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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Learn to Compost

Composting is an extraordinary process. Given time, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, shredded paper or leaves can yield this black gold soil. Just as well-nourished children thrive, our gardens prosper with the nutrients and microorganisms that compost provides.

Composting is an extraordinary process. Given time, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, shredded paper or leaves can yield this black gold soil. Just as well-nourished children thrive, our gardens prosper with the nutrients and microorganisms that compost provides.

What Can You Compost?

Compostables are divided into two main categories: the greens and the browns.

Greens include food scraps such as apple cores, onion skins, egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds and any other refuse from fruits and vegetables, including weeds (except perennial weeds) that are plucked from the garden.

Browns include leaves, shredded paper, sawdust, nut shells, coffee filters, straw, small sticks and twigs, wood chips and empty cardboard tubes. For faster composting, the smaller the pieces, the better.

A compost pile is a living ecosystem and needs the right balance of ingredients and adequate water to function. The goal is for the compost pile to be damp: not too wet, not too dry. A compost pile should have good drainage, just like a house plant.

What Should You Leave Out of the Pile?

Don't toss any animal remains (meat, bones, etc.), dairy products or anything high in fat. Crushed egg shells are fine to include.

Create a place for compost piles in the backyard using plastic totes or garbage pails. Keep in mind that compost must be decomposed fully before adding it to the garden.

Just Add Worms

Another option is vermicomposting, which is composting with the assistance of red wiggler worms. Vermicomposting can be done inexpensively in plastic totes (drill holes for air flow and drainage). The worms need bedding, which can be paper scraps, leaves or peat moss.

Worms can eat half of their body weight each day, meaning a 2-pound population of worms can consume 1 pound of food scraps daily. This means food scraps should be added a few times per week to keep worms satisfied.

A Healthy Compost

A well-managed compost pile smells earthy. To have a healthy composting system, you'll need more browns than greens. If your pile is getting smelly, too heavy or too wet, add more browns and stir the pile.

 

Brittany Twiss, R.D., Program Assistant, NDSU Extension

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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