Wyandotte County Conservation District
Compost Tips for the Home Gardener
By Sydney Park Brown, University of Florida Extension
What is Compost?
Compost is dark, crumbly material created when microorganisms break down organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste. Compost is not completely decomposed (like humus); it will contain small pieces of debris that can be reorganized as bits of twigs and leaves.
Converting yard debris to compost has several benefits. It is an environmentally friendly way to reduce the amount of solid waste that must be disposed of, and it provides useful and beneficial products for yards and gardens. Compost is an excellent soil amendment that improves the health and structure of both sandy and clay soils. It can be applied on top of soil as mulch. Mixed with other components, it makes a good potting soil and some gardeners brew it in water to make compost “tea” for plants.
What Can Be Composted?
Two types of material are needed for successful composting: “green” materials, which are rich in nitrogen, and “brown” materials, which are rich in carbon.
Paper Towels/tea bags/coffee grounds
Kitchen Scraps (vegatables, egg shells, fruits)
Young green weeds/herbaceous plants
This bin can be used year round to recycle most food wastes, and with the size of this compost bin, it can be taken indoors and used on a tabletop. A box this size will handle about 6 pounds of garbage per week (typical for a family of 4 - 6). Cost is approximately $50 to construct.
Wire mesh bins are the quickest and least expensive bins to construct.
They can be used as holding and turning bins, or in combination with one of the larger bins as temporary storage. Simply adding yard waste as it is cleaned up is appropriate for these bins. With as little as occasional moistening, compost will be ready in 6 months to 2 years. Costs approximately $5 - $10
For more information, see http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/services/home/environ/waste/recycle/compost/compostbins.htm
Are You Ready for a Safe Spring Cleaning?
Nontoxic Alternative for Improved Environment Quality
Household cleaners are a significant source of pollution. We can help improve our air and water quality by using easy-to-find nontoxic alternatives. The building blocks for many safe home cleaning needs are based on five basic ingredients:
- Baking Soda- cleans and deodorizes, Softens water to increase suds and the cleaning power of soap, Good scouring powder
- Borax- cleans and deodorizes, Excellent disinfectant, Softens water, Available in laundry section of grocery store
- Soap- Biodegrades safely and completely and is nontoxic, Available in grocery stores and health food stores, Sold as liquid, flakes, powder, or in bars: Bars can be grated to dissolve easily in hot water, Insist on soaps without synthetic scents, colors, or additives, Synthetic detergents cause more poisonings than any other household product, Even phosphate-free, biodegradable laundry detergent contributes to water pollution
- Washing Soda- Cuts grease and removes stains, Disinfects and softens water, Available in laundry section of grocery store or in pure form from chemical supply houses as “sodium carbonate”
- White vinegar- Cuts grease, Freshens
Make your own
Use the simplest, mildest formula to get the job done. First try warm water mixed with soap (or vinegar if the surface will show spots), adding borax, washing soda, or baking soda if needed. Use ammonia only when other cleaners will not get the job done. Always provide good ventilation. Never mix ammonia with bleach or other commercial cleansers; deadly fumes may form.
- All Purpose Cleaner- mix 2 tsp borax and 1tsp soap in 1qt. water for cleaner you can store in a spray bottle.
- Disinfectant- for hospital-quality disinfectant, use ¼-cup borax dissolved in ½ gallon of hot water. Keeping surfaces clean and dry reduces need for disinfectant.
- Scouring powder- if available, buy a powder without chlorine, colors, detergents, or talc; or scrub with a sponge or firm-bristle brush, soap and either: borax, baking soda, or table salt. Be sure to regularly clean or launder sponges, dishtowels, and dish rags to prevent spread of bacteria.
- Air Freshener- commercial fresheners’ work by masking smells, coating nasal passages, and deadening nerves to diminish sense of smell Instead find sources of odors and eliminate them;
- Keep house and closets clean and well ventilated
- Grow lots of house plants
- To absorb odors pace 2-4 tbsp baking soda or vinegar in small bowls in the refrigerator and around the house, and pour ½ cup baking soda in the bottom of trash cans
- For natural fragrance, boil sweet herbs and spices