Posted on 03 September 2011 by

A New Movement in Gardening-Healthy Diets Means Healthy Compost


Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

The other day it occurred to me that as we eat healthier our compost should be healthier too and before you say you cannot compost I say shoo…not true.

Everyone can and should compost.

Those living in apartments, condos, high-rises, caves, houses, tents, and any other type of “home” or “house should compost without question or argument.

Living in a cast away society makes compost a hard sell at times. Grocery stores send their bad and unmarketable produce to the dump. Families teach their children to throw everything in the trashcan and then demand more trashcans to hold their growing organic and inorganic trash pile. A simple solution to this growing problem, no pun intended, is to encourage everyone to compost.

The process is pretty simple and can be seen anytime you walk outside. Essentially organic material breaks down and turns into soil. Pretty simple isn’t it so why do people not do it?

One reason is they do not know how to do it or feel they do not have the time. Two, people feel that there will be a pest problem but a well maintained compost bin does not attract fruit flies, flies, or rodents. The third reason and the most alarming is that we, as a society, are so used to disposing of everything that to break the habit is very difficult.

But as the Amish know, a little effort will benefit you immensely. The Amish culture looks at everything as a product that can be used. When something wears out it is repurposed, recycled, reused, and only as a last resort is thrown away. This is one of the reasons why the Amish are so successful as farmers.

To develop your own organic recycling program or composting is easy. The first step is the container that you will use to hold your compost. This is different from the decorative containers sold by famous chefs’ and displayed on many cooking shows. These containers are designed to hold the kitchen scraps until they can be carried to the composting area.

If your composting area is on land, then you can use fencing, cinder blocks, pallets, or just create a pile. If you live in an apartment or subdivision, a more concealed container will need to be used. This can be a ventilated trashcan, commercially constructed container, or plastic pail.

The next step to designing your own composting program is understanding the ingredients. Compost is made up of carbon and nitrogen. These two basic elements are farther broken down into sources. Anything brown in color such as dead leaves, straw, or hay is considered a high carbon source. When making your compost, make sure to have a large amount of carbon sources. Some composting sources say you need a four to one ratio of carbon to nitrogen for compost that will breakdown quickly.

Nitrogen sources include anything that is a kitchen scrap and/or are green. This includes grass clipping, fruit peels, and eggshells just to name a few.

Nowhere in the composting recipe does meat or bone products fit into the mix.

There does exist, at this point, two different approaches to making the compost. The first approach consists of layering the ingredients of the compost. This works great if you have a lot of organic material. The second approach consists of just adding compost as you get it. This last approach is typically the one that beginning composters use.

Throughout this mix, you can also add manure such as cow or horse, which is hot manure and requires seasoning before using. Chicken and rabbit manure can also be used and does not need to be seasoned before using.

A sprinkling of garden soil every few days will prevent a fly or rodent problem along with adding soil bacterial and fungus. Both of these organisms will help eat the compost and turn it into soil.

Throughout the gardening season, water the compost pile and turn it often. This will speed up the decomposition process.

The process is the same regardless of the type of compost pile or bin you use. The keys, though, to turning organic material into soil are simple and consist of turning the pile often, adding moisture when needed, correct mixture of carbon to nitrogen ratio, and time.

So until we blog again, organic material will turn into dust as many wise men have said. This dust can blow away as history has proved or can be confined for ones use. To solve this dilemma, do not cast away nature’s gift but instead nurture its natural process everyday.

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