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Making Compost

If you garden, flowers or vegetables, you are either making compost in a pile or in a bin. If you’re not, you should be. Compost heaps, bins, buckets or piles put to use all the organic waste left over from grass clippings to leaves, dead plants, vegetables that are past consumption, and even some household waste.

Unfortunately, too many families are wasting money – their own or other tax payers – by putting these items out to the curb for garbage pickup, or trucking them to the county dump on their own. All this while they could be making compost. Even if you live in an apartment or don’t have access to a yard year-round you can still compost indoors.

Decreasing Your Carbon FootprintYou need to think of this waste a little differently – it is actually just a few months shy of being great fertilizer for your gardens! But consider this…the tomatoes that were picked in California, then trucked to your home town in Massachusetts, then purchased and brought into your home, then spoiled and not eaten…then thrown in a garbage bag and trucked off to the dump to rot into soil that will never be of use whatsoever (since all type of toxic waste is being thrown right on top of your lowly tomato.

All that trucking, time, money, effort – for nothing. But what if everything stayed the same, right up until you went to throw it out? Instead of taking it to the curb you threw it in your composter? Where it then rotted away, saving most of it’s nutrients, to eventually leech right into the soil in your backyard that fed your rose bushes?

I think you’ll agree, making compost is pretty cool.

It doesn’t just stop at the tomato. No sir. Quite a lot of what is being trucked to the dump is compost worthy. All of which adds up to a better supplement for your garden than any store bought fertilizer or chemical. If you assist and manage the decomposition of all of the garbage, it will alter chemically until it is in such a state that it transforms into nutrition for other plants.

Compost: Add waste, scraps, water and stir!

Compost: Add waste, scraps, water and time. Stir it all together and you'll end up with fantastic free fertilizer while decreasing your carbon footprint.

Usually compost is maintained in a pile or plastic bin, somewhere in your backyard. Although the thought of an organic, rotting, compost pile may bring disturbing images to your mind of wild animals and swarms of bugs, it doesn’t need to be that way at all.

If maintained, you can be making compost with no odor, bugs or scavengers. First and foremost, the pile needs oxygen to decompose, and it must be wet.

When deciding on a location for your compost heap, try to choose a spot that is easily accessible (for adding kitchen waste to), where the garden hose can reach (to help keep it moist), and a large a spot as possible. Having a really deep pile of compost is not a good idea. The deeper sections won’t be exposed to the air that is required for the process to work.

It is best if spread all over a large area. If you have a shed of some sort spread it over the roof (with boards to keep it from falling over). I have seen this done and it helps keep the pile out of the way while still maintaining a large square footage.

What To Use For Making Compost

A compost heap can consist of any organic garbage from your yard, garden or kitchen. This includes leaves, grass, and nearly any leftover food or newspaper (no more than a fifth of your pile should consist of newspaper, due to it having a harder time composting with the rest of the materials). Usually if you have a barrel devoted to storing all of these things, it will fill up within several weeks. It is quite easy to obtain compost, but the hard part truly comes in getting it to compost.

After you have begun to get a large assortment of materials in your compost heap, you should moisten the whole pile. This encourages the process of composting. Also chop every element of the pile into the smallest pieces possible. As the materials start to compress and meld together as they decompose, aerate the pile. You can use a shovel to mix it all up, or an aeration tool to poke dozens of tiny holes into it. Doing this will increase the oxygen flow to each part of the pile.

Many gardeners have taken to adding grass clippings and broken up branches from trees and shrubs to their compost bins. This is perfect for people who don’t like to leaving extra grass on the yard to naturally compost and preventing evaporation and weed growth. With the extra protection on your lawn you won’t have to water nearly as much, with the extra moisture of grass added to your compost, you won’t have to water the bin as often either.

If maintaining a compost pile sounds like something that would interest you, start considering the different placement options. The hardest part about maintaining a pile is choosing a spot that provides enough square footage without intruding on the rest of your yard or garden. While usually you can prevent the horrible odors that most people associate with compost heaps, it’s still not a pleasant thing to have to look at whenever you go for a walk in your garden.

About Laura Childs

Country Living enthusiast Laura Childs was a downtown city girl for many years before heading to the hills to live a sustainable lifestyle, raise her daughter, get back to the land, and learn the time tested traditions of a simpler era. Throughout her farm life adventures of raising animals, working from home, home schooling her daughter, and being more green, Laura Childs has been sharing on the GoodByeCityLife website through articles and personal musings since 1998.