Landscape Waste...Trash or Treasure?
This article was originally published on August 20, 2012 and expired on August 27, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
We have all heard that one person's trash is another's treasure. "That is especially true when it comes to composting garden and yard waste", says Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension. "In fact, many people call finished compost 'black gold'."
Composting is the ancient art of mixing by-products from your yard with water, air and time. "What better way to dispose of leaves in the fall, grass clippings throughout the summer, and kitchen vegetable scraps than to turn them into compost?"
Composting is a biological process in which microscopic organisms break organic waste into a dark, rich and crumbly substance called humus. Like other critters, these microscopic organisms need a proper diet made up of a balance of green and brown materials.
"Green material might include grass clippings, pulled weeds, vegetable garden waste, rotten fruits, and more." Brown material is often leaves in the fall but can also include dead flowers, shredded newspaper and other dried up plant material.
Basically composting is like making lasagna. By-products from your yard are layered, alternating green and brown materials. A ratio of 1-part green material to 2-parts brown is a good start. In the beginning, you might also include bare soil or animal manure, which contains microorganisms that get the pile working.
When you are done, water the pile and wait. A properly functioning pile will heat up in the center. Once the pile starts "cooking," it will break down faster if you turn it regularly with a pitch fork or rototiller. Rhonda leaves a small tiller by her compost pile so it is easy to turn.
Locate your compost pile in an accessible, but inconspicuous area. The average homeowner compost pile size is 3 feet by 3 feet. "A compost pile can be as simple as piling materials in a corner of your yard." Rhonda says that her compost area includes three bins constructed with discarded pallets from a local store." This allows her to have three stages of compost at once.
For a different twist on composting, try vermiculture. Also called worm composting, vermiculture uses small red worms to compost kitchen waste. Rhonda has a small tub of worms in her basement making "black gold."
For more information on composting for the homeowner go to http://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost. You can also post questions on Rhonda's facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.
Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: August 27, 2012