What is compost? When organic matter is decomposed with the help of the FBI — not the Federal Bureau of Investigations — but Fungi, Bacteria, and Invertebrates, it becomes nutrient-rich substance of such value that experienced gardeners call, “Black Gold.”
Compost not only stimulates plant growth, but it can also help the planet by reducing waste and “greenhouse gases” or methane. Also, water that leaks from the fruits and vegetables, and then mixed with trash, creates a liquid called “leachate.” This is a toxic sludge that contaminates our water system when it flows into our rivers and oceans.
When we compost our food scraps, we can help reduce the amount of leachate and methane that are produced and released into the environment. We also reduce the amount of carbon released into the air by putting it back in the soil through the process of composting.
Compost helps to improve food nutrition, increase crop yield, and helps strengthen our plants’ immune systems. It also stimulates plant growth by increasing microbial life, nutrients, and water-retaining humus. As a regenerative substance, composting allows us to create a closed food cycle right in the backyard. And it’s fun!
Now that you know that the simple act of removing vegetable scraps from our trash can help our planet in a huge way, how could you not compost?
You can compost at home, at school or at work, by simply creating a compost collection bucket with a sign so people in your community know that is for vegetable scraps only. You can start your own compost pile at home, but if you do not have the space or time, you can find gardeners who already have a compost system in place.
Building a Compost Pile is as easy as Cake!
You can think of a compost pile as a cake, lasagna or anything delicious that has layers. The compost pile should have layers of greens and browns. Greens are rich in nitrogen and browns will be rich in carbon. Greens include raw parts of fruits or vegetables which are not consumed, vegetable waste egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, greens from your garden or any plant without seeds.
Browns include wood chips, dried leaves, mulch or hay. There should always be more carbon than nitrogen in a compost pile, the browns should cover the pile entirely once you have built your layers. There should be a ratio of 60% brown material, and 40% greens in your finished compost layers.
Choose a convenient but out-of-sight spot in your yard to start your pile. Build the first two layers once you have accumulated enough materials. The first layer should be your chopped up food scraps, and the second layer will be the brown materials. Watering once a week is recommended in order to keep the pile and those beneficial bacteria from drying out.
Keep on adding layers and soon you will have a compost pile full of FBI’s. You can mix the materials in your compost pile once every few weeks for quicker results. However, it is okay if you do not turn it at all. You might see some seeds start to sprout (from the seeds in the food scraps) and your compost pile may turn into a mini-garden! And, the result is almost like magic when your pile turns dark brown and crumbly, ready to add to your garden.
Compost is an essential way to help regenerate the soil, the garden, the planet. Creating a pile can be a fun activity for the entire family, and I guarantee some surprises such as sprouting plants and cool critters will show up. I hope that you will join me on this journey and I promise that once you start and see the results, you won’t want to stop!
To dive deeper into Composting, take our Free Small Scale Composting webinar by Diana Liga!
Youth Garden Educator