November 28, 2011
Who are we?
We are a group that is involved in a service learning project for the course CSS (Crop and Soil Science) 205: Soil – Sustainable Ecosystems at Oregon State University. Our professor (pictured below) is James Cassidy, research assistant and instructor, faculty adviser of the OSU Organic Growers Club, and Soils Philosopher! For our Service Learning Project, we are responsible for maintenance and data collection of the OSU Compost Observatory.
The OSU Compost Observatory and Outdoor Teaching Laboratory is OSU’s only on-campus composting teaching lab in the core of the campus!
What is Compost
Basic Information from the EPA: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce.
Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell. It is created by: combining organic wastes (e.g., yard trimmings, food wastes, manures) in proper ratios into piles, rows, or vessels; adding bulking agents (e.g., wood chips) as necessary to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials; and allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process.
Natural composting, or biological decomposition, began with the first plants on earth and has been going on ever since. As vegetation falls to the ground, it slowly decays, providing minerals and nutrients needed for plants, animals, and microorganisms. Mature compost, however, includes the production of high temperatures to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that natural decomposition does not destroy.
What to Compost
- Animal manure
- Cardboard rolls
- Clean paper
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Cotton rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Fireplace ashes
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grass clippings
- Hair and fur
- Hay and straw
- Nut shells
- Shredded newspaper
- Tea bags
- Wood chips
- Wool rags
- Yard trimmings
On October 7th, 2011 our Service Learning Group met at the OSU Compost Observatory and Outdoor Teaching Laboratory, and received instructions to maintain and collect data on the compost bins. Our class was responsible for four compost bins: High C:N (Aerated), Low C:N (Aerated, High C:N, Low C:N. These four bins were set up as an experiment to monitor the rate of decomposition. The compost contains grass clippings, straw, and dairy solids.
The bins are monitored with three calculations and three observations: temperature, pH, pile height, and moisture, appearance, and smell.
Our group met at the Compost Observatory October 7th, 2011 and November 18th, 2011. During these meetings we removed the contents of the aerated bins, turned the composting materials and replaced them into the bins.
A few years ago compost bins were installed at one of Oregon State University’s cooperative housing locations, so that they might compost their kitchen waste instead of throwing it away in the garbage. Our group met twice to maintain their compost bins. Because the food waste was high in nitrogen, a high carbon substance needed to be added to balance the compost material. We added straw to the bins, added moisture, and turned the materials.