Basic Composting Alchemy

compst2Tallahassee Democrat

April 25, 2014

By Ed Schroeder

Compost is alchemy for garden soil — the mystery of turning yard debris and kitchen waste into fertility. Build a simple compost bin for your backyard in less than an hour by tying or nailing together three or four wooden pallets. Another alternative is to lace together the ends of two inch-by-four inch mesh welded fence wire to make a free standing compost ring that can be easily opened and moved. This type of wire fencing comes in three or four foot high rolls. If all this sounds too complicated, just make a simple pile of compostable material. A simple pile of compost is easier to “turn.” “Turning” means adding air to the pile by moving the compost to another location, usually next to the existing pile. A spading fork works very well for this task. You can also purchase pre-made plastic compost bins with lids; especially if you struggle with complaints from anxious neighbors. Whatever type of bin you use, the more frequently you turn your pile, the more oxygen it gets, and the faster it will become rich dark crumbly fertile soil; or finished compost.

Most any material that was once was alive can be put into a pile. Leaves, grass clippings, kitchen waste, egg shells, manure, hay, straw, sawdust and shavings, etc. Avoid animal products; other than manure. Animal products may putrefy, stink, and/or attract unwanted critters.

Kitchen waste can also be used to make worm compost. Worm castings (a.k.a. “worm poop.”) are “compost on steroids.” A worm bin is a smaller-scale composting container (worm farm) that can be used to transform your kitchen scraps into vermicompost — one of the best soil amendments. Just search the internet for “Vermicompost” to find all of the information you’ll need to get started. For one of the oldest and best source of information on how to keep worms, head to A Step-by-Step Guide to Vermicomposting.(http://tinyurl.com/Applehoff)

There are many composting tips at How to Make Compost (http://tinyurl.com/mbnav3o). Find your bin options in Choose the Best Compost Bin (http://tinyurl.com/l5lkov2).

You can use yard waste in other ways besides putting them into compost piles. Leaves and grass clippings can be swept directly into landscape beds and areas where grass doesn’t grow. Also, leaves and small limbs can be shredded and used as a source of mulch. Larger limbs can be used to construct a wildlife brush-pile in a back corner of the yard.

You literally put life back into the soil in your garden with compost and mulch. Recycling all yard wastes and other organic materials, on site, promotes healthy soil. The organic matter in compost and mulch feeds the multitude of beneficial microscopic life forms that live in and improve your soil.

You and your yard will benefit in many ways because you:

  • Spend less on fertilizer and mulch
  • Send less yard debris and waste to the landfills. This saves Leon County tax dollars.
  • Have more porous soil
  • Have better water retention in the soil
  • Have healthier plants
  • Promote an environmentally sound landscape.

Remember each bag of yard debris you send to the landfill is worth three to ten dollars. This is because you pay for the bag, the labor, the trucking, and the landfill processing. In addition, by keeping this material in your landscape, you pay for less mulch, potting mix, and fertilize.

If you have need for more compost or mulch then you can create from your own yard you can obtain both for free at the Leon County Solid Waste Facility. More information can be found at www.LeonCountyFL.gov/SolidWaste. To learn more about composting contact the UF/Leon County Extension office at 850-606-5200.

Ed Schroeder is a Master Gardener Volunteer and a member of the Leon County/UF IFAS Extension Urban Forestry/Horticulture Newspaper Column Working Group. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov

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Posted: April 25, 2014


Category: Agriculture, Horticulture
Tags: April-June 2014


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