Did you know there is a way to help the Earth (and yourself) each and every day? Reduce, reuse, and recycle by creating a compost pile! Creating a compost pile helps reduce the amount of household waste that ends up in landfills. Composting also allows us to reuse kitchen scraps in the garden and recycle raw materials to create healthy new topsoil.
Compost is simply decomposed organic material, which can be either plant or animal matter. If you have ever walked in the woods on a blanket of fallen leaves, then you have seen composting at work. Plant and animal matter is constantly recycled in nature by worms, insects, and microscopic organisms to create rich soil that supports new life.
Decomposing organisms including bacteria, fungi, worms, sowbugs, and nematodes work together to break down organic matter into healthy soil. These organisms need four key elements to thrive: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, and oxygen. Rain provides moisture, but you may need to water or cover the pile to keep it damp (just be careful not to saturate the pile!). Turning or mixing the pile provides the organisms with oxygen, which allows them to work faster.
To create a compost pile, simply add food, air, and water. The key is getting the right mixture of brown materials (carbon) to green materials (nitrogen). The best combination is about 4 parts of “browns” to one part “greens” by volume. If we add too much brown material the compost pile will take a long time to break down. But adding too much green material creates a compost pile that is slimy and smelly. If you have a yard and like to eat, you have everything you need to provide your compost pile with these ingredients!
Sources of “brown” ingredients:
• Brown, dry leaves
• Dried grass
• Cornstalks (shredded)
• Sawdust (only in moderation)
One secret to making compost faster, is to finely shred the carbon-rich ingredients such as leaves, hay, straw, paper and cardboard. Since the brown materials take the longest amount of time to break down, shredding them will significantly reduce the finishing time of compost.
Sources of “green” ingredients:
• Fresh (green) Grass clippings
• Fresh manure (horse, chicken, rabbit, cow)
• Kitchen scraps (fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags)
• Weeds (careful with the seed heads!)
• Green leaves
• Leftover fruits from the garden
* You can also add egg shells as a source of calcium!
Do Not Add:
• Meat, Fish, fat or oil, dairy products: Adding these materials is likely to attract unwanted visitors to your compost.
• Pet waste: This material may contain diseases that could be passed on to humans.
• Colored newsprint or paper: Even shredded, these materials may contain chemicals.
Compost works wonders in the garden because it improves the soil, which in turn will support healthier and more productive plants. Compost provides important nutrients that plants need to grow, and improves soil structure so that the soil holds enough air and water to support the plants and animals living in it. Healthy plants are more equipped to fight disease, which helps eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers. As an added environmental benefit, composting reduces the amount of solid waste that would otherwise find its way to the garbage can. So do the environment and your taste buds a favor this year – start a compost pile and grow some food!