Composting 101 – Turning Kitchen Scraps Into Garden Gold

Composting transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich soil, saving landfill space while helping houseplants, gardens, and trees flourish.

Composting reduces landfill waste while helping fight climate change by breaking down organic waste into methane gas, an extremely potent greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By disposing of organic waste instead of disposing of it in landfills, composting helps decrease methane emission rates while simultaneously helping address climate change.

Composting at home is simple and fun with a bin or other composting kitchen appliance. It provides children with hands-on experience in protecting the environment.

Composting Basics

Although NRDC and other environmental organizations educate consumers on how to shop, cook, and store food efficiently to minimize waste (and its subsequent environmental impact), some kitchen scraps simply cannot be avoided. That’s where composting comes into play—it allows you to turn unwanted organic material into a fertile soil amendment that will give your garden the boost it needs!

Composting is an efficient, natural way to recycle organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps into valuable fertilizer that improves soil health while simultaneously decreasing landfill waste. Composting microbes use organic material to break down into soil-like material called black gold, which improves plants’ health and reduces landfill waste.

Compost creation is a relatively straightforward process that can be performed indoors and outdoors. Toss kitchen scraps and yard waste into a bin and leave it until you need its rich, crumbly composition for gardening. Or, for dedicated gardeners, turn a compost pile regularly to accelerate decomposition processes.

A practical compost pile requires creating an equilibrium between carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials, such as food scraps and tea bags, while carbon sources like paper products, sawdust or shredded newspaper provide carbon. Keeping your pile moist and turning it regularly will help speed up the decomposition process more quickly. Be wary when adding scraps which attract rodents such as meat, dairy or diseased plant parts as this may attract rodents; avoid adding anything with pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers as these substances are poisonous to microbes used by composting organisms while potentially producing unpleasant odours!

Building a Bin

Composting transforms kitchen scraps and yard waste into a nutrient-rich black soil amendment that benefits garden plants. It reduces landfill waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and gardening costs while making for an enjoyable process—helping build relationships between nature and humans alike!

Start by building a bin from chicken wire. Cut out a large rectangle that serves as the body of the bin; this should allow it to support all of your compostable materials as you add them. Build it as large as possible for maximum weight management!

Nail one 2 x 6 to the back wall of the 4 x 4. Following your previous step as a guide, nail perpendicular 2 x 6s perpendicularly onto the wall at regular intervals until your bin has all four walls complete – leaving an inch or two between boards for expansion. When full, offsetting nails as you build each side. Finally, nail three or four 2x6s onto its front face periodically for finishing touches.

Attach a chicken wire lid and staple it securely around the sides and bottom of a 4×4. This will prevent animals from accessing and disturbing the compost materials. Place the finished bin in a shady spot, either outdoors or inside an enclosed space, and begin adding organic material—such as non-greasy kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells, and yard waste like grass clippings and leaves—which should all decompose properly into the compost pile. Having equal proportions of green and brown material ensures proper decomposition!

Adding Greens

All those wilted leaves, eggshells and coffee grounds you find discarded in the trash can be recycled into nutritious compost for your garden. Up to half of household waste contains organic material, which can be turned into beneficial soil amendments.

Many organisms, both large and microscopic (like worms and bacteria), break down organic materials in a compost pile to form invaluable humus that nourishes your plants. By adding kitchen scraps such as banana peels, avocado and apple cores, citrus rinds, coffee grounds, vegetable peels, eggshells, and tea bags to the pile, your compost will provide your plants with the essential nutrition they require to grow strong and flourish.

To improve your compost, add other organic materials, such as animal manure, grass clippings, twigs, leaves, and paper towel scraps. Avoid items contaminated by pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, which could produce unpleasant odours that attract rodents. Additionally, meats, dairy, or diseased plant matter decompose more slowly and could produce offensive smells that attract animals and pests.

Assemble your compost by layering coarse materials like wood chips or small twigs on the bottom of your bin for drainage and aeration before layering “greens,” such as food scraps and grass clippings, with “browns,” such as dried leaves or straw for balance between carbon and nitrogen ratios. Water the pile well when adding new layers; turn your bin periodically to increase air circulation for faster processing time – within months, you’ll have your natural fertilizer for plants or gardens!

Adding Browns

Composting produces dark, crumbly soil that serves as black gold for gardeners and lawn care teams. Decomposition (composting) relies on microorganisms to break down organic materials—like kitchen scraps and yard waste—into nutrient-rich amendments that benefit plants and trees alike.

Composting requires four key ingredients: water, oxygen, nitrogen (from items like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds/tea leaves/egg shells, etc.), and carbon (from “brown” items like dead leaves/hay/straw/paper towels, etc.). For best results, most gardeners employ both green and brown materials in their piles.

Start your compost pile off right by spreading out “brown” material layers, such as leaves or straw, followed by kitchen scraps. Continue to alternate layers of brown and green materials while turning it regularly with a pitchfork so the organisms have time to do their work.

At the end of each cycle, remember to add a layer of soil, as this provides nutrients and keeps the finished compost moist. While meat, oil, or dairy products decompose slowly and may attract pests, diseased or weedy plants contain pathogens that could infiltrate your garden and lawn and even affect crops or flowers if added to your compost pile. Also, avoid adding garden waste that includes herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to prevent soil contamination with harmful chemicals that could damage crops or flowers over time.

Observing the Process

Nothing beats the satisfaction of watching kitchen scraps become garden gold! Composting is an enjoyable way to reduce waste, keep organic material out of landfills, and combat climate change while providing your garden plants with the nourishment they need to flourish. Plus, it makes an attractive addition to the landscape!

Composting is an easy process. Start by designating an area in your backyard for your compost pile; select one with good drainage and partial sunlight. Then, begin layering brown materials—such as leaves, straw, or paper shredding—onto an already established brown layer before layering green materials on top to achieve a balance between carbon and nitrogen sources for an ideal compost mix. Keep repeating this until all available space is used in your bin.

Mesophilic microorganisms will begin decomposing the food scraps into rich, dark compost. Their activity creates heat, which may cause an unpleasant odour; to prevent this, air should be added to the pile to ensure adequate oxygen reaches the decomposing materials.

Next, thermophilic microorganisms will take over to complete the process. Needing higher temperatures to work, these bacteria will further break down materials as their heat warms the entire pile – for best results, aerate and turn your pile regularly with a pitchfork to prevent temperatures from getting too high!

Decomposition slows in winter, but once it warms up again, it will speed up again. To speed this process up even more when spring finally comes around, it is advisable to add food scraps such as fruit peelings to the pile regularly so that there is plenty of material ready.

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