Sticking bits of old fruit and vegetables, wilted flowers, and old tea bags into the ground may sound a little sketchy and, well, gross. But fortunately, something called aerobic decomposition takes place, turning that gross idea into something nowhere near gross at all.
First of all, what is composting, or aerobic decomposition? – It’s organic matter (things that were once living) being broken down into nutrients by beneficial bacteria and fungi. Once the process is complete, the old organic material will look dark, dry, and slightly crumbly. It is then ready to be spread over your garden or flower pots to leach its nutrients back into the soil!
Second of all, why should we do it? It has a many benefits, not just to your garden, but to the environment and your wallet as well!
Your garden appreciates the extra amount of biological activity that compost adds. The bacteria help maintain the nutrient cycle in the soil and fungi, called mycorrhiza fungi creates connection between plants to aide in nutrient exchange and even will create a network that allow plants to communicate with each other!
Composting is also very environmentally friendly. Did you know that residential waste is only 18% actual trash, while 42% is recyclable material and the other 40% is compostable, organic material?! By composting, you are reducing your carbon footprint. If the organic materials continued to go to landfills, they would decompose anaerobically (or without oxygen). This process produces methane which is 21x more harmful to our atmosphere than CO2 is! A properly maintained compost pile that you can make at home produces no methane!
While saving the green planet, you can also save some green in your wallet! Since compost helps keep moisture in, you can reduce the amount that you have to water your plants. By composting, you also don’t need to buy fertilizer for your garden as compost slowly releases nutrients that keep plants healthy.
Finally, now that everyone’s on board how do you do it? The easiest way is to start a pile of mixed greens (vegetation – rich in nitrogen) and browns (dead leaves – rich in carbon). Turn the pile and mix it up by using a garden spade or hoe three or so days. This rotation of material will allow oxygen into the system, preventing the pile from smelling awful. In a few weeks, the pile will turn to the dark matter. This signifies that it’s ready for use! Another way is to separate the steps into separate bins to better keep track of the process. One bin can be used for raw material that gets turned once a week or so, one for material that gets turned on a frequent basis to be put into the next bin once it’s ready to be used.
Not everything should go into your compost bin. Try to avoid manure, diseased plants, sawdust from treated wood, seed bearing weeds, ashes, animal matter (grease, bones, fat), and dairy products. Other organic matter such as vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, tea bags, dried grasses, straw, woody clippings, shredded cardboard, dried leaves, pine needles, and wilted flowers can be added.
By composting you are returning organic matter that you have used to the ground and realizing that everything has a place in nature.
Need some more advice on how to actually build a bin, or where to purchase one? Check out some of these links for more information!