Your First Garden: The Surprising (And Best) Reason to Start Composting


Composting Basics

The first thing to understand is that there are two types of composters: mechanical and biological. Mechanical composters use electricity or other energy source to break down organic matter into smaller particles, which then go through a chemical reaction to produce heat and oxygen gas. Biological systems rely on bacteria, fungi, worms and other microorganisms living in soil or manure to convert plant material into useful products such as fertilizer, animal feed or even fuel. Both types of composting have their advantages and disadvantages.

Mechanical Composters

Mechanical composters are used to break down organic matter into small pieces so it can be easily transported from one place to another. They are usually large machines that take up a lot of space, but they work well if you want to make sure your food scraps will last longer than just a few days before being thrown away.

Biological Composters

Biological composters rely on organisms that live in soil or manure to break down plant material into useful products such as fertilizer, animal feed or even fuel. These organisms need sunlight to grow and thrive. Some types of biological composting require a certain amount of moisture in the soil; others don’t. Most types of biological composting are very slow processes, taking weeks, months or years to complete.

Using Both

While the two types of composting are very different, you may find that you like to use both methods. For example, you may have a large mechanical composter where you can just toss all your food wastes, but you may also have a small container with soil in it that is home to a colony of red worms. You can drop bits of apple in the container and watch as the worms do their work over the course of a few weeks.

Ongoing Benefits

While it might seem like a chore to set up a compost system, the ongoing benefits are well worth the small amount of work. Not only will you be helping the environment by recycling your food waste, you’ll also be keeping yourself from having to buy as much fertilizer or soil for container gardening.

Great, another bin to clean…

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What Materials to Use

There is no shortage of compost bins on the market, most of them made of plastic. While they do the job for some people, others want something a little more stylish. If this sounds like you, then you might want to consider building your own bin out of wood. Not only can it be personalized to fit into your backyard, but it can also be built at a lower cost than what you’d pay for a premade one.

Wood or Plastic

When deciding on what material to use, first consider the climate in which you live. If the ground is always moist and there is a high humidity all year round, then you’ll probably have better luck with a wooden bin. Wooden bins also look nicer and can be better insulated. On the other hand, if you live in a dry climate or don’t want to worry about constant maintenance, then you may want to go with a plastic bin.

Where to Place It

Out of the Sun

The most important thing to consider when placing your new composter is where to put it. You’ll need to find a location that gets plenty of sunlight (at least 6 hours a day), but isn’t in direct sunlight all day since the heat could damage the plastic. It also needs to be in a location that won’t get flooded if it rains a lot where you live.

Placing It

The next thing to do is to find the perfect location. Once you’ve done that, mark the spot with a small stake so you’ll know where to dig. Next, dig a small hole (6 inches deep and 6 inches wide) in the center of the spot you marked. This small hole will help you determine if the soil will be suitable for your composter.

Testing the Soil

The next thing to do is to test the soil. Fill the hole you dug with a couple inches of water. Check the hole every day to see if all the water has evaporated. It takes at least a week for most soils to dry out enough to be considered dry enough to build on. If the water hasn’t dried up after a week, the soil in your area probably doesn’t dry out enough for a composter to work well, so you’ll need to place it somewhere else.

Digging the Hole

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Once you’ve found soil that doesn’t stay wet for long periods of time, you can dig out the hole for your composter. The hole should be 12 inches deep and at least 3 feet in diameter. The size isn’t extremely important; it’s more important that it’s at least 12 inches deep since this will keep the contents of the composter from coming into contact with the soil above it which can cause plants to be contaminated with soilborne diseases and pests.

Pouring in the Bins

Now that your bin is in place, it’s time to start filling it up. Start by filling it about a quarter to a third of the way full with grass clippings, leaves or chopped up newspaper. This layer acts as a filter and helps to prevent soil and other debris from washing into the rest of the composter where the active composting will take place.

Add the rest of your compost materials (food waste, garden trimmings, etc.) until the composter is full. The final layer should be a couple inches of grass clippings, leaves or newspaper to help prevent odor and stop animals from finding your smelly treasure.

During the first few months you’ll need to keep an eye on the moisture level since it is important to keep the compost moist (but not wet) during this stage. Once the moisture has had a chance to evaporate and the material is starting to break down, you can turn the pile to speed up the process. When turning the pile, just use a pitchfork to mix up the top layer with the bottom layer. Be careful not to breathe in the dust that is created when turning the pile since it can cause allergic reactions or asthma attacks.

After 3 to 4 months you should have good, useable compost. It’s best to use it in your garden right away to take advantage of all the beneficial microbes that have already begun working their way through your garden. If there is any left over, you can seal it up in a trash can and keep it in a shed or garage until you need it since it will take several months for the microbes to die down enough so that the pile doesn’t slowly rot from the inside out. Also, it is a good idea to have a second bin ready before you start putting the first one on the compost heap. This way, you can just turn everything from the first bin into the second bin and let it decompose for a few months while using the first compost on your garden.

Happy Composting!

This guide was written by: Adam M. White

Member of Imhotep MS Team

Resources

Imhotep MS Science Fair Project Guide

The Project Guide has lots of cool experiments and ideas for you to try. Building a scale model of the solar system, making a rainbow in a jar, or constructing your own spy gadgets are just a few examples. Plus, there are suggestions on what type of project to do based on the different science fair categories.

“I have had my students use this guide for several years and they all love it!” – Patrick M.

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Only $4.99 (US Dollars). 119 pages. Instant download .PDF file.

Print copies are also available. Order from Lulu Press HERE.

The Science of Black Hair

This guide was created to help students do well in their Black history studies and on standardized tests (SAT, ACT, ISEE, etc.) Studies have proven that when students are taught by their parents at a young age that they possess a connection to their African heritage, they excel better in school than other students. PLEASE PASS THIS GUIDE ON TO OTHERS!!!

This guide was written by: Adamsen Williams

Chapter 1: African Origins

Chapter 2: African Civilization

Chapter 3: African Contributions to World Culture

Chapter 4: European Exploitation of Africa

Chapter 5: The Future of Africa

Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

Appendix B: Black Firsts

Appendix C: Selective Timeline of African History

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This guide was written by: Adamsen Williams

Becoming a Superhero

Do you have what it takes to become a superhero?

Start with choosing your alter ego (this is your superhero name). Then, using the knowledge in this book, you will need to train your mind and body to fight crime and evil wherever it appears. Finally, put your knowledge into practice when you encounter a criminal in need of some justice!

If fighting crime isn’t your thing, you can skip all that and just read the chapters about crime-fighting technology.

This guide was written by: The Justice Club

Chapter 1: Choosing Your Alter Ego (Superhero Name)

Think carefully about what to call yourself. It should be short, but also representative of who you are and what you can do. Unlike your friends, who will most likely be totally cool with calling themselves “Captain Awesome” or “The Defuser”, you probably want a name that is a bit more…well…you.

If you’re just not sure where to start, try looking at your interests and personality.

Do you collect stamps? How about “Lickety Splick?” Are you a huge Star Wars fan? “Darth Tater” rolls off the tongue, no? Do you like slipping down stairs on a sled?

“Sled Thompson” it is!

“Mrs. Claus” might be a good choice for you.

Why?

Because you’re a girl and you like Christmas.

If those don’t work, try using your real name. Every superhero (or villain) probably has a secret identity based on themselves. So, if you want to be called “Bob” then that’s what everyone will know you as (of course, they still might tiptoe around the subject).

Sounds silly?

Well, it is a little bit.

But superheroes have to start somewhere, and what better way than by using a silly alter ego to practice on?

Chapter 2: Superhero Training

This isn’t karate…or is it?

Superhero training is a little different than most people’s ideas of it. Most people think you need to train your body. This is true, but not in the way that you think. Your body will get strong and fit by just living your everyday life (with a few exceptions; more on that later).

The real reason for superhero training is to train YOUR MIND.

What do we mean?

Glad you asked.

Some people seem to be naturally gifted at being able to do amazing things. Others have to work at it. If you fall into the latter category, that’s okay! Everyone was like that at one time or another. The good news is, anyone can achieve amazing things through hard work and determination (as long as they have a good teacher to show them the way…which is what this guide is for!).

So pay attention class! Your teacher is about to tell you all you need to know to be a superhero.

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Chapter 3: Everyday Threats

Not every villain is going to have laser vision or the ability to turn people into frogs. In fact, for the most part, villains are going to be pretty mundane. That’s not to say they aren’t dangerous. Just because a criminal doesn’t have superpowers, monstrous strength or magical abilities, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be a challenge.

The number one rule of being a superhero is this: Always be prepared. This is especially true if you’re going up against an ordinary person.

Why?

Because no one ever expects the ordinary to be able to do the things that you can. Which often means, they will be terribly unprepared for what you do to them.

Let’s look at some of the different types of criminals out there and see what you can expect.

Criminals who you’d think would be super villains, but aren’t:

Burglars – These are people who break into your house while you’re sleeping and take your stuff.

Seems pretty cowardly, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is. These people suck and we can promise you that you’ll never ever be confused with this breed of criminal.

Why aren’t all burglars super villains?

Well, the majority of them are generally too worried about getting caught to do anything remotely heroic (or villainous for that matter). They are focused mainly on one thing: loot. And they’ll take any loot they can get. Usually money, but sometimes they’ll take other things of value as well.

Why?

Because not all of them are career criminals. Some of them will do it once or twice, find out they aren’t very good at it or don’t like it, and never do it again. And when we say ‘they’ll take anything’, we mean just that. These are the people who will take the framed picture of your dead grandmother and then pawn it off for booze money.

So what does this all mean for you?

Be on the look out anytime, anywhere. These are the people who will break into your home while you’re asleep and if they do, they are going to take anything that isn’t bolted down (and maybe some things that are).

How do you defend against these people?

You need to protect your valuables, or any items you can’t afford to lose. We suggest you use a safe or a security system. A lot of people also keep things like this in their bank safety deposit box. While you might not be able to afford one right now, perhaps you can save up for one later.

Criminals who aren’t burglars, but still criminals:

Kidnappers – These are people who snatch people off the street.

Why?

For ransom, of course! These are generally some of the worst criminals out there. Not only are they bad because they take people against their will, but also because they family and friends of the hostages have to pay a ransom for any hope of seeing them ever again!

And if the captors don’t get paid?

Well, the hostage generally meets a grisly fate.

Why aren’t all kidnappers super villains?

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. And the bad guys will always be around to perform these types of jobs. Like most criminals, kidnappers fall into two categories. Those who do it for a living and those who do it on the side.

The ones that do it for a living are generally a bit more hardened than your common street thug.

Why?

Because this is their job and they need to be able to do it well if they want to keep their position and not get fired (or killed) by their employer. These people are generally going to be a bit more ‘professional’ as far as how they go about taking hostages and what techniques they use.

The ones that do it on the side are generally a bit sloppier than the pros. That’s not to say that the professionals don’t take any risks, but when they do, they tend to be much smaller than those of your common thug. These professionals will often take larger risks in order to increase their profit or decrease their time on the job. They also might take unnecessary risks if they work with a greater degree of urgency due to deadlines they have to meet.

As for why people become professional kidnappers, it’s generally for the same reason that anybody goes into their chosen profession. It’s what they’re good at, they’re making a lot of money at it, and they enjoy doing it.

The purpose of kidnapping someone is usually for ransom, but in some cases it can be for political reasons. There have also been cases of people being kidnapped and killed for body parts.

How people get caught: Captors tend to make mistakes and leave clues behind as to where the victim is being held. In some cases the captors themselves are caught in the act and arrested before they even have a chance to do anything with their hostages.

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Some kidnappers will keep their victims close to home. This makes it easier to monitor their movements and for the captors to keep an eye on them, but it also increases the chance that someone will locate the hostage.

You run the risk of someone stumbling across the crime in progress or even discovering the victim being held. For a professional this can be very dangerous since it means they not only have to worry about covering their tracks, but also dealing with a potential witness.

Some hostages have been known to escape from their captors. Sometimes this is due to the actions of law enforcement, but there have also been cases where the hostage has found a way to escape on their own or even overpower their captor. Getting away from a kidnapper isn’t always as simple as just running away either, some people held in makeshift prisons without bars to escape from have still managed to get free.

It has happened on rare occasions that a kidnapping goes completely unnoticed by anyone else. These tend to be cases where the kidnapper is holding the victim at their own home or work place.

How to defend yourself:

The prospect of being held hostage is a frightening one, but it’s important to remember that all kidnappers aren’t fantastically gifted fighters. Many of them are poorly trained or inexperienced and you can take advantage of that.

If you’re being held in a building of any sort with other people around, try to make as much noise as possible. Some captors aren’t going to want to attract attention to themselves and will let you go if you cause too much of a scene. If others are around, they may also try to help you or at least call the police.

If you’re being held in a private home, try to find any opportunity you can to escape. Look for doors or windows that aren’t locked and see if you can break them open. While you’re doing this, it is important that you find out if the captor is in the house with you or not. If they are, it’s going to be very dangerous for you, but if not, this could be your one chance at freedom.

When the captor isn’t paying attention, this is the time to make your escape. Attack them, grab the keys to the door or just open it and run for help as fast as you can.

If you have a weapon of some sort, you may want to use that instead. If you’re able to get your hands on a gun or a knife, you’re going to have a much easier time defending yourself. Just be careful that you don’t accidentally shoot or stab the hostage in the process!

Of course a hostage situation is going to take some planning on your part. Most kidnappers intend to ransom their hostages, so if you get away, they may not hesitate to come after you later.

With kidnappings becoming more and more frequent, some people have chosen to take self defense into their own hands. If you know where the person is holding the hostage, you may feel inclined to break in and beat the kidnapper up yourself.

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This is very risky since it could lead to you getting into a confrontation with an experienced criminal, but it can lead to a faster resolution. If you’re attempting this, make sure you have friends with you as back up and don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. If you do get caught, you’re going to be in big trouble.

As crazy as it may sound, another tactic you can try is negotiating with the hostage taker.

This has been done successfully before by people who were close to the hostage or had a lot of experience dealing with criminals. There have also been cases where this has failed and gotten people killed, so make sure that if you’re going to try this, you’re willing to take the risk.

There is one more option that some people decide to use and that’s to pay the ransom.

This can be the safest option if you have a lot of money, but it can also be the most expensive. If you have a lot of money to burn, paying ransom may be worth it since it does guarantee your safe return and it’s the only way to get the hostage back without any trouble.

Another reason to pay ransom is to keep up with kidnappers. There have been cases where police have attempted to break into a hostage room and the kidnappers have killed their hostage in the process. By paying ransom, this gives them a reason not to kill the hostage.

Finally, paying ransom may encourage the criminals to kidnap more people. Statistics show that most criminals don’t do this for a living and do it as a side job to make extra money, so giving them extra incentive to do it more may not be the best idea.

Whether you try to escape, defend yourself or pay ransom is completely up to you, but whatever you do, you’ll want to do it quick.

Now you need to decide whether or not you’re going to try to escape the kidnapping or if you’re going to pay the ransom.

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Understand that whatever you do, you need to do it now .

Also remember that while the hostage taker has been nice enough to give you options, they are still in control and may not be as willing to give you a choice when it comes to the actual execution of your decision.

Call your parents or a friend to talk over options and see what they think.

I hope you make the right choice.

Thanks for reading!

Sources & references used in this article: