Composting – from the kitchen to the garden

There’s no reason to throw that banana peel or egg shell in a plastic bag, add it to your compost pile and return it to its natural place.

There’s no reason for expensive lawn bags either cause you can toss it all in the compost pile too. Actually, the best compost pile is one with a nice balance of kitchen and garden waste. Kitchen, or food, waste such as fruit and vegetable skins are rich in nitrogen and garden waste such as dead plant materials, leaves, and straw are rich in carbon. Nitrogen and carbon together help maintain nutrients in the soil and improve plant growth.

Composting is definitely the easiest, most inexpensive, and organic way to support your garden.

What can I compost?

From the kitchen and the household, you can compost pruned houseplant foliage, peels and skins from fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee, and tea bags. Anything that came from the soil can be put back in the soil (provided all paper, plastic, and synthetic materials are removed). You do not want to compost meat, fat, or bones.

From the yard, well, this is everything from dead annuals to grass clippings to leaves; however, you don’t want to compost diseased or poisonous plants or plant parts or weeds. You may also want to stay clear of plants with thorns.

How do I compost?

First, you need a compost bin. Either you can purchase one from the store or you can build one of your own. It needs to be big enough to hold the materials and for you to stir the materials. The compost bin should be able to hold moisture and provide air flow.

Speed up the composting process by chopping or shredding all materials before adding to the compost pile.

You want to layer the carbon and nitrogen materials so that you first put in about 3 inches of brown materials like leaves and grass clippings (carbon) and then add in the same amount of green materials like vegetable and fruit waste (nitrogen). Sprinkle the layers with water so that it’s about the same moisture as a sponge and stir. Repeat these steps until the bin is full. It will take at least 6 weeks for the compost to be ready and you will know when it’s the texture of fine soil.

How does composting work?

The combination of house and yard waste, water, and air create bacteria and fungi that are good for the soil. The carbon from the brown yard waste and the nitrogen from the food waste mixed with water and oxygen feeds live bacteria and fungi. This bacteria and fungi produce nutrients that feed the soil and plants.

When the compost is ready, liberally, but gently work it into your garden’s soil and/or plant containers.

*Tip: Try to plan it so that your compost is soil-ready in fall and spring. This will help provide nutrients throughout the year so your plants maintain optimum health.