Composting is the natural decomposition of organic materials, in oxygen, into a dark, nutrient-rich soil component called humus, using varying levels of management.
Advantages to Composting
- The finished product is a valuable soil amendment that can be used in gardens, landscape beds or added to potting soil, to name a few.
- The process reduces the volume of the material by 70-80%.
- Home composting costs less than having a commercial service collect your yard waste.
Materials to Compost
- Browns (carbon-rich): items like dry leaves and debris, wood chips, bark, saw dust
- Greens (nutrient-rich): such as grass clippings, green leaves, weeds and garden debris, fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, other kitchen wastes
Locate your compost pile in relative shade to conserve moisture by reducing evaporation. Build a compost pile by placing your mix of materials in a compost bin. Open piles can also work. Bins should be roughly 1 yard3 in size. Multiple bins can be used for turning (moving) older material from one bin to the next. Bins can be simple (made from chicken wire, snow fencing or wood pallets), elaborate, or they can be store bought.
Keep the pile as moist as a wrung out sponge. Piles that are overly moist can rot and cause odor. Maintain a good air flow in the compost pile by turning or mixing the materials occasionally.
The best mix is 2 parts brown to 1 part green (but 1 to 1, or other mixes are okay too). The higher the green (nitrogen) content, the more turning of the compost pile is required to avoid odor. The mixture used depends on the availability of material and how active or passive a composter wants to be.
With the proper mix, moisture, and circulation, the compost pile can heat up with decomposition activity to roughly 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Finished compost can be achieved in 2 to 18 months, depending on how active the composter is in maintaining the condition of the pile.
Trouble Shooting Tips
- Too Wet? Mix in dry materials
- Too Dry? Move pile in shade, add water
- Odors? Mix in browns to balance greens or to absorb excess moisture
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.
- United States Department of Agriculture: www.nrcs.usda.gov, search Home Composting.
- MSU-Extension: Great Compost in 5 Easy Steps.
- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality: Home Composting Brochure, www.michigan.gov/deq, search Home Composting.