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Master Composter Program Top Weekly Takeaways - Week 3

Throughout this program from The Solana Center, the biggest overall takeaway so far: Mother Nature does 99% of the work, and when you compost, you're just setting the stage.

My team put together and has been monitoring the Earth Machine Composter, and I've got to say, I'm impressed with this system. First, lifting the shell to pitchfork mix our receptacle innards was easy due to its shape. Then, when we put it back together, the large top opening made it easy to switch the interior materials with exterior goods (to allow all organic materials to benefit from the warm chimney-like center).

We checked the temp, which is on its way to reaching the ideal temperature (160 degrees F), and we read 120 degrees. Surprisingly, we also encountered steam and could all feel the heat through our thick gloves. And the smell was not pungent but rather sweet and earthy. Those microorganisms were truly hard at work! To help increase the temperature, even more, we needed to add some Nitrogen and were told that coffee grounds were the best way to do this. 

Week 3 Juicy Composting Tidbits of Learning (a few more than previous weeks, but it's hard to edit good info.) :

- The more you chop up materials, the more surface area you create for those microorganisms to inhabit—which speeds up the process.

- To help break down naturally hardy greens, you can get aggressive with the clippers or even scrunch them in your hands to start breaking up their tough plant cell wall membranes. 

- Is your hot compost not getting hot enough? Then - add more greens. Coffee grounds are an excellent source of Nitrogen to help kick the process into high gear.

- Ants, although annoying, do not hurt your compost. If they bug you, you can add diatomaceous earth around your compost's exterior to deter them in the first place. 

- If you use the tumbler method, include an exterior barrier between the organic material and the area that butts up against the composter's opening. The material could be cardboard, burlap, cotton t-shirt, etcetera. Remove that barrier when you tumble, then put it back in.

- It would be best if you spun tumbling composters 3-4 times/week. 

- In addition to the composting method, some recommended tools to invest in are a good pitchfork and sturdy chopping clippers.  

- Important points to consider when determining the best composting style for you and your family:

  • Motivation to Compost and Labor and Time Commitment
  • Available Compost Materials and Space (large yard = large space and compost receptacles, small yard or apartment = consider vermicomposting)

- There are hundreds of thousands of beneficial microorganisms in just one gram of healthy garden soil. Using pesticides harms or destroys many of these strong and mighty bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes that are needed to help create healthy growth ecosystems. 

Next week we focus on the macro organisms (the bigger guys - like earthworms) while also observing and troubleshooting our team composting systems.

Oh yeah - and there's a field trip! We'll be visiting the Miramar Green Waste Recycling Center!

* Don't forget that worms and healthy soil lessons are weaved throughout the Fall Rutabaga Education Curriculum books. Click here to learn more!*