Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Learning to be a Master Composter

For a year I heard about the Master Composter program sponsored by the City of Grand Prairie. Finally, I was able to work out the class dates and had a great time attending recently with three very smart ladies who are also in Ellis County Master Gardeners.

Larry Wilhelm, who helped create the Master Composter program in Texas, was our instructor for the classes on Thursday and Friday night and all day Saturday. Since he has been involved in the program for over 15 years, he has lots of fun stories to share. At the classes, we received the Rodele book on composting, a t-shirt, a compost thermometer, and we were fed dinner on the two nights and lunch on Saturday. The visit to the Grand Prairie landfill was very educational as was the demonstration of building a compost bin at one of the community gardens.

The three ladies and I are now fulfilling our service hours by working at the Kirby Creek Nature Preserve and Community Garden in Grand Prairie. We turn the compost bin and will create more bins and we weed, prune, and pick ripe veggies from the bountiful plantings. We also may help set up their rainwater harvesting system.

Once we volunteer 20 hours, we each receive a free Shepherd's Compost bin (cubic yard size) with the aerating insert and after the additional 20 hours, we become certified Master Composters and will be recognized by the Grand Prairie Commissioners. In other words, to become certified, we volunteer a total of 40 hours.

The program in Grand Prairie is through the Solid Waste Department, under the direction of Vijit Singh, and through the Special Projects department, headed by Tammy Chan. These are terrific people and very helpful to us from Ellis County as we registered and began to participate. Two of us worked the Grand Prairie Mayfest with Vijit and found him to be very gracious.

Composting is extremely important both from adding much-needed nutrients to the soil as well as to our becoming better stewards regarding landfills. Trains bring trash from New Jersey and other northern states to Texas. We don't want their garbage. In my opinion, this needs to stop. We also want to stop throwing grass clippings and tree limbs into the landfills. Both are ingredients for composting.

Grass clippings contain the nitrogen that is vital to compost. Brown leaves and tree trimmings provide the carbon. Other ingredients include food scraps (NO MEATS, CHICKEN, FISH, OR OILS), dryer lint, shredded paper, cardboard, cotton and other natural fabrics, etc.

I will be teaching a class on Backyard Composting in the fall at the Lighthouse for Learning, which is Waxahachie ISD's adult learning program. I'll also be working with other Master Gardeners to teach composting (including worm or vermi-composting) to 4-H young people on July 22 in Waxahachie.

I hope you are composting - it is very important!

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