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Composting 101


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Composting 101

If your recycling game is on point and you are looking for additional ways to create a more eco-friendly home, composting is often the next logical step. There are several ways to start your compost with different set-ups such as a bin, a store-bought composter, or simply a pile located somewhere in your garden. If you are worried that a pile may become an eye sore, consider partitioning it off with fencing or placing it strategically behind the garage or other out building.

Depending on how much compostable material you create, a bin may be adequate to meet your needs. However, if you have a large yard that produces a lot of grass clippings and broken branches, a pile will be the likely set up for your household.Be sure to keep the area accessible as you will need to turn the compost pile to encourage the material to break down. A sunny spot is best, as the warmth helps to accelerate the process.

There are few items that must always be avoided in your composting as they may add harmful bacteria and also attract pests and vermin. One good rule of thumb is to keep your compost to plant matter only. Never add meat, bones, or other animal products such as dairy items. If the matter was once a plant then it is safe to throw into the pile. Egg shells and animal manure are the two exceptions to the no animal product rule. Other popular matter to add includes coffee grounds, leaves and weeds, and vegetable scraps.

Shredded newspaper and cardboard toilet paper cores are also compostable but do take longer to break down. Other items that do not break down as quickly as plant matter are twigs, fall leaves, and sawdust. By keeping your pile fully aerated and turning it on a regular basis you can avoid the “layering” process that many composting manuals recommend. Mixing easily disintegrating products with those that are less so may cause the process to take longer, but most gardeners are not looking for fast compost. If you are not concerned about the time it takes to reach final compost then feel free to simply add items to your compost as they are used in your household. The aeration and turning will keep everything moving forward nicely.

At the end of the process, you will be left with a material that is dark in color and looks like rich soil. This final product has a variety of uses from enriching garden beds to providing soil in container gardens.  Final compost can also be used to fortify new seedlings and help them to thrive. Once you get the hang of compostable materials and how to manage your compost pile or bin, the process becomes more straight forward. Composting is a great way to cut down on trash and fortify your lawn and gardens. If you are interested and want to learn more, check with your municipality as more and more communities are offering workshops on the composting process for their residents.