Composting is the means by which we cooperate with nature’s cycle of replenishing the soil. In natural settings, leaves and plant detritus fall to the ground and decompose, returning nutrients to the ground. In yards and gardens, the leaves and waste are often collected and hauled away yet we keep expecting the soil to give hardy vegetables, lush grass, and beautiful flowers. Decomposed organic matter – compost – benefits the soil by returning nutrients to it, keeping it healthy and able to produce vigorous, healthy plants. Composting at home also helps keep waste from landfills where it doesn’t do the soil any good.
Just dumping your lawn mower’s bag into one place over several weeks is not how to make compost. Compost requires a proper nitrogen to carbon ratio; nitrogen-rich grass clippings alone are not enough. Adding carbon-rich dry, brown leaves, 25-30 pounds for each pound of green grass, takes the pile from a soggy mess that can generate ammonia gas (which doesn’t smell too good) to potential food for your lawn or garden. Compost also requires water and air; living microorganisms are doing the work of breaking down the material so a proper environment with food (nitrogen and carbon), water, and air are required to keep them alive and working. There are also non-aerobic microorganisms that work in the heat at the center of the pile. Turning the pile in your bin with a pitchfork or using a compost tumbler once every five or so days ensures that both types of the little critters have what they need.
A compost bin is the right place to put coffee grounds, used tea bags, egg shells, vegetable waste and old or rotten fruit. These add to the “green” (nitrogen) part of the yard waste mix. Extra “browns” for carbon besides dry leaves can be cardboard, shredded paper with no harmful inks, and maybe a shovelful of depleted soil. An actual bin isn’t strictly necessary but it gives you control over the composting environment and keeps the pile from being an eyesore for neighbors. A tumbler makes the work of turning the pile much easier.
To find American made products, whether compost bins or compost tumblers, check the “about us” section of the websites you shop on; many products have been imported. Look for “Made in USA” to support the American economy at the same time you support her soil and air with your composting efforts! Raking, mowing, and gardening have to be done and learning how to use a compost bin and a composting tumbler can improve your lawn and garden while saving time and money. Why haul away what the growing cycle needs only to spend money replacing it with fertilizer bought at the store?