In this age of eco-friendly living, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is among the many catch phrases we hear quite often. It was brown bin collection this week in the village where I live, and I am pleased to see that the recycling bins are fuller than the landfill bins. I commend those who take the time to separate their glass, plastic and paper, but what about grass clippings, apple cores and vegetable scraps? While organic matter is biodegradable, it can also leach toxins into the groundwater when mixed with other materials in landfills.
Composting presents a novel solution to this problem. Because of its unique, organic properties, compost soil helps the ground retain water, thereby lessening the need for watering and reducing plant stress from drought. It also fights erosion, promotes healthy root development, balances the pH of the soil and boosts the vitamin and mineral content in the food it nourishes. Additionally, compost soil is a safe and natural alternative to chemical fertilisers. All you need is a suitable compost bin, and the right location.
Once you have the container and location all sorted out, it’s time to start filling it up with the right blend of materials. Biodegradable waste falls into two categories: ‘brown’ materials, which add carbon, and nitrogen-producing ‘green’ materials. These materials are as follows:
• Shredded dried leaves
• Toilet paper, paper towels and their cardboard rolls
• Wood ash
• Shredded paper
• Dryer lint (use only if no fabric softeners are used, due to the toxins)
• Cardboard (including egg cartons)
• Chipped wood
• Hay and straw
• Grass clippings
• Weeds houseplants and dried flower bouquets
• Manure (from herbivores only)
• Tea bags
• Coffee grounds and filters
• Shredded green leaves
• Fruit scraps
• Vegetable scraps and water from cooking
To get a good compost aim for a 50/50 mix of brown and green material. This will ensure that the right temperatures will be reached so the compost pile can decompose.
Now comes the fun part. When your compost turns into a dark brown or black, crumbly soil, it is perfect to use in your vegetable, flower and container gardens. It is also ideal for spreading around your trees and shrubs. By placing it directly on top of your soil or mixing one to three inches of your compost into the top soil, you will improve the texture and aeration of the soil, as well as the quality of your plants.
Composting is the most natural way to live by those three, earth-friendly words. By creating and using compost, you can reduce the amount of trash in our landfills, reuse your discarded food scraps, and recycle nutrients back into the earth. Plus, you’ll always have nutritious home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs to add to your healthy, ‘green’ diet. You just can’t go wrong!