compost and organic gardening

How Compost Turns Yard Waste into Black Gold

The Nickel Pincher
by Jean Nick

Grass clippings, kitchen scraps, even fall leaves make great free fertilizer for your organic lawn or garden.

How Compost Turns Yard Waste into Black Gold

It started off as leftover lettuce and dead leaves, and now it's food for your lawn.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—In nature, there is no such thing as waste. Fallen leaves, twigs, and bits of plant material fall to the ground, where they are broken down by microorganisms, and their nutrients recycled back into the soil to feed another generation of plants.

You can mimic this elegant cycle by using your yard waste as mulch, or by turning it into compost. You’ll be keeping a valuable resource out of the landfill, where it can generate the greenhouse gas methane, and the finished compost will save you money and give you healthier plants. Plants absorb the natural nitrogen in compost more easily than the synthetic nitrogen in fertilizers. Compost also helps soil retain water, saving you money on your water bill. Best of all, you won’t have to spend a cent unless you want to. That’s what I call a real win-win!

Compost Happens

To successfully do its job, the "microherd" of fungi and bacteria that digest plant waste needs air, water, a balanced diet, and comfy temps.

Getting the right amount of air is easy: Just keep your compost makings loosely packed. The water balance may be harder to maintain. The pile should be moist but not wet—like a rung-out sponge. You may have to add water, or cover things up to keep the rain out. If you don’t always get it right, don’t worry, the microherd will forgive you and get right back to work once you add water or dry materials to balance things out.

Your microherd likes to chow down on a combination of ¾ dry brown stuff and ¼ moist green stuff. The exact amounts aren’t critical, and you don’t have to add a combination every time, as long as the balance comes out about right over the weeks.


Published on: August 19, 2009

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i enjoy your article. great

i enjoy your article. great job. keep it simple

Hm, I never thought at this

Hm, I never thought at this option. I need for my parents Kratom Extract and after I've read this article, I'm going to plant few kratom trees in my back yard. Using the mix that you recommended here, I am sure that the trees will have all the necessary nutrients to grow rapidly. Thanks!

Yes, I agree

Yes, I agree and add a few kitchen scraps, some organic materials and you have a compost for your garden. Too easy!


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