Whether you’re a gardening novice trying to supplement your dinner with home-grown veggies or an entrepreneur who makes a living off the land, composting is a simple way to go green and help the environment.
You don’t have to be an environmentalist, either. Compost, an organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as fertilizer, is great for your garden and will help reduce landfill waste. Composting in your home garden will also help you save money.
"Amending soil with compost creates a more nutritional environment for plants plus actually increases the soil's water-holding capacity," said Jennifer Gibson, a horticulturist at The Good Earth Garden Center in Little Rock. "Bottom line, you will use less fertilizer, less water and even less pest control products just by adding good compost to the soil!"
Across the country people are embracing the concept of self-sufficiency and preparedness, “mini farming” anywhere from rooftop urban gardens to suburban backyards to larger land plots. Growing food is easier than ever, and composting is a huge part of this movement.
Gibson offers a few tips on getting your compost off to a great start:
- The easier it is to do something, the more likely we are all to do it! Consider buying a composter complete with instructions to make the process simple and fast.
- If a composter isn't in the budget, no problem! It's simple to build one or designate an area as your compost pile. It's more work, but can be essentially free.
- A large component of composting begins in the kitchen. There are canisters with carbon filters that can remain on your countertop collecting scraps for several days at a time.
- Remember to compost the right scraps! Lawn materials and kitchen waste make wonderful compost, but just avoid meat, bones and fish scraps (they can attract pests), perennials weeds (don't want them crop up where you spread the compost) and diseased plants. Some kitchen waste such as peach peels, banana peels and orange rinds may contain pesticides so avoid adding these to your compost. Clean sawdust in thin layers or mixed in should be fine. Black walnut leaves should not be added to compost. No pet waste should be added into compost for use on food products.
- Aeration is key for good breakdown, so turn the pile every few weeks with a pitchfork or shovel. Or if you are using a tumbler style composter, just crank the handle to aerate.
- Compostable materials are either carbon (branches, stems, dried leaves, egg shells, etc.) or nitrogen or protein-rich (food scraps, green leaves, green grass clippings) and having a good mix will create a healthier compost. A simple rule of thumb is one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. When in doubt, add more carbon products to add more aeration and reduce odors.
- If your time is limited, consider a no-turn method or composter. A no-turn pile will require the addition of more coarse materials, such as straw when building the pile. No-turn composter bins are available that allow you to just add to the top and harvest from the bottom of bins. The tumbler style compost system is very simple, can compost year round, cannot be accessed by rodents or other animals and speeds up the composting process.
- Consider adding an activator, such as Espoma Compost Activator, to your compost to kick-start the process and speed up composting.
- To reduce small fruit flies, cover any exposed fruit or vegetable matter with grass clippings which can be stored next to your compost area.
At the end of the day, composting is essential for alleviating waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill and in turn, help your garden.
"Quite simply put, it cuts down on landfill waste, and instead, creates something healthy for our environment," Gibson said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to involve the whole family in a sustainable process that will actually benefit your immediate environment."
For more information, call (501) 868-4666.
(Story courtesy of StatePoint, with contributions by Lauren James, asssociate editor of LittleRockSoiree.com)