22 Sep

Going Green: Compost for a Healthy Garden

Want to reuse, reduce and recycle? You can do all these things if you start a compost pile this fall.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, we throw out a quarter of the food and beverages we buy, so by starting a compost pile, you can put that waste to good use in the spring.

In addition to the benefits of going green, your garden and your wallet will benefit. Compost improves the quality of your soil, bringing more nutrients to flowers and vegetables, and is a great (and cheaper) alternative to chemical fertilizers. Ready to start your own compost pile?

Here’s how:

1. Find a spot in your yard that’s at least 3 feet by 3 feet, which is a sufficient size for yard and kitchen waste to decompose without a bin. Or you can simply buy a compost bin.

2. Begin with a thick layer of carbon-rich brown materials, such as yard waste (dead flowers, straw, leaves) and shredded newspaper.

3. Layer several more inches of nitrogen-rich green materials, such as grass and leftover food (no meat, fish or dairy waste).

4. Add a thin layer of garden soil and moisten it all.

5. That’s it! Keep adding to these layers as you generate more waste.

After a while you should see steam emanating from the pile, which is a good sign that it’s healthy, and earthworms should be visible. Once your pile is up and running remember to add to it regularly, and try to have a good mix of brown and green material. Using a shovel or pitchfork, turn your pile every week or two to mix it up, and add some water if it isn’t moist; if your pile is too dry, decomposition will be slow (but too much water will give you a slimy pile).

When your compost pile is dark and rich in color, it’s ready to use, in two to five weeks.