Composting in The Spring Gardens

Compost System in The Spring GardensThe Spring Gardens uses a variety of composting methods to recycle our greens into a nutrient rich soil amendment.  Gardeners recycle their weeds and dead plant matter in their personal or shared recycling containers in their garden beds.  This way less waste goes into the trash cans.

Every gardener needs to provide for their own composting – Ask the Compost Committee for help if needed to put your system together.

The Spring Gardens is a great place to see composting methods at work because almost every style is in use here, from simple chicken wire hoops and trash cans with drainage holes to more complex rotating systems, including a zigzag compartment composter. Ask the gardeners about the pros and cons of different methods to find a system that fits your needs.

Community beds and the City Harvest plots have a larger recycling center near the North Street entrance for weeds and plant matter.  Philadelphia’s City Harvest program donated the large rotating barrel composter, and we also have a multi-bin system.  The composting committee is led by Doris Stahl, an expert in all growing methods who works for the Penn State Agriculture Extension office.

Doris suggests the following composting practices:

  • Gather what you have weeded from the garden.
  • Chop or shred materials into small pieces. Chopping the plants into smaller pieces helps them compost faster.
  • Layer ONE part GREENS to THREE parts BROWNS.
    • Fresh grass trimmings and weeds are high in nitrogen. We call them GREENS. Soil, manure or fertilizers are also greens.
    • Dry leaves and dead plants are high in carbon. We call them BROWNS.
  • Add water to moisten. It should be as wet as a wrung out sponge.
  • Turn the pile to mix the GREENS and BROWNS.
  • During rainy periods, cover the pile to keep it from getting too wet.

Compost ingredients:

  • Grass clippings
  • Leaves
  • Weeds
  • Coffee grounds
  • Onion peels
  • Potato peels
  • Spoiled fruit
  • Spoiled vegetables
  • Manure (not fresh)
  • Soil

Avoid composting:

  • Wood
  • Newspaper
  • Cooked food
  • Fatty leftovers
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Bread
  • Animal Waste (cats or dogs)

Compost essentials:

  • AIR: The bacterial that are most efficient in breaking down organic matter require air.  Without proper air circulation the pile will heat up more slowly and may begin to smell.
  • WATER: Dry plant trash decomposes slowly. To speed the process during dry spells, sprinkle in some water as you add plant trash or turn the pile. Don’t overdo it. Valuable nutrients will run off during heavy rains. During wet weather, cover the pile with a sheet of plastic.

This information is also posted on the community bulletin board in the garden.