Composting: Because a Dirty Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!

APR 21

In the garden, there is no denying rot is hot! Composting is an effective, inexpensive and natural way to manage organic waste. It truly is a gardener's best friend. According to the Department of the Environment, organic matter such as yard and food waste makes up about 20% of the refuse generated in the United States. They say one man's trash is another man's treasure; and for the gardener, this 20% trash is 100% treasure!

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the term composting, but in case you're a little fuzzy, let me break it down for you: Composting is the process by which organic matter is biodegraded to a soil-like condition called compost or humus. The process works best with what is referred to as a 2:1 Green to Brown ratio. "Greens" are a source of nitrogen and include items such as grass clippings, old plants, wilted flowers, almost all food waste, coffee grounds, tea leaves and manure. Browns are a source of carbon and include things like leaves, hay, straw, wood chips, sawdust, chipped brush and shredded newspapers. What not to use in a compost pile would be meat, fish, dairy foods, fats, oil or grease. When your "greens" and "browns" break down, they become natural soil additives perfect for use on lawns, gardens, and to mix in with potting soil. As a soil amendment spread throughout established garden beds, compost adds essential nutrients, cutting down the need to apply commercial additives or chemicals which saves you money! Compost also improves soil texture, helps maintain a moderate soil temperature, and increases the soil's ability to absorb air and water, thus increasing circulation and decreasing soil erosion. As an added bonus (as if you need more after that list!), compost also stifles weed growth!

If you haven't already started composting, now is the time! Your county has great resources available to you to make composting both easy and affordable. To get started, residents of Montgomery County can pick up a composting bin for free.  In Frederick County, free composting classes are offered at the Department of Solid Waste facility and compost bins are available for purchase for just $20.  On April 26th, Prince William County is hosting a Compost Awareness Day event. Here, residents are welcome to learn about different types of composting, purchase compost bins, listen to guest speakers and see demonstrations by Master Gardeners.

These local resources offer great ways to learn the art and science behind composting, as well as to help you and your family establish a composting system that works. So the next time you pitch a peel or kick yard clippings to the curb, think about how you can actually make your organic waste work for you. If it's not truly trash, don't throw it out; compost and reap the rewards!