Compost Happens

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How do you do it?

Pick an Area
The wise homeowner designates an area which will accommodate a pile which can be forked and stirred and, while it should sit on their own property, make sure to locate your heap away from any open home windows. Why? Because you’re trying to create an organic cocktail. This mixture will, over time, produce humus, the rich nutrient food boost necessary for all healthy plant life.

Contain It
There are quite a few different styles of compost containers available through catalogs or the larger nurseries. There are rolling versions, composters on legs, and the big black box. You can even make a simple composter by stacking old wooden pallettes on top of each other. They are not necessary but if you have the funds, some can run a couple hundred dollars.

What To Add
<u>What you will be adding to your pile is rather important.</u> From the house you should save all clippings and peelings from vegetables such as celery tops, carrot scrapings, potato peels, apple cores—anything which, when preparing salads or vegetable dishes would normally go into the garbage. It’s also okay to add coffee grounds, peanut shells; and if you can rinse out egg shells, they are valuable too. (In fact, I’ve heard roses love both egg shells and bananas peels.)

Save this mixture in a small pail and when it gets to be a sizable amount, haul it out to your pile and fork it in. To this, you will be adding grass clippings, anything raked off the yard and, most important, all the leaves you rake in the fall. (It helps if you have a vacuum or device that will shred the leaves but it’s not necessary, it just helps the decomposition work faster.) You can also add pine needles if you live in the woods, or seaweed if you live near the shore.

Waste-management educators at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County suggest that if your compost goes anaerobic and starts to smell, your neighbors may become upset but that there are solutions. Veet Deha, a composting educator says, “All you need for neighbor-friendly composting is the knowledge of a couple basic principles.”

The Cornell Waste Management Institute has made a video with some answers called: Compost Truth or Consequences. Since home composting of food scraps and yard debris can reduce waste by 20 percent and provide a valuable soil amendment, helping people makes sense they say.

Here are a few tips:
A rotten egg smell is caused by so-called anaerobic decomposition. That’s when oxygen fails to reach overly moist waste materials and anaerobic microorganisms, which thrive in the absence of oxygen, take over. To solve this problem, bulk up the mixture by adding straw or wood chips, and stir well. These substances will allow the oxygen to penetrate the compost and encourage aerobic microorganisms to re-establish themselves.

An ammonia smell is caused by too much green nitrogen-rich material, such as grass clippings, being added at one time. The solution to this is to add brown, carbon-rich materials like dry leaves for balance
Proper moisture, air, a favorable mix of carbon materials and nitrogen, as well as plenty of surface area, provide decomposer organisms a veritable banquet. And if you see some worms in there—so much better—you know you’re on the right track!

The entire community benefits from home composting. Tons of organic material are kept out of the waste system, reducing costs–and the best part, it turns waste into nutrient-rich soil amendments for garden, lawns, flower beds and plant containers.


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