By Mike Valenti
The holiday season is once again upon us; a time for friends, family, food and composting. Here at EnviroCitizen we know this is a busy, fun-filled time of year. We also know that the holidays offer a true opportunity to give mother Earth a special holiday gift – the gift of compost!
The holiday season produces an outsized quantity of waste. What better way to return those materials to the Earth than composting them. After all, composting is the Earth’s natural recycling program. You add materials from around the house that you once considered garbage, and they will decompose into feasts for worms and microbes and produce rich soil for your garden. By composting, you’re using your waste to create more life.
You are likely curious as to how to compost correctly. As you may know, if you don’t then composting can lead to something akin to a toxic waste dump in your backyard. However, composting is not as daunting as it sounds: Basically you are throwing stuff in a bin and mixing it with other stuff, rather than tossing it in the garbage can. Composting does take time, though; it will take between six and 12 months for your composter to produce the rich, dark brown, nearly black material that you add to the soil in the garden.
The holiday season is one of the best sources of composting material. Starting a compost pile in the winter isn’t ideal because compost must be kept dry and because you’ll have more grass clippings and other greenery in the spring. But if you already compost, the holidays produce plenty of material that can be returned to mother Earth by being composted.
Here are some basic composting pointers to get you started.
Choose a quality composter or make your own
The first thing you will need is a composter. You may choose to purchase one or make yourself. There are many types of composters on the market: tumblers, grates, bins, pods, even glorified garbage cans. Research and compare the various types online or at a local garden shop and decide which one suits your needs and space requirements; just be sure it has a lid. Here at EnviroCitizen we make many different types of quality composters available at very competitive prices. Alternatively you may choose to make a composter yourself with stakes and chicken wire or recycled wooden pallets. Binding, screwing or wiring four wooden pallets together to make a box creates an easy, functional composter and keeps the pallets out of the landfill. Ask a local business if they can spare a few.
Click this link to view our extensive selection of quality composters at very competitive prices: EnviroCitizen Composter Selection.
Choose where to a locate your composter
Your next step is choosing a location for your composter. Use a level spot with excellent drainage away from walls or wooden fences. If you can it is a good idea to keep the composter away from trees as well because their roots will seek the moisture and nutrients in your compost pile. You’ll need to allocate 4 or 5 square feet of space; the more space you have, the easier it will be to access.
Holiday scraps you may compost
Now that your composter set up, it’s important that you use it correctly. Begin by laying down a base layer consisting of branches and twigs about 6 inches deep. A wooden pallet may also work well as a base layer. This will assist the air circulation under the material you will add to the composter. Creating proportionate layers of brown and green material is a smart strategy.
Much of your Holiday waste is compostable like wreaths made from evergreens or other greens, cut flowers and, of course, plants.
Your green layer might include:
- Grass clippings
- Tea leaves and organic tea bags
- Coffee grounds
- Dead flowers
- Weeds ( just leaves; not roots or seeds)
- Old plants
Your brown layer might include:
- Wood material, twigs, wood chips (best if shredded)
- Coffee grounds
- Recycled brown paper, cardboard, paper-towel rolls (best if shredded)
- Leaves (in moderate amounts) and pinecones
- Eggshells and paper egg cartons
- Sawdust, wood shavings
- Hay and straw (in small quantities)
- Clothes dryer lint, pet and human hairs
- Uncooked kitchen scraps
Items that should not be composted:
- Meat or fish
- Grease, oil or cooked food scraps
- Kitty litter
- Manure of any type
- Dirty diapers
- Ashes from your barbecue
Kitchen scraps are abundant during the holidays, and most of these scraps qualify as either green or brown material, depending on what you decide to cook for your holiday meals. A good practice is to set aside a bin in your kitchen for collecting food preparation scraps. Consider a stainless steel bucket with a lid, which you can keep on your kitchen counter within easy reach. The lists above are worth keeping on hand until you memorize them. Pay careful attention to what not to include, and begin collecting your scraps. Remember, cooked food should never be added to a compost pile as it lacks the necessary enzymes that break it down. When your counter-top container is full, empty it into your composter and mix it in. If you’re just getting started and the composter is empty, it is advisable to toss in some grass clippings to cover your kitchen scraps to deter pests.
From all of us here at EnviroCitizen, we wish you and your families all the peace and joy the holiday season has to offer.