City and suburban composting is definitely possible. All you need is a small yard area or even a balcony space. Add rain-barrels (like his one -affiliate link) and a small compost bin and you are all set. Making new soil is easy to do in this small space. To help beautify the area a bit, I surround my compost bin zone with some ground cover that can get trampled without worry and viola; a perfect composting space.
Composting is important for everyone. Shockingly, our food scraps and yard clippings make up a quarter of the United States’ solid landfill waste. When food clippings and yard waste – organic matter – ends up in landfills and decomposes without air it produces methane, a greenhouse gas twenty times stronger than carbon dioxide. If you compost, you are cleanly converting garden and kitchen waste into microbe-rich soil matter organically. It is free to make, so saves you money.
How to Make Compost
When you add material to the compost bin (like this one -affiliate link), the goal is to keep 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 could place in your compost pile.
Examples of browns:
- Newspaper, black-and-white soy print preferred, shredded.
- Shredded cardboard or cotton and paper-based towels and tissues.
- Floor sweepings.
- Brown paper bags from the grocery store.
- Aged grass clippings.
- Dead leaves. Do not use dead leaves from diseased plants.
Examples of greens:
- Coffee grounds
- New grass clippings.
- Plant prunings (no prunings from diseased plants).
- Spent flowers and pulled weeds.
- Tea bags with metal staple removed.
- Kitchen scraps. Ground items that will root, such as potato skins and onions, completely. Do not add meat or bones or it will smell and attract vermin.
- Barnyard animal manures such as cow, horse, chicken, goat, sheep, and rabbit can be used. Do not use dog, cat, or human manure/feces as it could contain pathogens or diseases that might be harmful.
If you turn the pile occasionally the compost will develop more quickly. Generally, it takes between three and four weeks to create useable compost. A good balance of carbon and nitrogen and finely chopped product encourages quicker composting.
The temperature of the managed pile is very important—it indicates the activity of the decomposition process and the pile should be warm to the touch. If the compost is not warm, then the microbial activity has slowed down and you need to add more green materials. Of course, the process slows down during cold winter and this heat generation can be encouraged if you place your compost pile in full sun.
Organic waste needs water to decompose, so keeping the pile moist is important. Gray water, in other words, old bath water, dishwater, 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.
Get out there and plan your composting for this season – the soil you get from the process is super rich and you are saving the landfills by taking care of your food and garden waste yourself.
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:
- 5 ways to conserve water while gardening
- How to plant a tomato
- How to grow the best dinosaur kale
- Composting 101
- 10 things you never thought to compost
- How to grow an organic sunflower