Composting 101

You know composting is good for the earth because it keeps useable rubbish out of landfills and that it is good for your plants because compost enriches the soil, boosting the health of your plants, but do you compost? Do you know how to start composting? Do you know what and what not to put into a compost bin or pile? Composting may seem like a hefty, dirty task but it is actually a very simple concept once you learn the basics and get started.

What is Compost?
Compost is organic matter that has been completely broken down into smaller particles by microorganisms so that it is dark, crumbly and rich in nutrients. Compost can contain yard waste, scraps from your kitchen and other organic materials, which is then put into a controlled compost bin or pile so it starts to decay. When fully decayed, this matter can be used as an organic fertilizer or soil amendment.

Start Composting!
There are a multitude of compost bins on the market, but you can just as easily make one out of wood, wire, fencing, an old trashcan or you can just start a compost pile. Compost is created with four simple ingredients: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water. The easiest way to create a healthy compost pile is by adding equal parts green, wet material and brown, dry material. Green material adds much needed nitrogen, while brown material adds carbon to your compost pile. Layer these materials as you go along, adding water and churning the mixture to allow oxygen into your compost. Place your pile or bin in a warm place and chop up large materials to accelerate the decomposition process.

What to Compost
Carbon: ashes, wood, cardboard, corn stalks, fruit scraps, dried leaves, paper, nut shells, pine needles, sawdust, twigs, straw
Nitrogen: alfalfa, algae, clover, coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable scraps, garden waste, grass clippings, hay, manure, weeds that have not gone to seed

What Not to Compost: glass, plastic, metal, colored paper, coal ash, pet waste, diseased plants, meat, fat, bones, dairy, synthetic chemicals

Trouble in Compost Land
Your compost bin should attract a few critters that will help in the decomposition process but shouldn’t attract a lot of flies, rodents, pets or slugs. Your compost bin also shouldn’t have a smell that makes your neighbors cringe and it should always be sufficiently heated between 135-150 degrees to allow for the decomposition process. If your pile starts to smell, try adding brown materials to reduce moisture or turn your pile to let in some oxygen. If your pile is not heating up, try adding water, increasing the size of the pile, adding green materials or moving it to a sunnier location. If your pile is starting to attract the wrong attention, move it to a location away from your plants and evaluate what you have been adding to the pile. Animal parts, products and wastes can attract unwanted visitors.

Finished compost should be dark, crumbly and almost odorless. Add it to soil to amend nutrient deficiencies or use it as an all-natural fertilizer along with organic fertilizer such as Grower’s Secret’s all natural, organic formulas. Your plants and the environment will thank you.

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