Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials to make an earthy, dark, crumbly substancethat is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and isa critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It's easy to learn how to compost.Composting can even be done, cleanly and unobtrusively, indoors in apartment buildings and condominiums!
Composting is not a new idea. In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and beginto decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaimingthe nutrients from the decomposed leaves. Composting may be at the root of agriculture as well. Some scientists havespeculated that as early peoples dumped food wastes in piles near their camps, the wastes rotted and were terrific habitat forthe seeds of any food plants that sprouted there. Perhaps people began to recognize that dump heaps were good places forfood crops to grow, and began to put seeds there intentionally.
Today, the use of composting to turn organic wastes into a valuable resource is expanding rapidly in the United States and inother countries, as landfill space becomes scarce and expensive, and as people become more aware of the impacts they haveon the environment. In ten years, composting will probably be as commonplace as recycling aluminum cans is today, both in thebackyard and on an industrial scale. Many states in the USA have stated goals or legislative mandates to drastically reduce thevolume of waste being sent to landfills. Utilizing yard and kitchen wastes (which make up about 30% of the waste stream in theUSA) is a big part of the plan to minimize waste overall.
You can contribute to the 'composting revolution' by composting your own yard and kitchen wastes at home. If you have alarge yard, you might prefer the ease of composting in a three-bin system out by the back fence. Apartment and condominiumresidents can get into the act with indoor 'vermicomposting' -- using earthworms to recycle kitchen wastes (offices can evenrecycle coffee grounds and tea bags with vermicomposting). Cities and towns can promote composting through homecomposting education efforts and the collection of yard wastes for large-scale composting. Whatever your style of composting,there's plenty of room to get involved!
Good composting is a matter of providing the proper environmental conditions for microbial life. Compost is made by billionsof microbes (fungi, bacteria, etc.) that digest the yard and kitchen wastes (food) you provide for them. If the pile is coolenough, worms, insects, and their relatives will help out the microbes. All of these will slowly make compost out of your yardand kitchen wastes under any conditions. However, like people, these living things need air, water, and food. If you maintainyour pile to provide for their needs, they'll happily turn your yard and kitchen wastes into compost much more quickly. Keep inmind the following basic ideas while building your compost piles:
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: Eric S. Johnson
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