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CREATE AND INSPIRE
Author: Emily Clayton
If you already recycle, pat yourself on the back. You are slowly inching your way up the green living ladder. The next step on the rungs is all about composting.
Get the Facts
Composting is a natural process that helps return recycled nutrients and minerals to the earth. In the wild, this nutrient recycling is usually called natural decomposition.
What's the difference? According to the EPA, "composting refers to the controlled decomposition of organic (or carbon-containing) matter by microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) into a stable humus material."
Decomposed materials are then incorporated into the natural processes of plants, animals, microorganisms, macro organisms, and the surrounding ecosystem.
Composting also helps nourish the soil and prevent soil erosion, which in turn aids in preserving water and other resources. Consumers also benefit from money savings.
Gather the Materials
Successful home composts require:
You should set aside one cubic yard or 3 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet for the best results. Compose piles are excellent if you have a large property, but for more suburban or urban needs, a homemade or manufactured compost bin may be the better option. These bins provide storage for decomposing materials and act as a buffer from odors and pests. Ready-made containers are available from garden centers, nurseries, or online.
Where to look? In San Diego, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation is a community-focused organization that offers excellent resources and workshops for beginners. There are many others across the nation — likely in your town or a city near you! Some, like ReSoil Sacramento, even accept resident food scraps to turn into healthy, nourishing compost.
Create the Masterpiece
Remember these four ingredients:
Never add meat, dairy, bones, oil, grease, pasta, dog waste, or cat litter to your compost bin.
Organic materials often constitute 40 to 60 percent of landfill waste. As a result, many research programs like the Cornell Waste Management Institute work hard to educate consumers about landfill dynamics. Proper separation and efficiency go hand in hand!
Activate the Pile
Layer the compost ingredients to ensure even distribution. Then, use active composting techniques to turn the pile weekly; this prevents anaerobic odors when food and green wastes decompose. It also encourages healthy material breakdown and keeps food scraps hidden from rodent scavenging.
In addition, active composting kills weed seeds since it raises the internal temperature to around 120 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Mature compost is generally ready in three to four months.
Although not time-consuming, a compose pile does require maintenance. You should add water every time you turn the pile to keep the material moist. However, since soggy material will not decompose, do not let your compost material become saturated.
Passive composting often takes six months to one year before mature compost is available. Turn the pile once a month, and remember to add water.
Once the compost is ready for harvest and has gained a rich black coloration and crumbly, humus-like texture, add it to your garden or turn it into your soil. You might use it as a soil amendment, natural mulch, or even a potting mix.
Healthy soils start with nutrients, food scraps, and recycled yard waste, so do your part in nourishing the soil revolution.