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Composting 101- Learn How to Compost

Composting 101 | GoodGirlGoneGreen.com

Shawna Coronando is back this week sharing her composting wisdom. I just adore her, and the fact that she oozes green, and has the most wonderful and upbeat personality- you can't help, but love her! The only thing I do applaude is that she donates some of her produce to her local food pantry when harvested. Very cool, Shawna!

Food scraps and yard clippings make up one quarter of the United States’ solid waste piling up in landfills. The book, True Green, says, “When this organic matter ends up in landfills and decomposes without air, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

Composting is the way to cleanly convert kitchen and garden waste into productive soil matter without producing toxicity and it is one of nature’s best mulches and soil amendments. You can make it without spending a cent, which helps save you money. Which type of composter should you use? Above is a video which discusses two really fantastic composters – both different styles – sold by Clean Air Gardening.

When adding material to the composter, keep in mind the pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens,” and moisture. Below is a list of browns and greens you might use in your compost pile.

Examples of browns:
  • Newspaper, black-and-white print preferred.
  • Brown paper bags from the grocery store.
  • Shredded cardboard or cotton and paper-based tissues and towels.
  • Floor sweepings.
  • Straw.
  • Aged grass clippings.
  • Dead leaves. Do not use dead leaves from diseased plants.
Examples of greens:
  • New grass clippings.
  • Plant prunings. Do not add prunings from diseased plants.
  • Spent flowers and pulled weeds.
  • Coffee grounds.
  • Tea bags with metal staple removed.
  • Kitchen scraps. Avoid items that will root, such as potato skins and onions, unless ground completely. Do not add meat or bones or it will stink to high heaven!
  • Barnyard animal manures such as cow, horse, chicken, goat, sheep, and rabbit. Do not use dog, cat, or human manure/feces as they may contain pathogens or diseases that could be harmful.

Managed composting involves active participation, including turning the pile occasionally. On average, it takes between three and four weeks to create compost. The speed is determined by the products you add, if they are chopped up, and how often you turn the pile. A good balance of carbon and nitrogen encourages quicker composting.

The temperature of the managed pile is important—it indicates the activity of the decomposition process. It should be warm or hot to the touch. If it is not, then the microbial activity has slowed down and you need to add more green materials. This heat can be encouraged if you place your compost pile in full sun.

Keeping the pile moist is also important as organic waste needs water to decompose. Gray water, in other words, old dish water or clothes washer water from your home can be drained into a compost pile regularly. The rule of thumb is to keep the pile as moist as a wrung-out sponge. If you actively manage the composting, within a few weeks you will have a rich additive for your garden.

Shawna is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Gardening Nude, which is a guide for living a green lifestyle. She is the CEO of MAD 4 World Enterprises and Partner of 78 Pesos, which is a video production company that specializes in sustainable online content. Shawna is an on-camera spokesperson, newspaper columnist, internationally recognized keynote speaker, environmental and health correspondent. She is an experienced spokesperson with green lifestyle living, organic gardening, culinary, and eco content creation who campaigns for social good. You can learn more about her at http://www.shawnacoronado.com or follow her on twitter @ShawnaCoronado

Learn more about composting and gardening:

Composting 101 | GoodGirlGoneGreen.com

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Reader Interactions


  1. mrs green @littlegreenblog.com says

    Hi from the meet and greet – great to see your trash tally again and to catch up with project green foot.

    I love this post; composting is so simple once you get the basics in place and it’s still exciting, after ten years plus, to see a few food scraps turned into the most amazing FOOD for the garden!

    Personally I would hesitate to advise newbies to add weeds from tenancious plants unless they can really take good care of the compost and get it very hot in the centre to destroy the weeds, but perhaps that’s just past experience talking…

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