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Composting is Mother Nature’s way of recycling dead organic plant material.
By learning simple composting basics – you can use this natural process to reduce the volume of your daily household waste, plus increase the satisfaction of gardening and landscape maintenance.
When the right mixture of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, water and time are met, you create what master gardeners call ‘black gold’ or compost. This material is excellent for jump-starting new plantings and periodically feeding established ones.
How Do You Compost?
To get started, you need some sort of gathering area for your material. Usually, this takes the shape of a bin or some sort of tumbler. A good size to shoot for is around 3×3 feet or one cubic yard. This will help you accumulate enough material for the pile to heat up to the point where the organic waste will decompose efficiently.
Before you begin piling up your material, make sure the pieces are not to big as too much surface area decreases the efficiency of your pile. A good rule of thumb is 10” or shorter. Keep a one gallon bucket under your sink to collect kitchen scraps and empty it to your bin throughout the week as needed.
Ingredients for Composting Success
Having the right mixture in your bin can reap quite fruitful rewards. Composting is a kin to cooking in that with the right ingredients and procedures, a super soil is produced. Nitrogen in the form of greens such as grass clippings, leaves, or fruit and vegetable trimmings coupled with carbon rich dried leaves, twigs, branches or saw-dust are idea to compose the majority of mass to your pile.
Most organic plant material will suffice, but try to avoid dairy products and meats as they will attract flies and make it much more stinky than necessary.
Turning your pile often is crucial to oxygenate the material and give the beneficial organisms that break it down what they need to keep working. Every 4-6 days is a good rule of thumb.
Keeping the moisture content just right is crucial to assuring that the most effective decomposition is occurring. Your compost pile should have about 50% moisture content. To test this, reach down in the middle of your pile and grab a handful squeezing it until a few drops or water appears. If no water shows, add some and if too much water is present, add some more carbon material.
Patience is a virtue and giving your pile time to ‘cook’ is key in reaching ‘black gold’. It can take anywhere from 2-4 months to get it going, but once it turns, your turn-over time should be cut in half.
Fine Tune Your Compost Pile
To get the edge on your waste try adding some worms after your pile has turned into usable compost. This will aerate your mixture and add some more beneficial material for decomposition in the form of digested material from your worms. Over time you will find that your worms will multiply exponentially and increase the efficiency of your pile.
If you drink coffee, add your coffee grinds with biodegradable filters to your pile and this will help with the pH level of your soil and add to its overall richness.
Using a tumbling composter or stacking bin can also give you that edge over your waste.
Go Green – Dump Your Greens
In the United States each person produces and average of 3.5 pounds of trash a day. Twenty five percent of this food is biodegradable. Add this up and you have around 3.75 million pounds of biodegradable trash every day! When this is put in a landfill, it can take years to decades to decompose.
Using a compost bin can diminish the stress on our landfills and reduce your household waste anywhere from 15-30%. This saves money by reducing the number of trash bags needed and not having to purchase soil for your gardening, not to mention the emissions avoided by having to produce and transport this material for your gardening.
Good luck composting and enjoy some extra room in your trash. You might like to have a look, also, at one great way of utilizing that lovely fertilizer – check my article here: How To Make Compost Tea