Dig into composting
Reduce waste, create a superior garden, increase clean air and it’s free L ea Hans o n
f you’re flirting with the idea of composting, it’s normal to be skeptical. Who wants a pile of rotting food in their yard or home? But, composting is more than that – much more. There are many great reasons to compost and the effects can be good for everyone. Waste reduction Integrating composting into your household is one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of waste you throw away. Additionally, fewer compostables in the landfills mean less landfill mass. Better fertilizer = superior garden When made from a wide variety of plant materials, compost provides a more comprehensive array of nutrients for growing plants than synthetic fertilizer or raw manure. Compost is also more nutrient dense than raw animal manure so it provides longer-lasting results. High-temperature composting can kill weed seeds, unwanted insects, and many types of disease-causing bacteria; all factors that lead to a healthier garden that needs less maintenance. Contribution to cleaner air Compost can help build soil carbon and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. This helps moderate the types of greenhouse gas that contribute to climate change. Plus, since composting reduces the amount of food that ends up in a landfill, it simultaneously reduces the amount of methane produced, which is also believed to contribute to global warming. It’s free Materials to make compost are usually free and in northern Colorado, always locally available. Food trimmings are clearly no additional cost, but other additives such as leaves, dead plants, water, and worms are also easy to obtain for
free. Growing more and better crops for less (or no) money is always a win. Getting started: easy steps While some choose to make composting a complex activity that needs daily attention, others have success with little day-to-day work. The first step is obtaining a suitable composting container. Outdoor retailers and local garden and landscape shops have multiple options. It’s also easy to make your own with leftover wood scraps. Once a location is chosen, begin your mixture. It’s important to have a balanced mix of green stuff and brown stuff. Green stuff is high in nitrogen and helps to activate the heat process; it includes food trimmings, coffee grounds, and grass cuttings. Brown stuff is high in carbon and serves as the “food” for your compost; it includes dead leaves, cardboard and cardboard tubes, and dead plants. In addition to green and brown stuff, your compost pile needs both air and water. Compost that isn’t well ventilated can smell bad, attract flies, and get slimy. Your compost needs to be about as damp as a wrung out sponge. You may need to add water. Once you’ve got a pile started, be sure to layer, mix, and/or stir. All of the ingredients (green stuff, brown stuff, air, water) need to interact with one another in order to be effective. Stirring and turning doesn’t need to occur any more often than a few times per month. What not to compost For hygiene and safety reasons, never compost meat, fish, oils and fats, feces, or cat litter. It is also wise to avoid composting bread, pasta, nuts, and seeds. The easiest rule may be to simply never compost cooked or prepared food. Harvesting your compost If all goes well, you will eventually find that you have a layer of good compost at
the bottom of your bin or pile after a few months. In Colorado, this may take up to a year due to the arid climate. When it looks more like dirt than scraps and no original additives are recognizable, it may be ready to harvest. Once everything is decomposed fully, it is ready to be spread on or dug into your garden beds.
Local resources for better composting Fort Collins www.fcgov.com/recycling/composting. php www.fcgov.com/recycling/worm_ exchange.php www.cleanairlawncarefortcollins.com/
Loveland www.cityofloveland.org/index.aspx? page=188 www.manta.com/c/mm71k3t/green-earth
Greeley/Eaton www.a1organics.com/ www.ilsr.org/rule/compost-amended-soil/ greeley-colorado/