Monday, July 26, 2010

Household Composting Basics

According to the EPA, each year Americans throw away approximately 65 tons of kitchen and yard waste. We could drastically reduce, if not eliminate these waste simply by composting. Not only is composting environmentally conscious but it is also a great fertilizer and soil conditioner for your garden.

When it comes to composting utilitarianism takes over in me. It doesn’t need to be pretty it just needs to work. However I realize this is not always pleasing to most people. From designer compost pails to camouflage compost bins composting can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like.

This compost pail from Sur la table holds 1 gallon of waste and even features a charcoal filter to reduce odors.

This fun piggy bin is available from Amazon and is a great tool to get kids involved.
This is one of my favorites. It is also from Amazon, is aesthetically pleasing and also gives plenty of air flow.

Composting is very simple you just have to know what you are doing. For organic waste to break down it is important to have a good mix of high carbon waste and high nitrogen waste. High carbon waste is usually referred to as brown waste, examples would be leaves, shredded paper, or straw. Examples of high carbon waste are kitchen scraps and animal manures. Nitrogen can also be supplemented by adding a high nitrogen fertilizer. You should have a 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. This allows for optimum microbial growth and prevents any odor. A healthy compost pile should never have any foul odors. If you have foul odors it is usually a sign of anaerobic decomposition and the pile needs more carbon waste to promote oxygen flow.

Here is a helpful list of things that can be composted:

Animal Manure

Coffee Grounds and Filters


Fireplace Ashes

Fruits and Vegetables

Grass clippings

Hay and Straw


Shredded Copy Paper (One of my favorites)

Shredded Newspaper (Not the glossy stuff)

Yard waste

Don’t compost these guys:

Charcoal Ashes (They may contain harmful chemicals)

Dairy Products

Fats and Meats (These attract varmints)

Pet Waste (Can give you the clap, ok well maybe not the clap but they can carry parasites and diseases)

Plants that may be diseased

For more detailed information check out:

Backyard Composting – From the Alabama Cooperative Extension System


The EPA Composting Website


I am a senior at Auburn University majoring in Horticulture Production, president of Horticulture Forum, and a self-professed plant nerd. Sustainable agriculture and environmentally conscious nursery and greenhouse production are some of my passions.

Make sure you follow my ramblings on Twitter here!

And...... WAR EAGLE!

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