What is Composting? Composting is recycling your kitchen waste and lawn trimmings and turning them into a valuable resource for your garden or houseplants. This is done by speeding up the process that the materials you use to compost go through on their own -- decomposition. Compost is not soil. It is a common misconception that the end-result of composting is the dirt that you find in the ground. It is a substance that acts as a fertilizer (enriching the soil) to grow hardier and healthier plants. Before you begin composting there are choices to be made -- what type of container and style suits your project, what you will be putting into your compost bin, and the location of your bin. But regardless of these decisions, how you convert your waste into compost happens the same way. It is a breakdown of waste materials as they are digested by microbes (bacteria and fungi). The microbes are the workers of the composting equation. They need air, water, and food to do their job and it is up to you to supply it to them in the right amounts. If you have heard that having a compost bin or pile creates a foul odor it is most likely the result of not enough air circulating throughout the waste material. Without air, the material will still breakdown but it will be done by anaerobic microbes (organisms that do not need oxygen) as opposed to aerobic (ones that need oxygen). So if you do have an unpleasant smell coming from your compost bin or pile you can rotate the material to let in more air or add a substance to create more room for the air to circulate. Wood chips or hay are good for this. Composting is good for the environment and your garden -- it eliminates the amount of waste you throw away and enriches the soil your plants grow in. Who Should Compost? As there are many uses for compost, you will find people with different interests and occupations utilizing this environmentally friendly resource. A homeowner can create a compost bin or pile to reduce the amount of trash they are throwing away. As an added benefit they are creating a fertilizer for their house plants or garden plot. Since compost bins require green food (grass clippings) and brown food (organic waste) you can collect your grass clippings and add them to your bin too. On a farm, crops can produce a lot of waste. A farmer can use crops that are not consumable and add them to a compost bin along with manure from any livestock they may keep. Once the compost matures and is ready, the farmer can use the material for added nutrients in the soil; build up low spots in his field; and to keep the soil healthy mature compost has the ability to prevent weed seeds from sprouting. A professional landscaper can create compost material for clients that want only natural or organic materials used on their lawn or flower beds. This can be a low-cost material for a landscaper to utilize providing his clients with Earth-friendly options with a low overhead cost. If you like the idea of composting but do not have the space or time to create one, check with your city or municipality's recycling center. Some will accept your yard waste and clippings for a city compost heap. This material will then be used throughout the city's parks and gardens. In certain centers they may let the residents utilize the mature compost for their own needs too. Schools will utilize compost to teach the students the process of decomposition and to teach children what we can do to help our planet. This is in addition to the cost savings for the school in up keeping the grounds and park. The Benefits of Composting Besides a free and nutrient rich fertilizer for your soil and plants there are many other benefits to starting a compost in your yard. A few of the benefits of composting are listed below. * You can reduce or eliminate weeds in your garden by using compost as it prevents weed seeds from sprouting and prospering. This is a natural alternative to pesticides. * Mature compost material has been used to stop or prevent erosion in certain areas. The binding capability in the compost can keep the soil in place and prevent dangerous drop-offs. * Reducing the amount of organic material that goes to a dump unnecessarily -- in turn this reduces the amount of methane gas a dump creates during decomposition. * In wetlands areas that are in trouble, compost has been used to revitalize the soil and surrounding plant life. * Healthier plants, compost material can prevent your plants from contracting diseases that kill or spread to the rest of the crop or garden. * Can create a stable and healthier pH balance in your soil. * If your soil is overly dry (sandy), adding compost to the soil and thoroughly mixing can help the sandy dirt retain more water keeping it moist. * If your soil is clay-like, you can make the dirt easier to work with and less dense by adding mature compost. * Provides important nutrients and micronutrients to the soil and plants. * Increases the temperature of the soil creating a conducive environment for plant growth and health. This is just a few of the important benefits that can be derived from using compost. It helps the environment, your garden, your plants and the planet. The small amount of time that it takes to set-up and maintain a compost bin or pile is well worth the time and effort. Different Types of Composting The most common way to compost organic material into usable fertilizer is to make use of the naturally occurring microbes to use the material as food and energy. Other than ensuring your pile has enough water, food, and air you can leave the rest of the job to the ever helpful fungi and bacteria. The types of microbes you want to inhabit your composter are aerobic, meaning they need oxygen to thrive and live. You can make sure they have enough air by aerating the compost heap (turning it over with a rake). Another way to ensure there is good air circulation is to add a material such as wood chips or hay - both are bulky and are not easily compressed. This makes sure the air can get in and do its job. The other kind of microbes that can convert your waste are anaerobic (they do not need oxygen to survive). This may sound like a great alternative -- not having to worry if enough air is available. But the unpleasant side effect of having anaerobic microbes in your compost bin is the smell. Without enough air, there will be a distinct rotting garbage smell emanating from your bin. Another way to compost is to use red worms to help decompose the organic waste. This form of composting is known as vermicomposting. The red earthworms can quickly turn your table scraps into compost. To help the process along it is recommended that you chop or cut the organic material you add to the composter first. This is an optional step but will yield faster results. Only food scraps, paper or yard waste is recommended for this type of composting. You can purchase the red worms at your local pet or fishing supply store -- these are not the same worms that you find crawling in your backyard. How to Choose a Composting Container There are many sizes, shapes, and styles of composting bins to choose from. You can make one yourself or opt for not using one at all and create a compost pile or heap. A compost tumbler is a cylindrical shape much like a drum laid on its side. It can be turned on a base that is supported on the flat ends. By turning the drum you are rotating and aerating the materials at the same time. It is an easy and effective way to rotate your compost. A bio-orb container is shaped like a round ball and comes in various sizes. The benefits of this type of container are the ease of getting it around (you can roll it over to your yard waste and roll it back to its base), and the act of rolling it also aerates and rotates the contents. There are many small round holes in the container to let air in too. A wooden box with slats or a wooden framed box with mesh sides can be purchased or easily made at home. If you can find four wooden pallets, you can nail them together to create a compost bin very inexpensively or you can find a roll of wire mesh at your local hardware store. Both of these options allow air to circulate as long s the contents are not too compacted. If you do not want to use a bin, start with a pile of glass clippings or leaves and start to layer your food scraps on top. As time goes by and your pile continues to grow make sure you rotate and "stir" it frequently. Be warned though, it is not as easy to turn a pile that is not contained. They tend to grow in circumference over time as the pile spreads out after rotating. Building Your Own Compost Bin If you would rather not purchase a bin for your compost pile, you should still devise a way to contain it. You can easily and inexpensively build your own bin. This will give you more control over the size of the pile and can prevent unwelcome animals helping themselves to some free food. If you are using recycled lumber and it has been treated (either painted or stained) make sure it has been done using non-toxic material. You do not want anything toxic or poisonous to come in contact with your compost, especially if you are going to be using it where you are growing food. You will need four 4-foot sections of 2X4 and 20 3-foot sections of 1X6 boards. Begin by hammering the 2X4 lumber pieces into the ground with a sledgehammer at the corners of what will become a 3 feet squared container (space each corner post 3 feet apart). Next, put five boards to every side securing each end of the board to the corner post with nails. Be sure to leave enough room in between each board for air circulation. You can use a piece of plywood or another flat piece of material large enough to cover the top as a cover. Another way to build your own bin is to use new or recycled pallets. Find wooden pallets (you may be able to find them at a land fill site) and nail or screw them together to form a square. If you want you can add a fifth to give the bin a bottom, but this is not necessary. Another option is to enclose the pile with a wire mesh. You can either create a circle with the mesh and secure with metal ties or hammer wooden posts in a circle around the pile and secure the mesh to the wooden posts. Materials Needed to Start Composting Now that you have decided that you want to compost, there is a list of items that you will need to get started. Most of these items are available in your own yard and require a small amount of planning ahead of time. After you pick a location for your compost bin or pile (ensure it is in an easily accessible location) you are going to need approximately four inches of leaves as a base. If you are able to chip the leaves prior it will make things progress and breakdown faster but it is not a requirement. The quantity of leaves you will need to make a four-inch base will vary depending on the size of the bin you have chosen. Your next layer should be about one inch of high-quality soil. If you cannot find this in your own garden a small bag purchased from your local nursery will work fine. Then start layering the food for the microbes to eat. There are two categories of food you are going to need brown (yard waste) and green (food scraps or other organic waste). A common ratio is two parts brown for every part of green. You are going to need a spade or heavy-duty pitch fork to turn or rotate the compost at least once per week. If there is a dry-spell you will need a means of adding water (a hose) to keep the pile moist. With such simple materials and start-up instructions, anyone can start their own compost pile in under a day. If you choose to not use a bin, consider buying some wire mesh to contain the pile, it can be wrapped around the base of the pile in a circular shape. The compost can be ready anywhere from two months up to one year. The Best Place for your Composting Bin The most common location for a compost pile or bin is in close proximity to your kitchen or garden. You want it in a convenient location to make it easy and second nature to bring your food scraps or garden waste to the composter. If you have a large yard, the yard waste can get quite heavy and you don't want to be transporting the heavy material be a deterrent to composting. There are other considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing a composting site. Keeping all the below suggestions in mind, you also want to make sure that it is in an area that children or animals will not disturb or get into the compost bin. The ground should be level and not prone to collecting excessive water (it needs good drainage). Your compost pile needs to stay moist but you do not want too much water or it will not work properly. In addition to level ground, make sure you can easily access the area with a wheelbarrow. A shady location is best, if the compost pile gets too much sunlight it will get hot and dry out. Again, the pile needs to stay moist and overheating it with external sources will not help. A water source should be close by -- you can reach the area with your garden hose or easily carry enough water to moisten the pile if it becomes too dry. Remember you just want to moisten the pile with a spray of water not drench it. If you are beginning with a one bin system, you may want to leave enough room for a second bin down the road. By having two bins side-by-side, you can easily rotate or turn the pile by moving material from one bin to the next. Composting Precautions There are living creatures that you want in your compost bin such as microbes and red earthworms and then there are the creatures you wan to stay away like raccoons, rodents, and bears). A compost bin can be very appealing to an animal, easy access to food. As a rule, you should never put animal matter into compost (left over meat and bones) not only do they not make for good composting they will be a magnet to wild animals. Following are some more tips to help keep your compost bin free from pests of all sizes. An odor-free compost bin is less likely to attract bears or any other animal friends. You can achieve this by rotating or turning the compost pile at least once per week. Another precaution that should be taken is to have a bin with a cover whether it is commercially made or one you make yourself. Another thing you can do is to put brown food such as lawn clippings on top of the green food (food scraps and other kitchen waste). You can purchase lime at your local nursery or hardware store to sprinkle on the top of your composting materials that will increase the rate at which everything decomposes. The location of your compost heap should not be near the edge of your property especially if you live near a forest or park area. This makes it very easy for animals to help themselves without being exposed by walking through your backyard. If bears or raccoons are a big concern in your community you can look into a neighborhood compost pile. In addition to making composting more accessible to a larger group of people, you can look into an electric or barbed wire fence to ensure no unwanted animals come looking for a free lunch. Cold or Hot Composting The heat that is generated from the breaking down of organic matter into compost is known as hot composting. There is also cold composting, it doesn't take as much of a commitment from you to upkeep or manage but it does take quite a bit longer to yield results. Hot (or active) composting uses microbes to breakdown the matter. Some experts will recommend you inoculate the compost with live organisms purchased from a gardening supply store in order to get the process started. While others will recommend adding in healthy top soil as it also contains live organisms that will convert your organic matter into compost material. Either way, once the process is started your compost pile will generate heat. You should tend or check on your pile every second day to ensure good air circulation is maintained and that the right level of moisture is kept. If you do not have the desire or time to maintain a regular compost bin, starting a cold compost (or slow compost) may suit you better. In a cold compost, you are only using your yard waste and grass clippings instead of a combination of outdoor material with your kitchen scraps. All that is required of you is to pile your leaves and grass clippings into a pile and wait. The process is slow and long -- it will not yield usable compost for up to one year. Be careful not to put in any weeds or other undesirable plants, as there is no heat they will survive the composting process and can grow again when you use the finished material. If you generate quite a bit of yard waste and it is too much to include in your regular compost bin consider using both methods. You can have the best of both composting methods. Seasonal Considerations for Composting Most composting is done in the spring and summer months. The reason is that heat is such an important element to the process. Even though the compost process itself generates heat, the warmth from the weather certainly helps everything along. Most composts goes dormant in the winter months and start-up again with the spring thaw and warmer temperatures. But if you live in a milder climate that does not get harsh winters, there is a way to continue to compost during the winter months. You can create an insulated compost bin. Using a plastic garbage can dig a hole big and deep enough to put at least six inches of the can underground. Use a natural insulating material such as straw and pack it around the base and up the sides of the can. Continue to compost as you would at any other time of the year. Even though this method will still work in the winter months, the speed at which the material will decompose will still be slowed down. Winter composting will allow you to continue recycling your kitchen scraps throughout the colder months and you may even have compost at the beginning of spring to use in your garden. The spring and fall are the best times to collect leaves to start a new compost bin. In the spring, the leaves you collect have already started to decompose as they stayed wet and insulated throughout the winter. It doesn't matter though if you collect your leaves in either season -- they are the perfect base for a new compost pile. If you are using dry leaves from the fall, consider putting them through a chipper of some kind. If they are smaller and already cut up it will aid in the whole composting system. The Best Food for your Compost Bin There are some rules to learn and follow about what you can put into your compost bin in order to keep your pile healthy and working properly. The most widespread organic material that you will add to your compost will be kitchen scraps. The kitchen scraps are considered green food that you feed to your compost as they contain nitrogen -- an essential element to the process. It is a good idea to have a container with an airtight lid to store the food waste in your kitchen. You do not want to attract insects or pests inside your home nor do you want to be running to your compost bin every time you make a meal or snack. If your kitchen container is airtight you will also cut down on unpleasant odors. Here is a list of the most commonly used compost items from the kitchen: * Vegetable peels and seeds * Fruit peels, cores, and seeds * Coffee grounds -- you can compost the paper filter too * Tea bags or loose tea leaves * Crushed egg shells -- do not add left-over eggs cooked or raw * Breads You may be tempted to add other food scraps into the bin, but don't. You should not add any animal meat or bones, oily products, or fish remains not only will they be sure to attract unwanted pests but they will make your compost smell badly. Whenever you are adding your green food to the compost bin, make sure you cover it under a thick layer of brown food (yard waste or other carbon producing agent such as dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, or small twigs). If your food scraps are very wet or moist, in addition to putting brown food on top of the scraps mix some in with the waste too. This will enable better air circulation. Non-Edible Composting Items In addition to the acceptable food scraps you can use to compost there are many different organic items you can add too. Some of the items on the list may surprise you while others will be ones you have heard of before. Just remember, by composting these items you are reducing the amount of waste that your home produces. Additional Composting Materials: * Lint collected from your dryer * Cardboard, cut into strips or small pieces * Hair, make sure that is isn't put in as one large clump * Manure (from a horse, pig, or cow) * Tree leaves, cutting or chipping them helps them break down faster * Newspaper (considered brown food), cut into strips. Do not use the glossy pages and do not add too much (it can dry out the pile) * Pine needles and pine cones * Coffee grounds and paper filter * Sawdust and wood chips (or shavings) as long as it is from untreated wood. * Straw -- even better if it is used straw from horse bedding * Grass clippings (green food) * Seaweed or algae (you can get these from your home aquarium) There are a few considerations to think about when choosing from the above list of items. If you do use dryer lint, it would be wise to only use it from cycles when you washed clothes with natural fibers -- man-made fibers would not breakdown in your compost. If you are using your compost for your garden be extra careful that everything you add has not been treated -- such as grass clippings. If any type of commercial fertilizer or pesticide has been sprayed on the grass do not add it to your compost bin. Larger items should be broken down as much as possible to speed up their decomposition. What not to Compost There are many things you can use to make a good compost humus (which is what the final product is called). There are also quite a few items that should never go into your compost bin. Listed below are many of the materials you should not try to compost and why it is not a good idea. Ashes from charcoal should not be added to your compost, you can add very small amount of ashes from a fire that was made with untreated wood. It is not a good idea to add a lot though because it can change the composition and make it too alkaline. Do not add any kind of droppings from an animal that is not a vegetarian. Animals that pass the compost inspection include horses, cows, rabbits, and goats. You can even add droppings from hamster or other indoor pets. But stay away from bird, dog, and cat droppings (including cat litter). They all can contain harmful organisms. Any type of animal waste such as leftover meat, oil, bones, or fish waste are off-limits. They all can cause your pile to smell badly and can attract unwanted pests. Milk, yogurt, cheese, or any other milk product should be added with caution. They all will attract animals and pests. If you do decide to add them, do so in small amounts and cover them with plenty of brown food afterwards. You can add weeds, but you should take care to ensure your composting is functioning properly. If your compost is not generating enough heat the weeds will not be destroyed and can grow again once you spread your compost. You can dry your weeds on a sidewalk or on some concrete before added to the pile as an added precaution to make sure they do not survive. When Will Your Compost be Ready Patience is needed when you compost. It can take anywhere from one month to one year for your first batch of humus to be ready to use. It will depend on the size of your bin, if you are using cold or hot composting, what you are putting into the compost and the weather. Another factor to consider is what you will be using the finished product for. Different uses can utilize the compost at different stages of the process. The longer a compost is allowed to decompose the finer, darker, and richer it becomes. But you do not have to wait until it reaches this state to use it. If you want to use the compost as mulch for your flower beds or other areas of your garden you can use it when it is still in a chunkier state. The mulch is used to keep an even temperature for the soil and discourage weed growth. If you are going to be using the mature compost to add to your planting pots, the compost should be at the last stages of the process. Things to look for to know that your compost is ready are: * The amount of material that is in your bin is reduced to approximately half of the original contents. * When you look at the finished material, you can not tell what it used to be -- no parts are recognizable. * The pile will no longer be as hot (if using the hot composting method) * The compost is dark in color and looks very much like a rich top soil In order to have a steady supply of mature compost it is recommended to have a two-bin system going. Once your first container is full, you can continue to compost with the second bin until you can use the material from the first. Ongoing Care for your Compost Pile Unless you are using a cold composting method, your compost pile is going to need regular care and maintenance. You need to monitor it for any foul odors, heat generation, and moisture levels. You will need to rotate or turn the material on a regular basis. You should know when to stop adding materials and let the process finish. And the final step is to use a screen to separate any larger materials that did not fully break down. If there is a bad smell coming from your compost pile turn the pile over to increase air circulation. You should also add more brown food (leaves, straw/hay, or small twigs) and make sure the top layer of your pile is only brown food. You will learn the trick of adding water to your pile to make it moist without making to wet with some trial and error. Inevitably you will make the pile too wet at one point during the process. If you do, try rotating the material to soak up any extra water and if that doesn't work, add more brown food. You can purchase a thermometer that is made especially for composting. You want the pile to retain a certain temperature to work properly (105-140 degrees Fahrenheit) but if it exceeds 155 degrees, it is too hot. Routine turning of your pile is necessary to add oxygen, cut-down on odors and to aid in the breaking-down process. You should turn your pile every other day or at a minimum two times per week. After the heat phase, the compost pile needs some time to cure and finish the decomposing process. You can add red earthworms at this point to aid in the curing the humus. Before you use your finished product, you should put the compost through a screen to catch any larger items that did not compost properly or enough. A Review of the Steps to Successful Composting The hot composting method (also known as fast or active composting) is the most common as it yields desired results relatively quickly. It is also the best method to take care of unwanted weeds as it will destroy the seeds during the heat phase. After you have picked a level site for your composting bin, you will need a good base for the bottom of leaves and high-quality soil. The leaves should be chopped or chipped so that no one piece is larger than two-three inches (this is a good rule of thumb for all materials added to the bin). Once your bin and base are in place you can start to add your green food (nitrogen-rich) and your brown food (carbon-rich). The ratio that should be roughly followed is one part green for every two parts brown. Monitor the pile every other day for moisture control and temperature. During this time you need to rotate or turn the pile to get good air flow inside the pile and to help with odors. Once your pile is full or has finished the heat phase, let it cure. The length of curing will depend on your intended use of the finished product. To eliminate any larger pieces of organic matter that did not break down use a screen to sift them out. But if you follow the rule of not putting in anything that is larger than three inches this should not happen. A compost humus can be ready to use in as little as 3-4 weeks with a hot composting method and maintenance to the pile on a regular schedule. If you are going to use the cold (or inactive) method of composting, it can take up to one year for usable compost to be ready. Common Uses for Finished Compost Now that you have put in the work, waited the required amount of time and have your finished compost material -- what are you going to do with it? There are more uses than just laying it down on your flower beds. Some are practical everyday uses and others are more specialized. You can make a tea with your finished compost; it is not for drinking though. To make your compost tea, add your humus to a water-tight container and fill with water. Let the tea "steep" anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. After it is done, put the liquid compost through a fine screen to collect any debris. What you have made is a liquid fertilizer that can be sprayed on plants or other garden areas. Compost can be used to help stop the spread of erosion. It can be laid down thickly on the area that is eroding away or it can be mixed with water to make a thick slurry and then sprayed on the area that is in danger. Humus (finished compost) is used as a final layer over a finished landfill to help new plants grow with little to no erosion. Finished compost can also assist in revitalizing an endangered wetland. The nutrient rich composition can be used to create a new wetland as well. Of course there are the traditional uses too -- in gardens, planting beds, or other areas that plants or vegetation grows. If you are starting a new compost bin, in place of a layer of topsoil for the base you can substitute an equal amount of compost material. Farmers and cities use mature compost on a large scale; it helps the environment and reduces the amount of garbage that ends up in a landfill. Composting Problems There are five problems that can arise when you are composting. All of the issues are relatively easy to troubleshoot and fix. During your routine monitoring of the pile keep a look out for signs of a problem and try some of the suggested solutions listed below. If you see a swarm of flies around your compost bin chances are you have not put enough brown food (leaves, twigs, hay) on top of your kitchen scraps. The kitchen scraps are very inviting to fruit and house flies, make sure you don't leave them exposed. Your compost bin has a bad smell. The most likely cause is not enough air is getting through to all parts of the compost. Give the compost a good turning and add a bulky substance such as woodchips or sawdust. They are bulky and created pockets where the air can move freely. If you find that your pile is very dry, add some moisture in the form of water. You should not soak the pile, just enough to get it wet. If the pile is continually drying out look at other factors such as location and what you are adding -- you may have to move the bin to a less sunny location or add more wet scraps (fruit and vegetable waste). Your compost pile seems to be working (it is moist and warm) but only in spots. Either your pile is not large enough or you are not rotating it enough. Make sure you are regularly adding new scraps and are rotating the pile every second day. Like the problem of flies, if you have pests visiting your pile you need to make sure you are covering all kitchen scraps thoroughly. Moreover, do not add any animal products such as meat or bones. If Your Compost Pile Won't Heat Up Most of the concerns or problems that you will encounter with your compost pile are minor and relatively easy to rectify. They involve rotating the pile more; adjusting the material you are putting in; and layering enough brown food for the top layer. The issue of your pile not heating up will require more investigation. The first thing to consider when your pile won't heat up (when you are using the hot or active compost method) is if you have enough green and brown food added. If your pile is new this will take time. But if you have an established pile that won't heat up, either your pile is too large or you are not adding enough to start the decomposing process. Another reason your compost pile may not be heating up is the presence of too much brown food. If you have added a lot of leaves or other brown matter (high in carbon), put in more green food that is high in nitrogen. The presence of carbon and nitrogen is necessary in the correct ratio (2:1). If your pile is too dry this will prevent it from getting hot too. The microbes need a moist environment to do their work. Add just enough water to make the pile damp or add moist green food such as vegetable or fruit waste and grass clippings. When you are using the hot composting method, remember to keep all matter smaller than three inches. This will speed up the process and ensure all matter is broken up evenly. If the mixture has large pieces it can delay the heating up process. Weather is a factor too. If you are concerned that your compost is not heating up and it is fall or winter -- most likely it is too cold for the process to start. You can try insulating your compost pile or wait for the spring. The Pros of composting Versus the Cons There are obviously downsides to composting or everyone would be utilizing this resource instead of buying commercial fertilizers and other lawn care additives. The downside is the time it takes to upkeep, the space to house a composting bin and the amount of time before your first mature compost will be ready. The benefits of composting far outweigh the downside. For the time you invest, the space you give up in your yard and some patience you and your yard will get: * A lesser need for commercial fertilizer or eliminate it altogether (saves money) * Increased water retention in your soil. If there is a dry spell your garden and lawn that has been treated with compost will fair better than those that have used commercial products * Improved plant growth. You will also find an increased amount of fruit or vegetables that your plants produce when using mature compost * Protection for your plants from diseases or pests that can destroy your vegetation The environment also benefits from the time you invest into composting. In addition to eliminating the amount of waste that goes to the city dump. In some cases organic material makes up to 45% of the garbage that ends up in a dump - this can be greatly reduced by composting. * If there is an area of contaminated soil, you can add compost to assist in the "cleaning" process * Compost can help prevent and stop erosion * Eliminates the need for adding chemical pesticides to your garden or lawn * Decreases the amount of methane gas that is produced at the dump (by reducing the amount of organic matter that is thrown away) Like any new project or habit, composting will take some time to get used to. Once you have completed the initial start-up process the time and energy you need to maintain the pile is not a lot. Creative Composting If you do not have a large backyard or live in an apartment but still want to compost, there are options available. You can still compost easily and conveniently. Some options include composting on a balcony, in your garage, or even under your kitchen sink. The best way to compost in a small space or indoors is using worms to help with the decomposition process (known as vermicomposting). This is a clean and odor-free way to compost and can be done on a small scale. You will need quite a few worms to start the process. Even though with this method you will add mostly green food (kitchen scraps) the brown food is also necessary (the carbon is needed). A good source of carbon for an indoor composting bin is shredded newspaper -- just remember not to use the glossy pages. You can try a traditional hot compost bin on your balcony taking special care and consideration to turn the pile frequently to eliminate odors. You do not want to alienate your neighbors. You will still need a supply of brown food to use in your compost bin, contact your local gardening center or municipality on the availability of getting this resource for free. Chances are they will be happy to supply you with a bag. You can create your balcony compost bin out of a garbage can with holes drilled through the sides to help with air circulation. Another option is to look into a communal composting area for your apartment building. Check with the landlord or property management to see if there is a space you and the other residents can utilize to start a compost pile. The mature compost can be used for house plants, balcony gardens, or flower boxes. A schedule will have to be maintained with either everyone sharing in the work or a volunteer that manages the pile. Worms for Vermicomposting Now that you have decided vermicomposting is for you, you need to get some worms (a lot of them). For a standard size composting bin you will need two pounds of worms for every one pound of raw material you add. The earthworms you will need (known as red wrigglers) do not go very deep underground so your pile or bin should be between 8-10 inches deep. You may be tempted to go to your backyard and start digging up some worms, but you really should invest in the proper kind. The worms in your backyard are not the recommended breed for composting. You will need to buy worms that bear the name of red wriggler (also known as redworms) or brandling worms. Redworms or brandling worms can be purchased from a bait shop, some local gardening centers or by mail order. An average worm can eat its own weight in material in 24 hours; keep this in mind when you are determining the size of your compost bin and the amount of worms you will need. With the rate at which the worms consume the food waste, the timeline of getting from raw organic material to mature compost is relatively short. The same principle applies as for regular composting -- you need a good mix of green food and brown food (this can be in the form of shredded newspaper). The finished compost is known as worm castings, worm humus, worm manure, and worm compost. If you are using a hot or active composting method and it is in the maturing stage, you can add redworms or brandling worms to speed up this last step. You will most likely see quite a few more helpful critters in your compost as it matures too -- centipedes and millipedes to name a couple. Store-Bought Fertilizer versus Mature Compost You may wonder what the different benefits are between fertilizer purchased from the store and compost humus that you make at home. The aim of both is the same, to improve the quality of your garden, lawn, and soil but there are differences too. Many fertilizers that you purchase at your garden center contain artificial or toxic elements to make your lawn look nice -- not necessarily healthier. The benefit of this type of fertilization is the ability to purchase a mix that meets the needs of your specific lawn. If your lawn is too dry, patchy, or has a lot of weeds -- there is a product available that can target each problem (be aware that a pesticide is part of this solution). If you are using a commercial mix in your garden, read all labels carefully to ensure the product is safe to use around vegetation that is going to be consumed. In contrast, when you use compost humus as a fertilizer there isn't a lot you can do to customize the end result. But the good thing is, you don't really need to. Mature compost is a process that occurs naturally (in a forest, the leaves on the ground are composted with only help from Mother Nature). The compost contains a wide range of benefits for your lawn that do not involve chemicals. It will really depend on your personal preference whether or not you use commercial fertilizer or compost. If you like the idea of using compost but not the idea of making it yourself you can purchase the compost from some gardening centers. Also contact your city's recycling department, they may have a program set-up that allows residents to donate food and other organic waste for composting and then share in the mature compost when it is ready. Misconceptions Surrounding Composting Composting can benefit your garden and the planet (when done on a large scale) in many ways. A lot of people may shy away from composting because of some common myths or misconceptions. Listed below are some of the most common untruths followed by the real information. * Composting is creating new dirt. Actually composting is not dirt, soil, or earth but it is humus -- decayed matter that provides nutrients to soil. * It takes a lot of time and effort to compost. Once you have your compost bin setup all you will only have to add new materials and turn or rotate the piles once in a two day period. * Having a compost is too smelly. If your compost bin has a bad odor, something is wrong. You need to ensure there is enough air circulation and the right combination of green and brown foods. * If I have a compost in my back yard, animals are going to come and dig through it. If you have a cover for your compost bin and ensure a good layer of brown food (at least one inch) is on the top you will not have any animal control problems. * If I don't measure the exact ratio of green to brown food it will not work. Composting is not an exact science if you add more green food one week and then balance it out with additional brown food the next week -- that is fine. You will be able to tell with time what your compost pile is lacking or needing. Composting is easy, environmentally friendly, and an inexpensive way to fertilize your lawn, garden, or house plants. With some time and patience your mature compost will be ready to use anywhere from one month to one year. A Simplified Look at Composting That of course is the general idea behind this article. There's a lot of materials out there about composting and compost and the last thing you need is another one that explains the technical aspect of the process and the scientific basis behind the importance of using composts. Although, I'm not denying the fact that technical explanations such as those are necessary as well, but it would be nice to hear or read something more of layman's approach on the subject. Well that's something that this article would like to do, anyhow. Compost is an organic substance that is added to the soil which functions more than just being a fertilizer. It is a mulch, a soil conditioner, and something that will help the soil give the best nutrients and minerals your plants need. With compost, the soil also is able to hold more water, which is also beneficial to your plants. There are several composting methods which you can employ or use. The so called "no-turn" composting method seems to be the easiest. Like what the title of the method indicates, you don't need to turn the pile of compost at least once every week to quicken the process of decomposition. In this "no-turn" technique, all you need to do is add a lot of coarse materials to your compost. Adding a lot of straw would do just fine. What the straw does is to create air pockets and allow the pile to be aerated. You can expect your compost to be developed at the same rate as when you employ the traditional "turn-over" composting technique. When you use this composting technique, be sure to get your compost from the bottom of the pile. Just add new organic materials on the top keeping in mind adding coarse materials as well. If the only available composting materials in your yard are piles and piles of leaves, then don't worry. Creating composts from leaves alone can be done. You just need a couple of things, and some very simple techniques. Select a place where you will make your compost pile. For the leaves, the place ideal would be a well shaded area which will help keep the pile damp or moist. Also keep in mind that the pile should not be packed tightly. Keep it loose to allow the air to circulate. In four or six months, the compost from leaves should be finished and ready to be applied to the soil. Take a mental note, however, that the compost created from the leaves does not contain enough nutrients and microorganism to function as a fertilizer. The finished compost, however, is great as soil conditioner. When composting, you will need materials rich in carbon and nitrogen namely fruits and vegetable scraps and other table scraps except left over bones because they attract a number of pests and animals. Other products include eggshells, grass or shrub clippings, pine needles, seaweed and kelp, coffee grounds, wood ash, tea leaves, cardboard and shredded paper, corn stalks, wood chips, and sawdust. To discourage fruit flies and other pests from grouping together on your pile, it would be best to cover the pile or add lime or calcium over the top or whenever you add new materials to your compost. The lime and calcium also help neutralize the odors from your pile. I hope you were able to have a simplified view of the composting and got some useful and simple tips from the article. Just remember that composting is difficult only if you want it to be. Basic Guide to Composting If you care about the environment, you will be in favor of the composting process. This concept is all about giving back to the land what it has given you. It is all about recycling. It is all about a cycle that things go through in order to grow. It is an interesting cycle. If you just take a moment to take a deeper look into a pile of decaying things, you will see that some things that are slowly becoming part of the land. And you also see some offspring that are growing from the process. That's life. And that's how your life is also going to be. If you are in touch with nature, you will see such cycles as miracles, and something to be joyful about. Compost is also more than just a using fertilizer on soil. This actually means that the cycle of life goes on. You can gather decaying leaves of plants and other manures and things that can be found in your garden for this purpose. You will then use all the materials to form your very own compost. This process is actually practiced by many farmers in all parts of the world. But ordinary gardeners or people who love nature and things that revolve in it can also benefit from this. The organic residue that you collect when you gather different materials from the land that is converted into something black, somewhat fragrant, and crumbly (decomposing) is what will be the compost. The idea here is to arrange the materials so that the soil bacteria and fungi can survive and also multiply as they all break down. The bacteria act as the converters of all raw materials so that they must be in a workable environment with proper moisture, food and air. If you haven't made yours, but is interested in starting a compost, you can begin by gathering the green and dry elements that you can see around your garden. You must think what you can feed the bacteria for it to thrive. For such, you can tap on the grass clippings, the green weeds, as well as the vines of pea and leaves of lettuce. What do they have in common? They contain sugar elements as well as proteins and they all can decompose fast. Dry leaves and other small twigs must be mixed with the greens when decomposing. These materials take a lot of time in order to decompose because they contain little nitrogen. That is why they must not be left alone in the process. You can also build a compost pile by mixing a fertilizer, then adding manure and garden soil between every layer of your gathered waste material. You need not be a pro to be able to come up with your own version of this tool. All you've got to have is a big heart for nature and you are set to go. What you have to remember is that you are doing the environment a great favor by being involved in such a process. Not everyone loves to garden, having said that, it is also true that not everyone will love the idea of making compost. Practice will make everything perfect. This is also true with the idea of composting. Through time, you will be able to develop your own techniques. And hopefully, you will be able to share with others what a gem you have found in this kind of process. Top Reasons for Composting Some of us may be hesitant in making and using compost. They find the task of making one troublesome and time consuming. Or they might have false perceptions of smelly compost piles and having such a messy process right in their backyards. While others would prefer buying their fertilizers, soil amendments or conditioners, and mulch from their garden stores to avoid all the hassle of reading about compost and actually making one. Here are my top personal reasons for composting. I only hope that you move your butt out of that chair and begin your own compost pile before you reach number ten. The first reason I find composting highly worthwhile is the fact that the materials used are absolutely free and are readily available. Compare that with the ever rising costs of commercial fertilizers and other gardening products in the market today. All you need is a little extra effort to find the best materials for your compost pile, but otherwise, everything's for free. The second one is that compost provides more nutrients and minerals needed by my plants than commercial organic or synthetic fertilizers. The overall effect of compost is also longer than commercially available fertilizers. It's free and it works better, who wouldn't want that? Plus, if you organize your ingredients just right, you can provide a whole lot more range of nutrients. Another good reason would be the benefits of compost to the soil structure. When applied to the soil, compost can help the soil be more resistant to erosion, improve its retention of water, and in some types of soil (like clay) it can reduce the chance the soil becomes compact. This is also important for farmers since compost can make the soil easier to till conserving time and fuel needed to operate the machines. With the right composting technique, the process can kill those troublesome weeds as well as pests and disease-causing organisms present in the materials being composted. High temperature composting is the technique I am talking about. Although, this technique is not the backyard variety but rather a more laboratory or industrial type variety, I still find it a good reason why we should make composts. There have been studies which indicate that using compost can suppress the growth of diseases in crops. Other studies also show that crops grown over compost rich soils can resist better pest or insect attacks. Likewise, some news and observations in the field also shows that crops grown using compost bear produce that can be stored longer. If that's not reason enough, I don't know what else you are looking for. For the environmentalists and conservationists, compost has something for them as well. Using compost together with the soil can build soil carbon which can eventually reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It may take a lot of compost to have a positive effect on the greenhouse gases but that fact is quite useful as well. It is also found out that compost works well as an antidote for soils that are toxic with agricultural chemicals. Compost can balance the levels of soil acidity, and helps farmers to go organic after years of using synthetic agricultural products. These are my top reason for composting. Some of it may not directly benefit my personal needs but having those reasons to cling onto is a good thing to motivate the use of compost. What Makes Composting Worthwhile? If you're into organic gardening you probably know by know about compost and how it works wonders to your garden patch. But for the first timers, creating a compost pile is not really on the top of their to-do-list. The question of is composting worthwhile usually comes up and not knowing enough they usually arrive at the easiest answer and course of action. And that's a nope, I don't have time for making my own compost. I will settle with the commercially available organic fertilizers and stuff. First things first, composting is the process of decomposing organic wastes, which can be household wastes or plant remains or a mixture of both, and making them into a dark, earthy, and loose or crumbly substance. Because compost is rich in minerals which most plants need, compost can be made to replace your garden soil. Most often, however, gardeners use compost to enrich their garden soil. When compost is added the soil, the overall structure of the soil improved allowing it to hold more water and letting air circulate within the soil. Contrary to some of your perceptions, compost is quite easy to make and is especially easy to use. There are several methods that could be used when creating compost. The following guide shows how easy it is to create it on your own backyard. I would suggest making your own compost bin to make everything confined to one place. You will avoid making a mess in your backyard if you do so. Plus, temperature and moisture can also be regulated if you construct a compost bin but allow the organic materials to be composted touch the soil. You need to allow your earthworm buddies and other organic microbes help out in the decomposing process. Although, almost all organic materials could go into your compost pile, a good combination of "greens" and "browns" would be better. The "greens" refer to nitrogen-rich organic matter like fresh grass, leaves, and your scraps in your kitchen. The "browns", on the other hand refer to organic matter tat contains a lot of carbon such as those dried leaves on your backyard, straw and, of course, wood chips or shavings. A good combination of "greens" and "browns" can dictate how fast you will have a finished compost. Admittedly, you will have an edge in this area if you have piled up your experience in compost making. Why? Well, for starters you would probably have timed how fast the final compost is created from the different proportions of "greens" and "browns". Some, however, would suggest that the best proportion would be 25 percent of your compost pile is made of "browns" and 1 percent is made of "greens." Take note that if you have a large part made up of "browns" the compost pile will decompose rather slowly. On the other hand, having too much "greens" on the pile could cause some serious smell. Other elements that you should always consider when making compost are the air and the amount of water your pile will need. It is best to keep your compost pile damp. This will help in the decomposing process. Air is also needed so make sure your pile is properly aerated. If you do observe that no air is coming in, just turn over your pile. Observe and continuously aerate your pile every until you can already "harvest" the fruits of your labor. It takes some effort in creating compost, that part I have to agree. But the results of composting are really worthwhile. To Compost or Not to Compost Well, there's no doubt about it, composting is a good practice that any self-respected gardener should learn to do. But the question really is what materials we could make into a compost and which ones we cannot. We have been told that composting can be done with any organic material. Well, in theory that may be true, however, in real life it may not be always so. There are a several organic materials that should not be included in the compost pile unless you know how to do it properly while there are other materials that should not even be attempted even by the experts. To compost or not to compost, that is indeed the question. And let's see if we can provide the answers. For home composters like you and me, we have a number of materials available inside our own home and even our own backyard. The big, industrial composters have a little advantage over us. They can compost more materials than us because they have the facilities to divert, mask, or absorb the odor that may come out from composting a lot of organic stuff. We don't have the same luxury. We don't want our neighbors organizing a protest rally against our composting in our own backyard, now do we? Don't let this worry you though, there are still a lot of materials that we could include in our compost pile. Let's begin with something our front lawn is always dying to dispose off: excess grass. Yep, grass clippings from our lawn can be put to better use like for the compost file in our backyard. In situations where you have hay instead of grass clippings, that could work as well. Using hay for composting is often practiced by farmers. You will find that farmers are more than willing to dispose of that hay. And when it comes to using hay for composting, be sure to pick the greener ones. Green hay means it still has a lot of nitrogen in it. Others include kitchen wastes such as vegetable peels, fruit rinds, tea bags, eggshells and coffee grounds. These substances contain high levels of nitrogen. Make sure, however, to keep pests away from your kitchen wastes. Some would prefer to prepare a compost bin intended for their kitchen wastes. Others would prefer burying these wastes in eight inches of soil. And because they precisely attract pests, it would be best to stay avoid including scraps of meat, milk products and left over bones. Wood chips, wood shaving, saw dusts, paper, and other wood products are generally good to included in your compost pile. However, be sure to stay away from chemically-treated wood products. Arsenic is one of the highly toxic chemicals that is sometimes used to treat wood. Using sawdust from such treated wood products is a no-no since the chemical will leak into the soil causing more harm than good. Speaking of no-nos, there are other things that you should not include in your compost. Plants that died due to a disease should not be included. There is still a possibility that the disease the caused the death of the plants might infect your future plants. And similarly, human, dog and cat wastes are not uses as composting materials as well precisely because they contain organisms that could cause disease. Such disease might cause people to be sick or might affect your plants. Even though grasses can be used for composting, it would be best to avoid weeds like morning glory, ivy, sheep, and kinds of grasses that could grow in your compost pile. The weeds seeds also can survive the composting pile which can be carried to your new garden. So going back to our earlier question: to compost or not to compost? Composting is something that is ideal for your garden. However, choosing the right materials will determine how successful your compost pile will be. Steps to Composting Organic matters tend to decompose naturally. But you can actually help make the process easier by learning the process of composting. Having a compost may be easy or hard, depending on the way you will do things and how you will manage your time in doing so. Hot or Cold? There are basically two ways in having compost done. It can either be hot or cold. The cold type is the easier route. You just have to leave the pile to rot. That is the idea. You gather useful materials for your compost. This includes matters like leaves, grass trimmings, vegetable peelings, fruit scraps and all the waste that can be seen in the garden. But this will take a long time because you are not really helping the materials on the pile to disintegrate much faster. This is the difference of your second option, the hot type. For this, there is an art and method being followed starting from the time that you put your materials on bags or compost bins. Some people recommend that you place the green leaves first, add soil, then you can add the kitchen wastes. The latter includes the peelings of vegetables and fruits, eggshells and other kinds. Just do not add up on the materials that will attract unwanted visitors to your compost. Do not throw in excess food especially meats. You must keep the pile that is holding up your compost moist. But keep it at a moist level. Your pile must not be totally wet. To do this, you must add up just bits of water to the pile periodically or when you deem that it is necessary. Others will suggest using beers instead of plain water. Beers contain yeast that will then make the bacteria on the pile contented with glee. Your compost pile should always be maintained. Aside from keeping it moist, you must add up on the trimmings as well as the soil whenever necessary. You can also add some manure to help advance the decomposition process. Aside from these, you should also take time to turn the pile every once in a while. This way, air circulation will improve and this will also make the process faster. When will you know that the end result is ready to be utilized? If it already smells like earth and it already looks like dark soil, then it is time to get it out of the bin and utilize it on your gardens. Some gardeners believe that the products of compost alone will not make your garden soil completely healthy. You must aid that with other materials and use the compost just like how you will use a conditioner on your hair. It can be treated as an amenity but not the complete package. To make the process easy on your part, you have to remember that you are doing this for the sake of nature. You are only giving back what it has given to you. And look around you very closely before starting out the process. Your location should be good enough to accommodate this process. This should not cause any inconvenience on your neighbors as well as your family members. Composting is good and can be easily done. You just have to remember to do everything with the responsibilities completely retained in your heart and on your mind.
Making Your Uwn Compost Bin If you intend to make your own compost pile, it would be nice to make an enclosure or compost bin for your convenience and general neatness. There are a number of compost bins commercially available in various garden stores. You can buy it if you have the money or you can do what I did, make your own compost bin. It's not difficult and the materials you need are not that many. You can do it with your eyes closed, or maybe not. Some commercially available compost bins have their own systems or devices for turning over the compost. Some have harvesting trays or mechanisms for easier harvest. But those things are just add-ons and are made for added convenience for the consumer. You really don't need such stuff. All you need is basic enclosures to keep the compost materials from being scattered around the area. Possibly the only limitations you have in making your compost bin is the amount of imagination and ingenuity you have. Fortunately, you can look in your storage room or garage and look for suitable materials and most likely you will find some quite suitable ones. They can be made from heavy plastics or wood or tin. Like I said, it's just a matter of how you handle the "paints" to create a "masterpiece". One of my suggestions would be using a wire mesh, a couple of wood planks or even pipes. The idea would be like creating a simple wired fence around your compost pile with the pieces of wooden plans or pipes as support. You can tie the wire mesh to the pipes or planks to make it more secure. The shape is up to you. You can make it round, square, rectangular or even triangle shaped. Just keep in mind that you will need to have quick access to the compost pile to turn it over at least once each weak. You can create a doorway from the wire mesh or you can make your enclosure in such a way that you can easily lift and put back the whole enclosure. Also, if you have some left over wooden slats from an old fence or wooden planks from an old shed, I'm sure you can assemble a quite sturdy compost bin in your backyard. Just make sure to let the air in by allowing spaces between the wooden boards. This will keep the air flowing inside the compost pile make decomposition quicker. If you have enough loose boards lying around, you can create a dresser-type compost bin complete with a door with hinges for easy access to the compost pile. You can even fashion one from your garbage can. Look for an old can where you can afford to experiment without being scolded by your wife or your mother later one. What you need to do is punch a couple of holes in your garbage can to allow the air to circulate in the soon composting materials. You just put your composting materials inside the can. Before you cover it, wet the materials inside until they appear damp. You can turn over or roll it around to let the materials mix while always keeping the compost pile damp. When storing the trashcan compost bin, if would be best to place it above ground. In a month or so, you should be able to get satisfactory results from all your effort. You see, making your own compost bin is very easy. You just need to consider the following fundamentals: air should flow inside the bin, you should have quick access to the compost pile, and you should be able to wet the pile when needed. The Big Deal on Industrial Composting Techniques Composting is not entirely limited to a small scale. Industrial techniques abound in as much as residential modes of composting are often appraised and praised for its convenience and simplicity. There are industrial techniques that are larger counterparts of the simple residential techniques, while others employ technology and other methods unknown the the novices of composting. Whichever the method chosen, industrial composting is definitely operating on a large scale and may help a lot of production involving healthy soil. In-Vessel Method The in-vessel method, as suggested by its name, involves closed reactors. This is synonymous to closed bin composting method in residential scale, but instead of small bins, we are talking of metal tanks or concrete containers that are herculean in size. As a result, factors such as flow of air and temperature are controlled more effectively. Some companies also put additional cover layers atop the metal tank or enclosed composting container to ensure complete isolation from external elements. Ventilation and insect infestation are often controlled by layering, constant cleaning and additional aeration processes on the affected layers. MBS technique MBS is the acronym for mechanical biological treatment system. It is a facility that helps sort materials using the composting technique. The scientific term for composting, in this case, is anaerobic digestion. This has instant practical applications in helping sort waste from residential abodes as opposed to industrial wastes which may be more hazardous and larger in number. This waste management technique is praised for its ability to help ensure biological safety of the environment. Sheet Composting The heap is often the method used for composting, but in the case of sheet composting, it the organix materials are placed directly on the soil you are intending to fertilize. Then it functions as a mulch when it decays there. The common materials used here are alfalfa and mustard. But the only downside is that it can rob off the nitrogen in the soil. But adding green manure crops like clover can help sustain the lagging nitrogen supply in the roots. Most of the supporters of sheet composting claim that in the long run, this is more effective and able to retain more minerals in the soil than other techniques. High Fiber Method Wales invented this high fiber method of industrial composting and with great success so far. It involves rigorous stirring and even distribution of materials all throughout the pile. And then the aeration and surface area of the entire compost pile will improve with this symmetry. The compost pile consists of cardboard, newspapers and other forms of used paper. It is also well-suited for household composting but then it is currently being performed on a laboratory in Wales for further monitoring. This solution was offered as a way of helping reduce pressure in waste landfills. If paper products are used as a material for composting, excluding the poisonous risk of colored ink, it really has a high potential of success. ASP Method ASP or Aerated Static Pile method of composting has both active and passive elements to it. The heap is placed on holed pipings that allow circulation without having to manipulate or turn the entire compost heap, as in other industrial composting techniques. It completely relies on air for the bulk of the operation, and is extremely helpful for making sure that the passive and active elements are both in play. The Pros of Worm Composting The old "Eeeeeeew!" may well become one of the solutions to environmental problems and lack of nutrition in the soil. Scientists have tested this in the laboratory and have now approved of this new technique to composting: worm composting. Particularly, the red worm variety are the ones capable of doing this new feat. Finally, they found a new way to make use of worms aside from being the main dish in Fear Factor. Some of us may have goosebumps upon imagining the sight of creepy crawlies-- it truly is more than enough to give any average person the heebie jeebies. But on the up side, they have been known to help cultivate the environment for a long time. It is really no surprise to find that they play a vital role in the whole composting process. Some of you might think that worm composting is not really such as good idea. But before you banish the idea of those red crawlies helping save the environment, take a break, open your mind and hear out some of the advantages of the now-becoming-popular worm composting technique. Advantage Number 1: Flexible: Indoors or Outdoors, Take Your Pick Whether you want to have your worm compost indoors or outdoors, it does not really matter. You can have them on either or on both areas. The good thing is that you won't even have to sweat around too much with your worm compost. They are relatively easy to transport and are non-complaining workers that will till your compost day in and day out, for relatively no charge. You only have to feed them to keep them in top condition. Advantage Number 2: All it needs is moist bedding Worms like moisture, and having moisture is one of the easiest components of composting. If you are able to provide the moisture, you only have to wait and see until the worms do their wonders in helping you have more fertilized soil. Advantage Number 3: Worms are readily available and are not that hard to cultivate. In some areas, you need not look for worms. You only have to get a jar and focus your eyes while walking in the garden. Sometimes, you need not go out of the house and you can find them sauntering in your bathroom (rich in moisture, remember?). So the good thing is that they will not really resist you if you put them in a cage rich with food. Advantage Number 4: Aside from the yuck factor, the worms will happily do the work; you only have to regulate them. You will act more as a worm manager than a laborer, really. After you put on the heap and the worms together, you will do very minimal work for so much positive results. You can also get a lot of support from governments and people worldwide regarding this aspect. In fact, in some American communities, it is already being implemented and widely promoted to have worm composting in the home. Advantage Number 5: Mobile bins will not affect the worms' performance. Another thing with the worm composting that other composting techniques don't have is the mobility. You can take it with you anywhere, assuming that you have small scale composting on your sleeve (industrial size worm composting isn't really a lovely idea, anyway). Evaluating Commercially Available Composting Heaps In some cases, composting may be aided by commercially available alternatives. Like many other worthwhile endeavors, composting takes a huge chunk of time to develop and you really need to be able to balance all the elements. In this case, acquiring commercially available compost for urgent needs not met by your capacity may be entertained as an option. When this happens, you need to at least have a good working knowledge on how to evaluate commercially available composting heaps. The data on commercial composting heaps consist of quality i the chemical, biological and physical aspect. Th characteristics of the compost will help you fare good judgment amidst the numerous brands of commercial compost heaps being promoted to the consumers. Primarily, a good composting heap must have complete information in them when you need it. Obscurely written package descriptions may do the customers a lot of disservice. So narrow your search of the best commercial compost heap b choosing those with ample details in them prior to usage. There are certain characteristics to check out for in any package of commercially available composting heap: Trace Elements The number of trace elements helps show you which elements to watch out for as you apply the compost heap on your soil. Nutrient Content The nutrient content will show you how well-nourished your soil will be after putting the heap in. Also, it will show you if the commercial heap is giving you your money's worth. A thorough knowledge on the composting process will help you evaluate this aspect more properly. Soluble Salts Stability Amount of Organic Matter Ultimately, we get the compost heap for the organic matter it contains. The higher the organic matter, the better it is for your soil. Moisture Level Moisture works hand in hand with air in helping keep the compost active. The moisture of the compost helps facilitate the transfer of nutrients from compost heap to soil to plants. Size of Particles The size of particles will tell you how well-mixed the heap is. You don't need a scientist to tell you, but you can actually see via visual inspection how well-mixed the heap is. This will also give you an idea as to how long or how mature the heap is. Maturity You acquire commercial compost heaps for this factor. The more mature a compost heap is, the more stable and rich in nutrients it is. The more mature heaps are also easier to manage and it is much better to add to them to keep them dynamic once you have placed them in your soil. If you are presented with relatively "young" compost, it is better to administer the composting yourself and save the money you are to use for purchasing something that you can do well on your own. Ability to destroy weeds and other destroyers of soil. The resisting factor in commercial compost heaps will also contribute to the overall growth and fertilization of your soil. The presence of unpleasant elements in the compost heap need to be checked before buying so that you will be ensured that the addition of the heap on your soil will reap you all benefits and no problems whatsoever. Aside from these basic characteristics, you also need to check the pH level and other compost parameters related to it. Teach Composting to Kids Composting education drive is another way to ensure that you are able to pass on the legacy to younger generations. But packaging the teaching method is another aspect that the composting enthusiast must not overlook. There are various ways of teaching composting to adults, but children have different needs and may require more than the expertise of monitoring your heap's temperature. Here are different techniques for teaching composting methods to children. It can really be fun and rewarding to pass on the baton to younger kids once you have gotten the hang of composting, and it will really help bring about awareness to their parents and other members of the community. Use Visuals Nothing beats the boring feeling a kid gets from pure text. Unless the kid is inclined to enjoy pure words, visuals are your best bet into inculcating a love for composting. Make use of pictures, Powerpoint presentations and other technological devices you can use. If you are on an impromptu teaching class, use your words to help the kids visualize the scenario of composting. In any case, encourage the children to imagine the entire process. Do a complete demo The demonstration will be able to teach volumes to the children, way more than any discussion can. With a demonstration, you not only show them how it's done, you also show them that you are well capable of doing what you are teaching them. Seeing the actions in real time will also eliminate the need for them to ask questions should their turn for trying it comes since they will be able to present their questions as you do your demo. Track for feedback Kids can get opinionated about things that they like. Strike their fancy even further by getting feedbacks from them from time to time. Also, ask them and encourage them to ask their questions to you. Removing their inhibitions will help you teach them more concepts than when you are dealing with an uptight bunch, Entertain all questions and give ample time to answering each question. Kids can get easily discouraged. So make sure that you are able to reserve judgment and entertain questions, no matter how "stupid" or minor they may seem to you. Remember, you are dealing with children here. If at all possible, have an assistant teacher who is also a kid to help you gain a better perspective of teaching composting to children. Discuss benefits at the outset so they will know what composting is really for. If the children are oriented from the outset that what they are doing has great significance, they are more likely to cooperate and do the tasks cheerfully. Ensure that you are fully able to help them understand how composting helps the environment and how it will make a positive difference to a majority of people. Let them do it, and refuse to interfere if possible. The main purpose for educating them on composting is to have them equipped with the skills they need to be able to do composting themselves. So, seeing them do the composting, even on a small pit for beginners, may help you see where potential problems may lie. You can also easily praise them and correct them as necessary. In any case, encourage them for every form of progress made, no matter how small it is, so as to help build their confidence. Avoiding Composting Dangers If you are engaged in any composting activity of sorts, you might find yourself encountering certain dangers. Composting is an activity that leads one closer to nature. But then, disasters can happen even on the road paved with good intentions. There are imminent dangers However, these dangers can be avoided by a few techniques from the pros. Read up The best way to prepare for composting dangers is to read up. That's right. You need to read up on concepts and techniques and all the other factors pertaining to composting. Like in learning a new language, immersing yourself with available information on composting prior to the composting activity will ensure that you are to get the best deal of the composting activity. Also, it will show you how to do things the right way and keep you from doing things that can be detrimental to your safety. Wash your hands frequently After composting, you need to wash your hands. This may seem like a no-brainer, but mos enthusiasts who get too absorbed with their activities forget the dangers of poisoning. This may not concern you directly, but children and siblings who are not oriented to the dangers of composting chemicals may not really be privy to washing their hands after contact. This is also a good motivation for you to secure a close lid for your composting heap. Inspect your active compost frequently Frequent inspection will ensure that there are no weeds or unwelcome creatures inhabiting in your compost pile. Make sure that your compost pile remains a compost pile and not a breeding ground for harmful animals that can endanger you in your backyard. The active compost is quite dynamic in nature, so you can be ensured that you will not be bored to death or forced to watch a dull pile of manure. Orient your friends and family about your composting activities. Getting your family and friends involved or at least amply oriented will help you be able to relay your activities to them effectively. It will also help them become aware of certain things or objects you are using in the backyard (in cases where you do your compost heaps in the backyard), and will not be inclined to hit themselves with it while taking a leisure stroll. Keep the compost aerated The danger to compost is when it loses air and becomes more poisonous to the soil than helpful. Make sure that even when your compost heap is in a closed bin, there is still more than enough air for it to continue circulating. The aeration process helps enhance the composting process, and then it also prevents the organic materials from turning into an amorphous poisonous blob that you would not want to get your hands at. Familiarize yourself with the machinery (for industrial scale compost heaps) If you are dealing with composting on a larger scale and it may require some machineries, you must really exercise caution in using the machinery. Also, make sure that you are familiar with all commands, well-versed with worst-case scenarios and troubleshooting techniques for the equipment you are using. This is more dangerous, since you are talking of a composting heap on a larger scale. So make sure that you are familiarized, as well as the people around you who will be assigned to work with you on the industrial composting process. The Low-Down On Home Based Composting Processes Generally, there are two types of composting processes: residential or home-based and industrial composting processes. Each type of process has different techniques associated with it. Home-based composting is growing in popularity because it is easily implemented in homes; all it would take would be a willing mind and some manual labor on the part of the composting enthusiast. A clear advantage of home-based composting is the minimal need for machineries and other equipment that industrial composting requires. However, it will not be able to be at par with the capacity of industrial composting systems. Here are some of the types of home-based composting processes that a potential composting expert can use in his quest. Composting Toilet The use of a composting toilet or pit is one of the most popular methods of small scale composting in both urban and rural residences. The composting toilet is convenient, easy to set up and quite simple to monitor and mix. The composting toilet is a bit tricky, however, since it will require you to orient your family members about it especially if your composting activities burgeon to larger proportions. It may also be very difficult to distinguish the materials in cases where you need to monitor carbon to nitrogen ratio due to its simplicity. But it is is still widely used and accepted in most homes as a good method for small scale composting. Open or Closed Bin Composting The use of composting bins has been very useful for many people, especially those who are particularly drawn to compartmentalizing and organizing the composting activity. In some cases, a composting toilet or pit may not be easily cleaned; this is where the advantage of the compost bin comes in. the compost bin will ensure that the composting process will remain under your control. Especially with closed bin composting techniques, you can more directly observe the variables affecting your compost pile, as it is not exactly exposed to external elements that can actually affect the compost greatly when accumulated over time. German Mound Also known as a Magic mound, the German method consists of forest elements such as wastes from wood-rich gardens, clippings from hedges, prunings, bashwood and brassica stems. These objects will then be placed in a circular trench, which is about 5 inches in width and an inch deep. Another hole is dug at a center, an additional inch deeper than the outer circle, and this is where most of the rough materials are placed. From this, layers and layers of manure, wasted leaves and compost are added. Apparently, the results of the German mound is good for the soil in the next 4 or 5 years that it is installed in the land. Ecuador Style of Composting When you are involved in some composting that are comprised of tree trunk or banana stalks, then you are up for some Ecuadorian treat in composting. Embedding the whole pit with tree trunk or banana stalks, then placing the organic matter in an interspersed manner for each layer, helps segregate the compost materials more efficiently. This will take up a lot of space, because it only gets watered after the pile gets to a height of a meter and a bit beyond that. But the good thing is that the high pile need not last forever. The people of Ecuador often wait for it to settle down, remove the top layer and aerate it and repeat the process for more humus production. The Dirt Paybacks: Advantages of Composting Composting may literally be viewed as a dirty job. Depending on the type of composting process that you undergo, you may find yourself immersed with dirt and other external elements that other people normally wouldn't want to get involved with. However, the dirt has its own paybacks, and here are just some of the advantages of composting that you may want to tell your friends if you are to convince them that composting is worth their time as well as yours. It agrees with nature. The very first advantage of composting is that it agrees with nature. It is all-natural and you will not be able to clash with the forces of nature to be able to do it. In fact, you are actually contributing to the natural scheme of things if you are constantly taking care of your composting pit. It helps the people involved to be more meticulous and mindful. People who are involved with composting tend to be more meticulous and mindful because composting requires rigorous monitoring. The ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen, the temperature of the compost materials, and also the activity in the compost as it develops need to be closely monitored to ensure that it will not go passive and yield less than its maximum potential. Being able to take good care of your compost not only helps nature but it also helps you become more mindful and meticulous. It allows you to make best use of organic materials which would have otherwise been placed as trash. Composting lessens the garbage in your home. since what you would otherwise put in your garbage bag may now be placed in the compost pit, it will also help you in your garbage management. On a larger scale, there will be less need for dumping site spaces and less probability for landslides on mounds of garbage being added to on a frequent basis. It's flexible: you can add or subtract materials as you go along The flexibility of composting materials lie in the fact that most of the materials are readily available anywhere. You can add or subtract materials at any time you please and in any conceivable quantity just as long as it doesn't interfere with the ratios you are maintaining for your compost. There are numerous resources and support groups online and offline for this purpose. Support groups are readily available for composting enthusiasts on a global scale. especially with the emergence of global warming issues, the need for environmental solutions are on the forefront and are highly promoted these days. The good way to expand one's network and establish ties that last with other like-minded individuals lie in getting support groups and engaging in activities that are universal. Composting is one such activity. For farmers, it brings in higher revenue. Revenue can be obtained by farmers if they yield better crops from better soil. Better soil can be obtained by having a healthy compost to fertilize their land. This can actually increase their profits and keep the sources of the profits healthy and thriving for all seasons. It costs virtually nothing. Aside from the manual labor and the gathering of materials readily available virtually anywhere, composting costs nothing. The actual costs are inconsequential compared to the returns that composting can bring the people and Mother Nature. The good thing is that it accelerates the positive processes beneficial for plants, animals and humans. Making Compost: Getting Your Hands Dirty If you're a gardener then you should not mind getting y our hands dirty. In this line of work, you need to handle plants, soil, rocks, fertilizer, soil conditioners, etc. and not all times a pair of gardening gloves is handy. At times using glove can prevent you handling some delicate stuff. In this case, you have to get down on your knees and get your hands dirty. And nothing is dirtier that making compost. Composting is a the process were biodegradable materials, usually manure and household wastes, are turned into soil-like output by combining them with a little air, water and nitrogen. Is that too technical for you? Well compost is a dark, crumbly, soil-like substance which functions as soil conditioner, mulch, and fertilizers. It feed your garden soil the microorganism that most plants need to grow healthy and strong. When making your own compost pile, it would be ideal to find a place near your garden and yet it has enough concealment to not affect the overall look of your garden. Does that make sense? Just like one of the famous movies say "hiding in plain sight". If such is the case, a cleverly painted compost bin would help make the area neater. A corral or a fenced area would do fine. After setting up your composting area, you start composting by arranging a 3:1 ratio of brown and green organic materials. Green ingredients contain lots of nitrogen while the brown elements contain lots of carbon. Together, they form the basic foundations of a compost file. The green organic components of gardening include grass clipping while the brown components are the dry leaves and other wood products. If you're worried about the possible bad smell that would come out of your compost pile, then don't. When the ratio of greens and browns is correct, you don't have to worry of any bad smell from your compost pile. Compost should have this earthy smell and not smelling like rot. If you smell the later then there could have been some things that might have been included in the pile or the ratio of the greens and browns components is not correct. One way to make certain that your compost pile has jus the right combination of greens and browns components, is to get a pile of green material and put it in you compost bin. Follow it up with two piles of brown materials. Keep this gong until you have a nice pile of leaves and grass that measures about three feet. At this high, you probably have a base measuring 3 feet also. One good thing of having this large a compost pile is that the greens and browns can easily and quickly break down. If you want, you could add in a bucket of already finished compost to the newly formed pile. This will help start the process and begin the microbial activities in your compost pile. Make sure that you add enough moisture to the pile as well. Keeping the compost pile damp will help quicken the breakdown of the organic materials. Add water to the pile and feel a sample. It should be damp, somewhat like a sponge. See, I told you your hands will have to get dirty. There is a need to turn over your compost pile at least once a week to keep it loose allowing air into the pile and quickens the process of decomposition. After two months, you should have decent quality compost by now. The original materials you used should no longer be recognizable. As you can see, making compost is quite easy and requires not too much of your time. The Greens and Browns of Composting Imagine yourself as a chef of a fancy restaurant. To cook a delicious meal, you carefully measure the ingredients and combine them to create wonderful dishes. The same can be said when creating composts. This time, however, instead of the people in the restaurant as your customers, you will be answering the needs of your plants. And just like cooking, you are given the task of putting together in equal amounts the "greens" and "browns" of composting. "Greens" and "browns" are nicknames which are used to refer to the organic materials used in creating compost. The major differences between these two elements are not so much on the colors of the organic matter themselves but rather on their basic components. The Greens are organic materials rich in nitrogen or protein. Meanwhile, Browns are those organic matters that have high carbon or carbohydrates contents. Because of their high nitrogen and protein contents, Greens allow micro organism in composts to grow and multiply. Also, the Green components generate heat in compost piles. The Brown elements on the other hand contain the energy that most soil organisms need. Furthermore, because of their high carbon contents, the Browns function as a big air filter, absorbing the bad odors that emanates from the compost pile. The carbons also help prevent organic nitrogen from escaping and also aids in the faster formation of humus from the compost. In case you're stumped whether an organic waste or material belongs to the Greens or Browns variety, one of the easiest way to test it is to wet the material. If you find the material to stink after a few days then it belongs to the Greens variety. Again, remember not to be fooled by color. For example, although leaves come in green, brown, red, etc. colors, they are classified as Browns. Leaves are high in carbon. The evergreen leaves for example have higher carbon contents than any other leaves. However, there is always an exception. Oak tree leaves do not fall under the Greens classification. Oak leaves contain high amounts of nitrogen which makes them fall under the Greens category. Other examples of Greens include animal wastes, grass clippings, and those left over food from your kitchen. AS long as you don't use harmful chemicals like inorganic fertilizers and pesticides on your grass, then the use of grass clippings I is okay. Meanwhile, papers, wood chippings, sawdusts, bark mulches and other wood products are most often than not fall under the Browns classification. Sugar products are also classified under Browns. These include molasses, syrups, sugar and carbonated drinks. You could use these sugar products to activate or increase the activities of microbes in your compost pile. Some other Greens include vegetable and fruit wastes, eggshells, as well as coffee grounds, filters, and teabags. For the Browns, they have hay, straw, and cornstalks. Pine needles fall also under the Browns category. However, it is suggested that using too much pine needles on the compost pile will give the Browns too much of an advantage. Once can achieve a successful compost with the correct ratio of Brown and Green components. Ideally, a "Browns" and "Greens" of composting ratio of 3:1 would ensure a successful compost. This means, you will have three parts or the pile made of components high in carbon (Browns) and one part of it made up of nitrogen-rich ingredients (Greens). How to Succeed with Your Composting Venture Is this going to be your first time to try your hand and luck in composting? This should not be that hard. But it isn't that easy either. The sure thing about this is that it is going to take a lot of your time. But the end result will all be wroth it, especially if the next thing that you want to try your hand on is organic gardening. The two actually go together. You will be able to utilize to its full potential your compost on your organic garden. If you think that you have a knack and you have the talent for it, you should really try gardening. It is not all work but no play. This can actually be just a hobby that you can use to relax while flexing those muscles out for a much needed exercise. The main reason for gardening may be for beautification. But when you go the organic route, the reason behind this will be much bigger and much in tuned with nature. By making compost, you are also being one with nature. You are doing your part in preserving its beauty by gathering the waste elements that can be recycled to act as fertilizers to your garden. For starters, it is only natural to worry if your project will be a success or not. But why worry if you can take the necessary actions for it to actually succeed. Here are some tips that you can follow. 1. Manage the stink. You don't want to get into trouble with your neighbors for the sake of nature. To achieve this, you must keep the pile oxygenated. You can turn the materials periodically to gain such effect. This way, the materials on your pile will decompose regularly. 2. Decide if you are going to do it hot or cold. If you've decided on cold, you just have to pile all the organic materials and let nature takes its course over them. But this will take months to even years for all the materials to be good enough for compost. If you will choose hot, this is a more detailed process and more effort is required on your part. You have to place your materials on a compost bag. Place the leaves first then put soil into it. Add other kitchen wastes like scraps from vegetables and fruits. You must remember to moist this pile periodically for the bacteria to grow so they can aid in decomposing the materials faster. 3. Watch out for the unnecessary visitors. You must be vigilant in a sense that if you are seeing flies and other pests inhabiting on your pile, take the proper actions to get rid of them. You want the pile to rot but not in a way that it won't be useful in the end. 4. Place the compost, whether it is being done through hot or cold way, a good distance from the household and nearby neighbors. This way, you can proceed with the steps without the probable intrusion and questioning by the people nearby who don't get what is that all about. Composting can really eat up a lot of your time. So do it methodically. Make sure that you'll devote ample amount of time into the process if you really are serious about gaining positive results from this. Common Materials for Composting from Your Own Home In composting, you need not look too far to be able to obtain a viable set of materials to keep it up and functioning. the good thing about composting is that it completely transcends locations and resources because you can literally derive your composting materials from basically anything. When you are at home, the best way to be able to get a hold of the best composting materials is by neatly categorizing the different parts of your home and sequestering all the possible candidates for composting. this will help you sort out which part of your home has the best resource for your composting and in cases where you need to activate your compost at the time that it grows more passive, you know exactly where to look. Kitchen: Vegetables and fish that have been burned by the freezer can still be put to good use, as well as any container or bag made of burlap which you cannot find any good use for. even the ignorable lint that you find behind your refrigerator may be used for composting! Old condiments or spices may also be included, not for flavoring, but for organic purposes. Dining Area: Paper napkins are the first thing that come to mind when you are trying to secure composting materials in the dining table. Leftovers at the dining table may also be classified as appropriate composting material. Study Area: There is definitely a better way to make use of your Post it notes than putting them on a shredder after you have scribbled all over them. In your study area, all sorts of paper materials, including your colored and used Post it notes, are viable composting materials. In cases where you are unable to resist bringing food in your study area, you can also use the leftovers from your study area to help fill up the compost pit you have created. Pet Kennels and Cages: Do you find pet hair irritating? The thing is, you can also use pet hair as part of the organic materials that you can use for your composting pursuits. Wood chips from your playful pets can also be collected and put in the compost bin. If you are dealing with a bird cage, even their used-to-be despicable droppings may be used to your advantage. Backyard Garden: The backyard is one of the richest places with which you can find organic material like bee droppings, hay. Pine needles, match residues, leaves, herbs, chicken manure... the list just goes on and on. all you have to do is acquire some observant eye and a huge bag with which you can store the various discoveries you can find in your garden or backyard. A Word of Caution: Despite the wide variety of items that can be considered for composting, there are still exceptions to organic materials. Never include diseased plants in your compost pit, as well as any form of weed. Also part of the list of things that you are not supposed to include as composting material include dead animals, feces of your pets, bread, meat parts, dairy products, grease, grains, cooking oil or any derivative of it. Another thing to consider is the size of your compost and the ratios you need to be mindful of to make your compost alive and kicking all the time. This way, you will never have a dull moment in filling up your compost bin. Helping Nature by Composting If you are still find it hard to understand the nature of composting, it can actually be simplified. It can actually be compared to recycling. Instead of throwing out all your waste and garbage, or at least what you consider as garbage, you can sort that out. In recycling, you need to pick the things that can still be transformed into other materials so that you can use them for different purposes. The more popular things that are being utilized in recycling are the pins on soda cans. These are said to help out in making aluminum. Other containers can be used as pots or vases. Used clothes can be turned into mats or rugs. The idea here is that while there are things that can still be useful in your everyday lives, most of the recycled materials are being implemented as decorative elements. With the products of compost, you will not pick things out of the garbage pile to be able to come up with other things that will be useful to you on your everyday life. No, the process will not come up with an exotic looking vase or a picture frame made out of shells or bottle caps. You can leave those thoughts to recycling. Composting entails the recycling of the materials that can be found on nature. The popular samples of this would be dried leaves, grass clippings, vegetable or fruit peelings, animal manure, sawdust, among others. How would all these be useful? Unlike the practical applications of the product of recycling, this in turn will mostly be for gardening purposes. This will be especially helpful if you are into organic gardening. This method requires the use of organic materials. That means that you cannot turn to synthetic products, especially for the purpose of fertilizers and pesticides. And it is possible. Your compost can make the soil for this type of gardening healthy and happy. As a result, it will produce healthy crops and chemical-free plants. Organic gardening may sound complicated to the novice ears. But if you put your heart into it, you will find out that all the hard work that you will spend doing this will all be worth it. But this doesn't really mean that you have to do it especially if you can't afford to because of the time consideration and other factors. But even if you don't have time to do organic gardening, you can still try your hand in making compost. This can also apply with people living on the urban zones. Even with such situation, you can still do a little gardening trick by having your plants in pots. No, you don't need to go organic all the way. Nobody's telling you to do so. But using the products of your compost as a fertilizer can actually engage you with the project and may start your curiosity towards the real organic gardening thing. Besides, everything nowadays seems to be marketed as organic. Look at the grocery aisles. There are organic food, organic soap, organic tissue, cloth and everything. This seems to be trend. And nature is definitely not complaining. By going out of your way to do composting, consider nature sending out her appreciation your way. And may this inspire you to do other things to help with the causes of Mother Earth. Getting to Know Your Composting Equipment The equipment you use in your composting will help make or break your pursuits of building your compost. If you are really bent on making the most of your composting goals, a good familiarization of the tools that will help you achieve your goals is very much appropriate. The tools will not necessarily be in the form of objects, because there are also elements of place and space that are in play when it comes to obtaining the optimum performance of your compost. A Good Composting Site The site of your composting activity is the primary consideration and one of the best tools you need to master before you do any composting activity. The place must be free from obstruction and well capable of obtaining the right temperature needed for your composting. Aside from this, you also need to be thoroughly familiar with the site which you chose for composting. In addition, you also need to be able to access the site frequently as composting requires a lot of monitoring on a frequent basis. Compost Bin Your compost bin must serve the functions of the particular type of composting you intend to have. If you are up for the industrial level of composting, you may need more than one compost bin to satisfy your objectives. This compost bin needs to be cleaned every once in a while, and must be of the right size depending on the amount of materials you are to put. Be sure that you are able to manage the compost bin you choose, and for beginners, it is often recommended to start small and then branch out once you get the hang of it or at least get comfortable with what you are working on. Thermometer Composting requires you to maintain a specific temperature. So a thermometer may come in handy for you as you do your daily rounds of inspection on your compost pit. You need to make sure that the thermometer is properly calibrated. Some shops also sell thermometer that is tailored to suit the needs of compost owners, so you can also check these out. The specifically tailored thermometers may prove to give a better advantage for you. Garden Fork The garden fork has a great variety of uses. In the aspect of composting, it will really help you mix your materials especially if you are dealing with a large composting pit or bin. The garden fork will help you rake in the materials, mix them and test the texture and softness of your compost mix. For a garden rake, you must choose one that is optimum for the size of your composting operations and with a complete manual and warranty so as to maximize its usage. Other Containers You will not only need a compost bin, but if you are a sucker for combining and categorizing your materials, you may also need additional containers that can help you manage your compost materials. In cases where you need to monitor your Carbon and Nitrogen ratio components in the mix, you have make sure that you are adding the right type of materials to maintain the right temperature, mix and ratio needed. Room for Growth The spatial aspect of composting involves having more room for growth should you decide to pursue higher levels of composting. Your area must be spacious enough to accommodate your present composting needs, but at the same time, it must be able to hold in expansions, should you decide to increase the capacity of your compost pit. Compost Smells: This and Other Composting Myths Composting is a natural and simple process and yet it has been complicated by machines, fallacies, misinformation, myths, and misunderstandings that came out due to erroneous publications and aggressive commercial marketing approaches. Some of these misinformed facts have been passed around so many times that the general perception has become truth. An example would be the seemingly accepted fact that all compost smells. But before we go into that, let's discuss some other composting myths first. Myth: Composting requires a lot of work Truth: Composting is a natural process which involves basically the elements of nature doing the job for you. All you need is to gather all the materials, lay it on, and let nature do her job. Composting is a low maintenance activity as well. You only need to turn the compost file every once in a while to keep the air flowing to quicken the decomposition process and that's it. You practically sit and wait for the the compost to finish. Myth: Composting is limited to farms and wide open spaces Truth: On the contrary, people living in urban areas who have no luxury for space can create their own composting bin from a trash can. How much space would that take up? Also, there is another technique which you can use, the so-called vermicomposting which involves the use of red worms in a contained bin where you feed them table scraps. Myth: Composting needs precise measurements Truth: Even though composting ideally would be best achieved with the right combination of greens and browns elements, having the exact measurements is not that necessary. Estimates work just fine. And those neatly piled up layers of composting piles you see in commercials, books, pamphlets and brochures of composting products, those are all for show. You don't need to copy those, composting works the same way as you pile them up haphazardly. Myth: You need specially formulated chemicals as starters or activators Truth: Well, despite the claims of commercially available products that applying them to the compost pile will speed up the process of decomposition, buying them is not really necessary. It is often the practice to just throw in some finished compost into the newly formed compost pile and that itself will serve as the activator to get things started. There's no need to buy those expensive stuff. Myth: Adding yeast will boost the compost's performance Truth: This is not true at all. What you're doing is just wasting your money by adding yeast to the compost pile. Yeast does not do anything to the compost pile and neither does it affect the performance quality of the compost. Myth: Animals are attracted to composting piles Truth: Yes, this to some degree is true. Composting piles do attract the occasional cat, dog or raccoon. Small critters will likely go for open compost piles and for piles that have kitchen scraps like meat, fat, dairy products, bones and pet manure to the pile. Myth: Compost smells Truth: Compost should not smell. If you find bad smelling compost, then the maker did a poor job picking the materials for the compost pile. Other composting myths exist and it would be best to do your research first before accepting them as truth. Wriggly Friends Help Make Compost Have you ever heard of worm composting? I know about composting. I have a small composting pile brewing in my backyard. However, the first time I've heard of worm composting, I have to ask (embarrassingly I might add) twice if the person was not joking. When I got home, I searched the web and found out that those wriggly friends do help make compost. The process is interestingly different from the regular composting procedure. Work composting or vermiculture is easy, affordable, and low-maintenance way of creating compost. It has a lot of advantages. Definitely it requires less work, just let the worms eat up all your scraps and in two months you'll have rich compost at your disposal. The worms used in composting are the brown-nose worms or redworms. They work best in containers and on moistened bedding. Those night crawlers or large, soil-burrowing worms are not good for composting purposes. Just stick with the redworms and things will work out well. All you need to do is add food waste to the container and soon enough the worms will eat them up and convert compost together with the bedding. Before placing your redworms inside containers, place a nice layer of paper to serve as bedding for the worms. Any kind of paper will do, but it has been observed that the worms will consume newspapers, cardboards, paper towels and other coarse papers faster. The worms will eat this layer of bedding together with the scraps of food to convert them in compost. You can also add a bit soil on top of the paper and a few pieces of leaves. If your redworm container is located outside the house, try considering adding livestock manure on it. Redworms love them. Fruits, grain, or vegetables are great for worm composting. The redworms can even eat egg shells, coffee grounds, and even tea bags. Avoid giving them meat, fish, oil, and other animal products. Like the traditional composting, these materials only attract pests to the composting bin and also produce bad smell. The proportion of worms to food scraps will be based on how much scrap you like to be composted in a week. For example, if you want 1 pound of food scrap to be composted a week, all you need is also a pound of redworms. You don't need to add redworms into the container unless you want to increase the amount of food scraps you intend to compost in a weekly basis. For containers, keep it well ventilated to let the air in and let the excess moisture out. You can use plastic bins, and even wooden boxes for worm composting. The time to harvest would be when the container is full. Scoop out the undigested food scraps as well as the works which are usually on the top few inches of the material. The remaining material inside the container is your compost. To remove the remaining worms from compost, you can spread the compost under the sunlight. Leave a few small mounds of compost. As the heat dries the compost, the worms will gather in the mounds. Just be careful not to leave the compost under the sun that long or the worms will die. Afterwards, you can place the worms in the container again and repeat the process all over. You see, this is how our wriggly friends help make compost and for those who don not mind the feeling of worms in their hands, this might be a good and easy way to make compost. Getting the Most Out of Your Compost After a couple of months taking care of your compost pile, turning over the pile every now and then, warding off insects and pests, and keeping the pile damp, it is only natural (and you should do so) to get the most out of your compost. And this means using the compost wisely and effectively. You will know the right time to harvest the compost when you no longer recognize the original materials that you used to make the pile. The finished compost should look more soil-like or humus-like. It is dark, loose and smells earthy. When you harvest the compost from your pile, it would be best to spread it out and exposed it to the air. This will further dry the compost and will make is a easier to use. If you find some bigger chunks still not fully decomposed, throw it back to the next compost pile you're going to make. One way to get the not fully decomposed material, you can use a screen or wire mesh large enough to let the compost through but small enough to screen the remaining big chunks. As you probably know by know, compost has a lot of benefits that is why it is often encouraged among gardeners. For starter, compost helps improve the overall soil structure. This means the density and porosity of the soil is improved allowing plants' roots to grab a hold on the soil better. The soil also becomes more resistant from erosion and runoff. Likewise, adding compost to the soil allows better water retention. Aside from the soil structure, the macro and micronutrients compost contains provide plants with the needed minerals and nutrients to grow healthy. The soils holds in the nutrients better when compost is added to the soil. Not to mention, compost improves and stabilizes the soil's acidity levels as well. These are but a few reasons why compost should be used by gardeners. Let's go back to your newly harvested compost. After removing those that did not fully decomposed and after curing the finished compost, the next steps would be using what you have been brewing these past few months. Among the most common usage of compost is as soil amendment. What you do is add the compost to your soil and allow it to draw out the nutrients and other essential minerals for your plants to absorb. You can also spread the compost over the soil before the planting season. You can apply to selected plant surfaces if you have not enough to go around with. You can also use your compost as mulch. Mulch is a protective layer spread over the soil to help counter the effects of the climate. You might need an ample supply of compost if you use it mulch though. To use it as mulch, you need two to six inches of compost covering the soil surfaces of plants, trees, shrubs, and exposed slopes. As mulch, the compost will help lessen weed growth, prevent erosion, attract earthworms, and help retain water. Another usage of compost is as potting mix. Mix the compos with sand and soil and voila! You'll have a great quality potting mix which you can use for your plants. A mix of 1 part sand, 2 parts compost, and 1 to 2 parts soil seems to be the general agreement for using compost as potting mix. Getting the most out of your compost is only natural. You worked hard creating your compost and you should learn to reap the full benefits. Dynamic Composting Tips and Tricks Unlike the aging body, you do not need the elixir of youth to be able to ensure that your compost heap is at its glorious best, thriving and able to function well on your soil. Few people are attracted with passivity of all forms, especially in compost, which is supposed to be a hot pot of activity for yielding greatest returns in the environment and farm land business people. The good thing about composting is that you can easily keep it dynamic with consistency and a host of other techniques that are tried and tested by many a composting enthusiast or advocate. Balance the ingredients Primarily, the basic thing to keep or maintain for a compost heap to be active is balance of ingredients. If you have too much of a single component, your compost may eventually die down. Remember that a compost is inherently comprised of numerous organic matter, and to keep it in top condition means that you must also maintain the variety of materials you put in your compost heap. Over time, some ingredients in the compost heap may dominate over the others, so make it a point to replenish your compost bin and have it checked frequently. Select the right bin or container The right bin will also lead you to the right lively nature of dynamic composting. If you put in your materials well but placed it in an unsuitable container, the compost will become passive over time. Find the right fit for your compost heap and then ensure that the container itself is well-maintained, free of holes or other infestations that may affect your compost heap's growth. Dampen and don't soak Soaking is primary evil to your compost. Have the right amount of moisture, but do not drown the compost heap to the point that it won't be of any vital impact to your soil. Make sure that you are able to draw out more humus than water from your compost heap so that you will be paid back well for your hard labor in building your compost heap. Bacteria needs air Aeration is the other partner of ample moisture in your compost heap. If you provide your compost heap with enough air, the bacteria that produces humus will thrive and will help exceed your expectations of compost heap performance. If you are really hell-bent on keeping your compost heap dynamic, make sure that you have enough air, but not too much that it will over-expose the pile and defeat the purpose of creating a good compost heap. Check the temperature There is an ideal temperature for composting. Ensure that the compost heap maintains this temperature otherwise the whole reaction for composting will not be sustained or completed. Have a thermometer handy everyday when you inspect your composting heap. If possible, find thermometers that are created for composting purposes. Have a fixed area for composting It is not that recommended to have a mobile composting heap. Make sure you can fix it in a single place and increase its chances of growing and thriving. When you move around your composting heap too much, less reaction takes place. It requires a certain degree of permanence to produce optimum results, so make sure that you are ready and well-adjusted to this fact as well. How to Go Organic in Composting Ever heard about organic? Who haven't these days? Where were you? Look around you. Even Oprah is clamoring about organic stuff. One may wonder if this is so important that even a popular and influential celebrity would endorse its use. Along with the talks about going organic, especially in gardening, involves the process of composting. What is this? It should not be alien to you at all. You may have been using such since you were a child. You may just have not realized it yet. But it's true, even a child can carry out on the methods of making a compost. But of course, for a child, the process will be the easier one. If you are not aware of the benefits of what you are doing, you will not really take it seriously, right? For a child, it may be a simple process of gathering the dried leaves, clipping of grasses, branches and twigs of trees, some animal manures, peelings of vegetables and fruits and other kitchen waste and sweeping them all into a pile. They just leave it there. Have you done the same when you were a child? You probably did. You may have had put all the materials that you thought to be waste on your backyard and let them decompose on their own. You may also no longer have any idea what has happened to the end product. If you own a garden, your parents might have used that as a fertilizer. But if you don't, those may have been gathered to a container and were dumped. But now that you are all grown up, you have a better view of what this process entails and how can you utilize the products of this method. The end result is actually being widely used as fertilizer for organic gardening. This is not synthetic. This contains no chemicals. This way, it will really help make healthy soil that will likewise produce healthy plants. In organic gardening, it is a must to be vigilant. You have to attend to the needs of your plants. You've got to know every detail about everything on your garden. You have to keep everything in perfect balance. For example, in controlling pests, you can pick them manually or you can add up other insects or animals that will feed on them. The success of organic gardening heavily relies on the soil. And the best way to maintain the soil of your garden is by feeding the soil. What does this mean? Just like you, it never should get hungry. This is where you are going to use the end result of your compost. You must integrate it with the soil to be able to maintain its structure as well as its health. Aside from the compost, you must water the soil. The amount will depend on the type of soil that you are using on your garden. So this is where your knowledge about everything in your garden will be really helpful. The soil is the base of the beds of your plants. This is where your plants will rely for strength and health. So it is extremely important to attend to the needs of the soil. And this is where composting will be of great help. You should master the craft to be able to benefit from it especially if you want to venture into organic gardening.
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