Vegetables are beginning to ripen in neighborhood gardens and
flower beds are in full bloom. Still, it’s not too early to
start thinking about preparing your garden for next year. And UB is
lending a hand by providing free compost to faculty, staff and
The compost is derived from food waste collected by Campus
Dining and Shops (CDS) and recycled at two locations on the North
Just make sure you call ahead of time.
“We can’t keep it in our building,” says
Thomas Ludtka, manager of the UB commissary and a lead member of
UB’s composting efforts. “And that’s sometimes
with as much as 16,000 pounds on hand at any one time.”
The compost is stored in a garage at the Statler Commissary. In
addition to members of the university community, nonprofit
community groups, such as the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the
Massachusetts Avenue Project and the Buffalo Zoo, have come to rely
on the product.
Gardeners who can get the compost while it’s available
will be fortifying their gardens for next year, according to
“Each year, by the end of the growing season, nutrients
have been removed from the soil,” he says. “Adding the
compost in the fall is basically resupplying your garden with what
Although the term “compost” comes up frequently in
conversation, it’s important to remember that the product is
actually a soil amendment, points out Raymond Kohl, marketing
manager for Campus Dining and Shops.
“It may look like mulch, but it’s not a top
dressing,” says Kohl. “The product on its own will not
support plant growth.
To work effectively, the compost should be added to gardens in
the fall and vigorously worked into the soil. In fact, when
gardeners pick up the product, they’re actually getting
something that is roughly 80 percent through the recycling
“By putting it in the soil, time and moisture complete the
decomposition process,” Ludtka explains. “That’s
why it’s great to use it in the fall so that it has several
months to completely break down before spring planting.”
Kohl also recommends the product for use in compost piles.
“Food waste is high in nitrogen,” he says. “So
we like to see people mix it with lawn clippings. This will balance
things out: nitrogen on the one side from our product and carbon on
the other side from the clippings.”
As a food waste product, however, Kohl points out that testing
has revealed the compost to be slightly acidic. Tomatoes love the
acidity, he says, but adding a bit of lime will easily neutralize
the product. That same testing also has shown the product to
completely safe. It is non-combustible and has a stable
Unlike some commercially available soil amendments that
introduce chemicals to speed up decomposition, UB’s product
is all natural.
Food waste is collected from campus restaurants, then ground,
churned and heated over a 14-hour period.
The first decomposition unit installed in the commissary
recently was upgraded for increased capacity, while a second unit
will be operational at the new Crossroads Culinary Center in the
Ellicott Complex this fall.
Gardeners who would like to obtain some of UB’s soil
amendment can stop by the Statler Commissary on the North Campus or
call 645-2832 for details. They should bring their own
Kohl says the university is looking at several green-bagging
options that will allow for easier storage.
“Our program is an ongoing process,” he says.