Don’t throw away that potato: Composting Explained with Summer Service Fellows

This summer with the Mobile Oasis and Mobile Market projects we’ve helped work on preparing garden beds for different members of our Greensboro community. One of the most important things that go into making those beds, is ensuring that we have rich nutrient filled soil for the plants to thrive in. In order to help facilitate good soil, we make sure to incorporateĀ compost into our beds to help give the plants the best possible growing environment we can give them. Composting doesn’t have to be done on as large of a scale as we do it at Guilford however, you can make a compost system at your home too! Having a compost system is an excellent way to reduce the amount of waste you create, and in turn, also serves as an amazing nutrient source for your household plants and garden.

Too often composting can seem like an overly complicated or scientific task, but it has huge benefits for you and your garden and is simple to do! To start a compost system at your house all you really need is a small container to collect food waste inside and a place for your actual compost bin or pile. Your compost system doesn’t have to be large and doesn’t even have to be contained in a bin. My family for years kept our compost in a large pile without any sort of container and we got good soil from it every year. If you are looking to make a bin, chicken wire makes an excellent cheap bin at any size. To prepare the bin all you have to do is wrap it into a cylinder to the size of your liking and bend the wires to connect the bin. Additionally, if you live in an area with critters commonly outside your house you may want to cover the bin when food waste is added. There are all sorts of types of compost bins you can make though so take some time looking around to see what type will work best for you.

Composting in your backyard or in your home works just like decomposition does in nature. A series of bacteria and microorganisms all play different roles producing and feeding on energy to break down the plant matter into the nutrient rich soil. While all of these little creatures have numerous complex jobs to do, you only have one main one in the process, to keep the pile well fed!

The most important component for a healthy compost bin is a balance of carbon and nitrogen in your materials of choice. For carbon, your going to want things like dry leaves, plant stalks, straw, pine needles, mainly tough brown material. Your kitchen and yard do a great job of supplying the nitrogen you need in the form of leftover food waste as well as plant and grass clippings. The balance between the two you want to maintain is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, so make sure to stock up on things like dry leaves when you can so you can keep your compost going always! As long as that balance is maintained your compost pile or bin will continue creating nutrient rich soil without the bad smell.

Your level of involvement with your compost bin can be as little or as great as you want it to be. Regardless of if you obsess over maintaining perfect temperatures and worm populations or if you just fill the bin with scraps from dinner you’ll eventually end up with great soil no matter what!