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Effective: Summer 2013

Grade Type: Letter Grade Only
Not Repeatable.
FHGE: Non-GE Transferable: CSU
12 hours lecture total per quarter. (12 hours total per quarter)

Student Learning Outcomes -
  • Student will be able to construct a hot compost pile.
  • Student will be able to identify different methods of composting
Description -
Comprehensive introduction to the theory and practices utilized in composting of organic materials. Course provides a combination of classroom lectures, demonstrations, and activities geared to providing a clear understanding of various composting techniques including sustainable waste management practices, recycling of organics, backyard composting, and vermicomposting.

Course Objectives -
The student will be able to:
  1. discuss the benefits of healthy soils and the contribution composting makes to plant nutrition.
  2. demonstrate an understanding of the theory, techniques, and maintenance practices used in composting and vermicomposting.
  3. discuss the changes that occur to organic materials during the composting process and the impact of aerobic decomposition on these materials.
  4. demonstrate the ability to construct and maintain a variety of composting and vermicomposting systems.
  5. compare and describe the various harvesting methods utilized in composting.
  6. describe how composting is used by different cultures in agricultural and garden settings.
Special Facilities and/or Equipment -
Horticultural laboratory, compost area, greenhouse, nursery, and related horticultural facilities and equipment. Students provide pruning shears with sheath, work boots, leather gloves, and clothing for fieldwork.

Course Content (Body of knowledge) -
  1. Overview of soils and plant nutrition
    1. Soil content (organic and inorganic)
    2. Soil texture
    3. Benefits of healthy soils
  2. Composting and vermicomposting theory, techniques, and maintenance practices
    1. Composting & vermicomposting systems
    2. Benefits of composting
    3. Ingredients (ratios of organics, water, oxygen, and other nutrients)
    4. Temperature
    5. Micro-organisms (fungi & bacteria)
    6. Macro-organisms (worms, beetles, etc.)
    7. Compost turning
    8. Vermicomposting (storage bins, worms, food, maintenance, and harvesting)
  3. The composting process
    1. Aerobic decomposition of organic materials
    2. Which organic materials to utilize (and which not to)
    3. Backyard composting
  4. Construction & maintenance of composting and vermicomposting systems
    1. Proportion of organic matter
    2. Tools utilized in composting
    3. Troubleshooting (identifying problems and solutions)
    4. Site visits to view composting systems
  5. Harvesting methods
    1. Evaluation of compost quality
    2. Applications for finished composts
  6. Composting systems in different cultural settings
    1. Agricultural
    2. Garden

Methods of Evaluation -
  1. Practical skills tests.
  2. Field test on composting techniques.
Representative Text(s) -
Lowenfels, J. and Lewis, W. Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2010.

Disciplines -
Ornamental Horticulture
Method of Instruction -
  1. Discussions on the benefits of healthy soils.
  2. Lab work and field installations which demonstrate composting and vermicomposting practices.
  3. Discussions of organic materials and the composting process.
  4. Presentations and discussions on harvesting methods.
  5. Discussions of cultural impacts of composting.
Lab Content -
Not applicable.
Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing and Outside of Class Assignments -
  1. Reading assignments include weekly reviews of concepts pertaining to the theory, practice, maintenance, and compost harvesting techniques presented in each specific class (approx. 20 pages per week).