How Many Pounds Should A 3 Year Old Cat Weigh How Your Old Carrot Peels and Apple Cores Can Make You Healthier and Be Kind to the Planet Too

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How Your Old Carrot Peels and Apple Cores Can Make You Healthier and Be Kind to the Planet Too

You might think that throwing your carrot peels and apple cores in the trash isn’t effective because they’ll decompose anyway. But even natural plant matter will last years when it’s sealed in a plastic bag and thrown into a landfill.

As a great example of community responsibility, the city of Seattle, WA offers free compost bins to all residents. This keeps over 800 million pounds of trash out of their landfills! Not only can you help divert your own kitchen waste from the landfill, but you can create rich, nutritious hummus for your own garden, whether it’s an acre or an old wine barrel on your patio.

WHY SHOULD I COMPOST?

o More than 21 million tons of food waste is generated each year in the United States. If this were composted, the greenhouse gases saved would be equivalent to taking more than 2 million cars off the roads.

o You will add valuable nutrients back into the soil and your garden will be healthier and your vegetables will be more nutritious for you and your family.

o You will save money by not having to buy garden soil and mulching materials, and this will save the energy to transport those products to your store and your garden.

WHAT IS COMPOST?

When organic materials such as leaves, plant foods, manure and garden waste decompose in a controlled environment (your compost bin), a rich and fertile humus is created that will improve and fertilize your garden soil.

Your plants are much healthier because:

o nutrients are added

o drainage is greatly improved if your soil has a lot of clay in it

o if your soil is sandy, the compost helps it retain water

If your compost pile is cool, worms and insects will find their way into it and help turn your waste into food for your garden. But it helps to adjust the conditions. Provide these friendly animals with sufficient air, water and food, and they will be your garden’s best friends.

IS COMMERCIAL COMPOST THE SAME AS “HOME MADE”?

Homemade compost is better for microbes and nutrient diversity, but bagged compost does provide organic matter and some microbes. Be aware that composted manure can be mostly water by weight.

If you have a large garden where the soil needs added nutrients, you may want to buy inexpensive bags of composted manure or bulk compost from a local commercial composter, then add your own compost as needed.

If you are buying compost, remember that there are no regulatory labeling requirements for bagged compost. Grade A composted sewage sludge is probably the safest, as it is the only type of compost that requires testing for heavy metals and pathogens before it is approved for sale to the public. Feedlot manure is much more dangerous from a pathogenic point of view, because testing is not required.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE?

Even if you only have a small apartment balcony or back porch, you can compost in a plastic bin (about 18 gallon size or larger). Drill or punch holes about an inch or two apart on all sides, on the bottom and in the lid. Place it inside another slightly larger and shallower litter box (the ones under the bedding work well for this). Place some stones or bricks between the two so that there is space for air flow. Add your waste and shake the bin every other day. If you have room for two, you can add to one for several months, then stop adding to it and start the second. Keep shaking it every now and then until it’s brown, crumbly and earthy smelling. You can use this compost for small balcony planters, or even your houseplants if you don’t have room for a large garden.

WHAT DOES MY COMPOST NEED TO THRIVE?

For good quality compost, mix materials high in nitrogen (such as clover, fresh grass clippings) and those high in carbon (such as dried leaves and straw). Moisture is provided by rain, and fresh kitchen waste, but you may need to add water to keep it moist. Turning or mixing the mass often provides oxygen.

Your compost needs to breathe:

Without enough air, your compost pile will decompose, but more slowly… and it will be much smellier! So make sure you have plenty of room for air in your pile. Straw works great to prevent the stack from matting. If you don’t have access to straw, be sure to break up some clumps and try to turn it regularly with a spade or garden fork to fluff it up.

Your compost needs to drink:

You want enough moisture to slightly coat every particle in your pile, providing the ideal environment for thirsty microbes. It should be wet like a towel that has been wrung out. Wetter than this and it will start to smell. Generally your kitchen waste will be fairly moist, but if you add dry leaves from your yard, you may want to moisten them a little. If your pile is open to the elements, cover with a tarp in rainy weather. Too much moisture can cause temperatures to drop inside the pile and make it smelly. Not enough moisture prevents the pile from heating up and slows down the decomposition process. Check the moisture content of your compost pile weekly and adjust it if necessary. Add water to increase humidity, or add dry material to help dry it.

Your compost needs to eat:

Your friendly composting bugs have two food groups… and it’s always best to mix the two if you can:

o Browns (Dry) – These materials are high in carbon and include straw, dry leaves, wood chips or ashes, peanut shells, pine needles, vegetable stems and shredded cardboard or newspaper (avoid colored paper and inks). You may want to moisten these slightly as you add them to your compost pile.

o Greens (Wet) – These are high in nitrogen and include kitchen fruit and vegetable waste, green leaves and grass clippings, tea bags, coffee grounds and even seaweed. Horse manure is great, but it is better if it is well aged. Check with a local stable.

Your compost needs to stay warm:

If you live in a cold climate, your compost will most likely go dormant during the winter. It will be in good shape as soon as spring heat starts to warm it up again. Compost doesn’t need to be hot — 50% Fahrenheit is fine.

You might consider hot composting (110 to 160 degrees F), as the heat produces rapid composting (in weeks rather than months), and kills most seeds and plant diseases. However, studies have shown that compost produced at high temperatures has less ability to suppress diseases in the soil. High heat can kill the beneficial bacteria needed to suppress disease.

COMPOST TIPS

o Balance of fresh and dry: Compost bags with a balance of one part fresh to two parts dry materials break down the fastest. Add one gardenful of fresh material to the pile and top it with two forkfuls of dry material. Then mix them together.

o Size: Compost bags that are at least 3 cubic feet (3 ft. x 3 ft. x 3 ft.) heat up faster and break down faster.

o Get your compost going: If you’re just starting your compost, add a shovelful of high-quality garden soil to help jump-start the microbial activity in your pile.

o Mixing: If possible, mix the compost once a week to move material from the outside of the pile to the inside. This prevents the pile from compacting. (compaction reduces air flow and slows decomposition)

o Smelly?: Healthy compost smells earthy – if yours is smelly, it’s too wet. Turn it more often and add more dry matter to help dry it out. When your compost is too wet, it removes the oxygen in your pile — which slows the decomposition process and encourages anaerobic microorganisms to thrive… increasing the stench! It could also smell bad if your mix has too much garden waste or kitchen waste. Bury it deep in the compost and add more dry matter.

o When it is finished: The compost should be dark brown, earthy smelling, and moist to the touch. Compost at the bottom of the pile typically “finishes” first. You will know your compost is finished and ready to use when it stops getting hot and when the original ingredients are unrecognizable. This generally takes 6 to 12 months.

o Nothing happens!: If you notice that nothing happens, you may need to add more nitrogen, water or air. Cold composting can take a year or more to decompose depending on the materials in the pile and the conditions.

o The compost pile is too hot: If your compost pile is too hot, you may have too much nitrogen. Add additional carbon materials to reduce the heating. A bad smell can also indicate too much nitrogen.

o It attracts flies and insects: Adding kitchen waste can attract insects. To prevent this problem, make a hole in the center of the pile and bury the waste. Don’t forget… don’t add meat scraps or any animal matter, pet manure, diseased plant material, weeds, fats or oils, or dairy products.

o Can I use fresh manure?: No. This could burn your plants. Make sure manure (NOT dog or cat poop) is well aged before it goes into your garden.

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