The heap needs to be turned once a week, ideally, with newspaper layers put on top after you’re done.
FP: Does it require much space?
TT: The smaller barrel composters are small, and the plastic ground bins are about three feet in diameter. So, no, you don’t need much space at all.
FP: What’s the best way to start?
TT: Start saving your compost and use a ready-made composter. You can begin right away with minimal cost, or start a compost heap for next to nothing.
Tony is a horticulturist, Quesada Gardens Initiative's backyard gardening program coordinator, and a neighbor on Quesada Avenue. Email him with questions at greengoatee [at] quesadagardens.org.