Consider composting like recycling, but for food and organic matter. 

Create a similar routine, where you regularly gather and disperse leftover items, and you can quickly build and maintain a compost pile that will have a huge impact on your personal garden — and the planet. Here’s a look at composting, including a definition, its impact and — most importantly — how to get started. 

 

WHAT IS COMPOST

Basically, it’s the green stuff and the brown stuff that you’d normally put down the disposal, toss in the trash, or rake to the curb. Green items would include vegetables, fruit and grass clippings. All of that provides needed nitrogen. Brown material, which provides carbon, includes dead leaves, branches and twigs. Finally, you’ll need some water to help break everything down. Alternate brown and green items in layers for best results. Together, the pile will produce fungi and bacteria that transforms organic matter into a material that’s nutrient rich and eco-conscious. Always start a new pile with a 6-to-8-inch layer of brown material on the bottom, since this will absorb moisture and keep everything well-aerated.

 

WHY COMPOST?

It provides an earth-friendly spot for excess waste, rather than adding to our already overburdened landfills. Composting helps reduce methane emissions, a key element in global warming. It helps enrich soil, minimizes diseases associated with plants, and can improve the productivity and general health of your garden. Composters also don’t rely on chemical fertilizers, which can have serious health impacts. 

Keep in a mind that a good rule of thumb is to add roughly four times as much carbon-rich brown ingredients, in volume rather than weight, for each batch of nitrogen-rich green material.

 

GETTING STARTED

Find a dry, shady space near water to begin your pile. Add green and brown material as it’s collected, making sure everything is chopped or shredded so that it breaks down more easily. Moisten anything that’s dry, as the pile grows. 

Mix yard waste and grass clippings into the general pile. Establishing an effective composting project can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years, since leftover vegetables and fruit must be buried under 10 inches of material. Cover everything with a tarp in order to preserve moisture. The composting material is ready for use when it’s dark in color from top to bottom.  

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