KCCB hosts composting class
By BRITTANY FHOLER
More than a dozen people learned about the basics of composting at the Composting 101 class hosted by Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful at the Copperas Cove Public Library on Saturday morning.
The class was taught by Bob Hill, who taught himself how to compost and has taught other composting classes with KCCB, to include a worm composting class.
The class covered the basics of composting- starting with what it is, why it is important, the benefits of it and how to get started.
Composting is an easy way to recycle yard and garden trimmings and kitchen scraps while protecting the environment, according to Hill’s presentation. Composting is the natural process where waste materials decompose into a dark, nutrient rich soil that gardeners call “black gold.” These waste materials are then kept out of landfills and the resulting fertilizer is returned to the earth. It is an inexpensive alternative to chemical fertilizers and can help reduce oil dependency as a result, Hill said. It also helps decontaminate the soil and accelerate the nutrient cycle.
Hill showed pictures of several examples of the different ways composters can be built- from wooden pallets to cinder blocks to homemade tumblers or store-bought wire composters.
A compost pile needs carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and moisture to turn into the sought after “black gold.” Brown matter such as dry leaves, dry straw, shredded paper or sawdust makes up the carbon needed. Green matter such as grass clippings, vegetable scraps, plants and plant cuttings, manure and used coffee grounds provide the nitrogen needed. Hill advised that people not use cat, dog or human manure as they may be contaminated with chemicals or medications or parasite. He also shared that used coffee grounds were a good fire ant deterrent. Aerating the compost pile provides the needed oxygen and watering the compost every so often adds the needed moisture.
An ideal compost pile should by at least 3 ft x 3ft x 3ft. The pile should be built by layering the green and brown matter alternately, with an equal amount of brown to green made up of different size particles. The next step is to wait as nature takes its course, according to Hill. When it is complete and ready to be used, the finished compost will have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 15:1, according to Hill’s presentation.
Hill shared that the four most common uses of compost are as moisture holding mulch; soil amendment; compost tea to be sprayed over a yard or garden; and a lawn top dressing.
Composting can be done year-round, Hill said. Fall is the best time to collect waste materials, like leaves, for a new compost batch and winter is a good time to start a sheet composting project, he added.
During the question and answer portion of the class, it was revealed that a compost pile does not need direct sunlight. A good compost pile should not smell, nor should it have weeds or many bugs or insects. The winter months can cause a compost pile to go dormant, but this can be prevented by constructing a tent using PVC pipes and a plastic cloth to trap warmth around the pile. There are also ways to kickstart a compost pile again, Hill said. Adding more green matter- or nitrogen- to the pile and aerating and keeping the proper moisture level will help.
KCCB executive director Silvia Rhoads asked how a “gully washer” would affect a compost pile. Hill explained that there would likely be nutrients washed into the soil below as the water leaked out but that it would not be detrimental to the pile and that adding brown materials would help. The pile should ideally feel moist to the touch, similar to a wet sponge.
Jenna Colon was one of the participants who won a plant that had been raffled off. Colon said this was her first time at a composting class and that she had never composted before. She started volunteering at one of the Fort Hood community gardens a few months ago, she added.
“I was really excited to come to this class to learn more so I could actually help the garden more and fulfil its potential it could be,” Colon said.
Suzan Mardis attended the class with her husband, Michael and daughter, Amanda. They’ve read up on composting and have slowly gained experience doing it but haven’t been able to devote as much time to it until now, Mardis said. They learned new information at the class regarding temperature regulation and maintaining the moisture levels, she added.
“That information was something I’m pretty sure that we’re going to be able to use in the future,” Mardis said.
Mardis said she thought the offering of the class was fantastic and praised the connection between the city and the ecosystem.
“I think it’s wonderful that it’s available and I think if more people knew about it that the program would blossom and grow,” Mardis said.
In addition to plants donated by Ilse Meier, a member of the Native Plant Society, a wire composter was also raffled off.
The next KCCB event is a waterway cleanup on Saturday, March 10. Participants will meet at the Copperas Cove Public Library parking lot at 10 a.m.