Composting Basics – What and Why?

Compost is one of the easiest green techniques you can use, and composting is simple. 

There is renewed interest in  compost for many reasons, but improving your health through organic methods is a good reason to take a look at composting.  There are health benefits for you and your household that can come from using compost instead of chemicals.

Master gardeners newly 'green' will immediately recognize the benefits of compost, but even the beginning gardener can compost.  Compostng can take up a lot of space or very little, depending on your needs, no matter where you live. 

What is compost?  

Gardeners have been using compost for centuries. Composting is an efficient method of breaking down organic materials into an end product that is a soil-like material rich in stabilized carbon, the building block of all life.

Compost is usually considered a soil conditioner and not fertilizer.  It lacks the high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N, P, K) of fertilizers.  However, it does contain trace minerals that most fertilizers lack, as well as beneficial microbes.

Whatever is growing in your yard (aside from invasive exotic plants) and many kitchen scraps are potential compost and food for the microbes.   You can make compost in the city, suburbs and country.  All you need is a place to compost and compost elements. 

Why compost?

Household kitchens and landscapes generate a tremendous amount of solid waste.   Twenty percent of the solid waste placed in landfills consists of yard and garden wastes such as leaves and grass clippings. While no measure of how much landfill solid waste is generated by kitchen scraps, you will know by how many bags of garbage you reduce when you start to compost. 

In many homes compostnig can account for 20-50% less solid waste going to the landfill. So, what do you do with all those leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps?  There is a very simple solution.  Go green and compost it.

Because of the rapidly growing amount of solid waste, many states are banning yard wastes from landfills. And green minded people are always looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Composting takes care of a multitude of green goals 


compost binPut your yard waste and kitchen scraps in the top and, given a little time, compost comes out the bottom.

Photo Credit: traslapersiana/ Photobucket

Getting started with compost

Keeping a bucket on your counter is a good place to start with your compost efforts.  You can collect your vegetable and fruit scraps, old bread, and even uncoated paper such as newspaper. 

There are many styles of buckets, but a container made of sustainable materials, such as a Bamboo Kitchen Compost Pail or Stainless Steel Compost Crocks will provide years of use and keep your green goals in mind.  They even come with filters to keep the air in your home fresh.

Going green with compost is not only for people with big yards.  Apartment dwellers can benefit from composting with a technique called vermiculture.  This is composting with worms.  The worms do quick work on kitchen scraps and are clean, harmless and tireless workers.  One of the best vermiculture compost makers is the Worm Chalet, because the worms move up and down in search of new food sources. It works year round and will accomodate the scraps from a household of 2 - 5 people. 

Compost benefits

The greatest benefit of compost is that it returns organic material to the soil.  This improves soil water holding capacity and the physical properties of the soil.  Water retention reduces storm water runoff and keeps the rainwater for your own landscape on site reducing the need for irrigation.  It prevents erosion by slowing down the storm water runoff that drains into our lakes, rivers, and streams. Organic materials improve the health of your plants and they in turn help clean the air and conserve soil.

Composting reduces waste in landfills.  The EPA estimates that 25% of all waste in landfills is from household yards.   From an environmental standpoint, compost has been demonstrated to clean up (remediate) contaminated soils by microbial activity breaking down toxins.  Besides all these benefits, compost can save you time and money.  If you use compost, you need less fertilizer, water, time and energy.

Composting produces material for building soil. You can use compost in place of topsoil in gardens and to add volume to the soil you already have.  Compost amended soil grows healthy plants that then require less maintenance and pest control.  And what could be better than not having to haul bags of topsoil back from the hardware store or garden center?    

By composting yard waste and food scraps at home, you can 'grow' and improve your own soil, help protect the environment, save money at the same time.   

What a way to go green! - The Ultimate Garden Center


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