Composting is nature working as it should! Anything biodegradable will eventually break down, but the rate of decomposition depends on the conditions. Organic material compressed in a landfill may take tens or hundreds of years to decompose! Not only does this create greenhouse gas methane, it is a waste of our valuable resources.
Where to take Yard Trimmings
It is easy to start composting your kitchen scraps in your garden or vermicomposter, but what do you do with the big things like branches, wood waste, raked leaves, or grass clippings?
Many communities have curbside collection programs or drop-off sites for yard trimmings.
If you are landscaping, follow the principles of the US EPA’s GreenScapes Program. Greenscaping will save you money, reduce waste, conserve water and energy, and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
In compost, microorganisms break down organic materials. There are five necessary elements required for composting: food, water, oxygen, surface area and volume.
To build a pile, you should alternate between layers of green and brown materials. (Green materials include fruit and vegetable scraps, brown materials are things like leaves and brown grass) Each layer should be approximately two to six inches deep. Sprinkle the pile with water to obtain a proper moisture level. Next, throw a couple of shovels full of soil onto the pile. The soil will introduce soil organisms to your compost pile. If you want to, you can mix the pile after you have built it. Mixing every month or so is good practice to get into.
If you live in an apartment or work in an office where you do not have any yard space for a compost bin, you could try vermicomposting. Vermicomposting means composting with red wriggler worms. This type of composting can be done indoors.
Setting up a vermicompost is not too hard to do. All you need is a worm bin (it could be a plastic bin or wooden box with air holes punched in it). You should put a layer of bedding material, about a foot deep (such as newspaper, sawdust or mulched leaves) on the bottom of the worm box and keep the bedding material moist. You can then keep red wrigglers in your worm box. To feed your worms, set aside food wastes throughout the week and once or twice a week feed the worms.
What should I do if I would like to start a community composting program?
There are many steps to starting a community compost program, such as choosing a location for the pile, determining who will be responsible for maintaining the site, and how you will let residents in your community know about the site. You will want to be sure to begin by contacting the appropriate people in your community that can help you make those kinds of decisions.
Promoting home composting is a great addition to existing community composting programs and will help gain public support for new organics programs. A mindful composting community will be more likely to support a larger scale project and sort materials properly, leading to a decrease in contamination and an increase in participation.
What can you compost?
Here is a list of things you can compost11
Do not put these in your compost bin/pile12:
Give Food Residuals New Life
What is humus?
What happens after we put our organic material into the compost bin? After you have successfully set up your composting site, you can leave the micro organisms to break down these materials that you put into the bin. Humus is the end product of composting and is one of the richest soil amendments around. Applying compost on or in the soil adds organic matter rich in nutrients. Plants, grass, shrubs, flowers, and vegetable gardens will all benefit from compost's ability to improve soil quality and increase fertility.
You have to be careful not to use your humus on your garden until the breakdown process has finished. If you apply humus too early, it could cause stress to your plants. Your compost is finished when you can not recognize the original contents and the compost is not generating much heat. Finished compost will be dark with an earthy smell.
You can use humus to fertilize your garden rather than buying chemical fertilizers. You will be providing the plants with rich nutrients and can save yourself money. Your compost will not only reduce the amount of waste that reaches the landfill but it will improve your soils and your growing conditions.