Composting class

Master Gardener Ray Machovsky, left, explains the different kinds of composting, during a Harker Heights Parks and Recreation gardening series class Monday.

Bell County Master Gardeners hosted a free presentation about composting at Harker Heights Activities Center on Monday.

Master Gardener Ray Machovsky taught the importance of composting as a natural process that decomposes organic wastes into nutrient rich soil to an audience of 18 people.

“We can solve lots of money and landfill problems by taking stuff we normally throw in the trash and putting it into a compost pile,” Machovsky said. “You’ll increase soil water absorption, and help get air to the roots so they can breathe.”

Yard waste, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, rotting manure and even paper can be used in compost piles. Milk products, meat, lard, peanut butter, vegetable oils and bones are materials gardeners should not compost, Machovsky said, as they attract animals and can potentially gum up the compost. Worms, microbes and insects will help break down whatever green or brown matter into usable dirt.

The lecture weighed pros and cons of hot pile composting versus cold pile composting. Success comes with frequent turning — every three days, if possible — regardless of method.

Machovsky discussed composter construction, worm composting, troubleshooting unsuccessful compost and location.

“The best location for your compost pile will have full sun and good drainage,” he said. “But don’t put it under a tree or next to your shed.”

Find free materials

Several attendees suggested unexpected sources for gardeners to get free compost starter and supplementary materials, such as damaged wood shaving bales from Tractor Supply Company and used coffee grounds from a local coffee shop. Others weighed in about using wood ash from the fireplace.

“We already have alkaline soil in Central Texas, so use it sparingly if you do,” said Killeen resident Lisa Spann.

Nolanville resident Irene Andrews shared an anecdote about her gardening experiences working with Central Texas soil.

“I ran for office last year and I told everybody I want to do composting citywide,” she said. “I want to do victory gardens.”

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