Creating black gold in your backyard

LYNDEBOROUGH – Compost has been called black gold, and for good reason – gardeners love the way it enriches soil.

And New Hampshire soils usually need improvement before they are suitable for growing anything.

Marcy Stanton, a master gardener coordinator with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Exten­sion Service, brought a microscope and plastic bags filled with composting kitchen scraps to Lyndeborough’s J.A. Tarbell Library last week to show how unwanted mate­rials – manure, leaves and fruit and vegetable peelings – can be turned into rich, black soil.

"There is a lot of scientific information about com­posting," she said, "but it’s very simple."

You can even do it in your house by storing kitchen waste in sealable plastic bags, a good method for winter, when a trip to the backyard compost pile sometimes re­quires snowshoes, and when no composting is actually going on anyway because it’s cold.

"Soil is alive," Stanton said, and the proof was in the plastic bags. Under a microscope tiny insects were seen rooting around in the composting material, with their digestive systems aiding the operation.

Composting can be simple – just keep putting leaves, kitchen scraps, grass clipping and the like into a pile. That is called cold composting, and cold composting is easy, but can take up to two years to produce fertile soil, or humus, because our winters are so long.

Then there is hot composting, which produces humus quickly, but needs more work and planning to achieve the correct ratio of materials in the "recipe," and requires frequent turning. But hot composting can be finished in less than a month, and the heat – up to 150 degrees – kills weed seeds and pathogens.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. Compost in soil makes it retain water better and aerates it, improving its overall health and structure, and it’s the basis of organic farm­ing, Stanton said.

It also can be used as a potting mix, a mulch or a lawn top-dressing.

One of Stanton’s hand-outs from the UNH extension service says that recent research in the United States, as well as in Germany, Japan and Israel, demonstrates that both compost and compost "tea," the watery extract of compost, help protect crops against a wide range of common plant diseases.

"When you use pesticides, you kill all the organic matter" just the way antibiotics kill bacteria in a person, she said.

If making compost is impractical, Stanton provided tips on buying it and a list of composting operations in New Hampshire that sell bulk compost to the public.

Gardeners with questions about compost or any other area of gardening can call the extension service Mon­days through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

at 1-877-ext-grow (1-877-398-4769).

Creating black gold in your backyard

LYNDEBOROUGH – Compost has been called black gold, and for good reason – gardeners love the way it enriches soil.

And New Hampshire soils usually need improvement before they are suitable for growing anything.

Marcy Stanton, a master gardener coordinator with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Exten­sion Service, brought a microscope and plastic bags filled with composting kitchen scraps to Lyndeborough’s J.A. Tarbell Library last week to show how unwanted mate­rials – manure, leaves and fruit and vegetable peelings – can be turned into rich, black soil.

"There is a lot of scientific information about com­posting," she said, "but it’s very simple."

You can even do it in your house by storing kitchen waste in sealable plastic bags, a good method for winter, when a trip to the backyard compost pile sometimes re­quires snowshoes, and when no composting is actually going on anyway because it’s cold.

"Soil is alive," Stanton said, and the proof was in the plastic bags. Under a microscope tiny insects were seen rooting around in the composting material, with their digestive systems aiding the operation.

Composting can be simple – just keep putting leaves, kitchen scraps, grass clipping and the like into a pile. That is called cold composting, and cold composting is easy, but can take up to two years to produce fertile soil, or humus, because our winters are so long.

Then there is hot composting, which produces humus quickly, but needs more work and planning to achieve the correct ratio of materials in the "recipe," and requires frequent turning. But hot composting can be finished in less than a month, and the heat – up to 150 degrees – kills weed seeds and pathogens.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. Compost in soil makes it retain water better and aerates it, improving its overall health and structure, and it’s the basis of organic farm­ing, Stanton said.

It also can be used as a potting mix, a mulch or a lawn top-dressing.

One of Stanton’s hand-outs from the UNH extension service says that recent research in the United States, as well as in Germany, Japan and Israel, demonstrates that both compost and compost "tea," the watery extract of compost, help protect crops against a wide range of common plant diseases.

"When you use pesticides, you kill all the organic matter" just the way antibiotics kill bacteria in a person, she said.

If making compost is impractical, Stanton provided tips on buying it and a list of composting operations in New Hampshire that sell bulk compost to the public.

Gardeners with questions about compost or any other area of gardening can call the extension service Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1-877-ext-grow (1-877-398-4769).

Creating black gold in your backyard

LYNDEBOROUGH – Compost has been called black gold, and for good reason – gardeners love the way it enriches soil.

And New Hampshire soils usually need improvement before they are suitable for growing anything.

Marcy Stanton, a master gardener coordinator with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Exten­sion Service, brought a microscope and plastic bags filled with composting kitchen scraps to Lyndeborough’s J.A. Tarbell Library last week to show how unwanted mate­rials – manure, leaves and fruit and vegetable peelings – can be turned into rich, black soil.

"There is a lot of scientific information about com­posting," she said, "but it’s very simple."

You can even do it in your house by storing kitchen waste in sealable plastic bags, a good method for winter, when a trip to the backyard compost pile sometimes re­quires snowshoes, and when no composting is actually going on anyway because it’s cold.

"Soil is alive," Stanton said, and the proof was in the plastic bags. Under a microscope tiny insects were seen rooting around in the composting material, with their digestive systems aiding the operation.

Composting can be simple – just keep putting leaves, kitchen scraps, grass clipping and the like into a pile. That is called cold composting, and cold composting is easy, but can take up to two years to produce fertile soil, or humus, because our winters are so long.

Then there is hot composting, which produces humus quickly, but needs more work and planning to achieve the correct ratio of materials in the "recipe," and requires frequent turning. But hot composting can be finished in less than a month, and the heat – up to 150 degrees – kills weed seeds and pathogens.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. Compost in soil makes it retain water better and aerates it, improving its overall health and structure, and it’s the basis of organic farm­ing, Stanton said.

It also can be used as a potting mix, a mulch or a lawn top-dressing.

One of Stanton’s hand-outs from the UNH extension service says that recent research in the United States, as well as in Germany, Japan and Israel, demonstrates that both compost and compost "tea," the watery extract of compost, help protect crops against a wide range of common plant diseases.

"When you use pesticides, you kill all the organic matter" just the way antibiotics kill bacteria in a person, she said.

If making compost is impractical, Stanton provided tips on buying it and a list of composting operations in New Hampshire that sell bulk compost to the public.

Gardeners with questions about compost or any other area of gardening can call the extension service Mon­days through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

at 1-877-ext-grow (1-877-398-4769).