Do you compost? Composting has become very popular in our area and Denver’s Compost Collection Program has been a big driver for local households to jump onto the composting bandwagon. Perhaps you’ve seen the green carts in your neighborhood?
You’ve done your part and you’ve reduced, reused and recycled, right? Now it’s time to start composting. I know composting is beneficial to our earth and helps reduce landfill waste, but it’s only recently that I’ve come to appreciate the true wonder that is composting. Here are just some of the amazing benefits composting can bring to our earth and your garden:
- Trash Reduction. Because of the wide range of materials that can be composted, you can reduce what you put into your trash can every week by 50-75%! Taking that much solid waste out of the landfill is no small feat.
- Reduce Global Warming. Global warming is real and the long-term outlook is grim. Methane is a big factor in global warming (in fact it’s 21 times more lethal than carbon dioxide) and composting reduces methane production from waste significantly.
- Garden Gold. Let’s not forget about the amazing benefits that composting can have on your garden. Compost helps improve drainage and porosity of heavy clay soils and helps resist soil compaction, allowing roots to penetrate the soil. Compost can improve water retention in light sandy soils and can prevent erosion. In addition to the physical benefits, your soil chemistry will improve with this gardening gold. Compost stabilizes your soil’s pH and provides micro and macro nutrients to your plants. It also helps improve the effectiveness of any organic or chemical fertilizers you may add to your garden bed.
- Contaminant Clean-Up. Compost cleans up contaminants from the soil. It binds heavy metal contaminants not taken up by plants, filters air and water of contaminants, and over time degrades toxic chlorinated and non-chlorinated hydrocarbons, explosives, wood preservatives, pesticides, and petroleum contamination in soils.
What Do You Compost?
You’ll be surprised at how many items you put into your trash can can be composted. Organic material like food scraps and yard debris are perfect for composting. When it comes to food scraps, just note that if you are using city composting, you can compost dairy and meat which are generally discouraged from home composting. You can also compost non-recyclable paper like napkins, paper cups and plate, paper towels, and wax paper. Additionally, items like pet hair, tea bags, and wooden chopsticks can be composted. Here’s a great list of 100 items you can and should compost.
How Do You Compost?
There are 2 main ways to compost. You can either home compost or use city compost.
- Home Composting. Home composting’s advantage is that you get to use the gardening gold you’ve created in your own garden. Set up involves designating a dry, shady spot in your yard (or indoors with the right equipment) where you will make your compost pile. Be sure to keep the pile near a water source as you will need to moisten the dry materials you add to the pile over time. The first materials you add should be brown and green yard scraps. Once established, you can bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material. The compost pile will need to be turned every so often with a pitchfork to get air into the pile. Compost piles also like moisture, so you might want to cover your pile with a tarp to keep moisture in. Once the material on the bottom of the pile is dark and rich in color, you’ve got garden gold on your hands. This process can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years- depending on your conditions. Home composting involves some upkeep and patience, so it might not be for everyone.
- City Composting. City composting is a great alternative for people looking to help the environment without the maintenance and upkeep of a home composting pile. City composting allows you to divert organic materials and non-recyclable paper from the waste stream without the inconvenience of designating a spot in your yard. It is a perfect solution if you are short on space in your yard or rent your home and don’t have permission to start a compost pile. Here in Denver, you can participate in the Denver Compost Collection Program for a quarterly fee of $29.25. In 2016, Denver composted over 8.5 million pounds of material.
What Do I Do?
I’ve known about the benefits of composting for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve committed our family to a composting program. I don’t have much yard space for a compost pile and I have to admit that the thought of maintaining a compost pile is a bit overwhelming. Also, I really don’t want to add another reason for mice to come live near my home. But, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and jump into city composting. I just signed us up for the Denver Compost Collection Program and we will be getting our green cart sometime over the next 8 weeks. I will keep you posted on our experience.
Do you compost? Do you have a home pile or participate in your city’s program? Drop your composting comments below.