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Composting is simple but requires patience

Posted: June 27, 2015 - 11:03pm
Judy Kirkland turns her drum composter to speed the composting process. It is also necessary to turn the compost in the drum to mix the materials.  Jim Blaylock/File
Jim Blaylock/File
Judy Kirkland turns her drum composter to speed the composting process. It is also necessary to turn the compost in the drum to mix the materials.

Going green and being environmentally sound are becoming more and more a way of life for thousands of Americans. For some local residents, being environmentally responsible is as simple as composting.

Composting is a matter of taking unwanted items – paper, food scraps, grass clippings and the like – and turning them into a usable soil for the garden. While composting comes with its own set of instructions, it is a relatively easy way to turn something that is trash into a garden treasure – rich, organic soil.

Walter Reeves, The Georgia Gardener, notes that composting aims to mix nutrient-rich materials with carbon-rich materials. Doing so “aids decomposition and results in compost that both feeds plants and softens the soil.”

Some people are leery when it comes to composting because they are afraid that it will create a stench.

“Our compost bins, barrels, etc., never smell,” said local gardener Betty Davis, who, along with her husband, Roger, has been composting for years. “One reason it could smell is being too moist. You have to keep a balance of adding dry items like shredded paper, leaves, chipped or shredded dead limbs to the grass clippings, table scraps, etc., and never put meat of any kind into compost. And, of course, no plastic or styrofoam.”

Davis explains that it is important to turn the compost from time to time, depending on how much you have.

“Turning the barrels is easy,” she said, “but you have to also turn the compost in bins with a pitch fork or shovel depending on the size of the bin.”

Composting is a test in patience, according to Reeves.

“Compost happens eventually – even for the novice,” he explains on his Web site. “If you want things to decompose faster, water the pile with a gallon of houseplant fertilizer, mixed according to label directions. This will supply nitrogen to the bacteria that disintegrate your landscape trimmings.”

Reeves notes that decomposition occurs slower during the winter than in the summer because cold affects the “necessary biological processes. Try stacking hay bales around the bin to insulate it. Eventually, the hay will make compost, too.”

Compost is ready, according to Reeves, when “you can barely tell what the original components were. In other words, when you can no longer distinguish plant stems, banana peels and individual tree leaves in the mix.”

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