Composting in The Spring Gardens

Compost System in The Spring GardensIn The Spring Gardens, we use 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 composting containers in their garden beds.

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.

There is a larger recycling center near the North Street entrance for weeds and plant matter from the community beds and City Harvest plots. 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 formerly worked for the Penn State Agriculture Extension office.

Doris suggests the following composting practices:

  • Gather what you have weeded from your garden.
  • Chop or shred materials into small pieces. Chopping the plants into smaller pieces helps them compost faster.
  • Layer 1 part GREENS to 3 parts BROWNS.
    • GREENS include fresh grass trimmings and weeds are high in nitrogen. Soil, manure or fertilizers are also greens.
    • BROWNS are dry leaves and dead plants that are high in carbon.
  • 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 bacteria 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 waste decomposes slowly. To speed the process during dry spells, sprinkle in some water as you add plant waste 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.

Reminder: Every gardener needs to provide for their own composting. If needed, ask the Compost Committee for help putting your system together.