Composting 101

Turn kitchen scraps into garden gold

07/30/2013

Composting is the process of setting aside plants and food scraps and allowing them to break down into a dark, rich, soil-type substance. This organic material will naturally fertilize soil if placed in the ground near growing plants. Compost adds much-needed moisture, organisms and nutrients to soil and is nicknamed “black gold” by many gardeners.

Benefits of composting The benefits of composting are numerous. The obvious benefit is the addition of nutrient-rich organic material to your plants, resulting in healthy vegetation. Composting also helps reduce the amount of trash you place in a landfill. Instead of bagging yard waste, you can place it in your compost pile.

Before throwing away fruit and vegetable scraps like banana and cucumber peels, you can put them to good use by composting them. In addition, composting your own organic materials can save considerable expense. Commercial compost can be costly, and producing your own costs nothing and is healthier for plants.

 
What to include Any natural plant can be included in a compost pile, like grass clippings, leaves, flowers, and vegetable and fruit scraps. You can also add other food items such as coffee grounds and tea leaves. In addition to plants, some paper items can be incorporated. Shredded newspapers, coffee filters and brown grocery bags all work well in compost.

What to exclude While you may think all food items can go in your compost pile, there are many that cannot. Some food products will naturally attract vermin, such as meat, dairy and processed food. Cooking oil, bread and pasta may also attract unwanted visitors. Additionally, these processed items can cause your compost to develop a very unpleasant odor. Pesky weeds or diseased plants should also be avoided.

While it’s possible the compost may get hot enough to kill weed seedlings, there is always a chance the weeds will regerminate and spread.

Lastly, animal waste should be excluded from a compost pile. Even though bacteria may be killed during cold weather, there is still a chance some bacteria will survive, possibly making you sick via the vegetables you grow.

Getting started Compost can be started in virtually any home environment. Small compost buckets and containers are available for apartment dwellers who practice container gardening. Larger rotating compost containers are available for people who have more living space. Families who live in rural settings often just start a pile outside, which they constantly mix and add to their gardens.

Maintaining your compost To maintain the compost, simply turn the mixture occasionally. When it begins to look like a rich dirt, strain it through an old screen (or use as is) and apply around growing plants. Composting your unwanted kitchen scraps can be a convenient way to save money, nurture your plants and keep unnecessary waste out of landfills.

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