Intro to Composting
Compost is the "black gold" of the gardening world. This nutrient-rich organic matter is free fertilizer. It makes itself from your food scraps and yard waste.
Compost @ Grow Amsterdam NY
Grow Amsterdam NY leads composting workshops in the community and promotes the benefits of composting when tabling at community events.
Grow Amsterdam NY has led two composting workshops at the Amsterdam Free Library. Over 40 participants attended and learned how to improve their compost systems and we even had 5 people get inspired and start composting on their own!
Compost is important for your garden. It gives your soil "muscles" by improving soil structure, water holding capacity, and nutrient storage. The organic matter in compost breaks down slowly over time, releasing nitrogen and other elements that plants need to support healthy growth.
20% of garbage dumped in a landfill is wasted food. Organic matter like food that is thrown away creates methane gas which affects the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Throwing less trash away (mainly, food trash) reduces the cost to you in trash services that your municipality pays. It also reduces the # of truck trips to the dump, saving wear and tear on local roads, and reduces tailpipe emissions from trucks.
What to Compost
Not everything can be thrown in the compost. Here's a list of a few things that are great for composting.
Coffee Grounds, Coffee Filters
Vegetable Peelings, Fruit, cores, and skins
Egg shells ( crush well )
Leftovers like pasta, rice, bread
Corn Husks and Stalks
Leaves, grass clippings, and garden trimmings
Human and Animal Hair
Spent Potting Soil
Wood Residue - Sawdust, and Chips (From untreated lumber only!)
Shredded Newspaper and Junk Mail
Paper Towels and Napkins
When composting it's important to remember to keep a balance of Carbon and Nitrogen. A good rule of thumb is to generally add 3 parts of "brown" (yard waste, paper waste) items for every 1 part of "green" (food waste, fresh green yard wastes) items.
Bernadette and Tom started informally collecting coffee grounds, banana peels, food scraps, and yard trimmings from some of their neighbors.
In 2018 Grow Amsterdam began to participate in community events. We collected orange peels from a vendor at Amsterdam's Italian fest, and banana peels and apple cores from joggers in the 5k "Cops and Joggers" race.
In 2019 Grow Amsterdam NY received a grant from the Pollution Prevention Institute (P2I) at RIT to formally launch the Compost Works Initiative. This led to the creation of the first community food scrap drop-off program in Amsterdam. The P2I grant funded the building of the compost system at the 78 Wall Street community garden. During the grant year, we collected 3.75 tons of food scraps and used the compost to grow veggies in the community garden. A second compost site will be part of the new Esperanza Verde pocket park on East Main Street in Amsterdam.
How to Compost
For starters composting can be done one of two ways. Three factors figure in the creation of compost, heat, time, and volume.
Hot Composting (Thermophilic):
Requires a stockpile of materials to start. Think of it as the amount of food scraps and yard trimmings to fill a 3ft x 3ft x 3ft cube. With this process there is enough volume for the ingredients to reach 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit!
Cold composting achieves the same results of hot composting, it just takes longer. Layering is an easy way to do it. Layering begins with leaves and branches (browns) on the bottom. Add food scraps in the middle of this (keeping them away from the edges) and cover with another layer of browns. Continue this until you have a pile 3 feet tall.