Thursday, May 30, 2013

Reader Question: What is compost, anyway?

Maybe you're interested in growing something this year. Maybe you're concerned about how much you're throwing away in your kitchen. Perhaps you have some gardening buddies who can't talk enough about compost...and you're afraid to ask.

What is compost?

Compost is the result of lots of organic matter breaking down into a fluffy brown mixture called humus (not hummus, the yummy dip). If you build a compost pile in your yard, you're going to have a mixture of things high in carbon, often called "browns", such as brown leaves, newspaper shreds, cardboard and sawdust. You're also going to have your scraps high in nitrogen, usually called your "greens" by garden folks. These include your food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, spent grains from a brewery, etc.

The more you look around your house, the more you'll find that can be composted: the rolls from the center of your toilet paper, dryer lint, hair (yup!), non-glossy junk mail and more. Less trash, please!

Composting mixes all of these up in a pile or bin and lets nature do the work; microbes break down the materials, kill weed seeds and pathogens and leaves you with excellent nutrition for your garden (and less carted to the landfill). Check out this nice video for some more information and get composting!

What is prohibited in the compost bin? Meats and bones, fats and oils and pet waste.

So, what gives? Compost in your garden leads to healthy plants and a healthy planet. Healthy plants are less prone to disease and are going to be more nutrient dense. 

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