Composting Guidelines

Composting Drop Off hours are from (hours tk).

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed as a soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic urban farming, especially for us at SBCG. Compost is rich in nutrients and is very beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a fertilizer. We have two kinds of composting: a 3 bin and vermicomposting (worms!).

All organic materials contain carbon and nitrogen in varying proportions. To create ideal conditions for composting, we need to add and mix equal parts (by volume) of “green” high-nitrogen materials and “brown” high-carbon materials.
Greens are fresh, moist, nitrogen-rich plant materials that still have some life in them.

Browns are dry, carbon-rich plant materials with no life in them.

3 bin composting

Using a three-bin composting system is a great way to compost our leaves and garden trimmings. This particular three-bin is built from used wooden palates and the design features three distinct sections that provide easy access to each bin. DO NOT THROW KITCHEN WASTE INTO THE 3 BIN SYSTEM! THIS WILL ATTRACT RODENTS. Lets be honest….we live in NYC and have enough problems with them in the subways. We do not want them in our garden.

The idea of a 3 bin system is to maximize the heat-producing natural chemical reactions to speed the decomposition of carbon-rich veggie matter into nitrogen-rich humus. The three bins are so you can get three full batches of humus in one season.

In the first bin we will alternate layers of “browns” and “greens”. This will kick start the decomposition and will heat up the waste (up to around 150? F). Adding layers of well-composted manure will help as well. We repeat these three layers as often as we can until bin #1 is full.

After a couple of weeks and bin # 1 is full or when the bin contents seem to have reduced in size by half or more we will fork the contents on bin #1 and put it in bin #2. We then start the process all over again in bin # 1.

After another couple of weeks when the contents of bin #2 is looking less like leaves and trimming and more like soil, we fork the contents from bin #2 to bin #3. Sift the contents in bin #3 and we can start using this “black gold” in our garden. We then fork the contents of bin #1 into bin #2 and start the process over again in bin #1.

Think of this as our kids’ game of musical chairs, but the one who is “out” gets to be folded into the garden as nutritious additive to our soil.

The keys to 3 bin composting is to ENSURE we keep a balance between the “greens” and “browns”. Without enough greens, a pile will decompose very slowly, and without enough browns the pile may smell bad. In general, it’s better to err on the side of too many browns, so we may want to stockpile dry, carbon-rich material, such as fall leaves or shredded newspaper, to add to your bin throughout the year. This will also keep our neighbors happy as the compost pile shouldn’t smell if well balanced!

Vermicomposting

Similar to the 3 bin, vermicomposting is a great way to compost; however, unlike the 3 bin which is restricted from including kitchen/food waste as it would attract animals, vermicomposting is in a closed container and they LOVE kitchen scraps. We also need to layer “greens” and “browns” but what we can use is much wider:

GREENS (materials rich in nitrogen)

From Your Garden
– green plants
– garden trimmings
– fresh leaves & flowers
– grass clippings (see leave on the lawn)

From Your Kitchen/Home
– fruit & vegetable scraps
– coffee grounds & tea bags
– manure & bedding from plant eating animals ONLY

BROWNS (materials rich in carbon)

From Your Garden
– fall leaves, twigs & woody prunings
– dry plant material
– straw & hay
– pine needles
– potting soil

From Your Kitchen/Home
– bread & grains
– egg shells
– nutshells
– corncobs
– food-soiled paper towels & napkins
– shredded newspape

We are the happy owners of 2000 redworms. Regular (soil and garden) earthworms cannot be used for worm composting. They will die if added to an indoor worm bin. Composting worms are specialized surface dwellers typically living in very rich organic matter such as manure, compost heaps or leaf. It is widely believed that a composting worm can process the equivalent of its own weight in waste each day. Under highly optimum conditions red worms have been found to process multiple times their own weight! This is very much dependent on the foodstock and how well managed the system is.

A reasonable guideline to follow is 1/4-1/2 total worm weight in waste per day. We have 2 lbs, so they should be able to process roughly ½-1 lb of food waste per day. Keep in mind however that you may need to feed them less during the first couple months since they usually require a period of acclimation when added to a new system.

Red worms love (and can tolerate) very high levels of moisture content (80-90%), but they also require oxygen so it’s important to find the right balance. Regular light is harmful to worms, so please keep the top on the worms when the kids are not feeding or playing with the worms. Red worms are very sensitive to direct light – it can lead to considerable stress and even death if they unable to escape from it. Red worm eggs look like tiny straw-colored lemons. Baby worms look like very small versions of the adults (but have less red pigment). Adding crushed egg shells (or other calcium sources) can help stimulate worm reproduction.

Please feel free to “feed” the worms whatever you brought from home, but ENSURE that you only feed them appropriate foods (nothing! From the list below) or they are likely to die. Like the 3 bin system please layer the greens with browns. Worms need oxygen, so don’t pack the food in, but simply add the scraps to the pile as it falls. Please feel free to “feed” the worms toilet paper roles, kitchen towel roles and cardboard egg carton. This will ensure good air pockets in the worm bin.

Materials to Avoid

From our Garden
• pesticide-treated plants or pesticide-treated grass clippings
• diseased or pest-infested plants
• poison ivy
• invasive weeds
• weeds with seeds
• large branches
• non-compostable materials such as sand or construction debris

From our Kitchen/Homes
• meat or fish scraps
• cheese or dairy products
• fats, grease, or oil
• cat or dog feces; kitty litter
• colored or glossy paper
• sawdust made from pressure-treated plywood or lumber
• coal or charcoal ashes
• non-compostable materials such as plastic, metals, or glass