Composting in a Nutshell

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COMPOSTING in a nutshell

From banana peels, to egg shells, to coffee grounds, food scraps can really add up. When thrown in the garbage and disposed in landfills, these innocent-seeming scraps become major contributors to climate change. In fact, if all of our food scraps were combined, together they would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Fortunately, there’s an easy and satisfying way to harness the power of food scraps and return all of these vital nutrients to the land—composting! Composting feeds the soil instead of landfills and incinerators. Here’s everything you need to know to get started before the garbage collector comes! Creating your own compost is one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the carbon sequestration capacity of your land. Rather than sending your food scraps, yard trimmings and other organic materials to landfills, where they release methane and CO2 into the atmosphere, these items can be composted and later used as a nutrient-rich addition to your yard, school, or community garden. Applying compost provides nutrients to the soil, enhancing soil health and plant growth. Compost supports the development of beneficial bacteria and fungi that transform food scraps and other organic matter into complex, stable forms of soil carbon, including humus, which can store carbon for hundreds to thousands of years. So don’t delay, start your compost pile today!





containers A wide range of containers of various shapes and sizes can be used for your compost pile. The size and style of the container you select should suit your gardening needs and the amount of food scraps you produce. Stationary bins with sufficient ventilation are available for purchase or can be made from recycled wooden pallets or wire mesh crates. Tumblers and rotating bins, which make turning and aerating your pile easier, are another option. While these bins cut down on labor, their limited holding capacity makes them less functional for larger plots. No matter what type of container you choose, make sure it’s easily accessible, out of direct sunlight and has good air circulation.

For large spaces, a three pile composting system can help speed up decomposition and maintain a pile size that can be easily managed and rotated.




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use a th regular additions In order to keep the decomposition process going, it’s important to regularly add new material to your compost pile. While small daily additions work, adding in larger increments can produce more heat and increase the efficiency of breakdown.

turn and aerate! It’s very important to turn your pile with a pitchfork or aerator at least every two weeks to ensure that the materials are blending together and that oxygen, which is necessary for decomposition, is accessible throughout the pile.


the golden ratio Maintain a balance of “green” and “brown” materials in your compost pile. Microorganisms that facilitate decomposition require both nitrogen from the “green” items and carbon from the “brown” items.

contents green nitrogen-rich

brown carbon-rich

unsuitable for compost

vegetable and fruit scraps spoiled food egg shells grass clippings weeds coffee grounds pumpkins seaweed tea bags plant trimmings hair

dried leaves newspaper cardboard twigs wood chips sawdust straw

fish meat dairy pet waste items treated with pesticides diseased plants coal or ash glass metal plastic

It’s also very important to keep your compost pile moist. Compost should feel similar to a wrung-out sponge when squeezed. If your pile is too dry, add some more “green” or water it. If it’s looking too wet, add some more “brown” to the mix.

compost benefits C

O2 CO2

Enhances the supply of available nutrients in soil, leading to higher yields and improved plant health.

Increases the carbon sequestration potential of your garden.

Eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers or other synthetic additions, reducing harm to wildlife and the environment.

Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills, which decreases emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Helps suppress soil-borne plant diseases and pests.

Improves soil structure increasing its capacity to retain water and reduce erosion.

Supports beneficial bacteria and fungi that help break down organic material.

compost alternatives compost 2.0 Make “compost tea!” Add finished compost to water and let it “steep” for at least five days. After straining out the compost, you’ll be left with a nutrient-rich liquid that can be sprayed directly onto your plants for an added boost of nutrients and protection from disease! To increase the growth of beneficial microbes in your “tea,” add an aquarium air pump to circulate oxygen throughout the liquid.

lazy compost Coffee grounds are one of the best materials to compost because they are rich in nutrients and minerals and because their small particle size makes them immediately available to the microorganisms in the soil. Additionally, coffee grounds and tea leaves are odorless, making them great starting materials for those who are hesitant about composting. Coffee shops are often happy to give away the grounds. If you call ahead, they will set them aside for you rather than throw them out.

squirmy compost Another convenient and less labor intensive composting option is a worm bin. These bins rely on worms to break down food scraps and newspaper into vermicompost, which can then be applied to your garden. Red Wiggler worms are the best and can be ordered online! Given that vermicompost is more potent than regular compost, you can use less and still achieve the same great results!

tips for success If you can’t empty the bin during the week, try collecting food scraps in a large plastic container in your freezer throughout the week and compost the contents on the weekend.

A kitchen compost bin can make composting easier. Rather than taking a trip out to your pile after every meal, throw your scraps into the bin and add them to the pile when necessary. Look for one with a carbon filter or charcoal liner to keep fruit flies and unwanted smells at bay.

Apply compost to your garden several weeks before planting so that it has time to assimilate with the soil before plants are added.

Break up tough materials, such as corncobs or corrugated cardboard, into smaller pieces so that they decompose more efficiently.

Decomposition occurs most quickly between 120-160ËšF. While your pile will still decompose at lower temperatures, maintaining heat through regular additions and rotation will help to speed up the process. A compost thermometer can be used to monitor the temperature.

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