Archives for posts with tag: compost

New York City’s 2014 began with a great snowstorm. The Conservancy’s 2014, however, began under a warm winter sun that welcomed volunteers, members and staff back to the Salt Lot for the first time since December 22’s Composting Gowanus event. The warmth presided over what became a productive day of service centered around the collection and mulching of discarded Christmas trees around the watershed – Mulchfest!

With the assistance of our sponsors Arborpolitan and Urban Arborists, volunteers collected 460 trees and turned it into mulch. Meanwhile, our younger volunteers worked to sift .5 cubic yards of compost, while our tree stewards pruned 4 street trees and returned 100 lbs of pruned material back to the Salt Lot.

After the majority of our 26 volunteers assisted in turning our November and December windrows, the newly harvested mulch was spread around the compost area and on top of our windrows. Volunteers left the Salt Lot not with the all-too familiar smell of compost, but with the fresh piney smell of Christmas morning in their noses.

On this sunny day, hundreds of discarded trees helped breathe back life into the Salt Lot after the snowstorm that delayed Mulchfest for one week. January 12 was the perfect day  to beautify the Salt Lot just before the chilling polar vortex and its snowstorms descended upon Gowanus for the rest of the month.

Arborpolitan unloads the trees they collected.

Volunteer Committee Compost Co-Chair John Craver and Director of Education Programs Christine Petro biked around the neighborhood collecting trees!

John diligently binding the trees together so they don’t roll off the wagons.

Volunteers loaded up collected trees onto Urban Arborists’ truck…

…where they were ferried to the far end of the Salt Lot to be turned into mulch.

The fresh mulch was brought back to the main work area, where it was spread over the deep, muddy puddles formed after the snowstorm that kicked off the year.

Busy at work!

Volunteer Markley Boyer walks across the freshly placed green mulch.

Interested in volunteering at the Salt Lot before Clean & Green kicks off in March? E-mail and ask for opportunities such as weekly windrow turns!


The Conservancy had its penultimate compost build of the season this past Sunday (November 17). With great help from students, parents, and teachers from Excellence Charter Boys School of Bedford Stuyvesant, as well as students from Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, we processed over 10,000 pounds of food scraps and sifted the finished compost from the past months’ builds.


The next generation of composters.

Food scrap collection has been on the rise the past few months; monthly builds used to cap off at 8,000 pounds but recent collections have been consistently coming in around 10,000 pounds. Although food collection is ramped up, our fantastic volunteers are still finishing the piles in less than four hours. Also, at the end of the summer Philip Silva, a PhD candidate from Cornell University, developed a compost calculator for us to determine the adequate ratio of leaves, sawdust and woodchips (carbon sources) to food scrap and coffee grounds (nitrogen sources). Following a few revisions by Christian Jungers, an avid compost volunteer, the compost calculator is now leading to some of the smoothest builds the GCC has seen.


The pile was particularly beautiful this past week as GrowNYC dropped off bags full of fall leaves to incorporate with the food scraps. Leaf pile anyone?


The day was finished off with a delicious barbecue cooked up by the GCC staff.

50 Volunteers came out to the Salt Lot this Sunday to help the Conservancy create our monthly windrow. Along with creating our compost windrow, volunteers did some much needed garden stewardship in our 2nd Avenue Garden. It was also the first prototyping day for our Floating Gardens Designers. The Conservancy gives a big thanks to everyone who came and spent their morning with us!

Volunteers from the Kabbalah Centre helped us incorporate over 8,000 pounds of food scraps from GrowNYC Greenmarket collections. They were fantastic volunteers and we loved how fully they embraced the idea of promoting life in the watershed through the repurposing of food-scraps. It was a pleasure to host them and we thank them for working hard and staying enthusiastic through the midday drizzle of rain. We hope you can come back and volunteer with us again!

Volunteer Coordinator Christine explaining the science of compost:Untitled Browns, like sawdust and wood chips, are important to add between the layers of food scraps.20130728_113746 Volunteers working hard to even out the food scraps as it gets larger!20130728_130138 While the windrow was being built, we also had other volunteers sifting our finished compost. Sifted compost can be used for other projects like our tree and garden stewardship and for sealing our freshly-built windrow.

20130728_111019 After two weeks, the compost pile will host much beneficial bacteria that will generate heat and  break down the food-scraps. The windrow will then be turned weekly, for 5 weeks, then left to cure (or cool down) until it is ready to be sifted! We are constantly in need of compost windrow turners–you’ll use pitchforks and “turn” the pile systematically, to promote an aerobic environment and food-scrap decomposition. For more information on turning, contact For more information on composting workshops, other project sites, composting at home, and/or how to be a Master Composter, visit the NYC Compost Project’s website. For opportunities to build a compost windrow with the Conservancy, visit our website!

Tree Mapping
Tree mappers Judy and Talia completed some loose ends in our Tree Mapping Project. Stay tuned for more updates!

Garden Stewardship
We collected about 120 pounds of weeds from our 2nd Avenue Garden. Regular maintenance removes unwanted species and improves the garden’s ability to prevent erosion, absorb water, and preserves native plants.

Floating Garden Prototyping
This year, we have 6 designers for Floating Gardens. Designs range from a bamboo structure that will serve as a seaweed habitat to a concrete “rock garden”. It was a largely experimental day, with all the designers testing different materials and methods for creating their prototypes. They all discovered new ways to refine their floating garden constructions and by the end of the day, we even launched a prototype!

Designers at work:20130728_124615
FG Designer Sarah learning about another prototype20130728_125804
Our Landscape Architect Summer Intern Jin weaving bamboo: 20130728_114946
Here are some photos of the first prototype launch! This design serves as both a plant and “stick garden”.

Designers Christine and Sarah getting ready to take it to the waterfront:UntitledUntitled And now, it’s in the Canal!Untitled
And after a few hours, everyone was able to enjoy some great grilled food, thanks to Whole Foods!

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For more images from the day, check out our Flickr!

Thanks to the Kabbalah Centre and everyone else who came to ¡Composting Gowanus! We hope to see you soon!

Our staff got a treat this week – another field trip! This week, we went to the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy and learned about their composting system. When we were determining which composting system to use, we contemplated the system currently used at Battery Park, an in-vessel unit. This system processes food scraps faster and does not require any labor since it is turned with an auger.

We met with a worker there who spoke to us about how they perfect their compost. They are more precise and scientific with their composting system, due to the fact that they use a microscope and look for certain bacteria which tells them whether the soil is healthy or not.
Compost Curing & Finishing
And now ready for use!IMG_1868
They also make compost tea, which they put on their grounds. Compost tea is a mixture of compost and water that has a higher bacterial count and brings extra nutrients to plants. Adding this to plants gives them more benefits than just using compost by itself.
Staff members learning about the process:
They also have an outside location where overs and larger pieces cure outside and eventually create compost!
It was an amazing to learn about another facility’s composting process because it gave us an opportunity to reflect on our own system and figure out where there is room for improvement. Thanks Battery Park City Parks Conservancy for showing us around!

Afterwards, we walked around the Esplanade and enjoyed the view from the waterfront. We even took a visit to Teardrop Park and marveled at the amazing landscaping work done. It was a great day for learning for our staff members!


Yesterday, the Conservancy welcomed about 80 volunteers to the Salt Lot for our monthly Clean & Green event, our most yet! Volunteers participated in compost windrow building, tree mapping, tree stewardship, and a green wall workshop. We also had a group of volunteers do some stewardship work with the Gowanus Alliance at Ennis Park. There were many activities going on so thank you to our volunteers from NYCares, Whole Foods and the community for all your help!

With about 7500 lbs of food scraps, we created our June Compost Windrow! Here’s some pictures of our volunteers working hard adding layers and sculpting our new pile.

We also sifted around a cubic yard of compost with a compost sifter from DB Co-op, an organization of engineers, designers, architects, and more who create human powered machines. When someone pedals the bike, the attached mesh drum turns and sifts the compost. Who doesn’t love the idea of working out while composting? Here’s one of our enthusiastic volunteers pedaling away:
Tree Stewardship
While we did some stewardship and mapping around the Salt Lot, we also sent volunteers over to Ennis Park to help the Gowanus Alliance with their work. We pruned some bushes and picked up nearby trash.

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Then, we enjoyed some delicious food and even received shirts courtesy of the Gowanus Alliance. Thanks to them for organizing such a fun activity for us!


Green Wall Workshop
Members of our volunteer committee came up with the great idea to create green wall prototypes for the Salt Lot, furthering the Conservancy’s efforts to green more urban space. The green wall was made of readily available materials and shows that a project like this is not difficult to pull off. Volunteers helped construct, plant, and install these prototypes along the fence of the Salt Lot. A big thanks to Build It Green for providing some of our materials.

Here are some pictures of the process of creating one of these prototypes: 20130623_13291920130623_132120
Here’s two of our garden interns, Pamela and Jeanette, working on it:
And the finished project!Untitled
These prototypes are a beautiful new addition to the Salt Lot and we’re excited to see their progress!

And after a long hot day in the sun, we ended the day with a barbecue feast courtesy of Whole Foods.
Thanks again to everyone who came yesterday and we hope to see you soon! For more pictures, check out our Flickr!

We had a great time last Sunday, August 26th, building a new compost windrow at the Salt Lot!  The weather was great–it was a beautiful day on the shores of the Gowanus Canal!

Signs artistically rendered by composter extraordinaire, Christine Petro

A special thanks goes out to our friends at GrowNYC… they delivered over 7,000 pounds of food scraps for the new windrow build!

Food scraps delivery from GrowNYC

We started the morning with a lesson in composting… Master Composter Erik Martig explained our patented “Compost Lasagna” recipe to a ready and willing team of volunteers.

Learning the basics of “compost lasagna”

To build a compost windrow, we alternate layers of food scraps and “browns” (wood chips and leaves).  It’s the perfect recipe to create an environment ripe for decomposing!

There are few things more satisfying than taking all those old food scraps and turning them into something new!

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who gave us their time last Sunday!