The Basics of Backyard Composting

A few years ago my family began a backyard garden to grow fresh, good-for-you vegetables right in our own back yard. Everything I read about gardening had a common theme: compost. I knew our family threw out significant usable waste, but before I began this project I needed to learn the basics. Not only is composting is a great way to get some outdoor exercise, it helps fertilize your soil for growing plants and vegetables, giving you the chance to connect with your food, from garden to plate. In honor of gardening month, here’s my composting experience—and some tips for how you can compost too.

Aerobic Composting

Aerobic composting has virtually no odor and uses good bacteria to break down the waste. The heat generated by the decay process is enough to kill off any harmful bacteria.

Anaerobic Composting

Anaerobic composting is essentially rotting, which is the cause for its strong odor. It does not generate enough heat to kill off harmful bacteria. The acidity of an anaerobic system will eventually yield compost, but it can take up to a year before harmful bacteria are eliminated.

In my compost I include: fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, dried grass clippings, dead leaves, straw, topsoil, wood chips, shredded paper, cardboard, dryer lint, and sawdust. Things to avoid putting into your compost include: meat, bones, grease, seeds, fruit pits, household pet manure, and bakery or dairy products.

Moisture and mixing is vital to turning your heap into usable compost. You want your pile to be moist—not too wet and not too dry. How often you mix your pile affects when your compost will be ready. If you mix your pile every day, your compost may be ready for use in two weeks. However, if you only mix your pile once a month, it will be usable in about a year.

Remember the 4 Ms of Composting:

1. Mix
2. Mash
3. Moist
4. Move

Now get gardening!

– True Health Clinical Health Consultant


Source: The All New Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew

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