Composting Basics Using Compost Bins

Did you know that waste in excess of 60% that is created by the average U.S. household could be recycled or composted? Regrettably, only 8 percent of American waste is composted, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Did you also know that yard waste, such as grass trimmings, adds up to almost 20% of all garbage produced every year? When dumped into a landfill site, organic matter like food and grass trimmings occupy a large area and play a significant part in the formation of methane gas, a greenhouse gas that “remains in the atmosphere for approximately 9-15 years…and is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide” (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

Composting organic matter like food and grass trimmings is simple, especially when using a purchased compost bin. Making a compost pile on your own is certainly an option, but compost bins on the market come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and time and again, make the process of composting virtually effortless. No matter how you choose to compost your organic wastes, the benefits of composting are indisputable. Composting helps the environment by decreasing greenhouse gases and other contaminants in the air that would be created because of simply throwing organic wastes into the local landfill or incinerator. Composting also saves money by providing you with free fertilizer for your garden. Finally, compost puts nutrients back into the soil, making your garden soil richer and plants healthier.

The initial phase in composting is to select a compost bin. Compost bins are obtainable in all shapes and sizes, so the size of your garden or yard is not an issue. Large compost bins let devoted gardeners with a sizeable growing area the ability to make enough compost to last throughout the growing season. On the other hand, small compost bins can fit in the kitchen or on the balcony of a small apartment home and provide enough compost for house plants and a small herb garden. Knowing how much time you wish to spend tending to your compost pile and how much space you have to devote to a compost bin will benefit you while you select the most appropriate compost bin.

Now that you have selected the best compost bin, it’s time to begin filling it with organic matter. But can you put any kind of organic matter into a compost pile? Unfortunately, no. The common advice is to fill your compost bin with a mixture of 50 percent “browns,” and 50 percent “greens.” The “browns” add carbon to the mix and consist of some of the ingredients that follow:

Dried leaves

Straw

Chopped Cornstalks – must be shredded or chopped into very small pieces first

Shredded Paper

Shredded Cardboard

Paper Towels

“Greens” add nitrogen to the mix and comprise a few of the items that follow:

Grass Clippings

Garden Trimmings

Most Kitchen Wastes (see below for exceptions)

Fresh Hay

Manure from non-meat eating animals

Do not include the following types of organic matter into your compost bin unless properly prepared first:

Plants with diseases

Grass clippings with pesticides or other chemicals

Hedge trimmings and branches

Nut shells

Peat moss

Pine Cones and pine needles

Sawdust

Sod and soil

Weeds

Wood ashes

Wood chips

For information about how to prepare these types of organic matter for composting, visit the website of your local agricultural extension office.

Some organic matter does not belong in a compost bin. Never add the following items to the compost bin:

Animal related products that would attract pests and create an odor problem including bones; dairy products such as butter, cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing, milk, yogurt, sour cream; fish scraps, meat

Other food wastes including cooked food, peanut butter, fatty or greasy foods

Manure from meat-eating animals (including humans)

Charcoal and briquettes

Dishwater

Glossy and/or colored paper

Sludge (biosolids)

Maintaining your compost pile depends on the type of compost bin you have selected. Some compost bins require that the pile be mixed periodically, but some compost bins require no mixing. Refer to the compost bin manufacturer’s instructions for details.

By purchasing or building your own compost bin that meets your specific needs, and by following some basic rules and recommendations, you can create your own dollar stretching, earth friendly, plant enriching compost.

Trey Collier is owner of BackyardCity.com, North America’s finest Outdoor Casual Living Store, designed and created to help fashion outdoor living spaces. Since 2001, BackyardCity.com has offered internet customers quality outdoor living products, including Compost Bins, at very reasonable prices.

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