I made my first compost pile in the 4th grade. It was a for a school-wide science fair and each student had to think up some kind of project which would WOW our science teacher. Everyday after dinner, I would put my families leftover foods into 2Liter soda bottles I had cut the tops off of, and put it in our backyard to “air out.” My science teacher was certainly impressed by the stinky 2liter bottles, filled with a variety of partially composted foods, I had brought in to show how easy composting could be. And, while I made many mistakes with that first composting experiment, i.e. adding gravy to the compost, adding big hunks of foods, and letting it sit outside without protection that could have been provided by some type of lid, I was able to use that mixture, however “off” it was, to help grow our spring plants.
Before you begin
We know how to recycle our leftover plastics, aluminum and paper, but is there anything else we can recycle? The answer is yes! Leftover foods can be used to create nutrient rich composts which can be used for our personal gardens. Composting helps the environment by decreasing landfill waste, by helping to restore nutrients into the soil, and lets you control the chemicals that are going into the plants or food you’re growing.
- Decide what kind of compost bin to use "“ The main types of bins are stationary or rotating. While stationary bins generally hold more material, rotating bins have the advantage of creating the compost at a faster rate due to its mixing capabilities. The material the bin is made of should also be considered. If you’re worried about animals try a metal bin, otherwise, wood or plastic should be fine!
- Know what foods can and cannot be part of your compost "“ A good rule of thumb is that, if it’s a product that grew from the Earth, it’s probably ok to put into your compost. If it’s part of an animal or came from an animal then keep it out!
- Particle size is important "“ putting smaller particles of food and organic waste into the bins creates a more "homogeneous" end result. Be sure to shred or break apart any larger pieces you may be considering to be part of your compost.
- The right mix "“ Getting the right mix of organic materials is going to be important. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests a "Browns, Greens, Water" mix of dead leaves and twigs, grass clippings, fruits, veggies etc., and water. "The brown materials provide carbon for your compost and the green materials provide nitrogen, while the water provides moisture to help breakdown the organic matter."
The Environmental Protection Agency has some really great information on the basics of composting.
The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality has also posted some how-to’s for composting and mulching.
contributed by Andrea Lewis | Masters of Urban Planning and Policy Candidate | 5/19/2009