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Growing AK: Composting

Despite Alaska's cold temperatures, Alaskans can still compost but there are a few hints to make it a
success. Ellen Vande Visse with GoodEarthGardenSchool.com says she makes great compost and
composts all year long.
Despite Alaska's cold temperatures, Alaskans can still compost but there are a few hints to make it a success. Ellen Vande Visse with GoodEarthGardenSchool.com says she makes great compost and composts all year long.(Anyone)
Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 8:16 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Despite Alaska’s cold temperatures, Alaskans can still compost but there are a few hints to make it a success. Ellen Vande Visse with GoodEarthGardenSchool.com says she makes great compost and composts all year long.

She offered several tips to make your compost work.

“One is what we call the greens and browns,” says Vande Visse. “Green material is like fresh grass clippings, fresh food waste. It’s called green because it’s high in nitrogen. That’ll break down but it sure stinks. It’s high in nitrogen so it decomposes quickly so if you mix that with leaves, flower stalks, hay straw which is high in carbon called the browns, get that ratio right and it really heats up and decomposes faster.” The correct ratio is about two scoops of “brown” to every one scoop of “green.”

Vande Visse saves the leaves that fall from her trees each fall.

“Over the winter, I’m still bringing food waste out here, and I have several neighbors that contribute, so I keep this handy.” She shows us a plastic bin. “This is just a trash barrel designated to have leaves in it so every time I make deposit of slucky food waste, I can cover that will some leaves and it gets layered and mixed a bit so it’s not such a mess in the spring with my browns and greens.”

Vande Visse’s second tip is, just like your garden, you need to water your compost.

“Most people’s compost piles are too dry,” she says. “Just can’t water the top or just heap up stuff and hope, you really have to give it a good watering because microbes like it as moist as the garden soil you’re trying to grow plants in, so moisten it up.

“Bacteria, fungi, protozoans, nematodes, this is really what you’re adding when you add compost and all of those benefit the plants by taking minerals and changing them into forms the plants can use and then up the roots they go. It’s those microbes in here that really benefit your plants,” says Vande Visse.

And if you live in areas that bears frequent, Vande Visse says you can still compost but you should probably have a worm bin inside.

“This is the worm castings,” she says showing us some recently harvested compost. “This is quite wet. There’s still some red wrigglers that are still working through it, composting worms who just love garbage and manure. There’s still some egg shells that haven’t broken down but they’re slowly breaking down, bringing calcium to the soil of course.”

Vande Visse says worms like conditions that are above 55 degrees and below 80 degrees.

“A worm bin can be made out of a tote, or you can buy different styles of worm bins. They’re easy to take care of. I just feed mine once a week from the freezer,” says Vande Visse.

Click more information about Good Earth Gardens.

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