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Volume 16, Issue 5 - January 31 - February 6, 2008


Serve Your Microbes Dinner with Dirty Dishwater

Recycle greasy dishwater in your compost

If you filled your compost pile with leaves last fall, most likely nothing is happening now. Dry leaves are difficult to keep moist, so you’re probably not keeping your pile wet enough for it to work. You can clean up your composting efforts by pouring dirty dishwater over the pile. Dirty dishwater dumped over the compost pile during the winter months will help get decomposition started and keep it going.

Combined with warm water, the grease, detergent and food residues improve conditions for the microbes that compost. Greasy water is an immediately available food source for the microorganisms, fueling the tiny organisms as they degrade the leaves. Any food waste in the water adds nitrogen the microbes need to reproduce and grow. Grease and detergent also help moisture to penetrate through the pile and wet the dry leaves. The warm water raises temperatures in the pile, creating conditions more favorable to microbial activity.

The compost pile can also be a great place for disposing of dirty cooking oils from deep fat fryers. Oils and fats are rich in readily available carbon, which is an important energy source for microorganisms involved in composting. When dumping cooking oils and grease in the compost pile, bury it where there’s microbial activity. This is generally in the middle of the pile where heat is generated. Within a few days, you will notice an increase in temperatures.

To keep in the heat, you can also place clear plastic over the top of the compost, providing a greenhouse effect. However, let the sides of the compost pile remain open so air can get in.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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