What is composting?
Composting takes place naturally when leaves fall from the trees to the ground. Microbes, minute living creatures in the soil, break down the leaves and organic matter. They produce humus which is rich in the nutrients that plants need for healthy growth. The home gardener can take advantage of this natural process by creating their own compost for use in the garden.
What are the benefits of composting?
Composting has many benefits for the gardener as well as for the environment:
• Disposes of home and garden waste naturally instead of filling the landfills
• Helps to improve soil structure
• Helps the soil hold moisture and improves air circulation
• Slowly releases essential plant nutrients into the soil
What materials could I use to compost?
• Generally two types of materials are needed.
• Dry or brown materials provide the microbes in the soil with the energy they need to break down organic waste.
• Autumn leaves
• Hay or straw
• Dead plants (no weeds or diseased plants)
• Fresh or green materials (provides nitrogen for decomposition)
• Kitchen waste (leftover fruits and vegetables)
• Grass clippings
• Fresh manure
• Green plant cuttings (no weeds)
• Trimmings from hedges
• Coffee grounds
What materials should I NOT compost?
• Human waste or feces
• Pet feces
• Diseased plants
• Noxious weeds
• Oily and fatty foods
• Meat and bones
• Treated wood
• Dairy products
• Dead animals
How do I make compost?
Step 1: Choose a large container to hold the compost. You can build one yourself or buy premade ones from your local garden centers. Place your container in a location that is near a water source, out of the way, and easy to access.
Step 2: Layer your compost materials making sure to get an equal mix of green and brown materials. Your compost will take longer to break down if a large amount of brown materials are added. Alternately, if you add an excess of green materials your compost will be slimy.
••••• Layer one: twigs, small sticks, hay or straw
••••• Layer two: thin layer of good quality garden soil or previously made compost (adds microbes)
••••• Layer three: brown layer (4–5")
••••• Layer four: green layer (4–5")
••••• Layer five: Add fresh manure, bone meal, blood meal, or alfalfa meal to add activating nitrogen and protein to the mix (4–5")
••••• Continue adding alternating layers of brown and green materials until your container is full.
••••• Wet each layer as you add it but do not drench the pile.
Step 3: Turn your pile.
• Move drier materials to center
• Break up large chunks of material
• Wet but do not over water any excessively dry materials.
Step 4: Make use of your compost for a beautiful garden!
Where Can I Learn More?
• Composting for Kids: www.sustainable.tamu.edu/slidesets/ kidscompost/kid1.html
• Compost-Info-Guide.com: The Best Compost Information on the Web! www.compost-info-guide.com/building_pile.htm
• Hanson, Beth, ed. 1997. Easy compost: the secret to great soil and spectacular plants, Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Brooklyn, New York, 1997.
• The Holden Arboretum: Horticultural Bulletin #18: holdenarb.org/resources/horticulture-bulletins.asp
• Roulac, John W. 1995. Backyard composting: your complete guide to recycling yard clipping. Harmonious Press: Ojai, California.
• US Environmental Protection Agency: Resource Conservation – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Composting at Home https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home