Composting is a natural method of recycling plant matter to create a material that can be used as fertilizer or used in place of soil in gardens. Compost is created when "green" and "brown" matter decompose. Green matter releases nitrogen and brown matter releases carbon. When the two interact, the decomposition process is accelerated, and it is important to keep a balance of green and brown materials so the decomposition process happens effectively.
Grass and hedge trimmings fall into the "green" composting material category. Add freshly clipped grass to a compost heap, or leave it on the lawn to decompose and provide nutrition to the grass. Brown materials include dead leaves, hay, sticks, twigs, tree bark and other dead plant material. Sawdust and wood chips are other brown options. If fresh clippings are left to dry out on a dry surface, they will become brown material. This can be a good fertilizing option for lawns that grow quickly or lack other brown materials. Do not add treated wood products to compost, as they contain harmful chemicals.
Many waste products found in the average home are compostable. Green materials include spoiled produce, fruit and vegetable peels, tea bags and coffee grounds. Food scraps from plant-based foods, such as rice, beans and other grains, can also be added to compost as long as they include no oil or meat products. Brown household materials include paper products, pet fur and human hair. Although they are neither nitrogen-producing green material or carbon-producing brown material, crushed eggshells will decompose and add calcium to a compost pile. Fabric scraps may be added as brown material as long as they are from natural fibers, such as hemp, cotton or wool. Bird and bat guano are safe green additions to compost, but do not add dog or cat waste because it can contain bacteria that is harmful to humans.
When gardening season is over, all the remaining plants in the garden can be pulled, chopped and added to the compost bin. Plants that are alive when pulled are green material, and dead plants are brown material. During gardening season, plant thinnings are good green additions to compost. Steer manure is also a compostable green material. Most weeds are acceptable green compost additions, providing that seed heads are removed before adding weeds to the bin. Due to the fertile environment, weed seeds can sprout in the compost. Avoid adding diseased plants to the compost pile, as spores from fungal infections such as blight and powdery mildew can survive in compost.
- Photo Credit Paul Viant/Stockbyte/Getty Images
A List of What to Compost
Home composting produces rich organic matter for the garden and keeps garden and kitchen refuse out of the “municipal waste stream.” Different...