One more cool thing about compost – it’ll heat your greenhouse


Remember my neighbor Dr. Nazirahk Amen, the naturopath whose family grows almost every bite they eat?  Well, I noticedPogogreenhouse400

him at the local food co-op selling vegetable starts and the compost products of nearby compost-maker Pogo Organics. Seems he’d been a customer of Pogo (a real person) for a while and suggested a distributorship.  Why not, says Pogo.  Next, Nazirick proposed using some of Pogo’s 180-acre facility to grow food, and why not build a greenhouse, too?  And how about we use some of that high-quality compost you’re producing here to heat the greenhouse?  Maybe fill up a dumpster with it and pipe the heat into the greenhouse through vents.

And so it hPogoorganicsheat400appened.  I’m told, by way of explanation, that Pogo is game
for anything.  (Except giving interviews, I was soon to find out.
I guess he’s more doer than talker, and I can dig that.)

Details?  It’s called passive heat, and that’s about all I can tell you.  Except that the experiment was a roaring success last winter, when it never got colder than 42 degrees inside the greenhouse.  Further research will determine exactly what volume of compost is needed for what size greenhouse.

Just one problem so far.  The interior of compost pile reached 170 degrees, apparently enough to corrode through the dumpster at the hottest spot, as seen in this photo. Pogosgreenhouse300

Nazirahk invited me out to Pogo’s to see all this and it was a blast tooling across acres of compost piles in a golf cart, with occasional stops to see projects like the pond that their "biodiesel guy" Frank is building to purify their greywater.  Here you see it under construction, and Frank promises me it’ll be gorgeous with a waterfall and loaded with plants.  Looks like I’ll have to go back and see the end result, huh?  (Watch out, Pogo!)

Then there’s the trial they’ve got going on growing mushrooms on logs.  And with Pogo up for anything, it’s no surprise that they donated all the mulch and compost for a cool landscaping project I worked on for low-income housing.  Or that the organic lawn care demo on the National Mall was another recipient of donated goods from Pogo’s. I was glad to hear he’d landed the contract to provide compost and compost tea to all the Whole Foods in the D.C. area.

One question I would have asked Pogo in an interview is: Who ARE you people?  But then I noticed on their About Us page this staff list, with the warning "Not always pretty":  4 MD Trees Experts, Pogowateringcomposttea2 3 ISA Certified Arborists,  2 Certified Compost Technicians, 8 Guacamoleons, 6 Hillbillies, 1 Genius, 3 Burn Outs, 100 Chickens (Deceased), Mycelium Running, Baby George, A few "Artists".  Okay, that explains it.

And here’s Pogo, a tree service guy who’s found a million ways to recycle.


  1. Turns out I ddin’t get all the details right (I know, I’m shocked, too) so Nazirahk sent me these “edits”:

    We (Purple Mountain Organics) were looking for a local source of compost in order to increase our level of sustainability. We have experience growing food, Pogo has experience composting. Out at the farm as Pogo calls it, in addition to experiments like using mushrooms for bioremediation and the biodiesel project, Pogo wanted to grow some food. We needed local compost, he needed food growing help. That is our relationship. The idea for the greenhouse I think was Pogo’s initially. We all helped in working out the kinks in planning. The greenhouse was used for Purple Mountain starters that were presented at TPSS and Silver Spring coop. As well as many of the plants in the ground at Pogo’s. One of our experimental projects of mutual interest is the use of Coconut coir as a replacement for peat. Hence, the hydro organic tomato table with coco as the media, and the use of coco in place of peat in Pogo’s mixes sold to Whole Foods.

    I am happy to send you more pictures from the greenhouse when it was at peak use. Peace.

  2. There’s a very old-fashioned cold-frame/greenhouse heating method that involves digging a trench,filling it with fresh manure in the fall, and using the heat of decomposition to keep things growing over the winter. You can find it in most cold-season garden books … I imagine you could do the same thing with compost.

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