PRFCT Tips

Tagged with "Compost"

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The Buzz on Biochar

August 03, 2018

The Buzz on Biochar

Biomass charcoal (biochar) has become a soil health buzz word, but what is it exactly? Biochar is a carbon-rich solid material left over when organic matter (like wood, dry leaves or grasses) are burned at an extremely high temperature in the absence of oxygen – a process called pyrolysis. 

For use in gardens and landscapes, biochar should be added and mixed with your compost or potting soil before it is applied. The porous surface of biochar provides habitat for beneficial microbes that thrive in compost, protecting them from predation and drying while providing carbon for their energy needs. It also helps to retain soil moisture, minerals and nutrients for plant health and adds structure to sandy soils.

One great feature of biochar is that it remains in soil for hundreds and potentially thousands of years. Go ahead and add some biochar to your compost and soil mixes – it even helps sequester atmospheric carbon, PRFCT all around!

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Step 1: Relieve Your EcoAnxiety, Get Started.

Hi all, Emily here, the new PRFCT Environmental Outreach Coordinator and I want to help you relieve your eco-anxiety, which is exactly what it sounds like: a gnawing tension and fear that there’s nothing we can do to save the planet from doom. 

But here is an action you can start right away, so allow me to talk a little trash in this series about composting. According to the EPA, 30% of all solid waste sent to landfills is compostable organic matter. You can easily reclaim that 30% of “trash” and help turn it into environmentally beneficial material for your landscape.

It is easy. Purchase a container to collect kitchen scraps. I use a countertop container with a carbon filter. Edwina uses a 20-gallon flip-flip top garbage can with a removable (hole-free) bucket. City-dwellers, you can still do this! Freeze your compost in a bag and then either take it to a recycling center (yes, effort) or bring it with you to the country when you flee on the weekends.

Empty your container every few days where you plan to build your outdoor bin - next week we will show you how to design and build it.

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Worm compost

Temps are dropping, winter is coming. Too cold for your compost to keep cooking?

Not if you bring it inside! With an indoor worm composting tower, you can actively compost all year long. Worms (red wigglers are best) live within these self-contained systems, turning food scraps and bedding (shredded newspaper, coconut fiber) into nutrient-rich compost. Once they’ve eaten through a tray of food scraps—raw fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, tea leaves, or finely crushed eggs shells—in the tower, the worms wiggle up to the next, leaving behind a tray of food for your houseplants or garden.

Worried about bugs? Or smell? Keep the bedding:food ratio 1:1 and skip the meat, dairy, and citrus.

Worm composting towers come in a range of sizes and materials. In our office, we use the Worm Factory 360 with red wigglers from Nature’s Good Guys. Yes, worms in the mail!

Worm compost tower

Compost

To Brew? Or Not to Brew?

July 08, 2016

Last week, we talked about the benefits of natural fertilizers like compost and compost tea. So what's the difference between the two? Why brew tea when you could just apply compost?

COMPOST:

+ High in microbial content to feed your soil
+ Contains some soluble nutrients to feed your plants
+ Rich in organic matter that helps improve soil structure
– Heavy and messy to apply
– Will end up all over your clothes (and your kids and pets) if you play on a lawn treated with compost. Best to apply in spring or fall.

COMPOST TEA:

+ High in microbial content to feed your soil
+ Contains some soluble nutrients to feed your plants
+ Only requires a small amount of compost to feed a large area of land
+ Easy to apply throughout the year using a sprayer or watering can
+ Good for lawns or gardens that need to recharge their microbial battery
– Does not contain organic matter for your soil
– Requires special equipment to brew (but our how-to instructions make it easy)

You can buy a compost tea brewing system or make your own at home. Whichever system you use, you will need a heavy-duty pump to aerate the water sufficiently. Proper aeration encourages beneficial microbes to multiply and discourages harmful microbes from growing in your tea. A fish aquarium bubbler will not be strong enough.

1. Start with great compost. Blending two or three composts together will give you a great variety of beneficial microbes. Put your compost in a mesh strainer bag (you can find them at the local hardware store in the paint section).

2. Fill your brewer with water and run the pump for 20 minutes to de-gas any chlorine.

compost tea brewer

3. Put your compost bag in the water while the brewer is running. Hang the bag from the edge of the bucket to expose as much of the compost as possible to the bubbling water.

4. Check the color of the water to make sure it is getting significantly darker, which indicates that microbes are being extracted from the compost.

compost tea brewer

5. Add food to feed the microbes. Suggested foods include molasses, kelp, humic acid, and fish emulsion.

6. Brew for 24 hours.

compost tea brewer

7. Decant your tea and use within six hours. Mix two parts water with one part compost tea and apply using a watering can or sprayer.

8. Clean your brewer immediately.

9. Brew more tea!

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