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What is Composting? Composting is a method of treating solid waste by using microorganisms ability to break material down. The broken down material can be reapplied to the environment – “brown gold” is like natural fertilizer that your plants will LOVE!
Why Compost? Americans generate about 210 million tons of trash each year! Most of that (about 57%) is dumped in landfills. Another 27% is recycled – think paper, plastic, glass and metals What about the rest?
How do you set up a Compost bin? Good composting creates an ideal environment for microorganisms to break down or cause decay in organic matter Air Water soil (or another source of microorganisms) Organic waste – newspaper, leaves, grass, kitchen waste, woody shrubs, etc.
How do the Microorganisms work? Microorganisms consume the organic waste and break it down into simple parts This creates humus No, not the stuff you eat. Humus is the dark brown or black layer that contains the broken down organic matter PLUS inorganic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
You mean there’s a food-web in there??? A compost pile is actually a complex organization of living things. Bacteria and fungi break down the organic matter – single celled protozoa, small worms and mites feed on the bacteria and fungi – predatory invertebrates (millipedes, beetles, etc.) feed on the protozoa, mites and worms.
Choose a Site Make sure your compost pile is discretely away from your house, but not so far that you don’t use it or help to maintain it! Other things to consider: Can your neighbors see your compost pile? Downwind – even good piles smell at times Sunlight – too much dries it out, but some will help to warm the pile Drainage – good drainage is key to keeping the pile from becoming water logged Base – bare earth is better than concrete
Choose a Structure Depends on your yard and how active you’re going to be in your composting process Make sure the structure is ventilated to allow more oxygen to reach your microorganisms
Add Ingredients Kitchen Waste Fruit and vegetable wastes - peels, skins, seeds, leaves Egg shells Coffee grounds (including paper filters), tea bags, used paper napkins Corncobs - should be shredded to make them break down quickly Yard Waste Grass clippings - Some grass is okay, but too much will add excess nitrogen to the compost pile and make it smell bad. It may be best to use a mulching lawn mower for your grass. Leaves Pine needles Weeds Woody materials (branches, twigs) Straw or hay Other stuff: Newspapers, sawdust & sea weed (just in case you have some around the house)
DO NOT ADD THESE: Human waste or pet litter - They carry diseases and parasites, as well as cause an unpleasant odor. Diseased garden plants - They can infect the compost pile and influence the finished product. Invasive weeds - Spores and seeds of invasive weeds (buttercups, morning glory, quack grass) can survive the decomposition process and spread to your desired plants when you use the finished compost. Charcoal ashes - They are toxic to the soil microorganisms. Glossy paper - The inks are toxic to the soil microorganisms. Pesticide-treated plant material - These are harmful to the compost food-web organisms, and pesticides may survive into the finished compost.
Care and Feeding Turning the compost frequently allows the microorganisms to get adequate oxygen Finished compost settles to the bottom because of it’s small size When is it done? Finished compost does not smell bad – it smells like earth or peat moss It is warm – the microorganisms release heat as they break down the organic matter Gas bubbles are ok – it’s just CO2 being released from the microorganisms
Benefits: Improve the soil structure in your garden or yard Increase the activity of soil microbes Enhance the nutrients of your soil Improve the chemistry of your soil, particularly the degree of acidity (pH) Insulate the changes in soil temperature around plants and trees Improve insect/disease resistance in your garden plants and trees Decrease the amount of waste you send off to a landfill!!!