Guest speaker digs deep on backyard composting

CRANFORD, NJ — Hanson Park Conservancy and the Cranford Environmental Commission celebrated Earth Week with guest speaker Virginia Lamb, who gave a backyard-composting presentation on Tuesday, April 18, at the Cranford Community Center.

The five essential elements of composting were explained in the presentation: the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, volume, moisture, aeration and surface area.
“Compost needs to be two parts carbon to one part nitrogen,” Lamb said at the event. “Materials that are high in carbon and low in nitrogen are leaves, cornstalks, straw, pine needles and sawdust. Materials that are low in carbon and high in nitrogen include alfalfa and grass. Compensate for the lack of nitrogen by adding moisture.”

Lamb showed the audience several types of bins that can be used during the compost process. The size of the compost is also important.

“One cubic yard is the optimal size bin that will provide a sustainable source to compost,” Lamb said. “Aeration will will increase the temperature and prevent smelling. Turning the compost once per week is the quickest way to do it.”
An aerated pile will take 60 days to compost, but can vary depending on the surface area.

“Weeds, kitchen plate scraps, tomato plants and leaves with a wax coating shouldn’t be used,” Lamb said. “The types of bins used can be a barrel type, but some people love that kind while others hate it.”

Audience member Terry Van Liew, of Cranford, described the compost in her barrel bin as being too moist, and asked Lamb how to improve her technique.
“I’m going to try adding more leaves,” Van Liew told Cranford Life after the presentation. “I think the presentation was very interesting.”

Other Cranford residents also learned about new techniques. Matthew Gard said he is more confident in proceeding with a backyard compost after attending the presentation.

“I learned a lot,” Gard told Cranford Life afterwards. “I would have made a lot of mistakes without this knowledge. I learned not to put kitchen plate scraps into the compost pile and that it should actually be done indoors, rather than outdoors, so it doesn’t attract pests. I also learned how to maintain it throughout the seasons.”

Residents were also impressed with the simplicity of the process and learned it can be done almost effortlessly.

“I’m going to try to get a bin,” Deb Murphy of Cranford said after the presentation. “It’ll take a year to compost, but it’ll be easy. I won’t have to turn it.”