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Composting:

the rotten truth

Anne Kolaczyk
Purdue University Master Gardener
2006Anne Kolaczyk

Composting
Composting is the transformation of
organic material (plant matter) through
decomposition into a soil-like material
called compost.
Invertebrates (insects and earthworms),
and microorganisms (bacteria and fungi)
help in this transformation.

Kinds

Bin composting
Tumbler composting
Sunken pail composting
Sheet composting
Anaerobic composting
Vermicomposting

Why do it

Environmentally responsible

Keeps biodegradable waste out of


landfills and sewage plants
Alternative to burning
Gives you a vibrant garden
without chemical fertilizers

Saves money
Learning tool

What it involves

Adding ingredients
Maintaining proper temperature
Turning
Maintaining moisture
Harvesting

Bin composting
backyard composting

Composting bins

Ready made
Homemade
Bin-less pile

Ready made

Expensive
Limited capacity
Good if space is an
issue

Homemade

Three bins are best

One to fill
One thats cooking
One to turn others into or to draw from

Bin-less pile

Just a pile with no partitions


Hard to maintain sufficient depth to
achieve high enough temperatures
Easy and nothing to build
Moveable

What you can compost

Yard waste
Kitchen scraps
Newspaper
Cardboard

What not to compost

Meat scraps
Bones
Dairy products
Pet waste
Diseased plants
Invasive weeds

C:N ratio

Should be 30 parts carbon to 1 part


nitrogen by weight
Grass Clippings 19:1
Leaves 40:1

Equal weight of each would give you


approximately 30:1 ratio for pile

Whats what

Brown (Carbon)

Leaves
Dirt
Grocery bags
Bird seed hulls
Wood chips

Green (Nitrogen)

Grass clippings
Plant clippings
Fertilizer
Coffee grounds

C:N ratio, my take


Whatever!

Care of compost

Passive

Let sit
Takes months and months

Active

Turn often
Keep moist (H2O 40-60% of weight)
Have proper ratio of C:N (30:1)
2-6 weeks (depending on ingredients)

Lets get real


Concerns
I dont have room

Solutions
Use commercial bin

It takes too long

It smells

Not if you maintain C:N ratio

Temps too low to kill


diseases, fungi, weed seeds

Use local community composting


facility for problem pieces,
compost the rest

Attracts animals

Bury food waste in center

Maintain proper conditions


Cut up large pieces

Uses

Early stages as mulch

Later stages for soil amending

Keeps weeds from growing


Helps retain moisture
Beneficial minerals go into soil
Enriches soil
Helps with moisture retention

Removes/reduces need for chemical


fertilizers that leach into our ground water

What method is right for me???

How much space do I have?

What do I want to compost?

Is it indoor or outdoor or both?


How much waste do I have a week?

How and where do I want to use the compost?


How much time can I spend on it a week?
Whats my ewww! factor?
How committed am I to composting?

Resources

Purdue Extension office


Library
Internet

Bin

Just do it!

Anaerobic

Tumbler

composting
Vermi

Pail
Sheet