Press-Republican

September 9, 2012

Workshop, tour attracts crowd

Richard Gast
Press-Republican

---- — The invitation went out in a column 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 a hundred 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. And by the time the composting workshop got underway, 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 who 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 that — like Master Gardener volunteer Don Busch’s “funny farm” garden, an unusual one-acre circular garden located within the shelter of a pine forest and comprised of all sorts of unusual flowers, ornamental grasses and garden vegetables — create 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.

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. They got to look at small-batch plastic compost bins, 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, improve fertility and reduce or even eliminate 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.

Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy Agriculture; programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Phone 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email rlg24@cornell.edu.