The first thing you’ll need for your rotting pile is something you have a lot of anyway: organic trash. Gather up all of your moldering leaves, your fallen branches, your grass clippings, your fruit peels, your coffee grounds, your…
I beg your pardon? You don’t want to start a rotting pile in your yard? That doesn’t sound appealing to you?
Maybe that’s why enthusiasts (and there are quite a few of them) have taken to calling those piles compost bins and the process of encouraging them to rot composting. Whatever the name, though, the process is basically same: heaping together organic matter, like fallen leaves and kitchen scraps, to encourage decomposition.
Why should you start composting? Because it’s actually not as repulsive as it probably sounds. True, a botched compost bin may give off a foul smell, but a well-maintained bin need not smell at all. The process of decomposition can actually help kill pests, weeds and diseases.
Even so, it may not be immediately obvious why you’d want to compost. The primary reason is what all that yard and kitchen waste becomes. The matter that goes into a compost bin still contains nutrients that can be used to nourish plants. The problem is that it’s trapped in a form that plants can’t break down. At the end of the composting process, that rotting matter emerges as a dark, crumbly material called (surprise, surprise) compost.
Because the process concentrates the fertility of the matter, compost can be added back to your garden or landscape as a soil amendment or mulch. Compost can be used to improve soils heavy in clay or sand, or as a growing material for potted plants and seedlings. Agricultural researchers as widespread as Ohio, Florida and New Mexico have shown that the use of compost also aids in the prevention of diseases that afflict plants, particularly at the roots.
Composting has environmental benefits as well. Composted material is kept from accumulating in landfills. That’s important because the yard and kitchen waste that goes into a compost bin can make up as much as 30% of your total household waste. Some states, like Missouri, even restrict yard waste from landfills, leaving homeowners to find some other way to dispose of leaves and grass clippings. And while it’s not a complete substitute for fertilizer, the use of compost can also reduce your need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
In the weeks to follow, we’ll be looking at the science and best practices for composting, as well as some of the methods involved (spoiler: there’s more than one).
In the meantime, keep a close eye on the amount of plant matter that gets thrown away around your home. You might be surprised at how much it accumulates. Those nutrients could all be going back to the plants in your garden, or the grass in your lawn, but first you’ll need to make a rotting pile of it.
And if you’re already composting, feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you’ve gotten out of it so far.
Compostmodernism, the Apron Blog’s regular series on composting, is provided by the Home Depot Garden Club. Look there for more projects and how-to for your garden and landscape. If you’re ready to start composting, check out the Home Depot’s selection of Composters.