Any vegetable garden or flower bed can be nourished with compost. A compost bin or even a simple compost pile is an excellent way to recycle nutrients and reduce the amount of waste entering into the solid waste system. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans produced about 250 million tons of trash during 2006, the year the study was conducted. Essentially, that equates to 4.5 pounds per day per person production of trash. It is estimated that up to a half of that amount is compostable.
Composting is the process of breaking down organic waste by microbial digestion to create compost. The resulting compost is terrific for fertilizing and improving soil health. A functioning compost bin requires heat, water, and oxygen for organic matter to be broken down into compost.
Many household refuse items are organic material and they don’t come from the kitchen alone. Compostable household items include the “green items”: Fruits, coffee grounds and filter/tea bags, egg shells, grass clippings, weeds (dry out weeds before adding to compost), and veggies. Compostable “brown items” include: Dead leaves, wood chips/bark/mulch/old top soil. Other good items to compost that are lesser known include: Dryer lint, pine needles, shredded newspaper, saw dust, nut shells, fire place ashes, house plants, and pet fur.
There are household items that should not be composted and disposed of in the trash instead and they include: pet waste, meats/ bones, dairy products, fats/oils/grease/lard, charcoal, and anything treated with pesticides.
Compost bins come in many shapes and sizes and a search on Pinterest or YouTube for how to build a compost bin will yield many results.
Compost bins and piles require just a little help to turn out nutrient rich compost.
- A general rule is to keep the green and brown items about even.
- The composting material should be kept damp.
- Mix/Aerate the compost enough to prevent it from becoming compacted
The compost can be added to vegetable gardens anytime. Mixing the compost with soil before planting this spring will aid the garden for the rest of the growing season. Compost can be added to the surface of flower beds before mulching by spreading evenly before perennials start to bloom.
Composting can help improve soil health and reduce the amount of waste entering landfills.
For more local information or to see two varieties of compost bins - go to the Cuyahoga Solid Waste District's compost page for more information and to find out about their compost workshops.