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Composting - The Whats, Whys and Hows

Written by: Sara Coulter |

How do you make your garden thrive naturally?  Composting!

How about an easy and inexpensive way to make your garden the talk of the neighborhood?  And what would you say if you could contribute to caring for the environment at the same time?  If you answered, “Oh, yass!” to either of those questions, you might be interested in composting.

What is composting?

Composting is a natural process that turns organic material (like vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, wood chips and leaves) into a nutrient-packed soil-like fertilizer.  You can use compost on your garden, flowers, potted plants and even your lawn.

tomatoes on the vine

Why compost?

Compost improves the health of your garden and plants.  Adding compost to your vegetable plants makes it possible for them to feed themselves more efficiently.  Research shows that compost increases the ability of tomatoes and other vegetables to stand up to common diseases and may improve their flavor and nutrition, too. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture.

Composting is better for the environment.  When you throw away scraps, and they are buried in a landfill, oxygen needed to help with the decaying process can’t get to it.  The waste basically just lays there and creates greenhouse gases, which can negatively affect climate change.  One of the gasses produced, methane, displaces oxygen that we need to breathe, and can even be explosive in certain concentrations.

Using compost as a natural fertilizer eliminates the need for chemicals, which can run off into rivers and stream.

composting container, broom and rake in a yard

How do I start composting?

It’s easy!  Composting can be made in an open pile or a container.  If you choose to create a compost pile, make sure you protect it from animals with some sort of fence or barrier.  We’re going to talk about container composting, but the process is the same for both.

Container.   You’ll need a plastic container, 18 gallons or larger, with a lid. This can be a large bucket, a storage bin or an old trash can.

Layering.  When layering your compost ingredients, you need a balance of three parts “brown” to one part “green”.  The brown materials are dryer and create pockets so air can circulate around and through them (and your compost won’t stink!).  Examples of brown materials are dried leaves, straw, wood chips, even shredded newspaper (if necessary).  Green materials include grass clippings, weeds, plant cuttings, food scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells, to name a few.  Do not include dog waste, as it can contaminate your compost. 

Start with a layer of brown ingredients, and then follow with green.  Continue to layer using your 3:1 ratio.

Now add enough water to lightly moisten the mixture.

vegetable and fruit scraps

What Now?

You will need to turn or "stir" your compost mixture every few days.  Depending on the size of your container, you can do this with a shovel, or give your container a good shake.  Once the mixture starts to decompose, it will actually create heat to enhance the process.  Continue to layer, moisten and turn.

In 2 – 3 months your compost will be ready.  It can be used as mulch or potting soil, and you can sprinkle over grass as a lawn conditioner.  If you want to continue the composting process, save about 1/3 of your mixture as a “starter” for your next batch.

Happy composting!



Topics: Health, Home, Personal

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