On April 22, 2020, we will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, which was founded in 1970 to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. Things are different this year, as we are all mostly tethered to our immediate surroundings, but there are things you can do in your own home and yard to help heal our planet.
Creating a compost pile is a multifaceted way to do your part. From the recycling aspect to the end result of feeding the soil, the benefits of composting are well documented and it’s relatively easy to do. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste together make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away. Composting can reduce that and also provide fertile soil for plants, vegetables, and fruits.
WHAT IS COMPOST?
The simplest way to distinguish between compost and fertilizer is to remember this: compost feeds the soil and fertilizer feeds the plants.
Composting itself is a natural process of recycling organic material that would otherwise be thrown away and allowing it to be broken down by microorganisms until it becomes a dark, nutrient-rich food for soil.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COMPOSTING?
Composting helps to keep vegetable matter out of landfills. Plants don’t decay cleanly when placed in landfills, especially when covered by other layers of trash. By creating a compost pile, you allow them to decay naturally and not emit methane gas.
Other benefits include the facts compost helps loosen the compaction of heavy soils and helps sandy soils trap and hold water. It also helps minimize wind and water erosion. In short, your compost pile will greatly increase the chance of growing healthy flowers, plants, fruits, and vegetables, all while you are recycling waste and keeping it out of landfills.
Composting also minimizes the use of chemical fertilizers and provides a wide array of nutrients that these fertilizers don’t have.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Compost bins can be purchased online and range from relatively inexpensive to quite costly. You can definitely consider creating a compost heap with a designated spot in your yard, but for most households a compost bin is perfectly adequate, and it often composts quicker. If you do decide to go the heap route, make sure to check on your city ordinances before you begin.
If you choose to use a bin, the choices are quite plentiful, and one easy way is to make your own. It can be as simple as an inexpensive large plastic garbage can with a lid with handles. You simply drill small holes in the can and lid and use two bungee cords to attach the lid to the can.
Next, of course, you need to start your compost. So, what do you put in your compost bin? Below we’ve listed just a few of the hundreds of items you can use to make compost.
· Vegetable and fruit peels and cores
· Plant prunings
· Grass cuttings
· Cardboard egg cartons
· Crushed eggshells
· Coffee grounds
· Coffee filters
· Scrunched up paper
· Black and white newspaper pages
· Loose leaf tea
· Stale bread
· Stale chips
· Cooked pasta and rice
This list is not definitive, and there are literally hundreds of things you can put into your compost pile. And there is a very definitive list of things that shouldn’t go in.
· No meat or dairy
· No egg scraps (does not apply to eggshells, as noted above)
· No fats
· No metal, glass, or plastic
· No dirty diapers
· No animal feces or cat litter
· No charcoal ash
A good mix is important to the success of your compost, and experts advise a balance between green waste—fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, and weeds—and brown waste like dried leaves, sticks, fur, cloth, cardboard, and paper.
Make sure you pick a good spot for your compost bin, choosing a level, well-drained spot, and don’t forget to mix it regularly. If you use the plastic garbage can, mixing it can be as easy as rolling it around the yard.
If you have a compost heap, don’t forget to turn it, aerate it, and add to it while it decomposes. A good compost heap requires regular maintenance.
A compost bin or heap can take anywhere from a few months to several years before it is ready, but when it happens, you’ll have a dark brown, almost black (avid gardeners and composters call it black gold) soil-like layer at the bottom of your bin. Spreading the finished compost into the ground will provide nutrients in your flowerbed, vegetable garden, or anywhere you are planting things to grow. It also helps the soil retain moisture and suppresses weeds.
It’s a win for the world, for your garden, and a great way to celebrate Earth Day 2020.