The invitation went out in a column article in this newspaper in early August. The recently established Franklin County Master Gardeners were offering a free garden tour and composting workshop in Rainbow Lake. All were invited. More than 100 people registered.
The forecast for the day was for lots of sun, with high temperatures near 90 degrees! But a little heat certainly wasn't going to keep anyone away. By the time the composting workshop got under way, shortly after 1 p.m., 93 people had arrived. They'd come to observe, to learn, to participate in the program, to ask questions, to share gardening stories, to meet the Master Gardener Volunteers and Cooperative Extension personnel from Franklin, Clinton and Essex Counties that were there to help out, to make new friends and to have fun.
And why not? After all, being invited into a noteworthy, private garden is more than an opportunity. A lot of time and hard work goes into preparing and maintaining large gardens, especially those like Master Gardener Volunteer Don Busch's "funny farm" garden, an unusual 1-acre circular garden located within the shelter of a pine forest and comprised of all sorts of unusual flowers, ornamental grasses and garden vegetables. It creates a strikingly unique environment. In my mind, just being allowed in was a privilege. And many of those in attendance expressed impassioned appreciation for Don having opened his garden to us for our viewing and ambling pleasure.
Host Don Busch provides a guided tour of his circular, 1-acre “funny farm” garden in August. Visitors were also able to leisurely stroll through the garden on their own.
(Photo courtesy of Richard Gast)
But a leisurely stroll around the garden was not the only reason for attending. Almost everyone in the group was there to learn about composting food stuff, as well as leaves and other residential yard waste, and to learn firsthand about composting from people who have been doing it for years. And learn they did! Master Gardener instructor Linda Gorham, who co-hosted with Don, addressed carbon to nitrogen ratios, aeration, moisture, temperature, surface area - even making and using compost tea.
And, under the guidance of both Linda and Don, those in attendance also learned about composting bins and how to build their own composting bins. They got to look at a small batch plastic compost bin, the kind that can be purchased at garden centers and hardware stores, as well as larger-scale compost bins that Don made himself and that can easily be constructed using common materials like chicken wire, wire mesh fence, used pallets, and/or new, used or salvaged lumber.
Composting is gaining popularity, and for good reason. Finished compost can be used to replenish nutrients and condition garden soil, improving fertility and reducing or even eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers.
In my mind, the take home message that day was this: Anyone can compost. All you need is a quantity of yard and food waste, some space and maybe a little bit of enthusiasm.