National Learn about Composting Day
By: Meaghan Malinowski, marketing assistant
Back in fifth grade, I remember the yearlong science experiment of putting banana peels and lunch scraps into an empty two liter bottle and watching the decomposing process take place. This experiment was taught under the values of reducing, reusing and recycling; three important concepts I know now create a foundation for sustainable farming. While composting is good to teach children about the cycles of organic matter, it is also one of the tastiest natural (and free!) treats for our garden. In honor of National Learn about Composting Day, I’d like to give you some tips and tricks to making the most of your compost pile at home.
Why start a compost bin?
We all know the importance of recycling materials that we know can be reused later. Whether it be plastics or metals, they all take up space in landfills when they could be put to better use elsewhere. The same goes for organic materials that make up around 30% of disposed wastes. The organic matter that ends up in landfills is a wasted resource that could be better put to use providing nutrients for our gardens and lawns, eliminating the need for artificial pesticides and fertilizers that create unhealthy runoff into water sources. Starting your own compost pile or bin is easy and can help you reduce your environmental impact when taking care of your garden or lawn.
What to put in a compost bin
The key to developing healthy compost is to create a balance of two-thirds carbon –based materials and one-third nitrogen-based materials within your pile. Carbon will help your compost achieve the fluffy texture that facilitates aerobic decomposition and nitrogen will be the protein rich material that helps create enzymes. The following items are great to include in your pile:
- Table scraps (except meat, bones, and fish items, as they create undesirable odor and attract pests)
- Fruit and vegetable leftovers
- Grass clippings, leaves, twigs, and other disease free plant material
- Newspaper (except for the shiny pages and colored ink portions), cardboard, and shredded paper
- Coffee grinds and filters
- Tea leaves with or without the bag
- Dryer lint
If you decide not to purchase a bin or compost tumbler, you can start your pile on the ground by making a thick bottom layer of twigs or straw to promote aeration, while also giving access to worms and other organisms important to the cycle. Make sure to keep your pile moist, but not soaked, by watering it occasionally and covering with tarp or wood. The covering will also promote the retention of heat within the pile, enabling the decomposition process. Every couple weeks, turn the pile with a shovel to increase oxygen, which is also necessary for the process. Make sure to check out the abundance of resources all over the internet with ideas on composting experiments to do with the kids, or even how to build your own composting bin!