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What is Compost?
Compost Contest in April
Compost, that magical soil enhancer, is simply decomposed organic plant material or animal matter. While the creation of compost may seem mysterious or complicated, it’s really a very simple, natural process that continuously occurs in nature, often without any human assistance. If you’ve ever walked in the woods, you’ve experienced compost in its most natural setting. Animals of all sizes—from larger mammals, birds and rodents, to worms, insects and microorganisms—consume both living plants and annual plants that die at the end of the season. The result of this cycle is compost; a combination of digested and undigested food left on the forest floor that creates rich, usually soft, sweet-smelling soil. Mother Nature does it without additives, tilling, petrochemical fertilizers or landfills.
Backyard composting is the intentional and managed decomposition of organic materials. It is fundamental to good gardening. Anyone can effectively manage the composting process. In fact, if you have organic matter, it’s virtually impossible to prevent decomposition. The trick is to maximize the natural process while avoiding the unpleasant effects of the decaying matter. Compost is good; sloppy garbage heaps and rotting food are bad.
One of the great aspects of composting is that the key ingredients are often things that you’d be tempted to throw away. According to the Garden of Oz web page (http://www.thegardenofoz.org/composting101.asp), a great resource to get you started, compost is also an act of environmental responsibility. It saves money, reduces the landfill waste-stream and helps sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Leading research is pointing to building soil and growing biomass as the fastest way to mitigate climate change.
Compost is facilitated when you provide the right mixture of key ingredients for the millions of microorganisms that do the dirty work. These microorganisms will eat, multiply and convert raw materials to compost as long as the environment is right. The environment doesn’t have to be absolutely “perfect,” so you don’t need to be a microbiologist or chemist. You just need to provide food, water and air.
SFCC to Host Compost Contest
At last year’s Carbon Economy Series Soil Food Web workshop at Santa Fe Community College, participants discovered that of the over 60 local samples evaluated under microscope, NONE had healthy, diverse, robust biological life! With good compost, that can be changed.
And so, the Compost Economy Series and Santa Fe Community College are encouraging widespread participation in a compost contest they are hosting to find the highest quality compost and learn how it was made. Finished samples can be brought to the college from April 13-15 to be inspected under microscope. Samples of this “brown gold” will then be given to as many people as possible to create more. Compost is alive, like a yogurt culture, so why not spread it around? Rodale Institute Chief Scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham will judge the contest. Cash and other prizes will be awarded to the winners. La Montañita Co-op and other local businesses are sponsors.
That weekend, sponsored by the Santa Fe Farmer’s Institute, Dr. Ingham will also teach her acclaimed course on the soil food web and compost tea.
For more information, call 505.819.3828 or visit www.carboneconomyseries.com.
About the author
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