Now that Spring is here, are you looking for a simple way to recycle your yard and food wastes plus help your garden and trees? A backyard composting project is the answer to less garbage in the landfill and more nutrients in your soil. This composting process takes as little as one month, can replace fertilizer and its free. Plus, composting helps neutralize toxins such as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Composting also conserves water, reduces weeds, is a great way to recycle organic materials and turns into a rich, soil conditioner when organic materials break down. Have I sold you yet?
According to a study conducted by Dr. William Rahtje of the University of Arizona, the trash of a typical Arizona resident consists of 26% yard waste and 11% food waste. By composting you could divert over 1/3 of your total household waste from the landfill and help Mother Earth.
Think of your compost pile as a living breathing creature. It only needs air, water, food, love and attention.
Locating the Ideal Spot in Your Yard
The ideal site needs equal amounts of sunshine and shade in the summer and full sun in the winter. Make sure its an area in your backyard that is level, easily accessible and large enough to accommodate a pile that is three to five feet high and three to five feet across. Expensive bins aren't necessary because a compost site can be enclosed with chicken wire, scrap wood, used pallets, cinder blocks or fencing. Plastic garbage cans work equally well, but I wouldn't recommend metal as they have a tendency to rust.
First make sure your compost pile is located within reach of water, protected from direct high winds and out of direct view. Look for an area with good drainage and away from wooden structures to eliminate heat and moisture damage from the composting process.
The Layering Process
Whenever you add layers, try to alternate between brown (leaves, twigs, etc.) and green (grass clippings, food scraps, etc.) Chop or shred very coarse or stringy materials so they decompose faster and moisten each layer with enough water so that the consistency of the compost materials is similar to a wrung out sponge. Try to turn your pile every week. If done properly, it takes approximately six weeks to three months to change yard and kitchen waste into finished compost. The more you turn the pile, the faster it will compost. However, too much turning will prevent the pile from heating up and decomposing.
Start gathering all your yard waste such as grass clippings, leaves, twigs, flowers, potting soil, wood chips, sawdust, cactus and non spreading weeds. From the house, bring out all vegetable and fruit scraps, bread and grains, coffee filters and grounds, tea bags, egg shells, shredded newspaper, nut shells, tissue paper, pencil shavings, hair brush hair, corn husks, corks, toothpicks, spent matches, moldy bread, vacuum cleaner and laundry lint. However, keep in mind it is not a good idea to compost any meat, fish, dairy products, cooking oil, pet feces, insect infested
plants, wood ashes, charcoal, bones or pressure treated, painted or preserved lumber.
Concerned About Unpleasant Odors?
Don’t be. But, if you are apprehensive about odors or attracting bugs, just turn the pile. This adds oxygen and will quickly end any odor problem. A finished compost has a faint, earthy smell and is a wonderful haven for earthworms to hang out.
When your compost is ready to use, spread a minimum of one inch throughout your garden every spring before planting and mix into the soil. Another layer may be adding during the growing season and then be prepared to enjoy your harvest.