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Zero Waste: Backyard Composting

In Zero Waste

 

Composting is one of the best things you can do on a daily basis to help fight climate change and protect the planet. If you live in Boulder County, you may already be using a curbside compost collection service, which is great. If not, consider trying your hand at backyard composting. It’s pretty darn easy and there’s plenty of expertise locally if you get stuck.
Compost happens naturally, no matter what, but by following these simple directions you can help to accelerate the process to produce healthy soil.

Step 1: Get a bin that’s about one cubic yard (3’x3’x3′). If you don’t want to use a bin, mark out a portion of your yard to accommodate a pile the same size.
Size is important. Piles that are too small cannot hold enough heat for effective microbial activity, and piles too large (more than 5 feet cubed) don’t allow for enough air to reach microbes in the center of the pile.

Step 2: Mix two parts brown (dry leaves, small twigs, straw, etc.) with one part green (grass clippings, kitchen scraps, etc.). This 2:1 ratio provides the best mix of carbon (brown materials) to nitrogen (greens).

Step 3: Chop or break up many twigs and large pieces of fruit and vegetable waste. Materials will break down more quickly with increased surface area.

Step 4: Keep it moist. Water your compost to keep it moist like a wrung-out sponge.

Step 5: Keep it turning. Compost needs air. Turning the compost will help it break down and will prevent it from smelling unpleasant.

Step 6: When it is ready your compost will look and smell like rich soil. Use finished compost to feed your garden, flowers, potted plants and lawn.

People often worry that compost will smell bad.

But compost shouldn’t create an odor if you take care of it properly and don’t overload the system. Always bury the food waste by pulling aside some of the bedding, dumping the waste, and then cover it up with the bedding again. Bury successive loads in different locations in the bin.

Healthy compost smells like soil. If your compost is smelly, that’s a sign that it needs more air. Aerate your compost by regularly turning your pile.

Fruit flies can be an occasional nuisance. Discourage them by always burying the food waste and not overloading. To control fruit flies:

• Add food scraps when they’re fresh.
• Bury food scraps under bedding.
• Keep a lid on your bin (but be sure there are air holes for the worms)

And a word of caution: Although meat, bones, and dairy products, are accepted in your curbside compost bin, they should NOT go in your backyard compost where they will attract animals and become a nuisance or safety hazard.

For more information about how to start and maintain a healthy backyard compost, check our website at ecocycle.org/backyard-composting.

KGNU will bring you recycling tips and covering zero waste issues throughout the year in partnership with Eco-Cycle, thanks to a grant from Boulder County.