Composting Basics

Yard trimmings and food residuals combined make up 27% of the US municipal solid waste. That’s a lot of waste that can be used in good measures. Creating a useful product from organic waste offers benefits of resource efficiency. Adding compost to your garden or container plants can help infuse the soil with nutrients and help your plants grow stronger and healthier. Compost is essentially organic matter and may be purchased or created at home.

To create your own compost, compile a mix of green materials (coffee grounds, fruit cores, eggshells, grass clippings, leaves) and brown materials (newspaper, sawdust, branches, twigs) in a container with enough water to dampen all of the material. Turn the compost once a week to keep it mixed, allowing helpful bacteria to break down the raw materials into a rich, fresh compost. Mix your compost into the soil before you plant, or spread it across the top of the garden to give growing plants a boost.

Composting is also beneficial to our environment in many ways.
• Enriches poor soils
• Reduces and/or eliminates the need for fertilizers
• Suppresses plant diseases and pests
• Encourages the production of bacteria and fungi that crease a nutrient filled material
• Reduces the need for water and pesticides
• Promotes a higher yield of agricultural crops

If you aren’t quite sure what food waste in your home is useful for compost, here are is a suggested list that uniforms well with composting:
• Vegetable and fruit wastes, even if they are old and moldy
• Old bread or anything that is made out of flour (crackers, pizza crust, etc)
• Cooked or uncooked grains
• Coffee grounds and tea bag filters
• Crushed egg shells
• Corn cobs and husks
• Outdated boxed pantry foods

It is very important to never compost foods such as meat (including fat, gristle, etc), fish, dairy or grease of any kind. These items will attract rodents, bugs, maggots, and breakdown the otherwise nutrient dense waste.

Composting yard waste benefits your garden and landscaping as well as reducing landfill space and methane gas production in landfills. Yard waste materials that can be used for composting include: grass clippings, straw, and non woody plant trimmings (if branches and twigs are desired to be of use in the compost, be sure to shred branches and twigs greater than ¼ inch in diameter).

If you decide to use fresh manure in your garden, a proper composting structure must be applied. Note that any commercial manure has already been composted. Manure should be added slowly to the compost pile, generally over several days or weeks, and plenty of air flow should circulate throughout the compost bin. Compost should be turned regularly as manure is added. When you plan to use the compost for the garden, the addition of manure to the compost pile should be halted two months prior. Horse, cow, sheep, rabbit, and bird manure are acceptable uses; however, never use manure from household or meat eating animals.

Composting is fun, economical, and beneficial for the environment and gardens alike. Have fun with your composting project and enjoy the mighty benefits that come from your work!