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Guide to Easy Backyard Composting
The Benefits of Compost
Compost provides many benefits, both environmental and economic, which is why it's often referred to as black gold. Compost is a rich, beneficial form of fertilizer that you can make yourself by using waste from your kitchen and yard. You can spread compost as a fertilizer for your garden, flower beds, around trees, and even on top of your lawn.
Composting is nature’s way of recycling, by returning valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil to be used again. Using compost for your gardens saves you from having to purchase fertilizers, or it can be mixed in with bought fertilizers to reduce how much needs to be purchased. And because compost improves the drainage and moisture absorption of your soil, the ground will retain fertilizers or pesticides for longer periods. Plus you will not need to water as frequently, as compost can retain 100% of its weight in water. And further, if you pay for street-side garbage removal by volume, making your own compost can also save you money by reducing the amount of garbage you produce (for some households up to 33%).
Composting also helps reduce your carbon footprint. By not throwing away organic materials, it reduces the production of methane gas coming from garbage landfills. And from a carbon standpoint, methane is a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent at heat-trapping capacity than carbon dioxide. Organic material such as food, yard debris, and soiled paper can make up nearly 60% of what some households send to landfills.
A composting system can be easily set up in your yard. First, you will want to pick a good location. The best spot is where your composter will receive plenty of sunshine. A composter “cooks” the organic materials, so locating the pile in the sunshine will help speed up the composting process (helpful accessory: compost tumblers).
Once you determine a good location, you will need to determine what you are going to compost in. Although you can just create a compost pile, most people opt for a composting bin, which you can either build yourself or purchase ready-made. The minimum recommended size for an effective composter is 3’ x 3’ x 3’.
To achieve optimal results, it is important to learn what is best to include in your compost pile, and what is best to keep out. Following the right “recipe” will help your composter to avoid producing foul odors, and to produce quicker results.
One of the key principles of effective composting is maintaining the proper ratio between carbon (brown materials) and nitrogen (green materials) added to your composter. For best results, add browns and greens at a 30:1 ratio.
You should be careful to avoid adding pet waste or diseased plants from your garden, as these may contaminate your compost with diseases. Also avoid adding materials that may contain toxins, such as colored paper, synthetic chemicals or coal ash. You should also consider avoiding adding meat, bones, fish, fats or dairy items, as these can cause you to have a foul-smelling composter.
Once you’ve got your compost pile up and running it is fairly simple to maintain. The main maintenance task associated with a composter is turning or mixing the pile regularly (at least twice a month). This helps mix the contents to facilitate the “cooking” process, and also serves to aerate the pile. When turning the pile also check its moisture content, and if any part seems dry, add some water to the pile. Finally, try to shred the items that you add to the pile, and give big “meals” rather than small ones when you add material to your composter.
Done correctly, composting is good for the environment, your garden & lawn, and your wallet.
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