Backyard composting is a great way to turn food leftovers and yard trimmings into fertile soil. Vegetable and fruit scraps, paper and tea bags are among the items that composting microbes break down. Coffee grounds are also a great addition to the compost pile --- they benefit the composting process and contribute to nutrient-rich soil.
Making your own compost recycles waste and provides nourishment to your garden in an environmentally friendly way. Nevertheless, many gardeners who have never composted hesitate to try because of the prevailing myths about the process. Learn the facts about composting to determine if this gardening activity will work for you.
Applying manure directly to a garden is not the most efficient use of the nutrients it contains. Raw manure is volatile, releasing methane into the air and causing an unpleasant smell (see References 1). Combining the manure with a material high in carbon and allowing it to undergo aerobic decomposition stabilizes the nutrients and kills most pathogens (see References 2).
You may not think much of tossing vegetable scraps into the garbage can. After all, most kitchen waste is undeniably biodegradable. Yet food and yard waste take up as much as one-third of the country's landfill space and contributes to ozone-harming methane gas when collected in large quantities. Composting your vegetable scraps instead of throwing them away enables you to reduce how much garbage your household ...
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Small, portable garden boxes for composting allow the gardener to simultaneously create compost and nurture a specific area or plant as the compost develops. (See References 1) Compost boxes are attractive, simple to make and can be set next to a tree, flowerbed or vegetable plot, or on the site of a future garden. Minimalist boxes have wood frames, with or without hardware cloth bottoms, and should be made with non-pressure treated wood to avoid harmful chemicals leaching into the compost or the soil. (See References 3) Cedar and untreated pine are good lumber choices for frames that are naturally resistant to decay.
Compost piles are a bit like apple pies. Everyone seems to have the "perfect" recipe for creating them, yet in reality several variations exist that will yield good results. The two main types of traditional composting are termed active and passive, sometimes known more scientifically as aerobic and anaerobic composting. Active composting involves more labor, but gives you a faster result, while passive composting allows you to build a pile and forget about it for a year or two (see References 2).
Twenty-seven percent of the waste stream in the U.S. is food scraps and yard trimmings, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- things like vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, rotting leftovers, grass clippings and leaves (see References 2). Backyard composting helps reduce your household trash; if you have a garden, composting is an inexpensive way to recycle natural ingredients into an organic amendment for soil and plants (see References 3).
As the most cost-effective garden amendment around, compost improves soil texture and encourages garden-friendly visitors like earthworms and beneficial microorganisms (Reference 1). Gardeners can create rich, black compost by mixing leaves and hay with grass clippings and garden scraps, and turning the pile frequently. It can also be purchased from garden centers. Whether you buy it by the bag or make it by the barrel, how much compost you apply to your garden areas depends on the kind of garden you're developing, as well as the type of compost you're using.
Composting is possible and effective without a bin or holding container. Compost piles mounded on the ground will eventually break down with little to no maintenance (see References 1). Compost bins, however, offer a variety of advantages to the home composter. Many are simple to build and others can be purchased from garden suppliers or obtained from community programs encouraging backyard composting.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 25 percent of the municipal waste stream is biodegradable food and yard wastes (see References 3). Backyard composting is a budget-friendly way to recycle these materials in your garden, utilizing simple methods that require little attention or effort. Composting reduces your household trash and turns organic waste into a soil amendment that provides nutrients to your vegetable plot, lawn or flower garden. (See References 2)
Traditionally, organic gardeners produce compost by collecting ingredients rich in carbon and rich in nitrogen in a pile or container. By aerating and keeping the compost moist, soil microbes break it down into organic material. When you have an existing garden bed, or a plot of land you'd like to turn into a garden, you can use a composting method called sheet or lasagna composting -- not only to apply compost to the soil, but also to clear the area of weeds and minimize soil erosion. During sheet composting, you build the compost directly in the garden.
Composting makes excellent sense for most gardeners. Even the best soil needs constant improvement, and compost is a natural way to improve the soil. However, making compost takes time. During your first year or two of gardening, you might have little or no compost to work with. During that time, there are other ways to provide your garden with similar benefits.
Soil is made up of a combination of air, clay, silt, sand, water and organic materials. (See References 1, 2) By varying the amounts of organic and inorganic materials, you can change the composition of your garden soil from a heavy clay to a light, loamy mixture suitable for most garden plants. In addition to building up the garden's soil, using homemade compost and recycled foundry sand to make a planting mix is a sustainable alternative to home and industrial waste products. (See References 2, 3, 4)
Compost provides gardeners with a rich variety of benefits. Over time, it will incrementally increase a soil's fertility, but this isn't its primary virtue. Compost is more important as a soil amendment, adding organic matter to improve the soil's aeration. Compost helps sandy soils retain moisture and improves a clay soil's drainage. It also creates an active, diverse population of microorganisms that contribute to the health of soil and plants (see Reference 1, page 16-17; Reference 2). With such a range of benefits, it's not surprising that even gardeners who've never tried it before are interested in learning how to compost successfully.