Creating compost from your yard and kitchen waste makes sense from an environmental and economic standpoint. Composting helps create rich fertile soil for gardening, it feeds plants, retains moisture, makes weeding easier, helps distribute fertilizer, provides micronutrients and promotes biological activity in the soil.
Composting is also a great way to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. Almost 20% of the materials hauled off to landfills each year could easily be used for compost. Mature compost is a stable material produced by the accelerated decomposition of organic wastes such as leaves, vegetables, fruits, plants and weeds. Almost anyone can generate top-quality composted soil quickly and easily in their own backyard.
Benefits of Composting:
• Reduces household waste
• Enhances soil for gardening
• Encourages healthy biological activity
• Decreases the amount of landfill waste
Composting is an easy and convenient way to dispose of leaves, grass clippings
and other yard waste. Just pile up your organic materials and let them break
down. The best composting process is one that caters to the needs of the
However, you should choose the option that best fits your lifestyle based on the amount of waste material you generate and how long you are willing to wait for the finished product. There are three basic methods used for composting:
The basic design for a compost bin is a box with air slits on the side, but bins made of wire mesh also work well, as do cinder block designs. Bins are a good choice because they provide protection from animals like rats, mice, and raccoons. They keep the compost area tidy and contained; and they allow for higher heaping, which helps increase heat by insulating the core of the pile.
Bins should be designed so that you can easily access the pile to turn and easily remove the final product. If you decide to go the bin route, build two and place them side by side. This will allow you to establish one bin and get it to the cooling/maturation stage, then start the second one.
Building a compost heap is probably the easiest method of composting. Just dump your clippings and kitchen scraps into an out-of-the-way spot downwind of your home and let nature take its course. This method takes longer and is less sterile than the bin method due to the lack of enclosure. Heap composting works best if you don't generate that much waste and have plenty of time to wait.
Tumblers are the cleanest way to compost, and are the best choice if you are limited in backyard space. They are compact, and look very similar to a concrete mixer. Tumblers are easy to operate, pest resistant, and produce high-grade compost in less time than traditional bins.
The downside to using tumblers is that they can't handle that much material and are most effective when the refuse is added all at once. So depending on the size of your yard, you may have to save up a few rounds of lawn clippings before you have enough to get a strong batch of compost going.
The idea of Zero Waste is to guide people to emulate sustainable natural
cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero
Waste means designing and managing product and processes to reduce the volume
and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources.
Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharge to land, water or air that may be a threat to planetary human, animal or plant health. Click on the links below to learn more about composting and sustainable gardening.
The process of breaking down materials happens in three stages, but you must
be patient. Cold compost can take up to two years to formulate. However, if
you don’t want to wait that long, keep the heap moist by watering it
occasionally and turning it more frequently to speed up the process.
When the materials are first heaped together in a compost bin or pile, they begin the mesophilic stage. During this time the temperature of the core will begin to rise and microorganisms will start to form colonies and multiply within the pile. The mesophilic stage lasts for less than a week, during this time you should see your compost "sag," or settle. Once this happens it's time for the next composting stage.
The second stage is the thermophilic phase; this stage sees your compost getting up to that 140-degree temperature mark. When organic materials reach that level of temperature, seeds from weeds are killed, harmful bacteria die off, and the pile starts to break down rapidly. The thermophilic phase can be assisted by making sure that your compost pile is damp (some suggest it should be as wet as a wrung-out sponge) and that there is sufficient air reaching the core of the pile.
Turning the pile once or twice during this stage will help get oxygen to the
center, and turning the garden hose on the pile will supply enough water to
keep the heat in. This stage can last up to three months depending upon how
much attention you pay to the heap, what you are trying to compost, and what
sort of bin or pile you are using.
The final stage of composting is known as the cooling stage and this is where the final humus matures and the pile settles into a uniform mix. This can take up to 4 months, but you know your compost is ready to use when it is a rich brown color, earthy smelling, free of large pieces of debris, and has a crumbly consistency. Turning occasionally is important, and during this final stage you may want to begin a second compost location and refrain from adding to the near complete one.