Did you know that millions of tons of organic waste, such as yard trimmings, paper, cardboard, and food scraps find their way into landfills all across America each year? According to the EPA, these organic materials comprise approximately two-thirds of the solid waste collected annually. It’s time we did our part in reducing the amount of solid waste generated each year. Composting is environmentally responsible, easy, and it is something that we each can do in protecting the earth.
What is composting? Composting is a natural, biological process through which organic wastes are reduced to humus, which is dark, earth like organic matter that has reached the point where it will not break down any further. Humus or compost is a wonderful organic soil additive. Using compost is a good way to reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers and it can help suppress plant diseases and pests. Also, using compost is a great way for gardeners to grow beautiful flowers and delicious fruits and vegetables.
Now, let’s learn how to make compost. Composting is actually a way to speed up the natural, biological process of organic degradation. There are many ways that we can make compost. We can create a compost pile, we can compost using a homemade compost bin or we can create compost using a compost tumbler or other manufactured composter. Let’s clear up one misconception and that is a properly constructed compost pile does not smell. So, don’t worry about upsetting your neighbors with your composting endeavors!
Regardless of your preferred composting method, the secret to making compost is the proper mix of organic material. There are three main ingredients involved in composting: browns—dead leaves, branches, cardboard, paper, etc.; greens—grass clippings, fruit and vegetable wastes and coffee grounds; and water. The browns add carbon to your compost pile, the greens add nitrogen and the water provides moisture to assist in the breakdown of the organic matter. Your pile should contain an equal amount of browns and greens with enough water to make the pile moist but not soggy.
What can be composted? Actually, a great deal of materials can be composted. The composting “A” list includes animal manure, toilet paper and paper towel rolls, shredded paper, coffee grounds and filters, cotton rags, vacuum cleaner lint, eggshells, wood ashes, fruit and vegetable wastes, grass clippings, fur and hair, hay and straw, leaves, nut shells, tea bags and yard trimmings.
What cannot be composted? Materials such as black walnut tree leaves and branches, coal or charcoal ash, dairy products, diseased or insect laden plants, fats, grease, oils, lard, meat, fish, bones, pet wastes and yard trimmings treated with chemicals should be avoided and not added to your compost pile.
Learning how to make compost is not difficult. Composting is both an art and a science and quite frankly, it can be fun! In subsequent posts we will discuss topics such as how to build a compost pile and we will learn about other containers and bins that can be used in making compost.
For more information on what materials you can compost, check out this article “What Can You Compost.”
Also, be sure to get a free copy of our eBook the “Easy Composting Guide.”
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