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Composting is good for the earth and your garden

Although many people build their own compost bins, plastic composter bins are readily available at most home and garden stores. 1. What is composting? Composting

is a natural biological process, carried out under controlled conditions, which converts organic material into a stable humus-like product called compost. During the composting process, vari- ous microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down organic material into simpler substances. Composting is an aerobic process, meaning that the microorganisms require oxygen to do their work. 2. What can be composted?

Composting has the potential to manage all of the organic material in the waste stream which cannot otherwise be recycled. Some examples of organic material that can be composted include food scraps, leaves and yard wastes, agricultural crop residues, paper prod-

38 • Spring 2015

ucts, sewage sludge and wood. 3. How long does the composting

process take? A number of factors are important in controlling the compost- ing process and the time that the process takes. These factors include temperature, moisture, oxygen, particle size, the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of the waste and the degree of mixing or turning involved. In general, the more actively these factors are controlled, the faster the process. The length of the process also depends

on the degree of decomposition desired in the finished product. Typically, an immature compost can be produced in about a month, while a mature compost may be allowed to cure for six months to a year. 4. What is the best location for a

backyard composter? The


ter should be placed in a well drained area and where it is convenient to use. It should be placed where it can get as much sun as possible as the microbio- logical activity will be high. If the unit is placed in the shade, the activity is reduced and the process takes longer. 5. Can I compost in the winter?

Yes, you can compost year-round. As the temperature falls, microbial activ- ity decreases but it starts up again as soon as the weather warms up. To make room for your winter organics, empty the finished compost from your unit in the fall. You may also want to move the unit to a more accessible location for the winter. Also, organics can be collect- ed in a covered container stored just outside the back door. In the spring,

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