The City of Sierra Madre (in conjunction with Athens Services) provides a bi-annual service of giving away compost. All compost is free to Sierra Madre residents and is composed of a blend of organic materials that is approved for use in agricultural operations certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program. This event is self-serve and residents are encouraged to bring sturdy containers, as plastic bags are not strong enough to carry the heavy compost. Shovels are on site.
For more information, contact the Community Services Department at 626-355-7135.
A properly constructed compost pile represents a remarkably efficient biological and ecological system. It involves a diversity of species that emerge in response to changes in the nutritional and environmental conditions of the pile. However, it is imperative that a composting system be carefully constructed and maintained to exclude pests such as rodents, raccoons, and other vermin or pests.
Compost is an excellent soil conditioner. It improves the soil structure by binding soil particles together. This improves aeration and helps soil to retain water and nutrients. Compost also improves drainage in clay soils and water retention in sandy soils. Compost improves the buffering capacity of the soil and minimizes adverse effects to plants due to extreme shifts in soil pH. Adding compost to soil also attracts earthworms, which aerate the soil and add additional nutrients to the soil.
A balance between carbon and nitrogen results in optimal conditions, allowing the microbes to digest the waste material more efficiently. Food scraps and yard trimmings can be classified according to their carbon and nitrogen content as either Green or Brown. Green materials, such as fresh grass clippings, manure, garden plants, and kitchen scraps contain large amounts of nitrogen. Brown materials, such as dried leaves and plants, branches, and woody materials have a high carbon content but are relatively low in nitrogen. A basic rule of thumb is to mix 50% green materials with 50% brown. There are two general methods to composting 1) Passive 2) Active.
Passive composting (aka cold composting) is a low tech, low energy method to develop slightly more desirable conditions for microbial growth so that the decomposition will speed up without too much extra work. The compost pile is built gradually; you add the materials as you get them, keeping in mind that a 50/50 balance of "greens" and "browns" is desirable- while keeping the pile moist. The advantage of the passive method is that it requires less work, but a disadvantage is that it takes longer to get finished compost.
Active composting requires a little more work but the results happen much quicker. With active composting, compost materials are added all at once (needs to be a certain size), moistened by water, and aerated by turning. This process is repeated a few times until the pile becomes compost.
You can tell when compost is finished by simply looking at it and smelling it. The compost should be dark and crumbly, smell like fresh turned earth, and very little of the original material should be identifiable. Other indicators include a relatively constant temperature, usually no more than 8 - 10ºF above ambient air temperature, even after turning the pile and the pH should be close to 7 (neutral).
* This information was sourced from the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works Smart Gardening Program
For Composting Operations Regulatory Requirements CLICK HERE