- What Is Compost?
- Compost is a mixture of decaying organic matter, such as grass, tree
and shrub trimmings, and leaves. It is useful as a soil amendment
material (instead of peat moss) and as mulch.
- What Can I Compost?
- You can choose different types of materials from the YES list to use
in your compost pile. This will provide a good carbon/nitrogen mix and
allow the compost pile to decompose more readily.
From the Garden:
- Dry grass
- Tree/shrub trimmings
- Garden Plants
- Old potting soil
- Soft plant stems
From the Kitchen:
- Fruit Scraps
- Vegetable trimmings
- Egg Shells (crushed)
- Tea bags
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Shredded paper
- Paper towels
- Shredded cardboard
- Meat Scraps
- Dairy Products
- Oils, grease
- Pet waste, kitty litter
- Diseased plants
- Weeds gone to seed
- Painted or treated wood
(Some of these materials may
create pest or odor problems)
- How Does It Work?
- By composting, you are creating conditions which speed up the
natural process of decomposition. It's easy because the real work is
done by soil organisms, bacteria, mold, fungi, beetles, centipedes,
and earthworms, to name a few. These "helpers" decompose
complex organic compounds into simpler substances, making a rich,
organic soil-like material called humus.
- What do I do?
- First, you must set up an outside area or "bin" for your
compost to live. The type of compost system you use will depend on how
quickly you want the material to decompose, how much material you can
reasonably compost and use, and the amount of space and time you have.
- Composting is not difficult once you set up and get into the habit.
You can simply rake your ingredients into a mound. Compost bins are
not necessary to make good compost, but they can help. If compost
piles are not adequately contained, decomposition will not proceed
quickly and your pile may invite unwanted pests.
- There are many types of containers which are easy to build. A good
rule is keep it simple. You can make a simple box or circular-shaped
enclosure using chicken wire, scrap wood, hardware cloth, wooden
pallets, bricks, concrete blocks, or even recycled plastic lumber. You
can also use a metal or plastic bucket or trash can, drilling
1/4" holes to increase the flow of air and moisture.
- If you wish to purchase a compost bin, DSWA and the University of
Delaware Extension Offices are selling backyard-composting bins for
$20.00. The bin can be expanded to 3 feet in diameter.
- Compost Recipe
- Find a spot with good drainage away from direct sunlight.
- Start with a layer of coarse material like twigs, straw, or leaves.
- Add a layer of dry grass clippings and leaves (preferably chopped),
mixed with kitchen waste like egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps,
coffee grounds, or tea bags.
- Cover with a one-inch layer of soil and enough water so the soil is
as moist as a damp sponge.
- Add more materials as they become available, taking care not to make
any one layer of the same type of material thicker than six inches.
- Turn the mixture on a regular basis (weekly or biweekly) to provide
air space. You can also poke the mixture to create pores.
- Keep the pile moist but not soggy. Your compost pile will naturally
heat up and decrease in volume as the material inside decomposes.
- Once the pile is established, you may want to add food scraps in the
center of the pile, folding the scraps down and to the inside.
- When the material inside turns dark brown and crumbly, it is ready
- Remove the material from the bottom of the pile. If you wish, screen
the compost to remove items not totally decomposed and place these
items back into the pile for a second try.
- What Are the Benefits of Composting?
- Composting enables you to recycle your yard waste, returning
organic matter to the soil and providing some nutrients for healthy
plant growth. The total volume of waste discards (or
"garbage") picked up by your garbage collection service
every week can be reduced by almost 15% a year. In the long run,
composting helps you exercise, reduces what you discard, improves your
garden, and even saves money!
- If I'm Not Composting, Where Does My Trash Go?
- In the ordinary act of living, we produce many types of wastes, which
can provide benefits to you and the environment. As a homeowner, you
can voluntarily recycle many items at a DSWA Recycling Drop-off Center in
your community. You can also compost organic wastes, which is another
form of recycling. By returning these wastes back to the soil, you are
helping to replenish the earth. If you do not recycle or compost,
these wastes are often stored in modern landfills where materials
decompose at a slow rate. By recycling at a DSWA Recycling Drop-off Center
and composting what you reasonably can in your own backyard, you are
continuing on the path of environmental responsibility - developing
good habits, which serve future generations.