Starting a home composting program

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Late winter is a great time to establish a composting program. Composting reduces household waste and enriches the soil by converting leftovers and yard waste into a rich humus over a period of time. Planning now, while the garden is still fallow, allows you to decide on a method that best suits your family’s needs and to settle into a routine before gardening season starts.

Composting works simply: Bacteria and organisms break down organic material and waste to create a humus that can be used as a soil amendment or top dressing for gardens. Simply stated, proper breakdown requires a balance of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, temperature, moisture, and time.

There are some basic tricks to make household composting easy. Proximity is important, as is engaging all family members to do their part. Try making it a household challenge to reduce the amount of trash your family puts in the landfill by finding as many compostable items as possible.

Compostable items include leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, household and outdoor plant clippings, table scrapings (except meat and dairy products), vegetable peelings, tea bags, egg shells, and small amounts of ash from the fireplace, sawdust, and non-glossy newspaper.

Things to keep in mind when establishing a compost bin:

Access. Access should be easy so that everyone in your family can get in the habit of separating compost from trash. It can be useful to keep a small bucket or container in the kitchen, either under the sink or on a countertop, to make scraping plates and filling it with beet tops, burned toast, and coffee refuse simple.

Location. The closer and easier the compost bin is to use, the more the family will fall in line. If the bin is far away or hidden from view, it may not be well tended.

Choose your method. The actual container can be elaborate, simple, or in between. Plans vary from a minimalist round-wire bin, much like a homemade tomato cage, to raised-bed three-compartment bins that are more elaborate. Wire bins are deep enough to accommodate large amounts of leaves, which can be a useful aspect. Composting containers can also be purchased at many garden centers and stores.

For more information on home composting please contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 255-7188, we can mail you a publication that can help you get started in the composting process.  

Source: Amanda Gumbert, extension water quality liaison, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.