Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners provide a team of volunteers who maintain a composting demonstration site down the path behind the Blue Heron Center parking lot on the Wildwood Trail. [see map] There are a dozen methods of composting on display with self-instructional signs and brochures available. Better yet, the team gives demonstration sessions twice a month from May through October. Those who attend are instructed on how to start and maintain compost, and also receive a free compost bin and other useful items!
Click here to see some pictures of the Master Gardeners at work in the park.
To arrange for a special demonstration at the site for your garden club or other group,
This project is run by Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners in cooperation with Quiet Waters Park. AA Co. provides free compost bins and other giveaways.
The Master Gardeners program is part of the University of Maryland Extension. It is the policy of the University of Maryland, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, and University of Maryland Extension that all persons have equal opportunity and access to programs and facilities without regard to race, color, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, age, marital or parental status, or disability.
Next time you’re out in your yard bagging up grass clippings or pruning scraps to put out on the curb in plastic bags – wait a minute! How about composting those materials instead? You’ll be able to make a rich soil amendment for normal, sandy, or clay soil and cut down on the bags of mulch and compost you purchase. You can even compost certain kitchen scraps along with garden materials.
During the summer and fall, we offer demonstrations at the composting site where you can learn how to do home composting and get answers to your composting questions.
You’ve been raking. And raking. And raking so many leaves! You know that leaves are great to put in compost, but will you be able to use all that you’ve raked up? You do have limited space in your compost bin(s) and yard after all. And with all those high carbon content leaves, what will you use for green stuff (high nitrogen) to balance the mixture for efficient composting? Let’s see if we can give you a few suggestions that might help.
Whole leaves take up a lot of space! That’s because a lot of air is present in a bag or pile of leaves. But if the leaves are chopped, the same quantity of leaves will be smaller in volume and denser. So if you have a shredder for your leaves, that will certainly help. You can also use your lawnmower to run over a pile of leaves several times to chop them into smaller pieces. In addition to reducing the volume of leaves to deal with, remember that chopped materials compost faster because of their greater surface area exposed to air and the organisms in the composting pile (you know, the guys who do all the real work).
You still have too many leaves for the space you have. Do you have room to store a few large garden plastic bags? Perhaps in a corner of the yard, in a shed or garage? If so, you can place dry leaves (shredded or not) in the bags and tie them shut. Save them until next spring and summer and use them in the compost pile when your supply of carbon-rich materials is low. As long as the leaves are dry when you put them into the bags they will remain dry and not decompose.
But what about the abundance of leaves with little or no green materials to provide the optimum balance for the compost pile? First of all, leaves do contain some nitrogen and they will decompose eventually with no added green material; it will not be as efficient a process and will take longer. But there is an easy and very effective way to add nitrogen to the carbon-rich leaves! Purchase a small bag of urea (small because this is potent stuff) from a farm supply store or nursery. After you place a bushel or bag of leaves in the compost pile, sprinkle a handful of urea over the leaves. Add water to the pile as you normally would. Add more leaves and urea. The urea provides the missing nitrogen that green materials usually contribute. Another way to add urea is to put urea in a bucket or sprinkling can and dissolve in water. Add a squirt of dishwashing detergent (this will reduce the surface tension on the surface of the leaves for better adherence). Add the leaves to the pile as before, but instead of adding dry urea, pour some of the urea solution on a layer of leaves. You will need additional water to get the pile to the standard “wet as a wrung out sponge.”
Will the composting process proceed over the winter? Will it do any good to turn the pile during the winter? In general our winters are fairly mild except for some nippy snowy stretches. During the time we have warm-ups, composting will proceed at a faster rate than when it is cold. When we have a few of those nice days in December or January, it’s a good idea to turn the pile to make sure there is enough air available to the surviving organisms breaking down the contents of the compost pile. By springtime you should be rewarded for your efforts with some finished compost.
For answers to your gardening or pest questions by phone please call 1-800-342-2507, Home and Garden Information Center, Maryland Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland or email questions via the website www.hgic.umd.edu.