Keep It Out Of The Landfill: Compost!
Everyone eats and so everyone has garbage but not all garbage has to go to the landfill. It is estimated that ⅓ of all material that ends in the landfill is actually compostable organic matter. Compostable, organic matter can be broken down to create a rich, nutrient rich addition to our soil that creates healthy, robust vegetable & ornamental plants, as well as, turfgrass. Organic matter includes items from our kitchens, yards and gardens.
So, we would all like to reduce what goes to the landfill, but how do we do that? Let’s begin by finding a space in the yard, apartment or office building to compost your material. An outdoor area is ideal to build a compost system or place a compost bin. A three or four tier system works well for moving compost during the different stages of decomposition. If you do not have access to an outdoor space, you can use a plastic bin to compost your kitchen scraps and by adding worms, the materials will have some assistance in breaking down. Small crocks can be purchased to keep on the kitchen counter or food scrap collectors are available to be stored in the freezer if you don’t have the opportunity to empty it regularly. Once your kitchen container is ready to be emptied, you can add the food scraps to the beginning decomposition bin at the compost system. This system can be made out of wood and wire netting or plastic bins can be purchased at your local garden center.
Once your compost system is in place, organic matter can be added in the form of carbon and nitrogen. A proper ratio is 25 to 30 carbon to 1 nitrogen or approximately two parts “green” & one part “brown” (if using this, make sure the browns are packed in or shredded). An example would be a five gallon bucket of packed, shredded leaves to one five gallon bucket of loose kitchen scraps and one five gallon bucket of grass clippings.
Do we just add the organic matter and leave it? No! Even though microorganisms & insects are the driving force in decomposition, a little gardener help in the form of providing an aerobic environment & proper moisture content are necessary on our end to speed up the process and keep even more organic material out of the landfill. Every gardener can make their own compost by:
– Supplying the proper ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen, 25-30:1 so the little microbes can eat the way they prefer so they can be most beneficial
– Keeping the compost moist but not soggy to provide optimal conditions for bacteria, fungi and invertebrates to thrive
– Turning the compost pile weekly will allow air to benefit the microbes
– Keeping the pH between 5.5-8
– Not adding meat, oil, domestic animal waste or trash to the compost
– Allowing the compost to reach 140 degrees F will kill weed seeds and pathogens
Within a few months, a dark, rich compost will be ready to add to your garden beds, sprinkled around trees and shrubs or sprinkled on your lawn. Compost will add structure to garden soil allowing for proper water retention, provide important nutrients & help fight soil borne pathogens that can harm your plants. Join your local community garden and begin composting with your neighbors.