What is composting? Composting, in simple terms, is the process of decomposition (or rotting). Materials in the natural environment are continually breaking down (decomposing), which in turn adds nutrients to the soil, which then feeds the new or existing growth of other plants and trees. Organisms in the soil break down materials (such as leaves) and turn them into nutrient-rich soil. Composting is a way to speed up this process using yard and kitchen waste to create a rich and natural soil amendment.
How does one compost? The process of composting involves containing or designating an area in which materials to be composted will be kept. This can be as simple as merely a pile kept out of site, or as fancy as a cedar-planked bin framed by colorful annuals. The materials that are added for composting should compose of green or nitrogen-rich materials and brown or carbon-rich materials, added in layers for best results.
Keeping the pile at the right moisture level (moist but not soggy), and aerating the pile now and again (by turning the contents) provides air and water to the organisms so that they can continue to do their work in breaking down materials to be composted.
The finished compost can then be added back to the soil of garden or flower beds and provides nourishment the plants need for health, as well as to ensure the plants grown in the soil are also rich in nutrients.
Why is composting important? Most of the soil in which food is grown today is depleted from years of unsustainable practices such as chemical fertilizer use. This means that the food grown in that soil is less nutritious, and therefore not as healthy. Amending your garden with compost feedss the soil which then is able to feed the plants grown in it, which will ultimately feed you! Having healthy soil also produces healthy plants, which allows them to remain relatively free of disease and pest infestation. It prevents pollution, as compost is a natural amendment, while chemical fertilizers contaminate soil, plants, air and ground water. In addition, composting keeps waste out of landfills.
With a little planning, composting does not have to be difficult, laborioiuis or problematic. Check out the articles on composting found in the Gardening section of the Sustainably Raw Blog for tips and information about how to compost like a pro!