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Composting: The Basics

Mar 09, 2010 02:51AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

Composting

Reduce your waste and nourish your garden

Think twice before you toss those kitchen scraps in the trash! The same foods that nourish your body can also nourish your lawn and garden. Start a compost pile to create rich organic material to feed your soil.

Getting Started

Choose a level area with good drainage that gets half-day sun. Avoid placing your pile too close to a wooden building, as the compost can rot the wood. All compost piles need carbon and nitrogen to feed bacteria and other microorganisms in order to decompose. Fallen leaves and branches provide carbon, while food scraps and green materials provide nitrogen. Water and air are also necessary—add water to your pile and turn the pile regularly with a pitchfork.

What You Can Compost

In addition to fruit and vegetable scraps and leaves/yard trimmings, the following items also make great compost:

  • Cardboard rolls
  • Coffee grounds and unbleached filters
  • Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Pet fur.
What Not to Compost

There are several items that may be harmful to you or your plants or attract pests:

  • Meat or fish bones or scraps
  • Dairy products
  • Fats, lard, or oils
  • Pet waste
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides.
Remember that compost should not be used as potting soil for houseplants; it contains weed and grass seeds. Spread the rich, black organic matter in your gardens and on your lawn to suppress plant diseases and pests, eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and improve the quality of your soil.

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