Backyard Composting

Backyard Composting
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Backyard Composting TipsAt our house we operate two composting bins to recycle our kitchen scraps, non-diseased yard wastes, and excess grass clippings. We purchased our two bins from our local Solid Waste Authority (SWA) for $10.00 each.

Our local SWA visits the local county libraries in our area approximately once a month and sets up a mobile shop in the parking lot in order to sell compost bins, recycling bin carts and other items.

The compost bins come with a copy of the 95 page book Backyard Composting; Your Complete Guide to Recycling Yard Clippings.

The bins also came with an indoor compost bucket which we keep underneath our kitchen sink and is used to store all our kitchen scraps. When the sink buckets become full we bring them out to the compost bins and stir the contents into the center of the compost pile.

The bins are kept on the east side of our house near two coconut trees. The trees shade our bins from the hot afternoon Florida sun which helps prevent the contents of the bins from drying out too quickly. The contents of your compost bin should remain at a consistent moisture like that of a rung out wet sponge. We stir the contents of the compost bins at least once a week using a compost aerator but a small shovel or pitchfork would also work. We also add a bit of water if necessary whenever we stir the contents of the bin in order to maintain an optimal moisture level.

Benefits of Composting:

-Adds organic matter to your soil

-Acts as a low strength organic fertilizer

-Encourages beneficial life forms to migrate into your soil

-Helps hold moisture in the soil

-Improves soil texture

-Reduces soil compaction

-Reduces wastes in landfills by as much as 30%

Recycles yard and kitchen wastes

Materials to Compost from your Home:

-Coffee grinds and filters

-Egg shells (ground up or crushed)

-Dryer lint

-Fruit and vegetable scraps

-Stale and moldy bread

-Tea bags

-Vacuum bag contents (mostly pet hair and dirt)

-Domestic animal manure (rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils)

Materials to Compost from your Yard and Garden:

-Grass clippings

-Leaves

-Pine needles

-Non-diseased plant material (weeds, trimmings, etc...)

-Farm animal manure (cow, poultry, goat, sheep)

Optional Items to Add in Small Quantities if Desired:

-Blood meal

-Bone meal

-Ground rock powder

-Wood ashes

Avoid These Materials in Your Compost Bin

Dog, cat, and human manure (may contain disease pathogens)

Any woody material over 1/4 inch diameter (unless you first chop it up into smaller pieces)

Meats, cheeses, oils (attracts mice, rats, and other unwanted pests)

Tomatoes (unless you want tons of tomato seedlings allover your garden, my compost pile never seems to get hot enough to kill off tomato seeds)

Uses for Finished Compost

Add a scoopful to the planting hole when adding new plants to your garden

Spread a 2 to 4 inch layer in the bottom of new planting beds

Use as a mulch on top of existing planting beds

Compost tea (place a shovelfull of compost in a burlap bag, place the bag in a 5 gallon bucket filled with water and let soak for 1 or 2 days. This "compost tea" can be used to water your existing plants or as a foliar spray both of which act a mild, organic fertilizer)

We have a mulching lawn mower which we use to mow our lawn. We normally leave our grass clippings on the lawn, a process known as grass cycling. Grass cycling is a way to recycle your grass clippings which helps to retain soil moisture. The clippings also break down into beneficial nutrients which are reabsorbed by the growing grass. We have not had to do any watering or fertilizing of our lawn since we started grass cycling in our yard. When we need to add green material to our compost bins we simply attach the bag to the lawn mower to collect enough clippings to bring our compost bins back into the proper balance of green (high nitrogen content) and brown (high carbon content) materials.

Finished compost is a dark brown color and has a rich, earthy odor (it is not smelly!) We use 3/8 inch hardware cloth attached to a wooden frame with a staple gun to sift out any remaining large particles/lumps prior to using the compost in our gardens. Hardware cloth is a wire fence-like material available at home improvement centers.

AuthorÂ’s Note: If you are interested in purchasing a compost bin as used by the author, visit the website of the Solid Waste Authority www.swa.org/events.htm and scroll down to SWA Shop Event to find out their schedule for visiting the libraries in Palm Beach County.

Image: Wikimedia.org

 

About The Author

Lynn has written herbal articles for a variety of publications including The Herb Companion, Backyard Home, and Llewellyn Publications yearly Herbal Almanac. She is also the founder and manager of Herb Witch, an online community for herbalists, cooks, gardeners, green witches and anyone with an interest in herbs. The Herb Witch website, which you can visit Here.
 
 

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