- Composting is the diversion of organic food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal waste stream by composting them in ones yard through controlled decomposition of organic matter by bacteria and fungi into a humus-like product. It is considered source reduction, not recycling, because the composted materials never enter the municipal waste stream.
Backyard composting is easy, following these key points. For optimal decomposition, a delicate chemical balance of carbon and nitrogen levels should be maintained. This will eliminate any foul odors from the composting area. The desired carbon-nitrogen ratio is 30:1. Simply put, think browns for carbon and greens for nitrogen.
- Greens: food wastes, grass clippings, eggshells, coffee grounds, chicken/horse/cow manure
- Browns: leaves, straw, bark, paper (newspaper, too), fruit wastes
Do not compost meat or oils.
The carbon-nitrogen balance is important because it provides nutrients for bugs and worms to eat the compost pile. These bugs like to eat carbon (for energy) and nitrogen (for protein). After three to six months, your food and yard waste will turn into a rich, dark humus that can be used for fertilizing a garden.
People living on large country and farm properties can easily set aside an area for piling up all leaf litter, grass clippings, fruit wastes, and vegetable wastes. If the pile is remote enough, simply throw stuff on the top and do not worry about mixing it. If you have the time or need to, consider dry covering some wet waste materials that might attract too many insects or animals.
Composting Pet WasteEdit
If you plan on using your composting material for fertilizing a vegetable garden, then do not add pet waste to your composting pile. Composting horse and cow manure is fine for composting because those animals have a pathogenic system that kills bacteria. Dogs and cats, however, lack this pathogenic system. Consequently, this poses as a composting issue because the temperature of a typical backyard composting pile (90-140F) is not hot enough to kill those pathogens. (Pathogens are killed at 160F.)
However, if you do not plan on using your composting material for fertilizing a garden, then you may want to consider creating a separate compost pile for handling pet waste. A simple solution is to create a "compost pocket," which is basically a just digging a hole in the backyard. In just two, quick steps, you can divert your pet waste from entering landfills:
- Dig a hole 10 to 15 inches deep and less than 2 feet across.
- Place pet waste in hole and cover with soil. To ward off pests, make sure you have at least 8 inches of soil cover.