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Composting

The purposeful biodegradation of organic matter, such as yard and food waste.

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Composting at home may be easier than you think

  • Feb 17, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+5

Composting is the storing of organic materials over time resulting is a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer or mulch which some call "black gold". This fertilizer is created by organisms which breakdown the organic materials that are put into the compost bin together. Composting is easy and fun and even kids can get involved in composting.  I've been composting for years and I really enjoy it. 

So, how do you about composting?  Well, let's get dirty. First, let's look at the compost bin itself. Compost bins are usually made from blocks, wire or wood.

sample compost bin

Your compost bin should be put in a convenient and shady area and good drainage is important. Your compost pile should be at least 3 feet square and 4 feet high to generate the heat needed by the composting organisms.

These composting organisms are living so they need a balanced diet. This diet should be the mixture of water, air and green and brown ingredients.

The high-nitrogen green ingredients include: food wastes (fruits and vegetables, tea bags, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc.), grass clippings, weeds and hay.

green material for compost - food dandelions are good for something

The high-carbon brown ingredients include: autumn leaves, corn stalks, pine needles, paper items (napkins, towels, bags, plates, tissue, newspaper and coffee filters), saw dust and straw.

all leaves are good read the newspaper first

You should start your pile with coarse material, like twigs or straw, to build in air passages. You then add a few inches of alternating layers of green and brown ingredients. Add a little amount of water after each layer. You can use a shovel or pitchfork to add the materials. You can use your hands, but make sure you are wearing gloves. Whenever you add ingredients to your compost pile you need to "mix" your ingredients into the rest of the pile. It is best to use a hoe, pitchfork or a shovel to do this properly.

 
Troubleshooting your compost pile:

  • If the center of the pile is dry you need to add water and mix the pile.
  • If the compost is wet and warm only in the middle the pile may be too small. Add more material and mix the pile.
  • If the compost pile has a bad odor it is not getting enough air. Mix the compost and add more dry material if the pile is too wet
  • If the compost pile is wet and sweet-smelling, but it still will not heat up the pile needs more nitrogen. Add grass clippings, food waste or coffee grounds.


Composting is a cheap and easy way to create your own fantastic fertilizer or mulch and it's totally natural. So instead of throwing out your food you can put some of it to good use. This will save some space in landfills. You also can save money not having to pay for fertilizer or mulch and save time by just putting some of your grass clippings and leaves into your compost bin.  Composting is a great eco-friendly project for the entire family.

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October 22, 2011
These sound like great gardening tips.
 
March 02, 2010
Another excellent gardening guide. I spent a good chunk of my weekend digging out my compost. Inevitably had to remove a variety of avocado stones, mango stones and the occassional wine cork that really ain't going to break down any time soon. Also removed the so-called biodegradable "plastic" that's been introduced recently for some food packaging. I think it's made of corn or something, but it doesn't seem to want to break down. Maybe it needs sun? You encountered that stuff? (As a side note: here in the UK, many local councils have good offers for plastic compost bins - which can be a good option for smaller, urban gardens. I've got 3 now, tucked in by a hedge, shielded from view by a forsythia and elder tree.)
March 02, 2010
Yep, the biodegradable "plastic" seems to decompose when it's exposed to a lot of sun over a period of time. It wouldn't be great to put into compost bins. Cleaning out composting bins isn't too much fun, but it needs to be done occasionally to restart the decomposing process and to prevent compost stink That's cool having 3 compost bins. Keep up the good work..
 
February 18, 2010
Very informative write up. Here in San Francisco, it is mandatory to compost aside from recycling...we have three bins that deal with trash. This is really great information to have. Thanks!
March 02, 2010
Here in Louisville it isn't mandatory to compost or recycle. Many in rural areas here don't have regular recycling pickup. Recycling and composting are easy habits to get into, but for those without that pickup it can be out-of-sight-out-of-mind. Kudos to San Francisco.
 
February 18, 2010
Do you have any experience with composting indoors? Even for city dwellers? I would love to know more about that. I live in a townhouse and can't have compost outside because of our strict condo association. Thanks for the great outline on outdoor composting though!
February 18, 2010
I don't have any personal experience with indoor composting, but I have seen it done on some programs. Two possibilities for indoor composting are kitchen composters and worm composters. Kitchen composters, such as http://tinyurl.com/cuykf6, can be found in many stores. Gaining popularity these days are worm composting bins. http://www.nyccompost.org/how/wormbin.html describes how to make your own indoor worm composting bin. I hope this helps. Come to think of it, I would like to try the worm composting bin, but I don't think my wife likes worms. Oh well.
February 18, 2010
Thanks! That is very helpful :) My blog readers have been asking me about this so I might do some more research and write a post about it. Thank you for the links!
 
February 17, 2010
Thanks for this guide, Clay!  I wish I had a garden so that I could take advantage of this.  Someday :)  I'll have to point @jyaanga to this review.  She wrote a review about a composting class a while back, and your review might be the nudge she needs to get started!
March 02, 2010
Good luck with your future garden. You can sit outside with your Grape-Nuts while watching your veggies grow.
 
1
More Composting reviews
Quick Tip by . February 24, 2011
posted in Sustainablog
Caption
Got leftover wine? Yeah, I know, it's a rarity here, too... but when you do, pour it into your compost bin, pile, or other receptacle... it works as a compost starter.
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
I remember composting before it was 'in'
About the reviewer
Clay Miller ()
Ranked #51
Graphic designer/illustrator and owner of Miller Creative Designs, LLC who on Lunch.com likes to shareinsight on Greenand health insight, ideas and other tidbits.Creator/writer of Ways2GoGreen .com& … more
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Wiki

Composting is the purposeful biodegradation  of organic matter, such as yard and food waste. The decomposition  is performed by micro-organisms, mostly bacteria, but also yeasts and fungi.  In low temperature phases a number of macro-organisms, such as springtails, ants, nematodes, isopods and red wigglers  also contribute to the process, as well as soldier fly, fruit flies and fungus gnats. There are a wide range of organisms in the decomposer community.

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