November 23, 2019

Compost Education

Cassandra and I went to a composting and vermicomposting class at Martial Cottle Park. The park is 287 acres, and is about 7km from our house and is really beautiful. It was gifted in 2003 by Walter Cottle Lester to the State and County for development of a public park that informs and educates the public about the agricultural heritage of the Santa Clara Valley. The class was free and we got to take home several bags of organic compost; San Jose residents get a pretty good deal on composters or worm bins through the city of San Jose. We already have a Greenes cedar composter to which we’ve been adding all our kitchen scraps, weeds, and garden trimmings, but we’ll probably be getting a worm bin and start keeping worms. We are in the early stages of re-doing our yards with native plants, fruit trees, and raised beds; we expect the worm bins to be helpful sometime early to mid 2020.

We learned a few things:

  1. Breaking sticks/branches/twigs down with a chipper will accelerate the composting process. We are on the lookout for a used electric chipper now. They seem to range in price from $100-$200, and then a big jump to over $1000.
  2. BioBags are not practically compostable; we have discovered this the hard way and have a bunch of small pieces of thin green plastic spread throughout our back yard. One of the instructors of the course indicated she saw these bags all over the place even in industrial hot composts and they tend to not break down. I don’t know what ASTM D6400 defines to be “compostable”, but whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to translate to the real world.
  3. Meat scraps are primarily discouraged due to their tendency to attract rodents but if you have a rodent secure compost bin or do post-hole composting, meat and fish scraps should be fine.
  4. Feces from meat-eating animals (cats and dogs primarily) shouldn’t be composted but feces from poultry or other vegetarian animals are fine. We already have 4 chickens and plan to raise meat rabbits, so we should have plenty of good stuff for the compost.

In taking this course I learned about the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) and the University of California Cooperative Extension for Santa Clara County. These are awesome resources I’ll be exploring in the near future. I learned about upcoming 2020 Master Composter Training which I may attend, depending on what is involved.

Luke Peterson, some rights reserved.