Did You Know Compost Can…

Did You Know Compost Can:

  • Suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
  • Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from storm water runoff.
  • Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
  • Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.

700 POUNDS

Amount of material diverted per year from each household when you compost

Yard Waste trimmings account for 31 MILLION TONS of municipal solid waste in the US each year.

6.7% of the municipal solid waste in the United States is food scraps – that’s over 13.2 MILLION TONS per year!

Campus Composting

UW-Eau Claire

On Campus: Since 2009, UW–Eau Claire has provided composting services on campus. The Davies Center and the Hilltop Center both have collection receptacles for food waste that will be composted. The dining facilities on campus use materials that can be composted, which are made from paper or corn-based materials. The food services also divert a lot of food waste from landfills by composting it.

Off Campus: Students who live off campus can sign up to have their food waste picked up and used in the composting effort for the campus garden. When students sign up, they are each given a yellow bucket to collect their food waste in. Once a week, they set the bucket out on their front step or porch, and student “eco-reps” come by via specially equipped bicycles to pick it up. This program operates spring, summer, and fall. For more information, contact the Student Office of Sustainability.

UW–Stout

Compostable materials (organics for composting) are collected in every building on campus and also within the kitchens of the dining halls, according to Sarah Rykal, sustainability coordinator at UW–Stout. Stout’s dining services also use compostable to-go containers, and the campus also collects paper towels from the restrooms. Rykal explains that the collection containers are all green with photographs of the things that can be composted. “We do this to make it easy and intuitive for students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” Rykal said. “In 2014, we had 326,583 pounds of compostable material diverted from the landfill.”For more information, contact the Sustainability Office.

Using Cover Crops for Soil Health

 

By: Erin LaFaive, Horticulture Educator UW- Extension, Eau Claire County

Gardens that are worked year after year lose nutrients and organic matter. Adding materials such as partially rotted barnyard manure, composted cow manure, compost, or green manure crops, assists in correcting this depletion problem.

Green manures are also referred to as cover crops. For the home gardener, some of the more easily managed cover crops include buckwheat, oats, and berseem clover because they can be cut and tilled into the soil with hand tools. The key to successfully using cover crops is to cut them BEFORE they create seeds. A flowering cover crop is a sure sign that you must cut them down ASAP.

Cover crops are also beneficial because they help to smotherweeds by blocking the sun-preventing weed seeds from germinating. Cover crops’ root systems can break up compacted soils, adding air pockets within the soil for much needed space for roots and water to navigate. Organic matter is re-introduced to the soil as roots, and leaves decay after the plant is cut and tilled. Some cover crops attract beneficial insects that prey on plant eating insects.

Types of Cover Crops

Buckwheat is an annual, warm-season plant that grows quickly. It sends out a chemical through its root system to inhibit other seeds around it from sprouting, including quack grass seeds. It attracts bees and other pollinators as well as beneficial insects such as lady bugs and lacewings. If you have a Japanese beetle problem, this is not your cover crop as it has a tendency to attract them.

Oats are a fast-growing, cool-season grass. Planted in late summer, it will produce a large quantity of dry matter. It can survive the first few frosts in the fall. It will be killed by winter and easily tilled into the garden in spring.

Berseem clover is a fast-growing, cool-season annual. It can fix nitrogen from the air through its root system. After tilling the plant into the soil, the nitrogen is released in the soil for plant use. It tolerates a light frost.

When to Seed

When to seed a cover crop varies depending on garden establishment and harvesting schedules. In general, cover crops are planted in early spring or late summer. Here are a few recommendations for specific situations.

New garden beds established in spring or early summer can benefit by growing one or two crops of heat-loving buckwheat or beans. New gardens started in late summer benefit from a cover crop that grows quickly in cool weather, including ryegrass, rapeseed, or oats. The dead plant material is turned into the soil in late fall or the following spring.

Another way to use green manures is in established vegetable gardens after early-maturing vegetables have been harvested. Some gardeners continue to plant vegetables that thrive in hot weather or later in the season for vegetables that thrive on the increasing cool weather of the oncoming fall. For those gardeners that need to help depleted soil or simply don’t want to plant a successive crop, plant green manure where these vegetables were growing to keep garden weed free, prevent soil erosion, and add organic matter to the soil. Turn in the dead plant material after a killing frost in late fall.

How to Plant Cover Crops

  • Rake the soil smooth.
  • Broadcast the seed by hand or a broadcast seeder. Sow seeds thickly.
  • Rake soil again to cover seed.
  • Water if necessary.

Things to Consider

Some cover crops can reach heights of two feet. Ask yourself if you will be able to mow a few times as it grows before incorporating the clippings into the soil. If not, the clippings may become matted down by snow pack, which can lead to slow soil warming and drying in spring.

If something prevents you from cutting the cover crop before it flowers, consider finding someone who can. If not, seeds will be added to the soil, and they’ll be popping up in the vegetable garden again. If they do reseed, consider allowing the cover crop to sprout and cut it when the time is appropriate. That garden may need to rest for a growing season to allow the seed bank to eliminate itself through a successive growing pattern. Through the use of green manures the soil will contain more organic matter and beneficial microoganisms and have fewer weeds than before.

Additional Resources

Cover Crops for the Home Garden by John Hendrickson and Jim Stute http://tiny.cc/flknv Erin LaFaive is the horticulture educator for UW-Extension in Eau Claire County.   Erin earned a M.S. in Environmental Studies from the Nelson Institute for environmental studies at the University of Madison-Wisconsin.  She also earned a B.S. in geography with an emphasis in natural resource management at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Composting in the Chippewa Valley

Earthbound Environmental Solutions, LLC

By: Jan Caroll

Putting a new twist on composting in the Chippewa Valley is Earthbound Environmental Solutions, soon offering curbside organics recycling (compost is the product of breaking down the organics collected) along with traditional weekly garbage and recycling pickup. The company hopes to be up and running by summer 2015. They provide a countertop collection container for household organic waste and biodegradable bags to put the waste in, put in your garbage receptacle, and take to your curb on garbage day. This service package is provided for a competitive quarterly fee. Their website, www.earthboundenviro.com, offers several publications (in English, Spanish, and Hmong) that you can print out to get started with composting and help you along the way. They also offer educational and crafts materials for children.

A local family-owned business founded in 2014, Earthbound seeks to keep as much waste out of land fills as possible and convert it to reusable compost for gardens, landscaping, and lawns. They hope to eventually have compost they create at their facility available for purchase. They also have future plans to open a drop-off site for yard waste materials.

In 2014, Earthbound, and their new business idea for curbside organics recycling, was a top 5 finalist in the Eau Claire Economic Development Corp. Idea Challenge. When owners Zacharious and Jamie Pappas were asked why they decided to create Earthbound, they noted: We were motivated by the many opportunities that exist in our community in terms of participating in environmentally responsible activities, supporting people of varying abilities, taking a more active role in creatively shaping our community. We want to bring an innovative and exciting business to Eau Claire that will change the way our community thinks and feels about waste management and so much more.

Earthbound also has commercial services, offering a compost/garbage/recycling package similar to their residential program, and they can conduct a waste audit for your company. Other services include marketing support to help you connect with clientele with similar environmental values, and support to help you let customers know of your participation in this landfill diversion program.

In terms of community enrichment, the company provides free local educational outreach events where an Earthbound representative will come and speak with your group or organization.

Zacharious and Jamie are excited about the response so far, saying, “We have had a significant amount of positive feedback from Eau Claire residents and businesses with an overwhelming number of individuals in support of the program.”