Composting For a Healthy Yard
Stop! Before you dump your twigs and leaves and other fall and winter lawn debris down the storm drain or in the landfill, consider this environmentally friendly idea. Start a compost pile or bin and leave your yard waste on your land. Composting is a simple, economical way to recycle your household scraps and yard trimmings into a nutritious meal for your soil and your landscape, not to mention the beneficial insects and microorganisms that will also feast on it.
Composting makes sense, because it keeps useful organic materials from filling up the local landfill. In some states, it is now against the law to put organic materials in the landfill, since they are relatively clean and biodegradable, and take up needed space. Another reason to compost is the reward of saving money by having a free soil enhancement, which can be used on your landscape, garden, or shared with your neighbor.
All organic materials decompose. Composting hastens the process by providing an ideal environment for bacteria and other decomposers to thrive. These microorganisms need four elements to do their work: nitrogen, water, carbon, and oxygen. For the best results, mix high-nitrogen materials like clover and fresh grass clippings with high-carbon materials like dried leaves and twigs. Adding wood chips to branches and twigs allows more oxygen to get into the pile and adds a nice fragrance. Rainwater provides moisture, or you can water and cover the pile with a tarp, to keep it moist, if rainfall is in short supply. Turning and mixing the pile lets the oxygen in.
To start, you can use a simple pile, a barrel or bin, or you can build a frame from old lumber, bricks, and chicken wire, so there is a minimal expense involved. There are also a variety of prefabricated composting bins available at your local hardware, lawn and garden store, or via the internet. If you prefer, composting can be done inside your garage or shed.
There are two methods of composting: cold composting and hot composting. Cold composting works well for those who have little time and not a great deal of yard waste. Start with dried leaves on the ground and add grass clippings. Then just add yard waste as you do your lawn maintenance. The only drawback with this method is that you may have to wait several months to a year for the compost to be ready to use.
Hot composting takes more work, but you can have useable compost in about four weeks. Start out with level ground and lay boards or branches down, evenly spaced to create air circulation. Spread out several inches of high-carbon, (brown) material and add high-nitrogen (green) material and mix together. You can do this in a bin or a pile as well. Water as necessary but don’t let your pile become soggy. Too much water will harm the microorganisms, and the pile will rot and smell. The bacteria can do their best work in a mixture of 20-30 times as much brown material as green material, (carbon to nitrogen). A pile, which measures 3’ x 3 ‘x 3’, works best, but don’t let it get taller than 5 feet. Punch holes in the sides to let the air circulate. Your pile will heat up and cool down, so start turning material when the temperature drops. Move the compost from the center to the outside and vice-versa, just like stirring a cake batter in a bowl. Turning every day or two will give you a finished product in less than four weeks. Turning every other week will give results in one to three months.
Here are some materials that you can safely add to your compost pile: cardboard rolls, eggshells, gray cardboard boxes, sawdust, vacuum cleaner lint, clean paper, fireplace ashes, hair, shredded newspaper, vegetable trimmings, fruit scraps, (be sure to microwave non-native fruit peels such as banana peels, because they may contain non-native microorganisms,) coffee grounds and filters, fur, leaves and grass, tea bags, wool and cotton rags.Items that you would not include would be: Black walnut leaves and twigs, (they are toxic to tomato plants), egg yolks, meat scraps, and dairy products, (attract flies,) oils and grease, (create bad odors,) pesticides, (will kill microorganisms and concentrate in the compost,) and pet waste, (attracts flies and may carry disease microorganisms.)
When your compost is ready to use, it will be a uniform, dark brown, crumbly material which looks and feels like rich, earthy-smelling garden soil. You need to let it cool for a few days before using it. Compost can be used to amend and enrich your garden soil and landscaping beds. It can even be used in house plant pots and window boxes. Compost enhances soil texture, increases the ability of the soil to absorb air and water, limits weed growth, helps stop erosion, and lessens the need for chemical fertilizers.
So instead of tossing those grass clippings in the stream where their decomposition will add unwanted nutrients and use up oxygen needed by aquatic creatures, put them to good use to enhance everyone’s environment. In nature, everything that happens is part of a cycle, and one creature’s waste is another creature’s food or shelter. If we think about our own home environment as part of the larger ecosystem, we can learn to use practices that are beneficial to not only our small corner, but to the whole planet that we share.
Backyard Conservation, USDA-NRCS, NACD, Wildlife Habitat Council, (available on our website at www.summitswcd.org)
Time For Spring Planting
It is hard to believe with all the snow and freezing temperatures, but Spring is almost upon us. Just a reminder that the pick-up date for tree seedlings, wildflower seeds, and rainbarrels is April 11, 2014, 8:00 am-5:00 pm at our office, 2525 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 44223.
Summit SWCD Spring Fish Sale Information
It’s time once again to think about stocking your pond or lake. This spring, the Summit SWCD Fish Sale will again feature largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill. The fathead minnow will also be available.
The pre-ordered fish will be available for pick-up on Monday, April 28, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to noon at the Summit SWCD Office, 2525 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls. The fish truck will be parked in the adjacent Community of Believers Church parking lot. Please pull behind the buildings to pick up your fish.
Orders must be picked up during the specified time. Bring approximately 5-10 gallons of water from your pond for each 100 small fish ordered. A container with a cover (a clean garbage can for example) will keep the fish contained until you get home. Please line your container with a clean, plastic bag. Do not bring city or well water.
The largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill are the recommended species for stocking northeast Ohio lakes and ponds. All three provide excellent fishing and fine eating. Largemouth bass feed almost exclusively on other fish. A forage species such as the bluegill or minnows should be stocked as a food source. You should stock only the recommended species in the proper ratio (100 bass, 500 bluegills, and 100 catfish per surface acre of water). The fathead minnows are stocked at a rate of 1,000 per acre and will only be sold in lots of 100 fish. Do not add fish from other ponds or streams. Undesirable fish such as carp, crappies and yellow perch can upset the balance in a pond, competing with more desirable fish for food and space. Once these undesirable fish become established, they are difficult to remove. For general information about fish stocking, contact the ODNR Division of Wildlife Office at (330) 644-2293.
When you pick up your fish, deliver them immediately to your pond. Be sure the water temperature in the container and pond are the same. This can be accomplished by placing the hauling container in the pond or by gradually adding pond water to the container until the temperature is the same. For more information, contact the district office at 330-929-2871.
Healthy Yard-Clean Water
With all the snow and freezing temperatures that we are experiencing lately, it is hard to imagine that spring is just around the corner. But the crocus, daffodils and tulips will be peeking out very soon. Now is the time to start planning healthy landscaping practices. By properly caring for our lawns and gardens, we can save money and time, enhance our property value, and also protect the environment.
Healthy landscaping involves some simple landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources. This is a preventative approach, which enlists the help of “Mother Nature.” By working with nature, you can have a great-looking yard that’s easier to care for, cheaper to maintain and healthier for families, pets, wildlife and the environment.
The first and most important step for a healthy landscape plan is to build and maintain a healthy soil, since soil is the foundation for a healthy yard. To grow well, your lawn needs soil with good texture, some key nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and lime, and the right pH, (alkaline/acid balance).
Check the texture of your soil to see whether it is heavy and dense with clay, light and sandy, or in between, like loam. Grass grows best in loamy soil, which is a mixture of clay, silt, and sand. You can improve the texture of your soil by adding compost, manure, or grass clippings, periodically. These natural additions will help to maintain the community of beneficial soil organisms that keeps our soil loose, allowing water, oxygen, and nutrients to be available to plant roots. These organic materials also conserve water and stabilize soil temperature.
Check to see if your soil has been packed down by equipment or heavy traffic. If it has, you can aerate it by pulling out plugs of soil here and there to create air spaces, so that water and nutrients can penetrate down to the roots. If you decide to go totally organic with your lawn care, you can also use liquid aeration along with seeding and/or compost, or by itself. Liquid aeration is used especially on lawns with sprinkler systems and electric pet fences.
It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO HAVE YOUR SOIL TESTED, AND CHECK THE pH. Grass grows best in a slightly acidic soil, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. In addition you can add necessary amendments to achieve a good pH for grass growth. By having your soil tested for nutrients, you can avoid adding excess fertilizer, which costs money and ends up in the lakes and streams when it rains. Plants only take in the fertilizer that they need, and the rest will be wasted and
harm the environment. When the excess fertilizer ends up in our lakes and streams, the result is harmful algae blooms and eutrophication, or death, of the lake or stream. The excess nutrients feed the algae and lead to extensive algae blooms. When the algae die off, their decomposers use up all the available oxygen and fish and other aquatic organisms cannot breed, nest, or live in that water body, so it becomes a “Dead Zone.”
As spring approaches, take a minute to call Summit Soil and Water Conservation District for more information on soil test kits. Then you will be prepared for the next step, which is choosing the right plants for your landscape. Native plants, which are drought and pest resistant and thrive in our local climates, are great choices and additions to your landscape. You can contact Summit SWCD at 330-929-2871, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. to obtain a list of plants that are native to this part of the country.
Keep Your Eyes Open- Northeast Ohio Stormwater Training Council Event
The Northeast Ohio Stormwater Training Council will be holding a workshop on April 9 for municipalities and interested persons titled: “Your New MS4 Permit-What’s Changed/Legal Matters-The New NPDES Permit for Small MS4s: Time to Evaluate and Refocus Your Storm Water Management Program.” The workshop will take place at the Cuyahoga Community College Eastern Campus Performing Arts Center,4250 Richmond Road, Highland Hills, Ohio. The program will be held from 9:00 am- 4:30 pm, with registration beginning at 8:30 am. To register for the workshop go to email@example.com.
Public officials, Law Department Representatives, and others involved with Stormwater Management should attend. To obtain more information on the Northeast Ohio Stormwater Training Council events and programs, click here.
Soil Fertility Improvement Workshop Scheduled For April
- Tuesday, April 29
- 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- Happy Days Lodge - Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 500 W. Streetsboro Road (Rt. 303) Peninsula, Ohio, 44264
Join Summit Soil and Water Conservation District, The Ohio State University Extension, and the Countryside Conservancy, for the second in a series of workshops focusing on small and specialty crop farms. These smaller and diverse operations face a number of conservation related issues.
Currently, local newspapers are filled with stories about pollution problems in our lakes and streams due to excess nutrients. Come to this workshop and learn the basics about soil texture, structure, fertility, and health. You will learn how to increase soil fertility and build your soils without harming the water quality of our lakes and streams. You will walk away with an understanding of soil fertility based on Ohio State University research, such as nutrient cycling and dynamics, soil aggregation, the soil food web, and cover crops. Finally, you’ll learn which cover crops to plant and how to use them for your specialty crop production and soil resource limitations.
The three presenters for the program are:
- Steve Prebonick- State of Ohio Soil Scientist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Resources.
- Steve Culman-Assistant Professor of Soil Fertility at The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, Wooste
- Ann Brandt-Co-owner of Walnut Creek Seeds, LLC.
To register for the workshop or for more information, contact the Countryside Conservancy by