Green Practices for Your Home & Garden Part 2: Composting
In part 2 of Green Practices, we study and encourage composting, a simple stewardship practice for your home and business. First, some hopeful news: California issued its official declaration of statewide drought back in January, and the City of Santa Barbara followed suit and did so in February. Its neighboring City of Goleta did so in March. Since the February declaration the City has achieved a 15% reduction in municipal water use. Education and participation are key factors here. In other words, knowledge followed by action is making a difference.
A quick review…
In my former blogs Water Conservation Strategies and Lawn Alternatives, we discussed water saving strategies that beautify your landscape. In Green Practices part 1 we discussed:
- The benefits of a free irrigation audit
- And the practice and benefits of mulching your garden beds and planters.
So what else can be done to reduce our impact and benefit the natural ecology where we live or work?
Americans produce approximately 157.7 million tons of waste per year – that’s about 3 pounds of trash per person each day! And a high percentage of that is food waste. Moreover, it’s a myth that food decomposes in a landfill. By design landfills are sealed containers, void of oxygen and moisture, attempting to prevent toxic leachate (the liquid byproduct) from contaminating groundwater. In this environment, food and yard waste is mummified instead of decomposed, and this produces methane gas. If you want more information, you can read up on the science here. There is a solution! Composting is a simple process that can be done in an urban setting, as well as out in the garden.
- 3 parts brown waste, (dried leaves, hay, shredded cardboard) which is rich in carbon,
- 2 parts green waste (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, green leaves), which is high in nitrogen,
- Water and plenty of air.
- I have also found adding a very fine layer of soil -a sprinkle- acts as an inoculant and accelerates the process.
Think of your compost pile like lasagna, layering brown and green, monitoring moisture, watering occasionally and turning the pile as often or infrequently as you want. Turning the pile has shown to speed up the decomposition process, but I prefer the hands-off approach.
Other helpful facts and resources:
- Compost piles should be a minimum of 3x3x3 feet, for it takes a critical mass of organic material to ignite the decomposition process. Piles can be right on the dirt, or in a variety of bins.
- Santa Barbara County provides discounted Earth Machines @ $40, which retail for over $100. Here is a list of facilities where they are available. Check with your local City for similar programs.
- For those who want more information and are ambitious to read more, this booklet provides valuable information from the County of Santa Barbara.
So what’s with all the buzz?
For those who need more motivation other than reducing landfill waste, realize composting turns your waste into gold. Every day the average American wastes one of our most valuable resources. Compost does wonders for vegetable gardens and landscaping.
- The process of decomposition takes complex organic molecules and breaks them down into the simplest, water soluble and absorbable nutrients where they become available to plants.
- In addition, it increases beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil, which are inextricably linked to soil health.
Composting is the way of our ancestors and indeed, the way of the future. Synthetic fertilizers are salinizing our soils and polluting our groundwater. With compost, it is unlikely that your landscape or garden will need fertilizer, unless it was formerly degraded and already deficient in nutrients. Composting means healthier plants and lower maintenance costs.
Please share your composting success stories and any questions you may have, and check out part 3 of our series ‘Green Practices for your Home, Landscape and Garden” where we explore home greywater systems.