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Master Composter Program Top Weekly Takeaways - Week 4 (Plus a Field Trip!)

Master Composter Program Top Weekly Takeaways - Week 4 (Plus a Field Trip!)

It's hard to believe we only have one more weekend meeting for the Master Composter Program offered by the Solana Center. To complete the program, each participant will also devote 30 hours of volunteer time assisting future classes and helping to educate the community about the fascinating world of composting.

(Please note - there is zero sarcasm in calling composting a fascinating endeavor. The science and purpose of turning food and yard waste into amazing nutrients for our soil, plants, and food. I mean - it's truly incredible, and this act of striving for zero food waste by returning nutrients to the earth instead of straight to the landfill is something anyone could do on a scale that works with their lifestyle.)

This week in class we:

1. Checked on our team's compost system (we are team Earth Machine - see Week 2 post), and saw that the material continues to quickly break down.

2. Learned about pre-composting with the catalyst Bokashi.

3. Discussed the macrodecomposers (critters can see with the naked eye) you might encounter within your compost system. Spoiler Alert: these are the good guys.

After class, we also had a field trip at the Miramar Greenery. We saw firsthand the labor, machinery, and science taking place and how this organization could use more support and awareness to increase its local and global impact.

Week 4 Juicy Composting Tidbits of Learning

To note: It is getting hard to keep these brief. So much good information is taught each weekend. Every nugget of info feels like a juicy tidbit!


- Bokashi is a pre-composting process that utilizes "Bokashi Bran."

- "Bokashi" is the Japanese term for "fermented organic matter" and allows for long-term storage of ALL food waste. If you can eat it, you can use Bakashi Bran as an enzyme to get the waste to an acidic pH level between 3-4 that preserves the organic material rather than allowing it to putrefy (decay and smell horribly).

- These are the steps we'll follow:

1. Start collecting kitchen scraps and keep them in our small countertop compost bin by the sink. We love this one by EPICA because it comes with a charcoal filter that helps to keep the stink in and the fruit flies out.

2. Have a large bucket with a Gamma lid that can screw or pop on and seal in all the gases (hydrogen, sulfide, ammonia, methane) consumed in the process.

3. Pour the countertop composter's contents into the bucket and add Bokashi Bran (approximately 1 TBSP/cup of organic matter). My favorite brand of Bokashi starter is here.

4. Fill the entire bucket over time, opening it no more than once daily and compressing it down often.

5. Once the bucket is full, add more Bokashi Bran to the top and let it sit and ferment for two weeks.

6. After two weeks, transfer the material into a large outdoor composter. Treat the bucket contents as 1 part of Greens and complement it with two parts of Browns (see these posts to explain desired green/brown ratios within compost). Make sure to also create a hole in the center of your compost and bury it from the top.

    - Macrodecomposers in your compost - here's my quick rundown of these compost-loving critters so that if you see them crawling your compost, you'll know that, for the most part, they are friends, not foes.

    • Earthworms. These reddish-brown Red Wigglers or Redworms are incredible compost-loving friends that use their small grinding gizzards to turn waste into soil-absorbing nutrients.
    • Fruit Beetles. Not great with your plants, but the larvae of this beetle are amazing at breaking down larger bits of material that smaller decomposers can digest and return to the soil.
    • Pillbugs and Sowbugs. Two different species, but they look very similar. Once again, they are not great for small seedlings in your garden, but both are great decomposers within your compost pile.
    • Earwigs. Those little pinchers are scary but won't harm you or your compost pile.
    • Centipedes. Mostly carnivorous, these lanky leggy creatures eat other small bugs.
    • Millipedes. They like to eat rotting muck. Having muck eaters within compost (a home to muck) is good.
    • Ants. They won't hurt your compost but can be annoying. To get rid of them, turn your compost often, which messes up their tunneling system. Rebuilding tunnels get old, and eventually, they'll move on.

      Field Trip to the Miramar Greenery

      We were lucky enough to get a tour to see firsthand how this organization is taking food and yard waste on a grand scale and turning it into a valuable resource for San Diego residents.

      - I pulled this information from San Diego City's Website:

      "Located adjacent to the City of San Diego's Miramar Landfill, the Miramar Greenery produces high-quality compost, mulch, and wood chips at competitive prices. These products are beneficial in helping to improve soil, conserve water and enhance landscapes. Additionally, recycling yard trimmings and food scraps into valuable landscape products helps divert organic waste from entering the landfill."

      - More information here for San Diego (and beyond) residents to use for their homes and businesses. They are producing affordable, effective, and eco-conscious products. Definitely worth some research and possibly a visit!

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