Christopher A. Nevala, 7, smashes leftover Halloween pumpkins with a mallet during the (Com)Post Halloween event at Zenda Farms in Clayton on Saturday afternoon. Photo by Amanda Morrison for the Watertown Daily Times.
TILT Event Educates Children on Compost
CLAYTON — Creating a manageable compost heap is not as difficult as many may believe.
“It’s quite simple and should not be intimidating to anyone,” Corinne M. Mockler said.
Ms. Mockler is the coordinator of education and outreach for the Thousand Islands Land Trust. The group organized a (Com)post Halloween on Saturday to educate children and their families on maintaining a compost heap.
“A lot of families have gardens, but we’re not sure how much kids are involved in the gardening or if they are aware of the fact that anything can be composted,” Ms. Mockler said.
People were invited to bring their leftover pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns to Zenda Farms at 38973 Zenda Road and smash them up in a wooden box with a shovel. The pumpkin pieces were combined with old leaves to create compost that will be used in the spring on TILT’s Community Garden.
“Who can resist? You get rid of grass, old jack-o’-lanterns and kids get to go around and smash stuff,” she said.
One boy who was particularly excited about ‘smashing stuff’ was Ronaldo U. Prophete, 7.
“I like just smashing them because I like the inside of [the pumpkin],” Rinaldo said.
Jack B. Natali Jr., 8, of Clayton, also enjoyed himself. His favorite part of the day was destroying the pumpkins and he had learned that they would be used “for the soil.”
Jack and his younger brother, Hart T., brought nine pumpkins to the event.
“They get to learn that they can use them for compost instead of just throwing it in the garbage, to grow next year’s pumpkins,” said Jack’s grandmother, Cindy Reynolds.
“We participate in a lot of TILT programs, and we get out as much as we can,” said the boys’ mother Sarah Cox.
“It’s just a way to get active and learn at the same time instead of reading a book,” said Kimbrie M. Cullen of Minna Common Anthony Nature Center on Wellesley Island.
Ms. Cullen managed a game of leaf twister. Designed like the Milton Bradley game, leaf shapes of maple, red oak, willow and white pine replaced the common blue, green, red and yellow dots.
“We hope they will start to learn to identify the different leaf shapes,” explained Ms. Cullen. “Some kids didn’t get it, but the older ones did.”
Ms. Mockler believes that many people do not use compost heaps because they think it is more complicated than it actually is. Most compost pits can be fashioned out of shipping pallets and chicken wire. Any organic matter can go into the pit, save for meat and eggs, which may draw critters. These materials can then be mixed with dead leaves or grass clippings to help with breakdown. Every now and then the pile needs to be rotated.
“People can even keep a container near their kitchen sink and periodically empty it into a bigger compost pile,” Ms. Mockler said.
Compost heaps may be more common in rural areas, but she says they can be arranged in urban settings, as well.
“They sell high-tech tumblers. People who live in urban environments need something closed.”
Also present were the Clayton Food Co-op, Thousand Islands Young Leaders Organization and David L. Belding of Cross Island Farms.
Compost heaps are especially popular with the organic crowd. Mr. Belding, an organic farmer, relies on compost to grow vegetables.
Unlike individual composters, organic farmers need a significant amount of compost in a quicker amount of time. Home composters have the liberty to turn their compost at their leisure, while farmers aim to have their compost ready in two to three weeks.
”In soil science there are three kinds of organic matter — living, dead and really dead,” said Mr. Belding.
In order to turn the compost over quickly, it is necessary to have the right mixture of each. Really dead contains organic material from five to 10 years ago, dead being recent inorganic materials, and living consisting of bacteria, fungi or worms that help with decomposing.
After the heap has been organized with the proper carbon to nitrogen ration — an estimated 25-30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen — the heap sits for roughly three days. During this period the temperature in the center of the heap can get as high as 120 degrees.
After three days the pile is rotated so the outside layers are moved inward. This process continues for two to three weeks before the compost is ready for planting.
TILT works to preserve land in the Thousand Islands. Zenda Farms is one of the organizations several protected land preserves.