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How to Get Started With Composting

by Jonathan Cox

Found in: Farming Tips

I remember initially thinking of composting as one of those things for really serious gardeners or those who aim to live a zero-footprint lifestyle, something that would require a lot of time and energy to setup.

Thats why when Quinn , from @miamicompost, set up for a demo this past weekend, we hopped at the opportunity to learn more about this art of scraps - that's just as interesting to learning to grow the food that makes it.

This past Sunday at the Green Haven Project, 50+ people gathered through socially distancing to learn about what composting is and how they can implement it into their lifestyles.

What is Compost?

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) defines mature compost as "a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell".

You have probably seen compost associated with food scraps - and in this article, you're right! When added to soil, or even by itself, compost helps improve the earths physical properties to grow.

What are the Benefits of Composting?

Many! Environmental-wise, composting can mean doing your part by limiting how much waste leaves the house every week. Roughly, about 1/4 to 1/2 of all household trash is organic in nature. By stopping the waste cycle in its track, you're also reducing how much waste your local municipality eradicates - with many of them releasing methane gasses during disposal.

The immediate gain for you, however is that all of that good organic stuff is perfect potential fertilizer and soil if you're looking to enrich your backyard garden. 

What Should I Put in My Compost?

In Sundays lesson, Quinn mentioned the importance of utilizing healthy amounts of the "greens" and the "browns". Essentially, these are the nitrogren-rich and carbon-rich parts of the compost, respectively. Regardless of the color name, "Greens" can be food scraps or fresh yard clippings, while "Browns" can be things like sticks, dry leaves or recycled paper materials.

The importance of this balance is to give the hardworking bacteria in your compost building blocks from which it can turn your bits and food scraps into healthy, usable soil.

To give you a scenario, too many "Brown" parts would just sit in your compost - taking much longer times to break down than it otherwise would. Too many "Green" parts, and your pile runs the risk of turning into a moldy, slimy consistency. The sweet spot you should be going for is 2-3 parts "Brown" to 1 part "Green".

Is This Something I Can Do In My Home? (apt, house, condo, etc)

The resounding answer is Yes!

Even though there are many ways to start composting the three most popular are as follows:

  • Aerobic composting: using a bin or storage container to hold your Greens and Browns and allow the heat of the compost and oxygen to break down your scaps. To enjoy an open-source DIY project on how to build such a unit, we recommend trying out this article on Instructables - as well as checking out some other easy-to-make variations.
  • Vermicomposting: utilizing worms to help aerate and decompose the material in your compost pile. Requires a little more maintenance and generally done in smaller compost amounts as opposed to having a natural laid-out pile. Interestingly in Sunday's discussion, using worms is a form of the "heat" needed to make a compost function optimally. It's worth noting, according to Quinn, that a good compost uses the "4 elements" to run - kind of like Avatar the Last Airbender ;)
  • Home Pickup or drop-off locations: this is exactly as it sounds - support your local urban agriculturalist by creating composts and sharing the wealth! Fertilizer and soil is always an expense when growing food, why not support your local grow-op and drop off some fresh compost to make them smile :) some local ones right off the top of our heads include @fincamorada and @green.haven.project if you live in Miami-dade. We aim to add more to this article and will make edit addendums over time as we get more information on organizations that support composting initiatives.

All in all, there are so many ways that us as consumers can mitigate or limit our impact on our local environment. Oftentimes, our biggest hurdles can be a lack of information or incentives to make simple changes in your daily lifestyle - composting or otherwise.

Do us a favor though, next time you're taking out the trash this week, consider starting a compost and sharing those food scraps back into Mother Earth 👌🏾