A lot of people are aware of the benefits of recycling glass, plastic, newspaper, cardboard, and more. Most cities around the country offer its residents with two bins; one for trash that can’t be recycled and one for recyclables. Even with these two options, there is a big form of recycling that is rarely talked about: composting. Composting is nature’s form of recycling items that can decompose into earth. Composting will not only reduce household waste, but it also gives back to the Earth a little of what it gives to us.
If someone is an avid gardener, they probably already know about the wonder compost can do for plants. Compost is like nitrogenous oxide to a race car… it literately boosts plant growth and creates better soil. If I am speaking for myself; I am new to organic gardening and have recently within the past two months began to figure out the art of composting. At first, a person can be quite turned off when it comes to dealing with rotting food, dead plants, egg shells, table scraps, etc., (green or organic matter). I have to admit at first I was disgusted at the process. Then, I thought of how wonderful the end product would be: fresh, nutrient rich soil for my container garden. A lot of food waste, such as citrus peels and egg shells, are great for composting because it will add key minerals to the compost, (end product soil), such as nitrogen and calcium. (Oh, and by the way, did you know that citrus peels are also good to put around plants to ward off aphids? Can’t wait a few months for the compost to be ready to use for planting; crush egg shells and sprinkle around your plants for an extra boost of calcium!)
What if I didn’t garden?
Even if I didn’t garden, I would still compost because of how much better it is for the planet. Less waste is what every person on the planet should strive for, but rarely thinks about. The less waste that ends up in landfills, the better, and the better it is for the environment! Most people just recycle, if anything, but not that many people I know compost.
Why is that?
I have heard on numerous occasions the same excuses: It stinks. I don’t garden, so why would I? It’s a pain and too hard. I don’t have anywhere to put a compost pile. My family and I live in a duplex with a yard that isn’t ours, (we rent), and I compost. Let me tell everyone the good news… anyone can compost. Granted, there are some really nice compost bins, tumblers, and other merchandise that one can buy to make the process easier, but if someone is on a tight budget and has limited room, below is a five step process to making a compost bin, keeping up with it, and helping Mother Earth along the way.
- Buy a black storage container. This container can be as big or small as you would like, but I suggest going bigger rather than smaller, (I use a storage bin that comes with a lid). After purchasing this item, drill ½ inch holes in the top of the lid, as well as the sides. Do as many or as little as you like, you just have to make sure that air can get into the bin. The reason I say buy a black bin is because when it is sunny outside, black naturally attracts the sun, resulting in the internal temperature of the bin being hotter. There are a few things that decomposition needs: heat, air and moisture. The holes that you create allow air and moisture to get to the compost (by rain water), while the black bin will help draw in heat. I just find that giving the matter access to air, heat and moisture allows for a speedier decomposition process.
- Add a layer of earth and “brown matter” to get it started! The earth can be potting soil or soil from your lawn; just bring on the dirt! Other brown matter includes; cardboard, newspaper, (don’t add newspaper with the glossy ink), wood chips, grass clippings, fallen leaves, dead plants, pine cones, etc. Brown matter helps cut back on the smell of the decomposing green matter too!
- Add some organic “green” matter to the mix! This can be egg shells, food scraps, (citrus peels, cores, vegetable odds and ends, and not so much meat or dairy products), flowers, and more! You would not believe the amount of food waste that gets thrown away. Avocados get over ripe and go brown? Don’t throw it in the trash, compost those bad boys! By the way, every time you add green matter to the mix, add some brown matter. The brown matter keeps the stench away! Want a list of items you can compost, take a gander at thishandy list.
- Remember to mix it up a bit! Whether you turn, stir or shuffle your compost, make sure you do this often. I stir and shake my compost at least once per week to make sure things just don’t sit in the same spot and to get the air flowing.
- Wait for a few months, (or longer depending on how you are composting)! If kept at the right temperature, moist, and with the right airflow, you should be able to come up with nice soil within 4-6 months! Sometimes, it may take up to a year depending on how much or little you add to the compost.
Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, get out there and help the planet, as well as your garden, grow! It might be January, but it’s never too early to start planning your 2016 garden! Composting all year round is a great way to ensure that your compost is ready by the time you plant your garden.
**This article was also featured and published in Planting Seeds in South Carolina magazine. Besides following Elephant Mum, please check out the magazine’s site for more sustainable tips, tricks, and interviews!