Composting For Your Home: Turning Trash Into Treasure
|What Is Composting?||Benefits|
|How To Compost||Quick Tips|
|How To Choose A Bin|
What Is Composting?
Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. Plus it is the single most important supplement you can give you soil.
Compost is a soil conditioner: With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.
Recycles kitchen and yard waste: Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can.
Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil: Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.
Good for the environment: Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
Reduces landfill waste: Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down. One-third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials..
There are many types of bins used to hold the compost materials. There are commercially made square or cone shaped plastic bins, homemade square bins often made of wood, and rotating tumbler style bins just to name a few.
Each type of bin has its' own advantages and disadvantages but all types of bins can be used to make great compost.
Step Two: Select a Location for Your Compost Bin
Choose a site that is level and well drained that is easily accessible year round. Place the bin over bare soil rather than concrete or paving to ensure that worms and other beneficial organisms can make their way into the pile. It's a good idea to remove any grass or plants and turn the soil to a depth of about 6 - 8 inches.
Step Three: Add Good Composting Materials
Generally, composting ingredients can be divided into two categories: Brown Materials such as leaves, hay, straw and paper and Green materials such as grass clippings, fresh manure, vegetable trimmings and most green plant cuttings.
Detailed look at composting materials: Read more
Step Four: What Not To Add to Your Compost!
There are a number of materials that you should keep out of your compost pile.
Adding some items, like vegetable fats and dairy products will simply slow down the composting process by excluding the oxygen that helpful organisms need to do their job. If you add these materials you will still have usable compost, it will just take much longer.
Adding other materials to your pile is simply dangerous because of the chance of poisoning or disease. Human and pet feces, chemically or pressure treated wood or sawdust, and meat and animal fats fall into this category and should never be added to your compost pile.
Materials to exclude:
- The feces of humans and pets can carry diseases that can infect humans, therefore composting should not be attempted.
- Meats and fats can contain harmful bacteria. Their presence in the bin will also slow down the composting process and can attract rodents and local animals.
- Weeds with mature seeds and plants with pernicious root systems can be a problem unless the compost pile gets hot enough to kill them off.
- Pressure treated wood or any chemically treated wood products. Pressure treated wood (often recognizable by its' greenish color) has been shown to leach arsenic into the soil when used for making kids playground equipment, compost bins and raised beds. It would certainly be a very bad idea to compost any such wood or sawdust. Other chemically treated woods should also be avoided.
Other materials that should not be composted:
- Inorganic garbage
- Used Cat Litter
- Particle Board
Step Five: Making Great Compost
Making great compost is like making a giant layer cake! Well, not exactly but you will soon see what we mean.
Start with a 4 inch layer of brush, twigs, hay or straw at the bottom of the bin. Then add a 4 inch layer of brown material, then a thin layer of finished compost or good garden soil. That's one layer.
Then add a 4 inch layer of green material topped with a thin layer of compost or soil. Moisten each layer by misting it lightly with a garden hose. Keep adding materials in alternating layers of greens and browns until the bin is full.
Once you have a full bin you can turn the pile every 14 days or so. The more you turn the pile the faster you will have finished compost!
Step Six: Using Your Compost
Congratulations! Your compost is ready to use!
It can take anywhere from 14 days to 12 months to produce your finished compost. The time it takes can vary widely depending on the materials and methods used. Check out the making a compost pile section for tips on how to make high quality compost in record time.
The point at which the compost is ready varies based on how the compost will be used. In general, though, compost is ready when dark and crumbly and mostly broken down with a pleasant, earthy, soil-like smell to it. For most uses it is acceptable to have some recognizable pieces of leaves or straw remaining.Compost can be used for:
- House Plants
- Soil amendment and fertilizer
- Flower and Vegetable Beds
- New planting areas
- Established planting areas
- Lawn top dressing
- Compost Tea
- Around trees
You can now pat yourself on the back. You have put back into the soil. Your house plants, flowers, vegetables and trees will thank you by growing stronger and healthier than ever.
1. Don't throw away your kitchen scraps -- add them to the compost pile. Kitchen scraps are typically high in nitrogen, which helps heat up the compost pile and speed up the composting process. Egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels and scraps are all outstanding materials to add.
2. If you're composting with a compost pile, bigger is often better. Heat builds up with a big pile. You don't want to get much bigger than about 3 feet by 3 feet though.
3. Keep your compost aerated! If you are composting with a tumbling composter, make sure you turn it whenever you add new materials. If you are composting with a pile, or in a static (non-tumbling) compost bin, be sure to mix up the contents so that the pile gets oxygen and can break down effectively. Use a compost aerating tool like this one.
4. Don't let the compost completely dry out. A compost pile needs moisture to keep the composting process active.
5. Don't keep your compost too wet so that it gets soggy and starts to stink. Just as too dry is bad, too wet is also something that you should avoid.
6. Too much of any one material will slow down the composting process. If you have all leaves, all grass clippings or an overload of any other single type of material, it can throw off the balance of the pile. In general, it's good to keep a mix of green and brown material (see main page for more details on this).
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