Comprehending Composting

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of our garbage is composed of yard waste and food scraps. If we chose to repurpose this then we would not only reduce methane and greenhouse gas but create a valuable fertilizer. We’ve all heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, well in this case our trash can provide a healthy source of food for your garden. Anything that grows will eventually succumb to life’s cycle of decomposition. The simple process called “composting” speeds this process by providing bacteria, fungi and microorganisms a thriving environment created by our leftovers. The end result is a mixture which resembles soil called compost.

To create compost you will need three ingredients: browns, greens and water. Browns consist of things such as dead leaves or brown twigs. Grass, fruit and vegetable scraps and even coffee grounds would fall into the green category. Some other common ingredients you may want to add could be cardboard, cotton/wool rags, eggshells, fireplace ashes, hair, shredded newspaper, nut shells and tea bags. Material you will NOT want to include would be coal/charcoal ash, dairy products, diseased or insect infested plants, fats, grease, oils, meat and fish bones/scraps, pet waste or yard waste that has been treated with pesticides. All of these contain elements harmful to plants or attract pests.


In order to ensure maximum decomposition, you’ll need to have an even amount of browns and greens that are alternately layered according to size. Preferably, you will want to insert the materials into a bin around 3-5 feet in size and located in a dry shaded area. This is because microorganisms prefer an environment with constant conditions. Make sure to chop down larger sized items as well which speeds up decomposition. When your compost is established you can add grass clippings and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material. It’s recommended that you rotate or turn your pile at least once a week during summer or once every three to four weeks in the winter to help support an aerobic environment. Since moisture levels are incredibly important when it comes to composting, your pile will want to maintain the moisture close to that of a wrung-out sponge. Additional wet material can be added if the compost is too dry or browns when too wet.

Decomposition varies depending on the type and amount of material being used. Using compost that has not fully decomposed can damage your plants so it’s important to look out for these characteristics: A finished compost will be dark, crumbly and smooth without any recognizable scraps. It should have a rich earthy scent and the pile should be about one-third its original size. If it has all these qualities then it should be ready for use. Compost can be mixed into crop or garden beds, potted soil or used as mulch.