You need to compost. It is a cheap and free way to amend & enrich soil. It is easy to do, saves money and is environmentally sound. Turn your scraps into soil and have the healthiest garden on the block.
What can I compost?
Leaves, Twigs, Pine Needles, Wood Chips & Sawdust
Straw & Cornstalks
Shredded Newspaper, Cardboard, White or Unbleached Paper Towels, & White or Unbleached Napkins
“Green” stuff; nitrogen sources
Grass Clippings & Garden Trimmings
Dead House Plants & Potting Mix
Vegetable & Fruit Scraps, Bread & Grains, Eggshells, Tea Bags, Coffee Grounds & Filters (Moldy or lightly soggy food scraps are fine)
Manure from Farm Animals
Hay or Straw
Seaweed or Algae
What NOT to compost:
Branches over ½ “ diameter
Sawdust from Plywood
Coated Photo & Copy Paper
Colored Paper & Waxed Cardboard
Meat, Fish, Poultry or Dairy Products
Pesticide-Treated Grass Clippings & Diseased Plants
Invasive Weeds & Weed Seed Heads (Unless you know that your compost is cooking hot enough to kill 'em) (Knoxvillagers: set out for Curbside Yard Waste Collection)
Pet Waste & Litter
Compost needs to get good and hot to decompose properly. It's best if you can put your compost bin in a good sunny spot, but not necessary.
Do not add thick layers of any kind of waste. Alternate layers of brown and green materials, keeping a 2:1 ratio of brown to green. Some people keep a pile of mulch near their bin and "layer" with the mulch. For example: If you throw in a bucket of food scraps, toss in two buckets of mulch. Again, not necessary. Just by trimming and keeping up your yard (you may find yourself picking up your neighbors refuse) you will probably keep a good balance.
A healthy compost pile doesn’t stink. Keeping a balance of brown to green and keeping it moist, but not wet, reduces the need to “turn” compost. The natural rain cycle should keep your compost watered enough. If your compost dries out, spray some water on it. If the compost seems stagnant or anaerobic, “turn” it with a pitchfork or something similar, which adds oxygen to the compost and aids aerobic activity.
It’s ready when it looks and smells like rich soil.
If you are composting with an enclosed compost bin, I don't think that you "turn" or water the compost. It's best to follow the instructions that come with the bin. I have never used one of these, so I can offer no advice on them.
I highly discourage tumbler compost bins. Though convenient, the earthworms and other microbes can't get in there and do their jobs. If you have (or want) this type of composter, fellow composter, Brad, suggests "seeding" your bin with earthworms. You can do this by digging up a handful of worms from your own yard, ordering them online, or purchasing them from a bait shop.
My favorite system is a three bin system. The first bin holds fresh compost. When that starts getting full, you turn that compost into the second bin so it can "cook". A few months down the road, when the compost is finished "cooking", you move it into the third bin for safe keeping until you need it. By the time the compost is turned into the third bin, you are probably ready to turn a new batch from the first bin to the second bin.
I think that I have covered all the bases, but if not, you can send me your questions.
*Compiled by: Tracie Hellwinckel; Knoxville Permaculture Guild. More information and gardening articles at http://knoxvillepermacultureguild.ning.com/profile/traciehellwinckel
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