Composting tips - Green living information & advice for a greener lifestyle

green housewife - a helpful guide to living greener
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Composting - A Great Way to Help Save the Environment

Composting is a microbial process that converts plant materials such as grass clippings and leaves to a more usable organic soil amendment or mulch. Gardeners have used compost for centuries to increase soil organic matter, improve soil physical properties, and supply some of the essential nutrients for plant growth. Mulching refers to the practice of applying a layer of materials such as compost, leaves, or grass clippings to the soil surface in order to modify soil temperature and moisture as well as control weeds and soil erosion.

Because many communities ban outdoor burning and have laws that prohibit dumping of leaves and grass clippings into landfills, composting and mulching have become attractive ways to manage yard waste and recycle natural materials. Grass clippings and leaves can be hauled to city composting areas as one means of disposal. However, many homeowners may find it more convenient and economical to compost these materials in their own backyards. In either case, the finished compost can be used as a mulch or as a soil amendment to improve most garden soils. The information in this bulletin will help you learn how to build and maintain a compost pile as well as how to use the compost in the yard and garden.

Trash is a major environmental problem in the United States. The landfills where we store our trash are overflowing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find space for new landfills. Today organic materials, like waste from our yards and kitchens, take up almost 1/3 of landfill capacity. That organic matter is just begging to be composted and reused – and that’s where you can take some action.
You can do it in any backyard or small space. Composters today are compact and clean. You simply collect your food scraps and put your yard & plant clippings in the compost bin. The composter will decompose the matter and you’ll get nutrient-rich mulch that you can use for potting or to spread among plants.

Almost any organic material is suitable for composting. The pile needs a good mix of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens”. “Browns” are primarily yard wastes, like dried leaves, tree clippings, or wood chips. “Greens” are grass clippings and kitchen scraps, like melon rinds, lettuce, etc. Getting the best mix of greens and browns is depends on the composter model you use.

Starting a compost heap in your back yard is a great way to help save the environment. Organic materials are broken down naturally by bacteria and fungi. Composting speeds up this process by providing an optimum environment for the transportation of organic wastes to the nutrient-rich end-product: humus. The whole process takes anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the composition of the pile. Composts add moisture and nutrients to your soil and improve soil structure so you will have a healthy and productive garden.

You can start your compost in a heap in the corner of your yard in a well drained spot. You can also buy a compost bin or make a wooden box for the compost. Just remember to leave space between the slats of wood for air circulation. Alternate layers of garden waste and food scraps with a thin layer of soil. Keep it moist and stir up the compost every 1 to 3 weeks with a shovel.

The smaller the pieces of food and yard waste the faster it will decompose. Composting slows down in winter, but you can continue to add organic materials. It’s fine if your heap freezes, but if you want your heap to continue decomposing throughout the winter, add an insulating layer of plastic over the heap.

Use for Composting:

In general, yard wastes and organic foods are good: grass clippings (if not recently treated with chemicals), dead leaves, shredded twigs and branches, weeds (avoid the seeds), flower cuttings, pruned material, all fruits, vegetables, grains, egg shells, baked goods, tea bags, coffee grounds, manure, hay and straw, even human hair and nails.

Do Not Use for Composting:

Roots of hardy weeds, dog or cat feces, diseased plants, meat, poultry, fish, fat or oil, dairy products, bones, highly fatty foods such as salad dressing, paper wastes, large amounts of wood ash and any toxic materials such as household cleaners. Also, meat and pet waste are not proper for composting as they may contain bacteria & could attract pests.