A rottin’ job

Oct 20, 2012 by

Composting: It’s really recycling

By BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Published: 10/20/2012  2:24 AM
Last Modified: 10/20/2012  4:53 AM

Tulsan Michael Patton uses clippings from his yard, leaves from a variety of trees, and maybe some food scraps for his composting. And sometimes, he’ll take a leaf or two from his neighbor’s yard, he admits. But their grass clippings? He’d have to first see how they treat their grass before deciding.

Patton, executive director of the Metropolitan Environmental Trust has been composting for years – decades really. And he will tell you there isn’t a reason not to: “Leaves and grass are more valuable than trash. You should want to keep them and use them.”

Composting, he said, is Mother Nature’s way of recycling.

In nature, composting is always occuring when grass, fallen leaves and other natural debris hit the forest floor and slowly start to decompose – breaking down and providing essential minerals and nutrients for plant and animal life as well as microorganisms. With no help from people, the process happens but can take an inordinate amount of time.

Closer to home, composting is the process of combining yard waste, selected kitchen scraps, air, water and a little bit of time to yield a natural, nutrient-rich amendment for your soil. In your own backyard with five to ten minutes of regular attention, aeration and water, you can manage that decomposition and speed it up.

Getting your compost to a place where you can start to use it in your landscape – a beautiful “black gold” as many call it – can take as few as three to four months.

Tulsa County Master Gardener Karen Watkins learned at the Tulsa Home and Garden show 20 years ago and has been doing it ever since. What plants she doesn’t automatically till back into the earth or leave in place as shelter for wildlife, she composts in a 3-by-3 pile. It’s something that can be done throughout the year but like many, Watkins usually starts in the late summer and early fall for use in the spring.

Then, she’ll incorporate what she yields into plant holes and apply it to anything else she wants.

If her bin is completely full come springtime, Watkins can cover her 20-by-10 garden bed with an inch-thick layer of the “black gold,” and when using on individual plantings, she easily has more than enough.

“It’s something that you are not paying for and you are having all the benefits,” Watkins said.

“Why buy dirt when you can make your own?” Patton asks. It’s one of the simplest things that people don’t do.

In addition to enriching soil, composting can help clean soil, help prevent pollution and lower gardening costs, fertilizer and pesticides, reports the EPA.

A compost pile is like a recycling center, said Patton, who will speak at a composting seminar that starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the OSU Extension Center.

Just be diligent, is Watkins biggest advice.

“If you just go out there and turn it, make sure it’s moist … monitor it,” said Watkins, “(you) will increase your success.”

Read more from this Tulsa World article at: http://www.tulsaworld.com/scene/article.aspx?subjectid=41&articleid=20121020_44_D1_CUTLIN288759

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