Let’s Start At Home
Composting reduces trash. After you reduce its volume you can reuse the compost in your yard. Then, the compost recycles nutrients back into the soil and plants. Increasing the growth helps restore the health and beauty of our homes. Thus, the four R’s of composting. Today’s generation of eco-conscience kids can be a big help in making composting happen. A fun and educational chore for young children could be carrying out the daily kitchen scraps to the compost pile after dinner. In choosing a spot, you should look for easy access from the kitchen and water source. Good drainage is also important. Veteran composters often place their pile where they plan to plant the next year.
Composting is like cooking, with many “recipes” and variations.
Here are the basics:
1. Collect leaves, grass and yard clippings.
2. Place in a heap or bin.
3. Sprinkle with water and maintain dampness.
For quicker composting (1-3 months)
1. Alternate layers to mix greens with browns.
2. Aerate the pile by turning and poking.
3. Chop materials into smaller pieces and moisten.
For slower composting (3-6+ months)
1. Just keep adding material to the pile.
2. Keep it moist. It’s that simple.
Those Little Extras
Leaves, grass, weeds, herbs, and flowers are all ideal for your compost. Kitchen scraps are also a great source for your compost. All vegetable scraps, fruit remains, breads, pastas, coffee grounds, tea bags, and even egg shells call all be added in.
Manure from cows, horses, sheep, pigs, pigeons, chickens, and ducks are all high in nitrogen and are perfect for getting your compost pile cooking. Avoid feces from meat-eating animals like dogs and cats due to possible disease pathogens.
Don’t forget that water! Your pile should always remain as wet as a squeezed out sponge.
Composting Questions & Answers
What is composting?
Composting is the natural process of decomposition and recycling of organic material into a humus-rich soil amendment known as compost.
Do I need a bin to make compost?
No. Compost can be made in open piles. However, bins help keep piles neat and retain heat and moisture.
How much of your time is needed?
A low-maintenance approach will require as little as five minutes a week, which is less time than it takes to bag leaves or clippings, tie them up, and haul them to the curb. A composting connoisseur may spend ten to fifteen minutes a week and produce finer compost in less time.
How long does it take to make compost?
The process takes as little as one month or as long as twelve months. Factors include techniques used, moisture, seasonal temperatures, and your “browns’ and “greens”.
What are “browns” and “greens”?
By having a balance of wet, green materials (grass clippings, food scraps, and manure), and dry brown materials (leaves and woody items), compost piles generate heat that slowly “simmer” and create compost. Using only browns will slow down the process because there will not be enough heat generated. Using only green may leave you with a bad odor.
Should compost be covered?
A cover will retain a pile’s moisture and prevent it from getting too soggy in the rain and snow.
Types Of Composters
There are various types of units available for the composting consumer. However, one does not need any specific type or brand. You should choose whichever type you believe will “work” for you.
Composting can be as inexpensive as creating a heap somewhere in your yard. This is called heap composting, yet this form of composting tends to sprawl. Worm bins use earthworms and are smaller in nature. This may be ideal for apartment dwellers. There are many types of homemade styles that can be made from old pallets, chicken wire, or even some old 2×4’s. Call the Office of Recycling for assembly instructions.
For those of us who are not mechanically inclined, there are dozens of uniquely shaped compost bins available on the market. They range from simple hoop designs to enclosed rodent resistant units with locking lids.
10 Composting Benefits For Your Soil
- Compost increases organic matter in the soil.
- Compost builds sound root structure.
- Compost makes clay soils airy so they drain.
- Compost gives sandy soils body to hold moisture.
- Compost attracts and feeds earthworms.
- Compost balances the pH of soil.
- Compost reduces water demands of plants.
- Compost helps control soil erosion.
- Compost can extend the growing season.
- Compost generously applied replaces reliance on chemical fertilizers.
Grass, Cut It & Leave It
Grass clippings are a major part of New Jersey’s municipal waste stream. In fact, grass clippings make up nearly a third of all summer waste handled by garbage haulers. They represent a waste management cost that you either directly pay to your trash hauler or indirectly through your taxes. Grasscycling is the natural way you can have a green, healthy lawn while spending less time and money. Wouldn’t you rather spend time doing something you enjoy all summer rather than spending all that time emptying those trash clippings into expensive bags and lugging them to the curb for trash or recycling pick up? A typical lawn of 5,000 square feet generates about 75 pounds of grass clippings per mowing. Research has shown that by mowing more frequently (5-6 times per month) and not bagging all those clippings can save a homeowner up to 40% of the time they spend on lawn care. There are other benefits to grasscycling. When grasscycling is properly done, clippings settle quickly between the growing blades of grass where they shelter the roots from the sun conserving moisture as well as nutrients into the soil. This means that grass needs to be watered less frequently. Believe it or not, clippings left on the lawn supply about one-third or more of the nitrogen needed to keep you grass green and healthy. You also save on fertilizer because you are not throwing fertilizer away with each bag of clippings. Some people are concerned about thatch. Thatch is an accumulation of dead roots, stems, and rhizomes, which are parts of the grass plant that decompose slowly. Clipping, which are 95% water are the leaves of the grass plant and decompose too quickly to contribute to thatch.
Steps to Grasscycling
- Cut on the top 1/3 of the grass blade and LEAVE the clippings right on the lawn.
- Mow when the grass is dry to avoid tracking and clumping.
- Keep your mower blade sharp.No special equipment is necessary. While mulching mowers are available, and do a fantastic job, ANY conventional mower can grasscycle. Just remove the bag. In the case of a rear discharge mower, the exhaust chute must be shut off. Adapter kits or retrofit kits are available for conventional mowers for about $20.