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The Dirt on Compost from a Master Composter

Black Rock Composting Creates Vegetable Gardens and Compost to Make the World a Little Greener.

Question: What’s the best compost?

If you glance around to see who’s in earshot then stammer, “You know, the stuff that’s… compost…” Well, you’d be wrong. Because there are many types of compost and vermicompost, made with red rigger worms purchased from “the worm ladies in Rhode Island,” is the best.

Now, I’m sure worm ladies are lovely but, full disclosure, worms creep me out. So compost never made my “need-to-know-more” list. Then I spoke with Andrew Tyrrell, owner of Black Rock Compost Company (Black Rock), the man who insists vermicompost is tops, and I learned there’s a lot of fascinating stuff about those fertile heaps of decayed matter.

Stick with me.

As you probably know, Black Rock makes the popular custom cedar vegetable gardens, planter boxes, and composting devices for home gardeners. They design it, build it - they even build a garden with high beds for those with back issues or simply enjoy creature comforts - then tell you how to make it flourish, or even care for it themselves. And one key ingredient to a thriving garden? Compost.

What most of us don’t know about composting could fill every garden in America. Andrew is a UConn master composter, an Earth Matter NYC compost apprentice, and has been accepted at the prestigious Earth Matter NYC Journeyman 2.0 composting workshop.

He’s passionate about the “closed loop of sustainability.” This loop takes our uneaten food - we waste 400 million pounds per year - to create a nutrient-dense compost for growing next year’s food. Contrary to common perception, composting is more than leaving your leftovers to rot. “To bake a cookie you follow a recipe. It’s the same with compost: it requires a specific recipe and maintenance for it to work.” 

This is the part is the part I like:

Which brings us back to vermicompost. Why use worms? “It’s efficient. It requires less turning and is ready in four months [as opposed to twelve],” Andrew explains, “The worms have a hormone in their castings that helps plants be insect, mold, and fungi resistant.” Worms, hormones, mold… all in the same sentence…

Their signature Black Rock compost is thermophilic: heat is created from the energy of nitrogens (grass clippings, fruits, veggies). When nitrogens are mixed 1 to 3 with carbons (anything brown - sticks, dry leaves, coconut shells. Black Rock uses a mix of wood chips, wood shavings, and dry leaves) this heat breaks down all of the elements. In 12 months, with proper maintenance, the result is a dark, nutritious compost. 

(Of note, compost ages “like a fine wine.” So no need to freak out if it's closing in on a year and you’ve yet to blackmail the kids into prepping the beds.)

It’s this compost they create for Andrew’s 501c3, Park City Compost Initiative, “a Bridgeport-based composting program aimed at diverting food residuals, and other compostable objects from our waste cycle to create compost for our community.”

For $25, Black Rock supplies the family with bio bags, a pail, and a bucket. Scraps are bagged in the pail then placed in the bucket. Black Rock picks up the food residual buckets twice a week, once during the winter. At the 11th month of every batch, samples are sent to the University of Maine for a comprehensive soil analysis. This analysis determines the Ph levels. “If the soil is more acidic, plant with an acidic plant, like a blueberry bush.”

Every fall and spring, just in time for planting, they deliver each participant a 5-gallon bucket of excellent compost. Members use this in their gardens to grow more vegetables.

Any remaining compost is bagged and sold at the local farmer’s market. Those of you with Black Rock gardens, or planning to have one designed for you, might consider buying a bag or two each season, or investing in one of Black Rock's composting devices. Those gardens last for at least 12 years so you’ll be sustainably looping and growing vegetables for at least that long.

Of course you can always use vermicompost, with the understanding that not everyone needs to know you have piles of worms on your property. Except for kids. They love worms for some reason. Combine that with anything scrappy and rotting, then explain it helps to grow carrots and tomatoes… well, you have yourself a rapt audience. 

Which is why Andrew teaches classes on creating compost, for kids and people of all ages. He may not reveal his secret carbon ratio for Black Rock compost, but who doesn’t love a master composter with an air of mystery?

For classes and more information:

BlackRockCompostCo.com

203.449.0572

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