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Composting 101

Tags: Remodeling, Home Building

Household Composting

Reduce Your Curbside Trash

Making the home a greener place to live does not need to be accomplished by eco-friendly construction materials and sustainable resources alone. In addition to standard reuse and recycling practices, composting is an ideal way to make the most of your waste, and you don't need to live on a farm to do it.

Compost is the result of the decomposition of organic matter and can be used as fertilizer and soil conditioner in landscaping, in gardens, on farms, and in any horticultural practice that requires nutrients to flourish. The act of composting household waste means there is less trash accumulated that must be managed at landfills thereby making even the smallest difference in reducing the amount of landfill space needed to hold our trash.

Composting is a natural process that involves the circulation of air, heat, water, and food that support microbial life allowing organic waste to decompose. A balanced proportion of carbon-rich materials often referred to as "browns" and nitrogen-rich materials, called "greens" will create the best environment for decomposition. A good rule of thumb is 25 parts brown to one part green for speediest composting and minimal odor. There are a few basic components required for successful composting and multiple variations to the system.

Since the majority of what you will compost at home will come from kitchen scraps and yard waste, it's important to have a bin separate from your trash can in which you deposit waste intended for the compost pile. However, because you can also compost things like hair, dryer lint, and cardboard you may want additional separate trash cans or bins in the house to collect the most amount of compostable materials for your pile. Make sure the bins have air tight lids to prevent bugs from gathering and to reduce any smell the waste might generate.

Selecting a location for the outdoor compost pile is relatively simple so choose a spot that is convenient for you, preferably on a lawn or soil to invite worms and other decomposers. A contained three-foot by three-foot space is sufficient for your compost pile and this larger size will allow the maximum amount of heat to build up in the pile. There are myriad bins you can buy or you can certainly make your own reusing any extra wood or plastic scraps on your property; ensure there is an aerating lid to trap heat and allow for air circulation. Create a bottom layer of grass clippings for your greens and add dried leaves, cardboard, straw, or shredded cotton clothing for the browns. Begin adding waste materials from your indoor containers as often as possible keeping the main pile moist and enclosed. Stir the main pile once or twice a week to encourage aeration and help reduce aerobic bacteria. With proper attention, most compost piles will not smell unless meat scraps and high-fat foods are introduced to the pile which have a stronger smell and are more likely to attract insects.

The combination of the materials composted, the level of involvement of you as the composter, and environmental factors like temperature will all affect the time it takes for your pile to become usable compost. When you have a layer that is dark, earth-smelling, and can sift through your fingers, separate this layer for use in your garden and stir up the rest of the pile to continue decomposing. Your roses will thank you!

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