of Rhode Island GreenShare Factsheets
Composting is a controlled
process of decomposition of organic material. By composting,
you are creating conditions which speed up the natural
process of decomposition. It's easy because the real work is done
by soil organisms, baceteria, mold fungi, beetles, centipedes
earthworms, to name a few. These "helpers" decompose complex organic
compounds into simpler substances, making a rich, organic soil-like
material called humus.
is a convenient, beneficial and inexpensive way to handle your organic
waste. Composting reduces the volume of garbage requiring disposal
and enriches the soil. Using compost adds essential nutrients, improves
soil structure and increases moisture and nutrient retention in
types of organic materials can be used for composting--sod, grass
clippings, leaves, hay, straw, weeds, manure, chopped corncobs,
corn stalks, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings
and various plant refuse from the garden. Twigs should not be used
because they decompose very slowly. Try not to use diseased plants
from the flower or vegetable garden for composting if the compost
is to be returned and incorporated into the garden eventually. Although
some diseases are killed by heating during compost formation, many
are not affected and some of these disease organisms may be returned
to the garden with the compost. If diseases have not been a problem,
this precaution may not be necessary. Most garbage may also be used
in the compost pile, with the exception of grease, fat, meat scraps
and bones. These may attract dogs or other animals and may develop
an odor during decomposition. Fats break down slowly and greatly
increase the time require before the compost can be used.
you must set up an outside area or "bin" for your compost pile.
The type of compost system you use will depend on how quickly you
want the material to decompose, how much material you can reasonably
compost and use, and the amount of space and time you have. Composting
is not difficult once you set up and get into the habit of composting.
You can simply rake your ingredients into a mound. Compost bins
are not necessary to make good compost, but they can help. If compost
pilse are not adequately contained, decomposition will not proceed
quickly and your pile may invite unwanted pests. There are many
types of containers which are easy to build. You can make a simple
box or circular-shaped enclosure using chicken wire, scrap wood,
hardware cloth, wooden pallets, bricks, concrete blocks or recycled
lumber. You can also use a metal or plastic bucket or trash can,
drilling 1/4 inch holes to increase the flow of air and moisture.
If you wish to purchase a compost bin, they are commercially available
at most hardware stores in either metal or plastic and do not require
a large investment.
Find a spot with good drainage away from direct sunlight.
Start with a layer of coarse material such as straw, leaves or hay.
Add a layer of dry grass clippings and leaves (preferably chopped),
mixed with kitchen waste such as egg shells, fruit and vegetable
scraps, coffee grounds or tea bags.
* Cover with a one-inch layer of soil and enough water so the soil
is as moist as a damp sponge.
more materials as they become available, taking care not to make
any one layer of the same type of material thicker than six inches.
Turn the mixture on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly) to provide
air space. You can also poke the mixture to create pores. Keep the
pile moist but not soggy. Your compost pile will naturally heat
up and decrease in volume as the material inside decomposes. Once
the pile is established, you may want to add food scraps in the
center of the pile, folding the scraps down and to the inside. When
the material inside turns dark brown and crumbly, it is ready for
use. Remove the material from the bottom of the pile. If you wish,
screen the compost to remove items not totally decompose and return
these items to the pile to complete decomposition.
to Use Compost:
When the composted
materials look like rich, brown soil, it is ready to use. Apply
1/2 to 3 inches of finished compost and mix it in with the top four
inches of soil about one month before planting. Compost can also
be applied as a top dressing in the garden throughout the summer.
Compost is excellent for reseeding lawns, and it can be spread in
a 1/4 inch layer over the entire lawn to rejuvenate the turf. To
make potting soil, mix equal parts compost, sand and loam.
from the URI CE Cooperative Extension and the Massachusetts Department
of Environmental Protection, and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority,
are poisonous! Read and follow all safety precautions on labels.
Handle carefully and store in original containers out of reach
of children, pets or livestock. Dispose of empty containers
immediately, in a safe manner and place. Pesticides should never
be stored with foods or in areas where people eat.
When trade names are used for identification, no product endorsement
is implied, nor is discrimination intended against similar materials.
Be sure that the pesticide you intend to use is registered for
the state of use.
The user of this information assumes all risk for personal injury
or property damage.
information, call the URI CE Gardening and Food Safety Hotline
at 1-800-448-1011 or (401)874-2929 from outside Rhode Island;
Monday-Thursday between 9 am and 2 pm.
of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension provides equal program