by Yanni P., member of the Roots & Shoots
U.S. National Youth Leadership Council

Do you want to produce less trash? Do you want to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden and window boxes? Composting can do both of these amazing things and more! Simple and free, composting involves using organic waste from your kitchen and yard and putting it in a specific location to be later used to help your plants. 

Composting has so many benefits — you'll just have to try it to find out.

Composting Benefits: 

Composting involves using various sources of organic waste that will decompose with the help of microscopic organisms. A soil-like substance called humus will be created that is dark, crumbly, and full of nutrients. Adding this to your soil can help spur plant growth and boast healthier plants. Composting provides a sustainable alternative to chemical fertilizers. Also, about one-third of all landfill waste could have been composted instead of buried in the ground. By composting, you can curb the amount of trash you produce and lessen your carbon footprint. 

So, composting not only helps you and your plants, but helps your community, the environment, and the Earth!

Composting 101:

  1. Pick an area in your backyard where you would like to start a composting pile.
     
  2. Set up drainage by putting sticks or straw on the ground first. This will also help provide oxygento your compost pile.
     
  3. Add organic materials (examples below). Do this in layers alternating between wet and dry organic materials.  
     
  4. Keep the compost moist.  Check the pile weekly and add water as needed from a watering can. The pile should be damp, but not soggy and waterlogged.
     
  5. Cover the compost pile with tarp, wood, or anything that may help retain its heat and dampness. These two conditions are vital for the progression of a compost pile. Covering also prevents your compost pile from becoming too soggy.
     
  6. Turn the compost pile with a shovel every week or two. This allows the materials to mix and it provides oxygen to the pile. Oxygen is vital for the decomposition of the pile.

What to Compost:

The organic matter used in composting is commonly split into two categories: carbon rich matter or nitrogen rich matter. You generally want to make sure your compost pile has more carbon than nitrogen; however, both elements are vital to the production of your compost. It is advised to keep a lidded container in your kitchen to easily deposit materials to be later added to your compost pile.                                                                                                                                                                         

Carbon Rich Items Nitrogen Rich Items
Leaves Food Scraps
Straw Vegetable Peelings
Newspaper Fruit Peelings
Cardboard Leftovers
Shredded Paper Grass Clippings
Wood Chips Seaweed or Kelp
Lint Chicken Manure
Shrub Prunings Coffee Grounds
Sawdust Tea Leaves

Alternative Ways to Compost:

There are more complex ways to compost that will produce the humus quicker than merely creating a pile. For example, there are various enclosed compost bins that are better at containing the heat and the moisture. There are also bins specifically designed for worm composting. It doesn't matter which way you choose to compost, it only matters that you take part in this useful and sustainable practice.  

With Autumn in full swing and leaves quickly falling from the trees, it is a superb time to start composting. The leaves provide an incredible source of carbon for your new compost piles.  With landfills quickly filling up and harmful chemical fertilizers impacting our ecosystems, composting can provide clean, environmentally sustainable fuel to your garden’s plants.