I love compost. I love it so much that my husband and I talked about composting on our first date.
In the United States, compostable organic matter (skins, egg shells, coffee grounds, nut shells, newspaper, cardboard, etc.) makes up 20-30% of what we throw away. Formed in landfills, this waste releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that has a shorter lifespan than carbon dioxide, but about 100 times its initial warming potential. Because composting can reduce these emissions, municipalities across the country have begun incorporating roadside composting into their waste management plans, and many people have started composting at home.
A colleague recently shared that her own adventure in home composting hasn’t gone the way she’d hoped. slowly moves to a frozen corner of the garden, where it piles up the contents of its bucket and walks away. She says compost piles usually smell bad and don’t look like usable, fertile garden soil. This is the desired result of composting. She’s determined to keep it going, but winter worries her. Is her compost pile working?
It may come as a surprise, but compost piles don’t stink even in the middle of summer. If so, you may not be getting enough of what you need, such as water, oxygen, or a mixture of green and brown organic matter. This includes items such as fresh grass clippings. Brown materials such as dry newspapers, dead leaves, and sawdust are high in carbon. The balance of these essential elements creates ideal conditions for microorganisms to thrive. These microorganisms recycle organic matter through a natural process known as decomposition. It is a naturally perfected “trash to treasure” transformation. Our composting system simply speeds it up.
When I compost at home, I like to use the 3-bin system. I made a bin by connecting wooden pallets to a square stall. Because of the slats, the pallet is fully functional to contain the compost and bring in enough oxygen to allow it to breathe. In the first bin, regularly throw away green and brown materials from your kitchen and garden. Twice a year he transfers the contents of the first jar to his second jar. At this point, the green material has decomposed, but you’re left with large clumps of brown material, which are usually twigs and plant stems.In the second bin, after six months, he puts the compost into his Sort into the third bin. By the time I reach the third bin, my compost is gorgeous and nutrient-rich. You can sift it with your finger. Pieces are uniform in size and ready to use.
Dedicating part of my garden to this 3-bin composting system works well for me. But if you don’t have the space or prefer a more discreet approach, there are plenty of creative ways to create compost and inexpensive DIY systems that can meet your specific needs.
Whether you’re composting for the first time or trying a new method, you don’t have to wait for spring to begin. Compost can be maintained through the Massachusetts winters. Insulating your compost pile by covering it with a tarp or lining the inside of the compost bin with sawdust or dry leaves can keep your compost active even as you keep feeding it scraps during the cold season. can.
Composting doesn’t have to be another chore you decide to do in the new year. When composting, it’s fun and rewarding to think that you (and the microbes in your pile and bin) are creating something of value. By making compost, you save money you might have spent on bagging soil. You can add compost to your garden or repot houseplants. In the fall, condition your lawn with compost to promote healthy soil that retains moisture and reduces your reliance on chemical fertilizers. Enjoy all that compost can do.
Gardening Central Mass. was written by the team at Tower Hill’s New England Botanic Garden. The New He England Botanical Gardens on Boylston’s 171-acre site are he one of the top horticultural resources in the region. All year round, garden visitors can experience the wonders of plants, learn about the natural world, and make fun connections. I have so many growing in my garden. Find it now at www.nebg.org. The column is published on the third Sunday of each month.