Looking for an Earth friendly way to fertilize your garden? Give composting a try! It combats food waste by keeping it out of landfills and waterways. It also creates healthy, nutrient-rich soil, which in turn improves the nutritional value of the food that grows in it. Benefits also include boosting plant immunity and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers in lawns and gardens.
Composting comes down to 4 main ingredients: air, moisture, carbon, and nitrogen. Carbon comes from dead leaves and branches, newspaper, and unbleached napkins. Nitrogen comes from fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds. Oxygen is encouraged with proper aeration, which requires turning the pile with a shovel or pitchfork, and moisture occurs naturally, but can also be added manually if necessary. When maintained in the appropriate combination, decomposition creates a rich, nutrient-dense humus perfect for gardening and feeding any plant life.
All these components are absolutely necessary to create a successful compost, with the addition of one more thing: bugs.
Creepy-crawlies are the unsung heroes of composting and gardening overall. Delicate ecosystems can make or break a harvest. Sustainable farms will encourage certain “pests” (ladybugs, spiders, and earwigs, for example) who serve a purpose, like mite control or ecosystem balance. For composting specifically, we rely heavily on our friend, the worm.
Worms will happily work through a well-fed compost pile, and turn our trash into the nutrient-dense humus we want, so we can in turn feed our plants. The circle of life in progress.
Does it sound a little complicated? It doesn’t have to be. There are some easy DIY methods you can use to compost at home. You’ll reduce your own waste and help out the environment.
What You’ll Need:
- Shaded place in yard
- Open-ended bin or fencing to place around your compost pile
- Spading or Gardening Fork
- Sealed metal container for kitchen scraps
What to Compost
- Grass clippings
- Raw fruits, veggies, egg shells*
- Coffee grounds, filters, tea bags
- Paper towels
What Can’t be Composted
- Man-made substances
What to Do
- Add carbons (i.e. newspapers) and nitrogens (grass clippings) in equal parts. Be sure to shred large pieces of newspaper and break up bigger sticks and branches. Dampen items (if they are dry at first) as you place them in the bin.
- Once things have started to decompose, continue to add more grass clippings, fruit & veggies. Try to bury food items under other composting items.
- Every time you add new material or once a week, aerate the pile buy turning it with the spading fork.
- When things have fully decomposed, you should have a rich, black humus perfect for use in home potted plants or gardens, or the lawn.
*The composting of citrus peels remains up for debate. The acidic leftovers won’t hurt the worms, contrary to popular belief, but the worms don’t seem to like them very much, so they don’t decompose well.
Tight on space? Composting in an apartment can be tough, but it’s totally possible, if you’re willing. Check out this handy infographic from Sustainable America for advice on composting indoors.
All things considered, composting is fantastic for the environment, and a relatively easy way to cut down on waste and keep our ecosystems thriving.