Composting

Introduction

Composting is the biological decomposition of organic waste such as food or plant material by bacteria, fungi, worms and other organisms under controlled aerobic (occurring in the presence of oxygen) conditions. The end result of composting is an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter called humus. Composting with worms, also known as vermiculture, results in nutrient-loaded worm castings.

Why Compost?

  • It's easy
  • It creates a useful soil enricher
  • It is an environmentally sound way of reducing yard waste

Yard waste is such materials as leaves, grass clippings, brush, and prunings. Some states, including Florida, have banned yard waste from landfills. Leaves and grass clippings can be used as mulch in your garden or landscape. Yard waste that will be picked up should be bundled or bagged.

How Does Composting Work?

Step 1: Choose the right composting method for you.

There are two kinds of composting--bin/pile composting and worm composting (vermiculture). The type of composter used should be the one that best suits your needs and capabilities.

Bin/pile composting: Worm composting:
  • Simply throw in organic materials as they become available around your home and yard
  • Learn about the right bin for you

Step 2: Choose the right location for your compost bin.

Consider how you will get the raw materials to the pile and how the finished compost will be moved to the area it will be used.

Step 3: Decide what to compost.

To build a compost pile, simply alternate layers of browns and greens.

Greens:
  • Vegetable and food scraps
  • Fresh grass clippings and yard waste
  • Coffee gounds
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells
Browns:
  • Dried leaves, grass, mulch or hay
  • Cardboard rolls
  • Sawdust
  • Lint
  • Newspaper (shredded)
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Hair/fur
  • Clean paper
  • Wool/cotton rags
Avoid:
  • Egg yolks (attract vermin)
  • Meat (attracts flies and rodents)
  • Oils, grease (produce odor, attract vermin)
  • Pesticides (can kill composting organisms)
  • Pet waste (can carry disease, attract flies)

Step 4: The composting process.

The compost pile should be periodically mixed to incorporate oxygen. Regularly check the internal temperature and turn over the mixture when it reaches 140°F.The compost pile should be built in layers 3 - 4 inches deep. Composting still happens if the pile is not turned, but the materials break down slowly.

Step 5: Using compost around your home.

Once the composting process is complete, the result is a dark, nutrient-rich humus that has many uses:

  • Soil Amendment--work a 1 - 3 inch layer of compost into garden soil.
  • Mulch--apply a 2 - 3 inch layer on top of existing soil
  • Potting mix--blend with potting soil for container plants