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Why everyone should compost

March 13, 2012

“To compost or not to compost. That is the question. Whether it is”… Wait, that’s not actually how that goes. It also is not really a question at all, everyone should compost.

Why? Consider that approximately 60% of the average household’s waste is organic matter. We are talking about produce scraps, coffee grounds, tea, hair from hair cuts (or that time you were trying to beat the world record for longest beard, but realized after 9 months that smell was actually coming from your face), lawn clippings, etc. That’s all stuff that is going to the landfill and since it will likely be covered in plastic, or other things, will never break down. Besides causing environmental harm, it’s also costing you money to have it removed. The more waste we send to the landfill, the more it will cost us.

Or how about my personal favorite and the reason that you are reading this blog, gardening. Simply put, in my opinion, compost is the single best thing you can add to the garden to give it life and help things grow. Hopefully this isn’t a surprise, but if it is, welcome to the party and the chips are over there on the table, next to the lamp and the picture of us on the beach. I digress. Compost is full of nutrition and life. Feed your soil and it will feed your plants. Many studies have shown that plants grown in soil amended with compost are healthier, more vigorous, higher yielding, and more resistant to diseases. Compost also adds humus to the soil which helps it stay loose and holds moisture. If your garden plot has as much clay in it as mine does, you need it! If we have another summer like we did last year, water retention is going to be a life saver!

So you’re convinced, right? Great! Where do you start? Good question. Any way you can. The best starting point will really be determined by the space you have. I live in an apartment. As much as i’d like to, making a big compost pile in the yard just isn’t going to happen right now so I chose worms. Composting with worms is called vermiposting. More on that system in another post. I have also tried composting in 5 gallon buckets. I am still waiting to see if the end product is good, but so far it seems to be working, just slower than I would like.

Piles, tumblers, and bins

If you are less area challenged than I am, consider a compost pile, ¬†tumbler, or a compost bin. Compost tumblers are widely available these days and not horribly expensive. They are capable of breaking down a properly mixed collection of items in a few weeks. The drawback as that you shouldn’t continually add things as the compost needs time to break down. This means that you’ll probably need a secondary compost pile to add to while the compost in your tumbler is breaking down.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a compost tumbler, you can also make a bin. 2 bins are better, but a 3 bin system is best so you can have one bin finishing, one you are adding to, and an empty bin to rotate into as you stir your compost pile. It’s much easier than trying to turn a pile in it’s place. Simply empty the bin that is finishing into the empty bin and consider it turned. Bins can be as simple or elaborate as you like. They can be made from cinder blocks, wooden pallets, wire cages, etc. Whatever suits your fancy and your budget.

Even cheaper than bins are piles. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a big pile. The benefit is it’s free, the drawback is it’s not as pretty as a bin. Similar to the bins, you’ll want 2 piles.

Anyone wanting to know more about composting should check out the Rodale Guide to Composting.

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