How and Why to Practice Composting


The Earth gives us everything we need to survive, from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the materials we use to build roofs over our heads. Even though we take, and take, and take, there’s an easy, one-word way to help you give back to the Earth: composting. 

 

WHAT IS COMPOSTING?

Composting is a method of re-purposing excess organic materials that would otherwise become waste. Composting keeps useful materials from filling up landfills and can bring a whole new dimension to a home garden. Adding organic waste to an oxygen-rich soil allows it to decompose naturally, and the nutrients from the waste can help your garden thrive. Creating your own compost at home takes a bit of work to get started, but once you’ve got it going you’ll wonder why you waited so long. 

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COMPOSTING?

  • Enriches soil – The organic materials you use in your compost may not be edible, but they are still packed with naturally occurring nutrients which can be absorbed by new plants and crops. Mixing compost with garden soil can also help retain moisture and help regulate pests and plant diseases.
  • No more chemical fertilizers – Because of the rich nutrients compost bring to bat, soil will have little to no need for additional synthetic fertilizers. This keeps chemical ingredients out of your soil, and out of the food you grow for your family! 
  • Reduces plastic waste — Ever throw away onion scraps or other foods, only to have them stink up your kitchen in under a day? Bad odors may have you changing out the garbage bag well before it is full, which produces more plastic waste. Save the extra trash bags by transferring your salvageable food waste to your compost pile. A properly kept compost pile will not smell rotten. 
  • Reduces your carbon footprint – The more waste that stays out of landfills, the better! Heaps of re-purposed materials decompose slowly in dumps and landfills, emitting huge amounts of carbon gas, such as methane, which can damage to the environment and pollute the air. Composting allows you to take your part of the waste out of this cycle and put it to good use in your own home instead. 

WHAT MATERIALS CAN I COMPOST?

There are two different categories of materials that make up a rich compost. You’ll want a bit of both in your pile! 

 

“Green” Compost

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Grass clippings 

“Brown” Compost

  • Dead leaves
  • Branches and twigs
  • Carboard
  • Sawdust
  • Hay and straw
  • Uncolored paper 
  • Fireplace ashes (from wood)

 

Do not compost any of the following materials, as they are likely to create foul odors or have harmful effects on your soil and garden plants: Dairy products; fats, grease, or other oils; animal products (meat, fish bones, egg whites and yolks); pet waste; plant material treated with pesticides. 

 

HOW TO COMPOST AT HOME 

  1. Choose your spot: Pick out a spot for your compost—it can be a small patch in your garden or a large five-gallon bucket. Select a dry, shady spot near a water source and add some soil. Starting on bare earth makes it a bit easier to introduce earthworms and other organisms that will help process the compost waste. 
  2. Add drainage: Lay a few inches of twigs or straw on your soil to provide some drainage and support to the initial addition of waste. 
  3. Establish your compost: Next, add compost waste in layers, alternating with green and brown compost piles (or moist and dry). Chop or break down your waste into smaller bits to accelerate breakdown. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers to prevent clumping. This lays the base of your compost. 
  4. Long-term additions: After the initial pile has been established, add additional materials as you collect them. When adding future fruits and vegetables scraps, burry them well under the existing compost.  Thoroughly mix in other green and brown materials instead of adding in layers. 
  5. Keep it moist: Keep compost moist by adding water regularly or exposing to rain, but be careful not to allow the pile to become soaked and sodden. Covering the pile or bin with a tarp may help retain moisture and prevent overwatering from rain, especially in the case of a close-bottomed compost bin.  
  6. Maintain by mixing: In addition to adding new waste, mix or turn the whole compost pile every few weeks. This will keep the compost aerated, evenly distribute moisture, and result in a more successful compost pile. You can also buy special “tumbling” compost bins at most garden supply stores designed to easily mix compost. 
  7. Add to your garden: After about 5 weeks to 2 months, your compost will be ready to mix into your garden soil. The standard recommendation for most gardens is about 1:3 ratio of compost to soil.

 

As you consistently compost, you can watch your garden grow and enjoy richer, healthier produce. Not only will you have the pride of putting home-grown food on the table, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that the food on your table was grow with environmentally conscientious means! Have you already started your compost, or are you just jumping in? Share your compost stories on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us, @doterraca. 

 


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