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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Tis the Season… to compost


As the weather warms up you are starting to think about your garden.  But you are also thinking about mowing and keeping your yard beautiful.  But what do you do with all of the grass clippings, plant trimmings and other yard waste?  Why not try composting all of the yard waste.  Taking the time to turn that “yard waste” into high quality soil amendments may seem too big of a challenge or even too much work.  Composting may seem a daunting task at first, but with just a little work you can end up with a nice high quality product that you can use in your yard.

Why compost?

  • Since 1990 yard waste cannot be taken to landfills, so it is taken to landscape composting facilities.  At these facilities the waste is composted and sold to homeowners.   You may be buying your grass clippings.
  • Composting speeds up the natural process of decomposition by controlling the environment.
  • Composting produces high temperatures that can kill off weeds, plant diseases, and pathogens.
  • It is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce your waste by recycling some food waste, grass clippings, and leaves in the fall.

What are the benefits of composting?

  • Reduces the waste you produce.
  • Creates and promotes good soil structure which aids in water retention, root penetration, acts as a pH buffer, and increases earth worm activity in the soil.
  • High temperatures generated by composting can kill most disease pathogens, weed seeds, and destroy pesticide residues.

How do you compost?

  • By providing the ideal conditions for decomposing microorganisms, you speed up the decomposition process.
  • Turning or mixing the compost on a regular basis increases oxygen to the pile and speeds the process. The more often you turn the compost the faster it will work.  Mixing 1 to 2 times per month is ideal (though more is not going to hurt anything).
  • The compost pile should be moist but not wet.  About the consistency of a wrung sponge.
  • Keep the compost pile between 130° and 140°.  Above 160° will sterilize the compost.  When the temperature drops, the pile either needs to be mixed, or it is almost done.
  • Let the compost mature for a couple of weeks once the temperature starts to drop to allow the compost to “finish”.


If you have any other questions, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu) 309-547-3711.

 



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