Composting Do’s and Don’ts

Posted By Ashleigh Bethea on Feb 13, 2018 | 0 comments


Composting is one of the most rewarding activities for you, your garden, and the planet. It literally turns trash into treasure! If you want to rejuvenate your garden, the best way is to harness the natural processes of decomposition to create your own free organic fertilizer. We’re here to show you how, so put on your work gloves because it’s time to get dirty.

Why compost?

There are plenty of great reasons to start composting at home. It reduces your carbon footprint by cutting down the amount of trash you send to the landfill. Composting also saves you money. Store bought fertilizer can be expensive and sometimes even overwhelm your plants depending on the strength of the formula. Starting and maintaining a compost pile is easy and demands very little of your time and energy. Plus there’s the sweet satisfaction of knowing that you’re working with nature to return vital nutrients back to the soil.

Do…

  • Add organic materials from the trash
    • Fruit and veggies*
    • Tea leaves (but not the bags unless they are biodegradable)
    • Coffee grounds
    • egg shells
    • sawdust*
  • Add yard waste
    • grass trimmings
    • dead leaves
    • old cut flowers (scatter the petals and dice up the stems)
    • small loose twigs
    • shrub branches (preferably cut up)
  • Add worms
    • they, along with other microorganisms, help break down the waste components and turn them into rich mulch
  • Add wood ash (in moderation)
  • Add paper products (Pure, ink-free paper is best. The less chemical tampering the better!)
    • paper towels
    • tissues
    • shredded cardboard

Don’t…

  • Add plants that have been treated with pesticides and/or herbicides
  • Add magazine pages or any other glossy, ink-heavy paper
  • Mix pet waste with other compost (while we don’t suggest it for health reasons, you technically can compost pet waste, but you must use a separate receptacle and the fertilizer produced should be used on plants you don’t plan to consume.)
  • Use citrus and onion peels* – they’re too acidic and will kill worms and microorganisms
  • Add sawdust from treated* wood – varnished, painted and stained wood contains toxic chemicals that will poison your soil, taint veggies, and impede healthy plant growth. Treated wood also breaks down very, very slowly due to the preservative qualities of the chemicals used on it.
  • Add dairy, fish or meat scraps – it stinks, likely to incite the spread of disease and attracts lots of scavenging animals
  • Add ash from coal fires – the ash is highly acidic due to the sulfur components and will make the soil too hostile for most plants.
  • Pour cut flower preservatives into compost pile
  • Add old flower bulbs and thorny stems – they take a long time to decompose

Things to remember

Get a healthy mix of ‘green’ material and ‘brown’ material. The greens (ex. grass clippings & food waste) add nitrogen while the browns(ex. dead leaves, shredded paper) add carbon, both of which are essential for speedy decomposition. Heat and airflow are both important to a productive compost pile. The warmer the pile, the faster the decomposition. Ideal temperatures for compost piles range between 140-170°F. Aerate your compost bin/pile to reduce unpleasant odors and increase airflow. Piles should be slightly damp at all times, but not soaked.  Composting bacteria work best under neutral to acidic conditions, with pH’s in the range of 5.5 to 8. Always take the paper stickers off of your fruit/veggie peels. Secure the bin to prevent break-ins from scavengers. Cut up large branches because smaller pieces of wood break down much faster than whole logs which can take years to properly decompose.

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