Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away and could be composted instead. Composting is a convenient, beneficial, and inexpensive way to handle your organic waste and help the environment.
Benefits of Composting
- Reduces the volume of garbage generated by at least 25%
- Saves money for you and your community in reduced soil purchases and reduced local disposal costs
- Enriches the soil by adding nutrients and improving soil structure which creates better root growth and increases moisture and nutrient retention
- Reduces the need for commercial fertilizers; Less fertilizer runs off to pollute waterways
- Creates valuable compost to add to your garden, lawn, trees, shrubs, and house plants
- Compost buffers the soil, neutralizing both acid & alkaline soils, bringing pH levels to the optimum range for nutrient availability to plants
All composting requires three basic ingredients:
Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter. Remember to tend your pile and keep track of what you throw in. A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad.
What to Compost
Your compost will work best if it is fed a diet of green nitrogen-rich materials and brown carbon-rich materials
To keep animals and odors out of your pile, do not include:
Meat, fish or bones, fatty food waste (cheese, grease, and oils), dairy products, sauces, coal or charcoal ashes, pet waste, diseased plants, and mature weeds with seeds. Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides should also be kept out of compost as the chemicals may kill beneficial composting organisms. Black walnut tree leaves or twigs should also be avoided as they release substances that might be harmful to plants.
How to Compost At Home
- Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin
- Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded
- Moisten dry materials as they are added
- Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material
- Optional: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years
Types of Composting Bins
There are several styles of composting containers that can be built or bought. Homes with a larger yard can also compost simply by creating a pile or multiple piles.
New Age Composter & Earth Machine
The New Age Composter and Earth Machine Composter (pictured above) are rodent-resistant bins with adjustable ventilation and a locking harvest door. The Town of Andover's Department of Public Works offers Earth Machine composting bins for a period of time each spring/summer season. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A series of three or more bins allows you to make compost in a short time by turning materials on a regular schedule.
Barrel BinThese bins can easily be made from plastic garbage cans.
Wire BinWire bins can also be made for composting.
Composting Without a Yard
Composting can be done indoors using an earthworm farm, also known as vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the product of the decomposition process using various species of worms to create a mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Not only can you recycle your food scraps, you can also have a steady supply of fishing bait! Learn how to create and maintain an indoor worm composting bin (EPA.gov)
For more information on composting at home, visit U.S. EPA’s webpage, Composting At Home