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Confessions of a serial composter

New rules mean rethinking which compost bin to use

Worm breakfast of fruit peelings and rinds
Now there's a breakfast fit for worms: Berry stems,
melon rinds, banana peel and avocado skin. If you
are not a vermicomposter, all this can go in a regular
compost bin or into the organic waste collection can.
(Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Here's the scenario I imagine in my kitchen tomorrow as the state's new organic waste law goes into effect:

Me: "OK, the worms certainly get the melon rinds, the strawberry stems, the carrot peelings and the wilty spinach."

Other Me: "Wait, the carrot peelings and the spinach should be frozen with the onion ends to make vegetable broth."

Me: "Oh, right. And the worms don't like onions. Or citrus. So my compost bin at the community garden should get the moldy lemon, along with the dried-out garlic cloves, the corn husks and the cobs."

Other Me: "But corn cobs never break down fast enough in that compost bin. You really should chop things up better and turn them more often."

Me: "Uh, thanks for making me feel guilty about not turning my compost. But here's a solution: The corn cobs now can go into the green waste, I mean Organic Waste, container. Along with the dead flowers from that vase, that rock-hard cheddar cheese, the super-stale leftover crackers and the rest of the hummus I forgot about until it turned moldy."

Other Me: "Well, you COULD grind up the crackers to bread chicken. But storage is a problem when the freezer's so full. OK, just be sure to also throw in the used tea bags -- so glad we like a brand without staples or tags. And while you're at it, round up any wine corks (natural, not plastic) and toss those in, too."

Me: "Wine corks, really? OK, got a few of those."

Other Me: "The skin from last night's grilled fish, too. And the paper towel you used to dry the fish  before seasoning it."

Me: "Wow, that bin's going to be stinky. I'll put some newspaper in the bottom, and cover up all this stuff with the stems I cut off my cured garlic crop."

Other Me: "Fight stinky with stinky! Good idea. By the way, don't forget to peel the sticker off the melon rind. Worms don't like plastic."

And ... scene!

Yes, it's going to take even compost veterans a bit of adjustment. But we can do it. The planet's worth it.

For more information on complying with the new law, check out these sites for Sacramento County residents, depending on where you live:

-- City of Sacramento

-- Folsom

-- Citrus Heights

-- Elk Grove

-- County of Sacramento (all unincorporated areas)

And if you'd like to know more about composting at home , especially worm composting , the links take you to great information from the UCCE Sacramento County master gardeners. Then during Harvest Day, on Aug. 6, come check out the compost set-up at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. Learn to keep all that rich, soil-building compost for yourself!


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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