When most people hear the word ‘compost’, they automatically think of a smelly pile of moldy food. However, when done correctly, composting does not smell bad and is a sanitary way to dispose of organic waste. There are many excellent reasons to compost and the greater Cincinnati area has numerous resources available to assist you on your composting journey. Composting yard, garden, and food waste at home saves transportation and disposal cost, and provides an environmentally sound way to manage waste, since yard waste makes up to 30% of the municipal solid waste stream. In addition, composting can provide excellent fertilizer for gardens, yards, and other plants. Adding compost to your garden will increase drainage and provide a continuous source of nutrients required for plant health.
How to Compost
Composting is a natural process and can occur with minimal work. Simply tossing grass clippings, brush, and kitchen waste in a pile will produce compost in the pile within a year or two. However, if you would like to see faster results, using a compost bin or turning the pile every so often will speed up the process. Compost needs green material, brown material, oxygen, and water. If turned every few days, you can produce quality compost in 3-4 weeks.
Strive to maintain a 3:1 ratio of brown to green materials in the pile. A pile that doesn’t heat up within 24 hours (you can see steam rising from the pile) needs more green material and a pile that develops an ammonia smell needs more brown material. The pile should only be damp, it should not be soaking wet. Animals will typically stay away if there are no meat or dairy products in the pile.
What to use:
|Materials to Compost|
|Browns = High Carbon||Greens = High Nitrogen|
|Corn stalks||Coffee grounds|
|Fruit waste||Food waste|
|Newspaper, shredded||Grass clippings|
|Peat moss||Hedge clippings|
|Pine needles||Hops, used|
|Stems and twigs||Seaweed|
*Avoid weeds that have gone to seed, as seeds may survive all but the hottest compost piles.
What not to use:
Coal ash, colored paper, diseased plants, inorganic material, meat, bones, fats, dairy, pet droppings, and synthetic chemicals.
As mentioned, composting can happen when materials are placed in a mound and left alone. If you want a faster or more contained system, you can consider building or purchasing a composting bin. It is not necessary to have a bin, however, it can make it easier to turn the pile, keep the pile manageable, and remove finished compost. You can make your own bin out of wood or fencing and posts. Other types of bins include rolling bins, tumblers, enclosed bins, and worm bins. If you are interested in purchasing a composting bin, OEQ currently has Earth Machine compost bins available for purchase for $50. Contact Hannah Lubbers for more details.
Composting can be an easy and cost effective way to improve the soil quality in your gardens and help your landscaping thrive. No matter how you choose to compost your organic waste, know that you are doing your part to help reduce the amount of waste that goes to our landfills.