Happy Earth Day!
There are many different ways we can celebrate Earth Day and many ways to be sustainable. Composting is one of them!
Don’t underestimate the power of compost’s ability to reverse climate change. 30-40% of what goes into landfills can be composted. Compost converts organic waste into soil carbon, storing it in the soil instead of releasing it into the air.
Organic waste that ends up in a landfill creates methane gas which is bad for our environment. Instead, through composting, organic waste can go back into the earth to create nutrient dense soil that creates healthy, disease resistant plants. This can reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
Composting can be done in a variety of ways. Here are five easy steps to home composting:
1. Locate a spot in your yard that has some shade and is convenient for you to access.
Remember to consider bad weather. It should also be close to a water source.
Depending on where you would like to put your compost, there are a number of different options. There are stealth options which fit nicely tucked into corners or there are open composters that you can create from old pallets or chicken wire.
What is the look you are going for? Do you want to have finished compost to use or are you just looking to divert your food scraps?
No yard? No problem. A compost tumbler, preferably one with two chambers, is a great option. With the right mix of browns and greens, the correct moisture content and turning it every 3-5 days, it will create finished compost quicker than the other options.
2. Adding your food scraps…and browns!
Most people only put food scraps into their compost pile. It will break down; however, it may smell in the meantime and will not give you a finished product that you are looking for.
The recipe is three browns to one green.
Browns (carbon) are leaves, cardboard cut into small pieces (think pizza boxes!), paper towels and rolls, napkins, coffee filters, tea bags and any non-coated cardboard.
Greens (nitrogen) are kitchen food scraps, nuts, eggshells (washed and preferably cut into pieces), coffee grounds and grass clippings. Caution – adding too many grass clippings will lead to a smelly pile. Do not include meat, bones or dairy.
Tip: Keep a small container on your countertop or under your sink for your food scraps and take it out to your compost pile every day or every other day. You can also keep a 5-gallon bucket outside your kitchen door to empty the scraps into and then add to the compost pile once a week.
You want to add your browns and greens at the same time. Make sure to add three times the amount of browns on top of your food scraps.
3. Turn your pile.
A pitchfork is an excellent tool for doing this. Turning your pile will bring oxygen into the compost pile which is what is needed to break down the components. A tumbler can be turned every three to five days and other compost piles about once a week.
4. Water your pile.
It’s helpful to have the compost pile located near a water source. The compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Get your hands in there – squeeze it and pick it up to feel the moisture content. Add water as needed. It will help the microorganisms do their job.
5. The last step is to use your finished compost in your garden.
How will you know if it’s ready to go? There are two easy ways to tell.
First, put a little bit of compost into a baggie, seal it up and put it on a windowsill for three days. Then open it up and smell it. If it has an ammonia smell to it, it is not finished yet.
The other way to tell if compost is ready is a germination test. Plant some seeds into the compost and if 3/4 or more of the seeds germinate then the compost is ready to go.
International Compost Awareness week is May 2-8th.