What is Compost?
Compost is: "a mixture of decaying vegetation (and/or manure) used as a fertilizer." There are a number of ways to compost, from creating a tidy pile of kitchen scraps and other useful ingredients in your garden and giving it time to season -- with a little help from you -- to buying a composting bin or drum to make compost prep a stand up job. You can also compost indoors using worms. (This is actually way more fun than it sounds.)
Here's a simple comparison: You know you need the right ingredients to make biscuits. Forget the baking powder, and you end up with crackers. Work the dough too much, and the biscuits won't be flaky -- you get the idea. Once you know a few important rules, you're good to go. Making compost is like that too.
Grab Some Kitchen Scraps and Start Composting
If you've been afraid to set up a composting station on your property, I'm here to encourage you to give it a try. Make this year the year you started turning kitchen scraps into fertilizer for your vegetables and flowers. If you're a garden lover, there's a wonderful kind of symmetry to it you'll appreciate. Start small by reading up on composting. It won't take long, and it's a transformative story with drama, heat and a few dirty moments. You'll love it.
- Compost Truth or Consequences Part 1 Part 2 - I like this two part 15 minute video because it offers all the basics, including easy to understand troubleshooting techniques. It was developed as a teaching tool by Cornell University. It also comes with a handy free PDF booklet. Take a look. It will demystify composting.
- Composting Frequently Asked Questions - After you watch the video, you'll probably have questions. Cornell University's composting FAQ page will answer a few of them. It sidesteps the chemical jargon, so it's an easy read:
- 80-Plus Items You Can Compost - Here's the list of 80 things you can put in your compost pile from the folks at Networx. To keep your pile pristine, print out the list and keep it on your fridge. It'll help you avoid mistakes like throwing meat scraps on the pile. (That's a big no-no.)
- How to Start a Vermicomposting Bin - This is my blog about worm composting. I wrote it before vermicomposting really caught on, so it describes the process as well as a DIY approach to starting your own little worm farm in the garage. Nowadays you can find lots of kits that will get you started faster, so lose the drill and grab your credit card:
- Cornell Waste Management Institute - Composting - If you want more information about composting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's site will direct you to a list of comprehensive resources on the subject. This is one recommended site. It'll teach you more than you probably want to know about the science of composting and its attendant benefits.
Environmental Protection Agency. "Composting." 11/15/11. http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/rrr/composting/index.htm
"Black Gold" and Jed Clampett are references to the television series: The Beverly Hillbillies that ran on the CBS network (1962 to 1971).
Compost: Truth or Consequences. 1998. Video produced by Photosynthesis Productions, Inc. and Cornell Waste Management Institute. Distributed by Bullfrog Films, P.O. Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 610-779-8226