Get Your Garden Ready for Spring: Composting 101

Composting the Kitchen Waste

Spring is here! To help you get ready for the season, we’re going to break down the art of composting.

So what is composting anyway?

We’re glad you asked! Many of you have heard of composting and may think it’s just a pile of dirt that people have in a bin or in their backyard. That’s true. Compost is a pile of dirt, but it’s so much more than that! The formal definition is “a mixture of various organic substances such as dead leaves or manure used for fertilizing soil.” AKA, organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA), to be considered compost there are three required ingredients:

  • Browns – this includes materials such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs
  • Greens – grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
  • Water – having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development

Got it, so what exactly can I compost?

The most common items to compost are fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, paper tea bags, and nut shells. You can also compost things like paper, yard trimmings, wood chips and fireplace ashes. Big no-no’s for the compost bin are dairy products, oils and fats, or meat products. All of those will create odor problems and attract bugs and rodents.

But why would I compost anyway? What are the benefits?

There are so many amazing advantages to composting. The most obvious is reducing your amount of waste, and ultimately, your carbon footprint. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up about 30% of what humans throw away! Furthermore, the food waste that we throw out goes to the landfill and releases methane, a major greenhouse gas.

Another great benefit to composting is the opportunity to make your own soil. Not only is it cost effective, but compost soil has more nutrients which makes the food grown in it more beneficial to eat. Composting also reduces plant diseases and pests which lessens the need for chemicals and fertilizers that can be harmful for our environment, if not dangerous to our health.

I’m sold, how do I do it?

Depending on your living situation, there are a few different options. If you live in a house with a big backyard, I would suggest a compost pile in order to produce a large amount of soil. Here is a step by step tutorial on how to build one. This method can be a bit a labor intensive, so be prepared to physically turn your pile with a pitch fork every time it cools down.

If that feels like too much, consider a compost tumbler. A tumbler is basically a large bin on a wheel that’s elevated off the ground with a lever for turning. It’s smaller than a traditional compost pile and it speeds up the entire process of producing soil. Tumblers come in all different shapes and sizes and most of them require the user to turn it every 3-5 days.

And for those of you with tiny apartments who still want to reduce your carbon footprint, there’s indoor or kitchen composting. You can easily compost in a small container that sits on the counter or is tucked away under the sink. The key is finding the right container and making sure it’s properly sealed. Some people use this bin simply as storage and will transfer the scraps to a compost bin in their building or local neighborhood bin. Others may use it to actually compost. The same process applies here with layering, watering, and turning.

If all of this still feels too intense, if you’re nervous about bugs, or if your roommate might not be so keen on a countertop container full of food remnants, you can keep things really simple and compost in your freezer. Now, this isn’t actually composting, but the freezer is a great place to store scraps that you can later drop off at said building or neighborhood compost bins we mentioned earlier. Or try something like Share Waste, which connects people who gather food scraps with those who already compost and need more for their piles!

Now that you’re a composting pro, it’s easy to see that the process  can be as extreme or as simple as you’d like. Start off with freezer storage and dropping off scraps and maybe one day you’ll own a big piece of land with huge compost piles in your backyard, complete with an amazing fruit and veggie garden! A eco-friendly girl can dream, right?! Good luck and happy composting!

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