Monument recently made its composting program available to the public.
This month, anyone can drop off compostable items at the south end of Limbach Park, where bright yellow bins have been provided. Town residents can also sign up to participate in the year-round compost program.
“Composting is a way to take food scraps and turn them into something valuable for your garden,” said Cassie Olgren, landscape supervisor with Monument Public Works.
Olgren taught a class on Nov. 14 to familiarize the community with the composting process.
The benefits of composting are numerous and include creating healthier gardens, growing more nutritious foods, improving the water capacity of soil, and reducing the total amount of trash put into landfills.
“In our arid climate, amending the soil with compost increases its water holding capacity,” said Colorado Springs Food Rescue Composter-In-Chief Nat Stein.
In the Pikes Peak region, our soil is similar to “decomposed granite” and is quite alkaline, which tends to have low nutrient levels, Olgren said. Putting humus, the term used for finished compost, into garden soils improves soil structure and adds vital nutrients. Using compost to create a more resilient garden means plants can bounce back quicker after a typical Colorado summer hailstorm.
Olgren described the nutrient cycling process that is the foundation for our food network, and the basis for good composting. Fungi and good bacteria in the soil decompose organic material, returning nutrients to the soil. Because humans sit at the top of that chain, “we don’t want our food to be less nutritious,” she said.
Once garbage is deposited into a landfill, it is covered with dirt, substantially reducing the opportunity to degrade. Whereas compost piles return the same carbon dioxide plants initially used to grow back into the air, landfill deposits produce methane gas in the absence of oxygen.
Olgren’s family started to slowly reduce the compostable waste they throw away and found they put far less total garbage into their garbage cans weekly.
Dr. Denise Polk a professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, gave a Ted Talk about composting, saying it “reduces the need for watering, pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizer.” Polk, who ran an EPA-approved pilot composting project in West Chester, said restaurants that participated by providing food scraps to the program reduced their trash by 60%.
Olgren said her favorite way to compost is called lasagna, or “lazy” composting that requires very little effort if done properly. Start by putting stalky, course materials at the bottom of the pile.
Collect food scraps such as eggshells, coffee grinds, and veggie scraps throughout the week. Olgren keeps them in a paper bag in the freezer. These are the “greens” or items that are high in nitrogen. Mound these above the bottom layer and cover completely with “browns,” items high in carbon. These include colorless cardboard boxes, straw, bottoms of egg cartons and leaves.
Repeat the process every week, ensuring the “greens” are completely covered by the “browns” so that the ratio of browns to greens is 20:1. This will prevent the pile from smelling bad and will encourage proper decomposition.
Never put animal bones or waste into the “lasagna” compost. Pine needles are another “no-no” because the essential oil within the needles inhibits the process.
Community food providers are also seeing the benefit of composting.
Colorado Springs Food Rescue runs a composting program called Soil Cycle that includes curbside pickups and drop-off locations or “scrap drops.” The resulting compost is used to grow healthy food that is provided to those in need.
Monument residents who sign up to participate in the town’s composting program will receive exclusive access to the compost at the end of the program. To sign up, go to tinyurl.com/u9sjdf4.