What is Compost?
Composting is nature’s own recycling system. It happens with or without human intervention. Leaves, grass, and food waste provide food for nature’s recyclers - bacteria, worms, fungi, and other microorganisms. These organisms feed on the organic material, breaking them down, and turning them into a dark, nutrient-rich organic product called compost.
Why is Composting Important?
- Reduces food waste
- Reduces greenhouse gasses
- Protects the environment
- Increases water retention in soil
- Is a natural way to feed plants
- Reduces useable material sent to landfills
- Helps create stronger plants and soil
- Decreases soil erosion
- Creates jobs
Composting is simple, with just a few basics to learn. Nature takes care of most of the hard work! If you have a garden, you will find composting to be a valuable source of quality fertilizer for your plants and lawn. Composting provides an opportunity to turn what would otherwise be thrown into the trash into an environmentally friendly and useful product.
There are many composting options, all of which excel at the same task of breaking down organic material into a rich soil amendment. Composting can be accomplished with a variety of methods, including:
- Bins - Bins are often preferred in urban settings because they keep compost neat and tucked away while providing heat and moisture retention. You can purchase a compost bin or make your own using materials such as garbage cans, pallets, totes, or many other items you have lying around the home.
- Piles - Piles are generally easier to access and maintain if you have the space for them.
- Pits or Trenchs - Pits or trenches are a method for composting underground. Note- this process will take longer to make finished compost.
- Tumblers - Compost tumblers overcome some maintenance challenges of bins, but don’t have the benefit of keeping your compost in contact with the ground, a source of useful organisms vital in decomposition.
- Vermiculture - Vermiculture is a method of composting using worms to break down the material.
Adding Organic Material
Compost materials are often categorized as either ’greens’ which provide Nitrogen or ’browns’ which provide Carbon. They are also known as wet and dry materials, respectively. Food scraps, green plants, lawn clippings, and tea bags are all examples of ’greens’; while leaves, straw, and twigs are examples of ’browns’. Manure from herbivorous animals, such as rabbits and chickens is another great source of nitrogen. Adding it to your compost pile can jump-start the process and heat up the pile during the cold months.
Standard ratios of 1 part green to 2 parts brown (by volume) give the best results and the quickest decomposition. These numbers can be visually approximated.