Monday, October 6, 2008

Composting 101: Part III

What Goes Into My Compost Pile?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Thanks to Starbucks

First, you'll need a couple of days' worth of food waste--leftovers, spoiled food, vegetable ends, peels (even banana peels!), coffee grounds, teabags, crusts of bread. The only thing you shouldn't include is meat and fats. These will hamper the composting process, so send them to the dump. All this stuff is called green matter.

All paper that doesn't have a heavy coating on it, like a magazine cover does, can also be included. This just about covers all the paper you discard: tissues, toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes, receipts (with no account numbers on them), newspaper, magazines (with the covers torn off), catalogs, junk mail (no plastic windowed envelopes), used napkins and paper towels, lint from your dryer, all cardboard and paperboard from product packaging and boxes, and the list goes on. This is called brown matter, as is the next category.

Yard trimmings, grass clippings, pine needles, pine cones, leaves, sticks, etc. from your yard. This is also brown matter.

You can get creative with your composting also, as long as you stay away from non-biodegradable stuff and synthetics. For instance, my bunny's litter is made of pine shavings, and his diet is totally vegetarian, so his bedding, including his droppings is totally compostable. No more bags of bunny litter at the street. Yeah! (Sorry, clay cat litter and its contents are not compostable).

Rags, old cotton, wool or hemp clothing that isn't suitable for donation, dead flowers from the florist, untreated wood scraps, discarded cotton rope and string, greeting cards and gift wrap (unless heavily coated with "varnish"), and dead or dried plants or flowers.
If you layer the above ingredients (green and brown matter) into your pile in fairly equal quantities, you should be relatively close to balanced to start. I have found that I almost always have more brown matter than green, so I save up the newspaper, boxes, and catalogs. I have another great use for these, which I'll share in an upcoming post.

I'll wrap this up with one final tip that I've learned in my mere 5 weeks of back yard composting. Until the biological breakdown process really gets cooking in your new pile, you'll need to keep adding more brown matter. But there is another ingredient, which is actually green matter, that will impact your compost pile's "scent" immediately upon impact--coffee grounds--lots of them. Don't drink coffee? No problem. Stop by your local Starbucks, where you will find a large potted plant container with a garden sign saying "Grounds for Your Garden". They're free! Kudos to Starbucks for finding a way to reuse the thousands of pounds of grounds they produce each day. I pick up a bag (about 10 pounds) each time they are available. Surprisingly, I am beat to the punch quite often, so I am apparently not the only suburbanite who likes the grounds for my garden or compost. Check it out and grab an iced vanilla latte for me while you're in the store. Happy gardening.

If you'd like to be sure to catch all the posts in this series on Composting, the schedule is noted below. Of course, you can always search by clicking on the composting label in the right sidebar. Remember, too, that you can subscribe by e-mail or RSS at the top right of the blog, and the headlines will come right to your mail box. Just click to open and read. This is the easiest method. First class delivery of your Organic Journey Online articles; no stamp required. Thanks for your support.

One final note: COMMENTS, please! Click the purple COMMENT link following the post and leave me your questions or ideas. If you are already a composter, I would love to hear from you. I have a lot to learn and your experience will be invaluable to me and everyone who reads what I write about this project. Please COMMENT!

Composting 101: Part I--Friday, September 26 Composting: What Is It and Why Do It?
Composting 101: Part II--Friday, October 3 Selecting a Spot & Setting Up a Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part III--Monday, October 6 Healthy Choices for Your Compost Pile
Composting 101: Part IV--Friday, October 10 More Composting Options and Information
Composting 101: Part V-- Monday, October 13 Composting Doggie Duty and Other Solutions

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