Upcoming Composting Workshops: Learn How Composting Can Make the World Healthier

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Composting a Backyard in Newark

Did you know home composting reduces methane emissions and helps sequester carbon—all in the space of your own back yard?  And you can create a home-grown soil amendment, which will make your soil, your garden, and the rest of your landscape environmentally healthier.  This session explains how to compost vegetable and fruit waste from your kitchen, along with other organic waste.  We will discuss compost “recipes,” how to choose or build a composter, and how to troubleshoot any challenges that arise.  A counter top collection container and easy to use take home handouts with reminders from the session and a resource list for further reading will be provided.

Whether you have never composted or are currently composting, THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR YOU!

NON-COMPOSTER:  Are you thinking, “It would be too hard to compost at my house.  I don’t have time, I don’t have a yard or I am afraid that my neighbors will think my compost pile is stinky.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn how you can be a “lazy-composter” like me, minimizing work but still getting the best soil feeding food ever.
  • Learn how to avoid odors.
  • Learn how to compost even on a balcony, in your garage or in your kitchen.

ALREADY COMPOSTING AT HOME:  Are you thinking, “I already compost at my home, so I don’t need to learn how to compost.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn about the soil foodweb that makes soil able to support optimal plant growth while also cleaning up pollutants out of the air and water.
  • Learn a better way of applying compost to your garden, to help reduce weeds and also reduce the soil nutrient losses that occur with standard compost adding and even standard gardening practices.
  • Learn how composting can help reduce harmful volatization/gasification of carbon.

Composting Workshop Dates and Locations:

  • February 15 , 2017: Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Pennington, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: http://www.njriverfriendly.org/resident (scroll down for workshops)
  • February 22, 2017: Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, Bedminster, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: http://www.njriverfriendly.org/resident (scroll down for workshops)
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Simple Pallet Composter With a Leaf Corral for Carbon Sourcing

 

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Kale Ecology

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Would you eat this leaf?

I have been telling people, sometimes ruefully, sometimes excitedly, about my “kale ecology.” The lovely rows and rows of donated kale seedlings that I planted last spring had sprouted an apparently entirely self-sufficient ecosystem.  Lots of white flies and at least a few aphids are sucking juices from the kale leaves, and excreting out sweet liquid called honeydew.  Ants crawl up to eat the honeydew.  Flies are landing on the leaves—they must be lapping up honeydew as well.

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One ant on our plants

But what had me jumping up and down (in my mind, since my garden is just outside classroom windows) is the best crop of ladybugs I have ever seen in one garden.  We have lovely yellow eggs, we have the black larvae that are longer than an adult ladybug and always look like some weird armored horror movie critter, we have orange pupae, and we have adults—including a few that seem to be senior citizens.  I had never actually seen the pupa form before, and had to check my guide books to make sure that was what the unmoving orangey and blackish thing about the size of an adult ladybug actually was.

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Ladybug pupa on cut leaf
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Asian Ladybeetle larva

 

Predictably, there are also cabbage white butterflies flitting about, and I saw at least one green larva, the “cabbage worm,” a name that I find apt, since the caterpillar always looks squishy to me.  There are also crickets that seem to hang out below the kale plants, in the straw and leaf litter mulch.  There were some other beetles, shield-shaped like stink bugs, but more colorful.

I was hoping my middle school students would share my love of ladybugs, and be impressed by the four totally distinct looking stages of their lives.  But turning over leaves to look for critters raised a cloud of white flies every time, and most students, seeing that happen to one of their cohorts, wouldn’t even approach the kale patch.  One student claimed to have been bitten by something that might have been a grasshopper, like the one sitting on the side of the garden bed, and he was understandably cautious.

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Fly and Ladybeetle

But he was one of the students who volunteered to be “brave” enough to actually pull some of our kale plants for composting.  I had already given up the idea of actually using any of the kale for human consumption—the teacher I was working with found that even washing couldn’t eradicate the telltale signs of insects making a meal of the kale.

It is easier to tell people that we need to feed the critters using the ornamental portion of our yards, rather than with the plants we were hoping to eat ourselves.  It’s also easier, even in the vegetable garden, to do when the critter in question is one that is beautiful and naturally makes you pull out your phone or camera to take a picture, like the black swallowtail.  Truth be told, it is impossible to imagine any sharing happening when faced with a plant where every surface that has not been munched away is covered either with eggs or frass (the word for insect poop), or with the fungus that can also be part of a mini-ecology like my kale.

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Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

So, we’ll be pulling and composting all the old kale, as well as trying to protect the new kale and its fellow family members, broccoli and kohlrabi, with row covers.  But I won’t regret the ecology that brought had me jumping up and down over ladybugs.