Composting is the process of turning organic waste into a rich soil amendment called humus. You can compost green yard waste. Lawn clippings, leaves, hedge clippings and chipped wood all make good additions to a compost bin or pile. Some things that should not be included in compost are meat, dairy products and weed seeds. Guidelines for making an effective compost pile include:
Food: A perfect mixture of material consists of ½ brown (carbon-based material) and ½ green (nitrogen-based) materials by weight.
Air: The organisms that live inside your compost bin need air to survive. Mix or turn the pile three to five times per season using a pitchfork, garden hoe or shovel. Proper aeration can make a big difference. You will know if your bin is not getting enough oxygen if the pile smells of ammonia.
Water: The bacteria organisms need the right amount of water to survive. Moisture level of your compost pile should be like that of a wrung out sponge.
Surface Area: Increasing the surface area by cutting or shredding yard waste before placing it into a compost bin will speed up decomposition. You can also store your kitchen scraps (except meat and dairy) in your freezer to speed up decomposition, as materials break down at the cell level when frozen.
Bin Size: A bin should be between 3’ x 3’ x 3’ and 5’x 5’ x 5’. A bin that is too small cannot retain enough heat. A bin that is too large won’t get enough air to the center of the pile. It is also easier to manage two or three medium bins than one large one. You can build a compost bin or you can buy one at a home or garden center.
You can learn more about composting from the following websites:
- El Dorado County Master Gardeners: http://ucanr.edu/sites/EDC_Master_Gardeners/files/154200.pdf
- CalRecycle webpage: https://calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/CompostMulch/
- Environmental Management Home Composting webpage: https://www.edcgov.us/Government/emd/solidwaste/pages/home_composting.aspx
- El Dorado Disposal’ Home Composting web page: https://www.eldoradodisposal.com/services/residential/residential-yard-and-food-waste/