Rats and compost

I think we can all agree that the one animal nobody wants in their compost is the rat. There are a few ways to get them to scram, and a few other ways to keep them from ever getting in, with varying degrees of cost and difficulty.

Let’s start with the easiest and least expensive.

First of all, take care in what you’re composting, and make sure you’re not adding anything rats especially like to your compost.  No animal products other than eggshells, no bread, no rice.

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I’ll give you $50 for your fridge

Empty refrigeratorWell, not me, but MassSave will. If you’ve got a second fridge in the basement (do people keep them anywhere other than the basement?) that is doing nothing but wasting energy, they will not only PICK UP your fridge for FREE but they’ll give you $50 for the trouble.

Hype aside, second refrigerators really can suck up $100 in energy costs for doing little more than keeping that crummy six-pack of Bud Light your ex-friend brought to the party last year. Get rid of all three (the fridge, the Bud Light and the ex-friend) but get $50 for the fridge. Why not?

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Making large paper pots

Now that we know newspaper is as safe as anything else to use in the garden, here is a quick tutorial on how to make paper pots.

I generally use a soil block maker to start seeds and then another block maker for transplanting, but when I do make small paper pots, I use this wooden maker. However, you can use the same technique to make smaller pots using any concave-bottom-shaped vessel – some people use tomato paste cans, for example.

In this example, I’m making large paper pots – I typically use this size for tomato or pepper seedlings as their final up-potting before they get planted.

How to make large paper pots: Continue reading

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Upcoming compost class and event

I should have posted this earlier, but I’ve got one class (Thursday, October 1) and one event (Thursday, October 8) coming up.

The class is Composting 101, taught through Arlington Community Education, Thursday, October 1, 7 – 8:30 pm. We’ll cover all sorts of information, from basics to advanced, with time left over for questions.

The event is Rot & Roll, put on by the Arlington DPW, Thursday, October 8 from 4-6:30, heavy rain cancels. The event is free and held in the parking lot of the Arlington DPW, 51 Grove Street.

I’ll be there answering as many compost questions as I can (last event was a blast, with all sorts of composting questions coming from a large crowd), and DPW will have compost units for sale. Other groups, including LexFarm will be there showing off worm composting and other fun activities for the kids.

I hope you consider joining me at one or both events!

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Is newspaper safe to compost?

It is spring and your world is awash with compostable materials from the kitchen and yard, but you’ve got no leaves to act as a carbon-rich material, so now what?

Shredded newspaper. Image courtesy of David Bleasdale, some rights reserved.

Newspaper is the typical answer, but is it safe? Continue reading

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How many leaves do I need?

People often ask how many leaves they should save for their compost pile. It’s the right question to ask, because when making compost if you strike the correct balance of leaves and nitrogen-rich food scraps, you’ll get rich, light, sweet-smelling compost. Get it wrong and your compost may stink terribly or be very slow to decompose.

For each pail of food (or grass)

For each container of food scraps or coffee grounds.

Add twice as many leaves by volume.

Add twice as many leaves by volume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, how many leaves do you need to stockpile to make compost?

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Breaking the rules and smelling the results

I know the rules of what should and should not go into compost. I’ve written about it. I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about the rules in classes.

Still, I broke the rules, and now I’m paying the price. Continue reading

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Garbage smells, compost doesn’t

Note: A shorter, slightly different, version of this appeared in the Arlington Advocate.

Concerns about smelly compost usually come from people who, understandably, don’t understand the difference between a compost pile and a pile of garbage.

So what are the differences between a pile of compost and a pile of putrid, foul-smelling, slimy ick? Carbon and air. Continue reading

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Starting a compost in winter

Started in the coldest weather, it took three weeks for this pile to heat up.

Started in the coldest weather, it took three weeks for this pile to heat up.

This has been a very cold, very snowy (snowiest on record, more falling as I type this, on March 28, 2015) winter. Even in these toughest conditions you can successfully start a compost and get it cooking.

I took this photo March 23, about one month after starting a new compost pile. Despite outdoor temperatures reaching above freezing only a few times, the pile was up over 100*. A week later the compost temperatures have been hovering between 110-120.

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Winter Composting do’s, don’ts and what if it doesn’t?

Thermometer is frosty, but inside the bin it is a cozy 140 F.

Thermometer is frosty, but inside the bin it is a cozy 140 F.

Winter composting always seems to confuse people, which is understandable.

So what is the secret to successful winter composting: Do the same things you do when composting the rest of the year, only faster. Continue reading

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