At Healthy Ponds, we strive to live an eco-friendly life every day of the year, so in addition to providing you with a natural pond cleaner, we also want to share some composting tips and share a bit about our natural compost accelerator, which can help you create a better compost pile.
There are several great reasons to consider composting. For one thing, all that food that you run through your garbage disposal can build up and clog the pipes and cause plumbing issues. But composting does more than simply prevent plumbing issues.
Think about the environmental impact of tossing food scraps into the trash. These food scraps typically are tossed into a plastic trash bag and sent to a landfill. Not only will it take decades for that trash bag to decompose and expose the food scraps to the soil, but the conditions at landfills are also not set up to encourage decomposition, even items such as apple peels and other food scraps can take years to break down in a landfill.
When we create a compost bin at home, we are creating an environment in that bin that promotes the decomposition process, creating nutrient-rich matter that can be used in our yard and gardens. It’s also important to note that food makes up about 25% of all of the waste in landfills so composting helps to reduce the amount of waste in landfills.
Adding compost to your garden, flower beds, tree beds and lawn enriches the soil, which in turn means that your trees, shrubs, flowers, veggies and fruits are healthier and more resistant to many diseases. Compost also reduces your need for pesticides as compost can help repel many pests as well as certain types of fungi.
What Can You Compost?
Before we talk about how to compost and our compost accelerator, let’s talk about the items that you can and cannot place into your compost bin. Here’s a look at items that can be placed in a compost bin.
Fruits & Veggies – In general, most fruits and vegetables can be placed into a compost bin. Citrus peels can take a long time to compost, so we recommend breaking them into smaller pieces to speed the process, but if you have a compost heap with worms, citrus peels, as well as onion and garlic, can repel these helpful little creatures, so skip those three items. You also need to remove all those little stickers off of any fruit or veggie you add to your compost. We also recommend that you skip adding banana peels as these are treated with pesticides, which is not good for your compost.
Coffee & Tea – Coffee grounds and tea leaves are chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are essential components of any good compost heap. However, do not place tea bags or coffee filters, as these often contain plastic and chemicals that are not healthy for your compost.
Eggshells – These can be composted and provide a good source of calcium, but eggshells do take a while to break down, so it’s best to crush them up before adding them to the pile.
Yard Waste – Dry leaves, grass clippings and plant clippings all can be added to the compost pile. You can even add bits of bark or finely chopped wood or sawdust, provided that none of the wood has been treated. Adding yard waste is an outstanding idea because these items so often end up in our ponds and other water features where they can decompose add to your sludge layer. Our natural pond cleaners can help reduce or eliminate your sludge layer, but keeping leaves, grass and other yard waste out of your pond can help you maintain healthier water quality.
Paper & Cardboard – Newspaper and clean cardboard usually are good items to add to the compost bin. Glossy paper or coated cardboard and cardboard with grease stains (that pizza box from last night’s dinner) should not be placed into the compost bin or heap. Be sure to shred the newspaper and remove any tape or stickers from cardboard boxes and shred the cardboard as much as possible. This will help the materials break down more quickly.
Don’t Compost These Items
The following items can create compost that is unsuitable for your soil, and also can create terrible odors or even attract unwanted pests.
Meats, Fats & Oil – Any type of meat, poultry, fish, pork, etc., should not be placed in your compost bin. Any food cooked in fat (butter, bacon grease, etc.) or oil also should not be placed in the compost. Basically, if it’s an animal product or greasy, it shouldn’t go into the bin.
Dairy Products – Dairy products contain fat, and therefore you should not place items such as old cheese, yogurt or other dairy items into your compost bin or pile.
Dog & Cat Feces – Dog and cat waste can contain parasites and bacteria that are dangerous, so this waste should not be composted and then used in your garden or for any soil where food is grown for human consumption. That said, you can compost dog and cat waste separately and use it for compost in other areas of your lawn, just not in your veggie garden.
Diseased Yard Waste – If you have plants with fungi or diseases, dispose of these clippings or plants separately from your compost. Otherwise, you risk introducing these problems into your compost.
Weeds – If you have a weed that goes to seed, these need to be handled carefully. Not only should you avoid placing these items in a compost bin, but they also can upset the balance in your pond ecosystem. It’s best to remove weeds before they go to seed, carefully removing the entire plant from root up.
How To Get Started With Composting
Of course, many people resist composting because they believe it’s too difficult or perhaps the smell will be too strong. In reality, composting is simple to learn and if done correctly, smells are not an issue. The only trick is to create the conditions that encourage decomposition.
Some people will purchase a large composting bin for their yard, while others prefer to use an area of their yard as a compost pile. Either way, your goal is to keep that compost warm enough to encourage decomposition, about 130 to 150 degrees. Here’s what to do:
Step One: Mix Green & Brown Materials
Green materials include all of your kitchen scraps as well as freshly cut plant trimmings and grass. Brown materials include dead leaves, non-treated wood shavings, shredded cardboard or newspaper and other materials such as straw or hay.
If your pile is outdoors, you will want to build a pile at least three feet deep. Otherwise, a mix of these items can be placed into a compost bin. Either way, they will need to be well mixed. We usually recommend that you begin with a ratio of one part green to three parts brown materials.
Step Two: Add Compost Accelerator
At Healthy Ponds, we offer a variety of natural pond cleaner products, but we also can help you build a great compost pile. Our latest product, Dr. Connie’s Compost Plus, helps to accelerate the decomposition in your compost pile, and it also lessens odors. Sprinkle the appropriate about of Compost Plus onto your pile, and then add more of this product whenever you add more green or brown materials to your compost pile.
Step Three: Add Water
You want your compost pile to feel a bit like a wet sponge. Too much water will simply cause your compost pile to rot, while too little water will cause it to dry out. Sprinkle on enough water to encourage that sponge-like quality and let the compost work its magic.
Step Four: Churn It
A compost pile needs to be mixed in order to work. Those brown and green materials can be mixed with a garden rake about once a week, as this will add oxygen to the pile. If you have a compost tumbler bin, you can simply rotate the bin. Compost should feel quite warm, especially in the center and you can test the temperature with a thermometer to ensure that you are in the correct temperature range.
Step Five: Spread It Around
Once the compost has stopped giving off heat and seems dry and crumbly, it’s ready for your garden and plant beds. You also can add compost to your potted plants or turn the compost into what is called “compost tea.” This involves steeping the compost in water for a few days and then straining it. The remaining water makes an excellent liquid fertilizer.
As you can see, composting can be easy, especially if you use a compost accelerator and Dr. Connie’s Compost Plus can help speed up the decomposition process. If you have any questions about Compost Plus or any of our natural pond cleaner products, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.