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What is Composting?
Composting is the natural process by which decomposers, such as worms and microorganisms, turn food scraps and other natural material like leaves into nutrient-rich soil without the use of chemicals. It’s like nature’s way of recycling organic material. Composting is a great alternative to throwing food scraps and yard waste in the garbage because it reduces the amount of material we send to the landfill while creating an organic soil amendment for lawns and gardens
Composting requires four basic ingredients: 1) brown matter (carbon), such as twigs, branches and dead leaves; 2) green matter (nitrogen), including grass clippings, fruit and vegetable peels, and coffee grounds; 3) water, which helps promote the breakdown of the brown and green materials; and 4) air, which is vital for rapid, odor-free decomposition. Ideally, compost material should be about 70% browns and 30% greens.
There are several ways to compost, so the first thing you need to do is select which method you want to use.
Creating a compost pile doesn’t require any special equipment. All you have to do is select a really good location. A bare soil spot that has good drainage, gets some sun and is within reach of a hose is perfect. Once you have found the ideal spot, you’ll need to create a base layer of wood chips or fine sticks and dry leaves, then alternate 6-inch layers of green material (e.g. weeds and food scraps) and dry brown material (e.g. leaves and shredded paper). Then, add a microorganism rich activator like aged compost or garden soil to jump start the decomposition process.
If you want to keep your composting contained or you don’t have an appropriate spot for a compost pile, you can use a composting bin or tumbler. A tumbler can be easily rotated to mix the composting materials, while a bin usually requires you to manually mix the material with a shovel or pitchfork. SWACO, the city of Columbus and Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District offer a $50 rebate on compost bins, rain barrels and native plants and trees as part of the Community Backyards Conservation Program. You just have to take an online quiz or register for a local workshop to qualify for the rebate.
If you don’t have a yard, you can still compost by using a vermicomposting bin, as long as you’re not too squeamish about worms. That’s because vermicomposting is a process that uses various species of worms to accelerate the decomposition of organic material. To get started, simply create a bed made of damp brown material in a 2 foot x 2 foot bin. Add a pound of red wrigglers delivered in the mail or picked up from a store. After the worms, add a layer of browns and a layer of greens. Vermicomposting has several advantages. It doesn’t require a lot of space, so you can put the bin in your basement, under a sink, in a laundry room, or on a deck or patio. It tends to decompose faster and it requires less work than a composting pile or tumbler. Plus, the resulting vermicompost has more nutrients than regular compost.
Best Organic Materials for Composting
Whether you create a compost pile, use a compost bin or tumbler, or try vermicomposting, you’ll need both brown and green material. Brown and green don’t necessarily refer to the color of the materials, but rather to the elements the materials are made from – carbon or nitrogen.
Browns (carbon-rich materials that are dry)
Greens (nitrogen-rich materials that are wet)
What to Avoid:
Additional Ways to Compost Food and Yard Waste
If you don’t want to compost at home, there are other ways you can collect your food and yard waste to divert it from the landfill.
If you’re interested in composting or minimizing food and yard waste but want more information, here are some additional resources to help you:
We hope you’ll consider composting. It’s such a fun, easy and inexpensive way to reduce your reliance on the landfill – and to create nutrient-rich compost that your garden will love!