Composting for a Greener Tomorrow
As the Earth’s population increases, there are many concerns that arise. We are constantly told about the looming dangers of global warming and increased disease resistance due to the over use of pesticides and antibiotics. Among all of these problems, the overflow of landfill spaces is one of the largest problems plaguing mankind. Every year, millions of pounds of organic material are sealed indefinitely into landfills, never fully decomposing back into the earth. Fortunately, there are several things that everyday people like you and me can do that will decrease this ever-present problem. Recycling and reusing products help immensely, but composting may be the most effective and most overlooked solution.
Composting is the practice of retaining food and plant wastes and providing them with the proper conditions that will convert the waste into valuable nutrients available in forms plants can easily access. Many municipalities around the world have begun collecting urban food wastes for use in large composting systems. Here in Randolph County, the government does not offer these services, but composting is so easy that homeowners can create their own composting systems with little to no out of pocket expense.
Efficient composting systems convert leaves, grass clippings and food scrapes into rich, nutrient filled soil that can be easily incorporated into existing vegetable and ornamental landscapes. Households have the potential to reduce their chemical fertilizer use almost completely, simply by utilizing proper composting techniques. Adding compost increases the percentage of organic matter in your soil, leading to increased microbial activity, which translates into reduced disease susceptibility and increased overall plant health.
Starting a home composting operation is very simple and inexpensive. The first step is to obtain a small bucket that can be kept in the kitchen in which it is convenient to place food scraps. It is often a good idea to place a lid on this bucket to reduce undesirable visitors. The next step is to locate a place outside that compostable materials will be pilled. This does not have to be in the sun or the shade, just a place that is convenient to access and away from any flammable structures. When your kitchen bin is full, simply dump it out in a pile. Leaves and grass clippings can also be added to your pile, but it is important to keep a carbon to nitrogen ratio of around 25 to 1. Too much carbon can quickly deplete the overall nitrogen level of the finished compost.
Once your pile has sat for a few weeks, it is important to “turn” the compost. This process simply mixes up the compostable material so it breaks down more rapidly and uniformly. It is common for the internal temperatures to reach over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, creating clean and sterile compost for your garden. After a few months of building and turning your compost pile, most of the material should be unrecognizable, leaving a dark, black, nutrient-rich soil that can be easily added to your bedding plants or container gardens.
For more information about composting and different compost bin designs, please join us at 6 p.m. on March 18th at the Cooperative Extension office for a free, in depth workshop. To register for the free workshop, please contact us at (336) 318-6000.
Here at the Randolph County Cooperative Extension, we strive to help and educate the public in whatever way we can. If you have any questions about composting, gardening, or crop production, please feel free to contact us at the Randolph County Cooperative Extension office by phone at (336) 318-6000 or in person at 112 W. Walker Ave. here in Asheboro.