Easy tips for making compost

2:40 PM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - What do you do with your food scraps and mostly eaten leftovers?

Heidi Heiland of Heidi's Lifestyle Gardens joined KARE 11 News @4 to share easy tips and for making your own compost to nourish your gardens while reducing your carbon footprint.

Creating your own nutrient-rich fertilizer from food scraps and yard debris is simple and practical. You can reduce your household waste by as much as 12 percent by turning your fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags and plant material into your own 'soil.'

Adding garden debris, grass clippings and leaves with a bit of moisture and proper air circulation makes a perfect recipe for great compost, and creates a practical alternative to having garden debris hauled away.

It only takes a few minutes each week to manage a compost system. Finished compost is half the volume of the original materials, and nature's perfect soil amendment or excellent weed-suppressing mulch. It is gold for your garden!

Low profile, highly functional compost systems deliver amazing benefits, some of which include:

• Improving soil structure and density, creating a better environment for plant roots
• Delivering multiple macro- and micro-nutrients to the soil
• Improving and stabilizing soil pH
• Binding and degrading certain pollutants
• Improving water holding capacity of soil

Compost consists of four primary ingredients:
- Air - Aeration is important because microorganisms need oxygen to work.
- Water - Moisture content should be between 40% - 60%.
- Green - Nitrogen is made from green materials. Think of veggie peelings, green
plant leaves, coffee grounds, and grass clippings.
- Brown - Carbon is made from woody materials such as dried leaves, sticks, dried flowers, dead plants,
wood chips and sawdust.

Two parts Brown to one part Green is the proper ratio to use.

How to get started:

In the kitchen, keep a small covered jar or other covered container handy to collect kitchen scraps. Avoid any dairy, meat, or oils. Plan to take your scraps to your outdoor compost area weekly. Choose from a variety of compost containers to place outdoors at least two feet from any structure, and close to a water source. Compost bins are available in single units, as tumbling units, and as units with two or three chambers. Multiple chambers are convenient for staging the compost as it develops, allowing an area for finished compost to be accessed easily for the garden.

Compost bins can be made from wooden pallets, also. Place one pallet on the ground and drive two stakes on each side. Add additional pallets over each support to create the bin. Gather the 'green' and 'brown' materials to start the new compost pile. Help jump-start a new compost pile with a compost starter, aged manure, cottonseed meal, or alfalfa meal. Place kitchen scraps in a layer under the top layer of the compost pile each time they are added.

Maintenance:

Turn the compost pile with a garden fork or shovel regularly to provide aeration. Adjust moisture levels if needed. If water drips from a handful test, there is too much water for microbes to flourish. If the handful test material falls into pieces, it is too dry. Proper moisture is similar to that of a wrung-out sponge. Compost can be odor-free! If the pile starts to smell, it may be too wet. Add dry materials and turn the pile. If an ammonia odor develops, there is too much nitrogen, or green matter. Add more carbon materials, or brown matter to the pile. Slow decomposition is a result of either a lack of moisture, or of nitrogen.

Composting can be fun and rewarding once you experience success with it and see how it can nurture the landscape. Custom composting services are also available.

Visit Heidi's Lifestyle Gardens for more information.

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