Composting at Blake Garden

Design Plans
Project Design

Project Leads: Janet DeHaven

Sponsor: Blake Garden

TGIF Mini-Grant: $760

Project Theme: Habitat Restoration

Project Location

2012 Mini-Grant Application Submission

Status: Completed

Project Description: The project team wishes to efficiently turn greenwaste into compost used for the garden. Blake Garden staff and volunteers will build three opened ended compost structures out of inter-locking block material. The structure/wall will enable the staff to use a front loader to turn the piles, greatly reducing the risk of repetitive stress injury to the persons who currently hand-turn the piles, and allow Blake Gardens to compost on-site. A green dumpster costs $500 for each load to be dumped, plus the emissions cost to haul the material to a recycling facility. 

Goals: Reduce greenwaste at Blake Garden. Outreach and publicity of this project will be displayed on Blake Gardens Website through the Department of Landscape Architecture. Also the community visitors, school classes, interns, students, volunteers, group tours will all be introduced to the practice of efficient practice of recycling green waste to compost. 
  1. Reduce Green Waste at Blake Garden.
  2. Recycle material on site.
  3. Build wall to be able to turn compost with the front loader.
  4. Increase efficiency of compost production.
  5. Reduce risk of repetitive stress injury.


2013 Project Poster

Project Photos

Project Progress- Photo Timeline

2012-2013 Accomplishments

  • The Blake Garden staff chose an area to build a back wall in the garden that had water access for the composting process. The wall is used to push the pile up against with the front loader to turn and move the compost. Turning the pile frequently and keeping it damp accelerates the compost process.
  • The staff began the project mid-December. This worked well because the ground was soft for digging out the back area and foundations. With low rainfall levels, the staff was able to lay the base rock and start building up the wall in February. They completed the project and began using the compost area in late March.
  • Prior to this project, the compost pile had to be turned by hand by Blake Garden Staff. Now with the wall, the staff can use the front loader to turn the pile and thereby save the labor hours required to turn the pile, and reduce the risk of back and shoulder injury. Using the front loader to turn the piles saves approximately 250+ hours in labor annually.
  • Blake Garden is also now able to keep more green waste on site and produce high-quality compost which needed for the garden. Blake Garden will now save approximately $3000 a year in green dumpster fees by keeping the green waste onsite.
  • The project was featured on the Blake Garden website. 
  • Blake Garden is a research facility for the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning in the College of Environmental Design. A new major, Sustainable Environmental Design, was recently developed. This project could be used as a demonstration for students and garden visitors of the principal of reuse and recycling on site.
  • Many colleges, high schools and elementary schools visit the garden and work with the staff here to learn about sustainable horticultural practices including composting, drought-tolerant planting and mulching.
  • The Blake Garden Staff worked with student interns and volunteers throughout all phases of this project, helping them to learn about the construction of the compost area by explaining the composting process and the benefits of recycling green waste on site to volunteers, students and visitors.


Turning the Compost by Hand Completed Wall
Turning the Compost By Hand The Completed Wall

Challenges and Changes

  • Staff had to modify the design and material. Since the back wall serves as a retaining wall as well, we researched and chose an interlocking brick, Handy-Scape by McNear Brick Company, to build the support wall. The original design used concrete cinder block which would have required a poured foundation and rebar. The Handy-Scape was a good choice because it gave staff the flexibility to work on the project incrementally either individually or as a team at varying times to fit in with everyone's schedules.
  • The staff also decided that dividing walls were not necessary. This decision made it easier to maneuver the tractor. TGIF provided some additional funds (original grant was for $675, the final amount was $760) since the brick material was more expensive. Funds originally allocated for the dividing wallswere redistributed for purchasing the more expensive interlocking brick material.


Final Report

Mission Statement

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) provides funding for projects that reduce UC Berkeley's negative impact on the environment and make UC Berkeley more sustainable. TGIF will allocate funds to projects that promote sustainable modes of transportation, increase energy and water efficiency, restore habitat, promote environmental and food justice, and reduce the amount of waste created by UC Berkeley. Portions of the fund also support education and behavior change initiatives, student aid (via return to aid), and internships. TGIF is supported by student fees and administered through a student-majority committee and a program coordinator.