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Compost 101 – Get Yo’ Green On and Learn How To Compost

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Food scraps and yard clippings make up one quarter of the United States’ solid waste piling up in landfills. The book, True Green, says, “When this organic matter ends up in landfills and decomposes without air, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

Composting is the way to cleanly convert kitchen and garden waste into productive soil matter without producing toxicity and it is one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments. You can make it without spending a cent, which helps save you money. Which type of composter should you use? Above is a video which discusses two really fantastic composters – both different styles – sold by Clean Air Gardening.

When adding material to the composter, keep in mind the pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens,” and moisture. Below is a list of browns and greens you might use in your compost pile.

Examples of browns:

  • Newspaper, black-and-white print preferred.
  • Brown paper bags from the grocery store.
  • Shredded cardboard or cotton and paper-based tissues and towels.
  • Floor sweepings.
  • Straw.
  • Aged grass clippings.
  • Dead leaves. Do not use dead leaves from diseased plants.

Examples of greens:

  • New grass clippings.
  • Plant prunings. Do not add prunings from diseased plants.
  • Spent flowers and pulled weeds.
  • Coffee grounds.
  • Tea bags with metal staple removed.
  • Kitchen scraps. Avoid items that will root, such as potato skins and onions, unless ground completely. Do not add meat or bones or it will stink to high heaven!
  • Barnyard animal manures such as cow, horse, chicken, goat, sheep, and rabbit. Do not use dog, cat, or human manure/feces as they may contain pathogens or diseases that could be harmful.
Clean Air Gardening Spin Composter

Garden waste

Managed composting involves active participation, including turning the pile occasionally. On average, it takes between three and four weeks to create compost. The speed is determined by the products you add, if they are chopped up, and how often you turn the pile. A good balance of carbon and nitrogen encourages quicker composting.

The temperature of the managed pile is important—it indicates the activity of the decomposition process. It should be warm or hot to the touch. If it is not, then the microbial activity has slowed down and you need to add more green materials. This heat can be encouraged if you place your compost pile in full sun.

Keeping the pile moist is also important as organic waste needs water to decompose. Gray water, in other words, old dish water or clothes washer water from your home can be drained into a compost pile regularly. The rule of thumb is to keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If you actively manage the composting, within a few weeks you will have a rich additive for your garden.

To order the awesome composters used in the video, please go to

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One Comment

  1. When I rake my leaves in the fall, I save them, pile them up in bags on the north side of the house to add a little extra insulation/wind barrier. Then I mix them with the grass the next summer one bag at a time to make my compost piles. In 7 yrs of home ownership, I've had to use yard waste stickers I think twice to take care of branches/shrub clippings that would take to long to break down in my pile. AND I have an awesome veggie garden that keeps us fed all summer/fall and even into winter. In fact I just found another case of tomato sauce from last summer in the back room that I canned and it got lost! And I have a 2, soon to be 3 yr old that “hasn't met a fruit or veggie (other than broccoli) that she doesn't like”

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