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Published: Friday, 7/24/2009

Compost = A Great Garden

BY KATHY SCOTT

Tending your garden this summer can bring you a sense of pleasure, peace and accomplishment. To have your garden be useful, as well as ornamental, add some garbage. I'm talking about food items such as potato peels, coffee grounds and carrot peels. These are some of the food scraps you can mix with grass clippings, dried leaves and prunings to make dandy compost.

Starting a compost pile is really pretty simple. The first step is to find a place where you are willing to pile your "garbage." You can delegate a corner of your yard or you can build a special bin. The ingredients that you need shouldn't be hard to gather.

Save food scraps from your kitchen instead of throwing them away. Chop up bigger branches and twigs, and start layering these in the bin or other designated area. Keep your compost pile moist, but don't soak it. Keeping your compost pile aerated is also important for speedy decomposition. You also need to stir the heap with a rake or shovel every so often so that the ingredients can be exposed to even heat.

An easier way to produce compost is to simply pile the three ingredients, without layering, into that corner or bin and leave the rake or shovel in the tool shed. By not stirring, your compost pile will become a "cold" compost pile. It will still work as a dandy fertilizer for your garden but will take about twice as long to "ripen" -- about 6-12 months.

Some things to avoid adding to your compost pile are meat, dairy products, pet manure and cooking grease. Meat scraps, dairy products, manure and grease can cause the compost pile to smell and also invite animals to invade the heap. If your compost pile begins to smell unpleasant, you may need to aerate it. Go ahead and give it a little stir to get the air moving or spread it out for just a little while. If you want to keep your compost in a bin, make sure that the sides have plenty of holes or spaces between the slats if that's what you've used to build the bin. That will allow air to flow in and through the compost.

If you live in an apartment and have no backyard, you can still produce compost for your windowsill or patio garden. You'll still need a covered box with air holes, some food scraps, newspaper -- and the best ingredient of all -- redworms. You can keep this box in your kitchen or outside if you live in an area where the temperature doesn't drop below 45 degrees. Put about a foot of topsoil or wet, shredded newspaper into the box. Next, toss in some leftover fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and eggshells. You've now prepared a home for your redworms, so place them in the box and let them get to work. When the worms' castings are heavier that the bedding, harvest your compost and begin again.

Compost is a fantastic fertilizer for your flower and vegetable gardens or household plants. With a few easy steps you can dispose of your garbage in an environmentally safe way and give your precious plants a much-needed boost.



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