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Composting

Did you know that about a third of municipal solid waste comes from yard trimmings and food waste? Decomposition of this organic matter produces gases, including methane, due to the waste being in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment.

Compost is the product of decomposed organic matter and is a satisfying way to turn your fruits, vegetables, and yard trimmings into a dark, crumbly, sweet smelling soil conditioner instead of polluting gases.

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Benefits of Composting

Benefits

Composting positively impacts the environment in numerous ways.  One, of course, is by decreasing the amount of waste going into the landfill and therefore decreasing the amount of polluting gases. It also reduces the levels of pathogens, weeds, odor, and insect problems and decreases water pollution.

One of the biggest benefits of compost is the impact on Soil Health.

Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposing organic matter into a rich, nutrient-dense soil. By adding compost to your garden, you are returning nutrients back into the soil, improving soil fertility. 

Adding compost to your garden improves the structure of your soil. Your soil will have better water-holding capacity and air space for plant roots. There will also be an increase in bacterial and fungal activity, which makes more nutrients available to your plants. Improved structure can also help make the soil more workable, like by breaking up heavy clay.

Plants thrive in soil with high amounts of organic matter.

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Methods of Composting

Backyard composting is an acceleration of the same process of decomposition that nature uses. There are many ways to compost, so it should be easy to find one that will work for you!

 

Active vs. Passive Composting

How engaged with your compost pile would you like to be? Active composting involves turning the pile on a regular basis and maintaining optimal moisture and temperature levels. This method will kill weed seeds and produces usable compost the quickest. Passive composting is much more relaxed as you are only turning the pile occasionally. Your organic materials will not decompose as quickly, and you may still have weed seeds, but eventually even passive composting will produce usable compost.

Vermicomposting

This is composting with red worms and can be convenient for many people as it takes up less space and can even be done indoors. Worms eat away at your food scraps, and worm castings produce a nutrient-rich compost. Note that care must be taken to ensure the worms have the right environment, including temperatures and air.

Methods
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Mounds, Bins & Tumblers

It is important to consider where your compost will be located and what care you will take. If you do not mind the appearance, composting can be done by simply starting a mound in your yard, but this may not be appealing to many people. Luckily there are many other choices.

If you like diy projects, an online search will bring up many plans for different bins, including ones using wood pallets, wire fencing, and cinder block.

If you prefer to have your compost more contained, look for bins or tumblers. A simple compost bin can be made out of a garbage can by drilling holes all around and in the base and adding sawdust or straw.  Tumblers are another option for those that do not have as much time on their hands. They are designed to be easily rotated, to there is no need to manually turn the compost. Bins and tumblers are available for purchase in many locations. Check out our resource page for some ideas on where to look: Composters.

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Ingredients

Ingredients for Composting

In order to get good compost, you need air and water, but it is also important to make sure you use the right balance of ingredients.

 

The microorganisms that break down organic matter need materials with both carbon and nitrogen. We refer to these as the Browns (Carbons) and the Greens (Nitrogens). These materials include:

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Browns: leaves, twigs, sawdust, ashes, straw and paper

Greens: food waste, grass clippings, fresh weeds, and manure

Breaking or cutting your ingredients into smaller pieces will help to speed up the composting process. Start your compost pile with a layer of browns, which will help air circulation, then keep layering! You will want about two to three times the amount of browns to the amount of greens for the best microbe activity!

The EPA has a helpful guide on starting and maintaining your compost, which you can view here: Composting at Home.

The Compost Foundation has an extensive, helpful resource page.

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