Composting Solutions: Cleaner, Faster Methods to Redefine Rotten with Michelle Balz

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Michelle Balz (pronounced Balts) is on the show today and she’s the author of Composting for a New Generation: Latest Techniques for the Bin and Beyond .  
 
A long-time backyard composter with a passion for reducing our impact on the planet, Michelle offers laid-back advice for home composters in the Confessions of a Composter blog, teaching classes on backyard composting, and learning everything she can about composting, recycling, reusing, and waste reduction.
 
If you’ve been hesitant to begin composting (worried about appearance, smell, or lack of know how) Michelle points out that advances in technology and in composting science make composting a very doable and positive experience.
 
If you are looking for expert advise on beginning composting or if you are curious about various techniques including traditional bins and piles, vermicomposting, trench composting, black soldier fly larvae composting - and more, Michelle shares it all in today’s episode.
Remember the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies where they talk about black gold?  In that case, the reference was to Texas Tea or oil. But, gardeners know that black gold is compost - that rich, dark, earthy, crumbly substance worth its weight in vegetables. 
 
Compost offer undeniable benefits in the garden: 
  • You can teach children about decomposition and zero waste using the compost pile as a home laboratory.
  • Compost makes great soil to cultivate healthy plants. Compost stimulates the creation of soil particle clusters and that creates better soil structure - complete with healthy air pockets and channels that connect all the soil particle clusters. 
  • Compost decreases the need to use chemicals and fertilizers.  Plus, it naturally reduces weeds.
  • It's good old compost that fosters diverse life in the soil - from worms and fungi to bugs and birds.
  • Additionally, you can conserve water with compost by improving water retention and decreasing run off
  • Compost is a fantastic way to prevent erosion and promote strong root systems in plants.
  • Finally, you can reduce waste. By composting, you are diverting food waste from landfills. Yaaaaas! An EPA study performed showed that upto  a quarter of all landfill waste could be composted instead of being sent to the landfill. That's incredible. Imagine... 25 percent of all waste could be turned into black gold.
Truly, compost is a worthwhile garden investment and no one is more convinced that today’s guest, Michelle Balz.  A lifelong resident of Cincinnati, waste management is also Michelle’s day job in her work for the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District. As the Assistant Solid Waste Manager, Michelle’s mission is to reduce the amount of solid waste going to the landfill.  She works with communities on curb side recycling.  She spends a lot of time in education and outreach to everyone who creates trash. She helps businesses set up recycling programs. She goes out to communities to set up curbside recycling, she hosts composting seminars, and leads seminars on how to reduce food waste.  She leads outreach campaigns to promotes recycling and helps schools with education programs and implementing recycling and waste reduction. Whew.  
 
So, back to you.  Do you want to start composting, but you somehow haven’t started yet?  Guess what? Getting started is the hardest part about composting. As Michelle points out: Composting is simple and you can start right away.  Furthermore, you can also be as lazy or industrious about it as you want to be.
 
One of the things you’ll hear Michelle says early in the interview, is how saving food scraps is just second nature for her family.  
 
That’s how it started at our house, too.  
I wanted to save coffee grounds, so I bought a stainless steel bin from Goodwill and I put it by the container that holds our coffee beans.  
I wanted to start saving egg shells, so I taught the kids to put the broken shells back in the carton instead of throwing them away. 
I wanted to keep the old newspapers to repurpose as a weed barrier and to increase my stockpile of carbon material, so I roped Phil into putting the old papers in a basket by his chair.
It’s these little steps that get you on your way to composting.  Before you know it, it’s just something you do.  It's these little changes that make a big difference to your soil and your garden.
 
Here are a few fun tidbits to keep in mind for today’s episode:
  • If it grows, it goes. Michelle says this, too. If the item you are considering adding to your compost pile was once part of a plant, it goes in the compost. So, the aloe leaf that helped treat my burn last week, will end up in the compost pile - not in the garbage. It sure feels good to know plant cuttings and stems can still be of use.
  • Nothing green or brown leaves the property. This saying is from Peggy Anne Montgomery (SG553). We were talking about training helpers in the garden and this saying teaches that plants throughout their entire lifecycle have a role to play in the garden.
  • Speaking of green and brown, the ingredients for composting can be classified into two different color categories – green and brown materials.  Green material is usually of a high moisture content and is rich in nitrogen.  Green materials include any grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps or peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, feathers, and egg shells. Brown material acts as your dry material and is rich in carbon. brown material includes dried leaves, newspaper, wood chips, shredded paper, stray and haw, sawdust, cardboard, kitchen and toilet roll tubes - and money.  In fact, many tons of old US paper money - called dirty money by the Federal Reserve Bank -  is mulched into compost every day.  
We’re talking compost today - how to make your own black gold - with the woman behind the Confessions of a Composter blog - Here’s Composting Solutions: Cleaner, Faster Methods to Redefine Rotten with Michelle Balz.
 
I hope today’s show gave you an extra nudge to begin composting - whether you start with small steps like I did (recycling coffee grounds, newspaper, and egg shells) or by setting aside a small area in your 2018 garden and going for it! And don’t forget you can find Michelle's book on Amazon: Composting for a New Generation: Latest Techniques for the Bin and Beyond - you can prime it for $18.38 - and support the show. It’s worth every penny!
 
For my Signoff today, I leave you with this thought to help you grow...
 
There is a science to composting - but it’s not rocket science. Anyone can do it. So jump the biggest hurdle to composting and just. get. started.  Relish having control. You get to chose what goes into your compost (no mystery more ingredients!) and you get to reap the rewards - quality, homegrown compost. There’s no better investment for your garden.
 
Have a great week everyone!

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Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
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