What is Compost?

What Is Compost? Compost is an earthy, brown mixture rich in nutrients that you can use to fertilize household plants, enrich the soil of your garden or lawn and prevent erosion. As the end product of decomposed kitchen and garden waste, compost is part of the natural cycle of life that you can experience in your backyard. "Compost Happens" Compost isn’t something humans came up with, but a natural process that happens all over and all of the time. In forests, for example, leaves fall to the ground and mix with other organic material to decompose over time. Worms, fungi and millions of microorganisms together break down this material into what we call compost. This compost contains all the nutrients from the decomposed material to enrich the soil for living plants, grass and trees. Composting in our backyard, aside from having to distribute it by hand, duplicates this process in a much more efficient manner. Composting at Home When composting at home the most important thing to understand is the combination of the right ingredients and time. This time can be significantly reduced through the use of a compost tumbler and other composting equipment. In order to effectively compost, you need to mix oxygen with both brown and green material. Brown material is high in carbon while green material is high in nitrogen. The carbon-to-nitrogen ratio depends upon the proportions and types of waste that you use. Below are some examples of nitrogen and carbon wastes: Nitrogen (green materials) Fruits and Vegetables Grass Clippings Coffee grounds Meat Pasta Chicken Carbon (brown material) Wood pellets Sawdust Leaves Straw Shredded Paper Corn cobs We usually recommend using 10% wood pellets (carbon) to the amount of kitchen waste you put into the tumbler. As you can see from this table, kitchen waste is filled with nitrogen, so that when you’re composting at home you need to add carbon such as leaves, sawdust or wood pellets. We recommend wood pellets because it’s a high source of carbon and it absorbs moisture better than any other material. Picture three cups of water, for example. Now put sawdust in one, leaves in the second and wood pellets in the third. Which one absorbs the most water? It’s very important to know the absorption properties of your carbon source because you need the space in your tumbler. Oxygen, the final ingredient, enters through the ventilation holes of the tumbler when it’s turned. This gives the waste mixture a good proportion of oxygen. Once the materials have been mixed, millions of microorganisms start to break down the waste to convert it into nutritious compost soil. Microorganisms will work at different temperatures, from 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 170 degrees. The higher the temperature the more hygienic the composting becomes. Therefore, it’s important to get a composter that helps create heat so that you won't experience flies and unpleasant odors. When you compost at home, liquid can drip from your compost tumbler. For some, this is annoying and the solution is to pour wood pellets into the tumbler. The liquid that comes out is called “compost tea,” and many companies sell this as a fertilizer. You can place a tray underneath your compost tumbler to collect it and distribute it in your garden.
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