At Glendale community garden, a compulsion for compost
It’s transition time at the Monterey Road Eco-Community Garden (West) in Glendale, and plot partners Lindsey Hansen and Tom Selling are putting in lettuce, peas, potatoes, onions and garlic. But before anything new got planted, they harvested their most important crop of the year: compost from a pair of stackable bins they got free from the Glendale Integrated Waste Management Section.
Hansen and Selling, at right, are part of a team of seven who have made composting a group project at the garden. Four more Integrated Waste Management compost bins are assembled, but they’re empty or filled with non-composting green waste.
In contrast, the bins of the composting team are full to the brim, an inch-thick layer of dried oak leaves on top. Hansen collected 30 bags of raked detritus from her grandmother’s backyard lawn to serve as a ready supply of material to keep the compost bins’ mixture aerobic and balanced, and the attention to detail has clearly paid off.
The bins’ mixture is a light, fluffy blend of uniformly fine-cut green and brown vegetative refuse. It’s warm-hot just two inches down, and it smells sweet, like a forest floor. The team is compulsive about adding equal amounts of green and brown garden waste at the same time; they’ve already experienced the stink when the blend is too wet. Everything that goes in gets finely cut: kitchen scraps, garden trimmings, the rind from the orange that Selling ate on the way to the garden this morning. Unlike the partner garden across Monterey Road, the Eco-Community Garden (West) doesn’t have a shredder, so all the compost material has to be cut by hand, either on site or at home.
“If it was 100 degrees here and I didn’t feel like doing it, I would take it home and would cut stuff up when I was talking on the phone or playing with my birds,” says Taryn De Chellis, the garden’s manager (pictured at right), who brings in the cage droppings from her nine birds. The droppings are neatly wrapped in newspaper, which gets ripped apart and mixed in with everything else.
Selling says he turns the bin weekly, a rewarding task. "Last year we didn’t have compost," he says, "and now we do -- a ton of it.”
Only members of the compost team share from the bins’ bounty, but every plot-holder at the garden will get one of the watermelons (Ice Box Mickylee and Crimson Sweet heirlooms) and pumpkins that are swelling on vines carpeting the perimeter. De Chellis raised the seedlings in her basement and made sure she planted enough.
And even though it’s almost November, she and her husband, Cary Nadler, are still getting a dozen fat tomatoes weekly from the trellised plants in their plot. She read that the harvest could be extended by cutting back plants late in the season, so she went after her Black Krims aggressively, hard topping and getting rid of all dead or discolored leaves and non-productive limbs.
But it’s the compost that has her most excited. “What’s great is that instead of throwing out the leftovers from fruits and vegetables, we are taking all these nutrients and putting them into a bin that eventually is going back into the soil," she says. "As far as the circle of life goes, it's pretty cool.”
-- Jeff Spurrier
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Photos: Ann Summa