Going Green at Home: Composting 101

A Guest Post Written By: Jane Blanchard

Brown Shovel

Composting is an excellent way to enrich your garden and convert waste into a beneficial product for the home. Turning kitchen scraps and plant matter into rich soil can save money as well. Wondering how to get started? Read on.

Properly activate compost

Without a good “starter,” compost cannot effectively begin decomposing. Compost is a series of chemical processes that break down organic matter into enriching soil. Activating materials are placed in the compost bin or pile to start this process quickly. Common activation materials include grass clippings or manure.

Brew a compost tea

Compost tea is a popular way to extract the nutrients out of leftover compost materials. The tea is made of compressed leaves and other organic material that sit in water to decompose in a contained space. The water is strained off and used around the garden to provide nutrients upon contact or in the roots. Compost tea is a fast acting amendment that helps during heavy droughts or with root-hungry plants.

Balance your greens with browns

Compost consists of several layers of organic materials that are either carbon or nitrogen based. This balance between nitrogen and carbon is what feeds the bacteria responsible for composting. Green organic material such as grass and vegetable matter is an important part of the equation. Garden plants count as a green material. However, the plants should be disease free. Straw and wood ash makes some of the best carbon materials to place on top of your nitrogen rich greens. The appropriate layers should include a start with green nitrogen-based material followed by layers of brown carbon materials such as straw and newspaper. The layer is then repeated. Twigs and straw should be layered first to compress efficiently.

 Not everything can be composted

Avoid using animal products such as meats and bread. They both attract pests and harmful bacteria into the compost waste. Dairy products also fall into this category. Surprisingly, cooking oil and bread are also negative products for the compost pile. Cooking oil changes the moisture content of the compost and rice can encourage harmful bacteria growth. Be sure to use uncoated newspaper to avoid chemical infiltration in your compost bin as well. A good screening before throwing kitchen scraps into the pile will go a long way in producing excellent soil.

Keep a balance between wet and dry

Believe it or not, the most critical part of proper composting is making sure the material is wet but not too wet. Carbon layers full of straw and dried leaves should be thoroughly wet before placing the next nitrogen layer on top. However, it’s important to ensure that the layer isn’t so wet that it encourages rot. Turning on a regular basis will encourage the moisture to infiltrate all layers for even decomposition. Turning aerates the pile and should be done every few weeks. Carbon rich matter requires more water than nitrogen matter. Turning and light watering will provide even moisture.

Composting is a great way to help out the environment, and it’s one of the easiest and best things you can do at home to be more green. Once you have your compost pile going, you’ve got some serious bragging rights.

For more green living ideas as well as other home tips and inspiration check out Modernize.com!

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