As earth day quickly approaches (Tuesday, April 22, 2014 this year), I will be writing a few articles dedicated to how we can each better our living environment, earth and health through simple steps that do not take a lot of money or time. Of course, earth day is just a specific day in spring where we observe why it is good to be nice and considerate to Mother Nature, but we should always to aware and conscious of decreasing our carbon footprint, leaving as little to no trace of garbage behind and try to simply do better as far as living in the places where we call home. This article is strives to shine light on composting, what it is exactly, its benefits and why we should all be doing so every day.
Composting is nature’s process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. Anything that was once living will decompose. Basically, backyard composting is an acceleration of the same process nature uses. By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil in order for the cycle of life to continue. Finished compost looks like soil–dark brown, crumbly and smells like a forest floor.
Types of composting:
1. Backyard composting — If you have a yard and a balance of browns (fallen leaves or straw) and greens (grass clippings and food scraps), you have all you need to make compost.
2. Worm composting (vermicomposting) — If you have a small yard, live in an apartment or home and frequently have an abundance of food scraps, this type of composting is for you.
3. Grasscycling If you have grass clippings and don’t want to use them in a compost pile you can leave them on the lawn to decompose.
1. Soil conditioner: With compost, you are creating rich humus for lawn and garden. This adds nutrients to plants and helps retain moisture in the soil.
2. Recycles kitchen and yard waste: Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can, that is because yard and food waste make up 30% of the waste stream.) Composting your kitchen and yard trimmings helps divert that waste from the landfill, waterways and water treatment facilities.
3. Introduces beneficial organisms to the soil: Microscopic organisms in compost help aerate the soil, break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease.
4. Good for the environment: Composting offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
5. Reduces landfill waste: Most landfills in North America are quickly filling up; many have already closed down.
New to Composting? How to Compost 101
- Start your compost pile on bare earth. This allows worms and other beneficial organisms to aerate the compost and be transported to your garden beds.
- Lay twigs or straw first, a few inches deep. This aids drainage and helps aerate the pile.
- Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist and dry. Moist ingredients are food scraps, tea bags, seaweed, etc. Dry materials are straw, leaves, sawdust pellets and wood ashes. If you have wood ashes, sprinkle in thin layers, or they will clump together and be slow to break down.
- Add manure, green manure (clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, and grass clippings) or any nitrogen source. This activates the compost pile and speeds the process along.
- Keep compost moist. Water occasionally, or let rain do the job.
- Cover with anything you have – wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Covering helps retain moisture and heat, two essentials for compost. Covering also prevents the compost from being over-watered by rain. The compost should be moist, but not soaked.
What to Compost:
- Table scraps and left over food on plate
- Fruit & vegetable scraps
- Grass clippings
- Shrub prunings
- Straw or hay
- Green comfrey leaves
- Pine needles
- Flowers, cuttings
- Seaweed and kelp
- Wood ash
- Chicken manure
- Coffee grounds
- Tea leaves
- Shredded paper
- Corn cobs, stalks
- Dryer lint
- Sawdust pellets
- Wood chips/pellets
How to Make a Worm Bin:
- First you need to provide adequate ventilation for the worms by drilling or punching some ¼” holes into one of the plastic bins. Drill ventilation holes around the top and drain holes on the bottom.
- Drill 8 ¼” holes on each side of the worm bin for ventilation. Evenly space each hole, about 2 to 2½ inches apart.
- Drill 18 ¼” holes on the bottom of the worm bin for drainage. Evenly space each hole, about 2 to 2½ inches apart.
- Set the worm bin aside and prepare the other bin used to catch the drainage or leachate. We need to provide adequate ventilation for this bin as well, however we also need it to contain the water that may drain from the upper worm bin.
- Drill 8 ¼” holes on each side of the leachate bin for ventilation, just below the mid ridge in the Rubbermaid bin. Evenly space each hole, about 2 to 2½ inches apart.
- Once all the holes are drilled, place the top onto the worm bin (you’ll only use one top). Then place the worm bin inside the leachate bin.
- Fill your new worm bin about 3/4 full of prepared worm bedding material.
- Order your composting worms online or find a reliable local distributor and put them in the bin.
Why Worm Bins? Interesting Worm Facts:
- The best worms for vermiculture (worm composting) are Eisenia fetida (striped) or their cousins Eisenia andrei (not so striped), aka redworms, red wigglers, tiger worms, or manure worms.
- Worms need a moist environment because they breathe through their skin, which must be moist in order to breathe.
- Worms can eat about half their weight every day. Therefore, if you produce ½lb of kitchen scraps a day you’ll need 1lb of worms. There are about 500 worms in a pound.
- Ideally worms like the temperature to be between 55°–77°F (13°–25°C). However, they can tolerate 40°–80° F. If they get too hot or cold, their activity slows down.
- Worms need oxygen to live and they produce carbon dioxide. Your compost bin needs to be in a well-ventilated area.
Sources: recycleworks.org, vermicompost.net, makezine.com, eartheasy.com, howtocompost.org, treehouseonline.com, grist.com, triplepundit.com