15 Sep 2014
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Composting: How and Where to Get Started in Alameda

All the tools you need to start composting in Alameda, plus where in the East Bay to get free or low-cost compost for your garden.

Composting: How and Where to Get Started in Alameda Composting: How and Where to Get Started in Alameda


If composting is an activity on your list of ways to live greener, here's a how to get started in Alameda.

Emily Bishton, a designer of sustainable landscapes and an environmental educator for children and adults, says, "Home composting is a fun and easy way to make fabulous and free soil amendments to make all the plants in your garden healthier," Bishton says. "It also eliminates the carbon emissions that are needed to truck your food and yard waste to composting facilities, truck the finished compost back to a retail outlet, and then to your home.”

Collecting Kitchen Compost

Composting starts in the kitchen. First, you'll want to set up a system for catching compostable materials during your meal and snack clean up process. These include vegetable scraps, grains and pasta, fruit rinds and peels, breads and cereals, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells and paper napkins. Here's a list of things you can or cannot compost.

You'll need a small container with a tight fitting lid for the kitchen that can be easily cleaned once you transfer the compostable materials to your outside compost bin. You'll want to keep the outside of the container clean, and empty it frequently to avoid excessive odor and fruit flies. You can purchase compost pails online from Gardeners Supply Company or a stylish pottery one from artist Kim Berger. Or see the below list of local resources.

Outdoor Compost Bins and Piles

It's fast and easy to create an outdoor compost bin, says Bishton. “You can create a yard waste compost bin in 10 minutes, with a 10-15 ft section of wire fencing made into a hoop, to toss all your trimmings and leaves into. Wet it down until it's like a damp sponge, and cover with some cardboard or old plastic, and you're done!  Turn and re-wet it every few weeks to speed up the composting, or just let it decompose as is." 

Or, if you've got a small yard, you might want to buy an enclosed compost bin. See the list of Local Resources below.

Worm Bins

It turns out, if you're a passionate gardener who's after really great compost, you need a worm bin. If you're already collecting kitchen scraps (vegetable, fruit and grains only, no meat or dairy), this is where the kids come in. They can help manage the worm bin. It's easy once you get started with the proper bedding and feeding method. You can build your own worm bin or purchase worms and bins at one of the Local Resources listed below.

A Family Affair

Composting as a family is a fun activity and a great way to help kids learn to be better stewards of the environment, says Bishton. “Decomposition is a very interesting and fun-to-observe natural process for kids, as they typically enjoy exploring the 'unseen world' of roly-polys, worms, and potato bugs," she says.  

She says getting the whole family involved is one of the easiest and most empowering ways for kids to make an earth-friendly impact at home. "Get them involved in checking the progress of the compost by occasionally tossing some out onto a piece of tarp for them to poke around in. Spreading the beautiful 'black gold' of finished compost over the roots of their favorite garden plants is fun too!”

The East Bay offers a host of different resources for those interested in home composting. Here are just a few to get you started.

Non--profit, Urban Worm Composting, offers composting workshops, worms, bins and supplies. They are open limited hours, but have an on-line store.  You can also reach them by telephone at 510-649-1595 Ext. 305.

Stopwaste.org in Alameda County devotes a whole section on its website to composting in general and another just about worm composting. You can get on-line tips for how to build your own compost bin, see a list of retailers that sell compost bins and learn about Bay Area workshops by clicking here

Contra Costa County residents c an obtain information about discounted compost bins and composting workshops. Upcoming home composting workshops advertised by the Contra Costa County Sanitary Waste Authority are listed here

The Davis Street Garden Center is just one source of compost in the East Bay if you need more than what you can generate from your home composting efforts. It's compost is made from Bay Area yard trimmings and food scraps. The center also sells mulch. For directions and hours go here.

Clark's USave Rockery Home and Garden Centers in Hayward, Oakland and San Leandro sell and deliver compost throughout the East Bay.

Vision Recycling, recycles and composts landscaping waste and sells and  delivers compost in the Bay Area.

Want to compost more than food scraps and yard waste? One company in the Bay Area picks up and composts diapers. Earth Baby Compostable Diaper Service   currently serves Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Union City and Fremont among other cities in Northern California. You can reach them at 650-641-09075.

Alameda County Industries (ACI), which provides Alameda's curbside green cart pick-up, has a handy chart about how to keep your green cart and indoor recycling bucket clean that you can find here. ACI encourages Alameda residents to place their green cart to the curb every week, even if it is not full, to cut down on odors and pest infestation.

Ready to get started? Here are some of our favorite resources from around the web. 

Make Composting a Weekend Project

Sustainable Gardening Made Easy

Composting Tips from Martha Stewart


Tell Us: Do you compost at home? Or are you thinking of starting to compost? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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