Did you know that clippings, plant trimmings, leaves and other organic refuse from your yards is perfect for composting and can be recycled back into the garden?
Utah State University’s Extension Program reports that more than 30% of landfill waste is simply organic yard materials. Approximately 3 million pounds annually, which translates to 600,000 pounds of food per day, is wasted here in Utah alone.
Why are so many precious resources ending up in the landfill and what can we do to help as conscious citizens and gardeners?
Step 2: The Raw Materials
A composting site (a tumbler, heap/pile, box)
Organic Materials (kitchen and yard waste) including:
Shredded paper (non-glossy)
Grass and other yard clippings
Shade/Covering from the elements
A garden! (or a patio)
The key to a successful compost is the correct Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (expressed as C: N). Well, actually, it needs carbon, nitrogen, water and oxygen to function properly.
The Salt Lake County Recycling program recommends an organic carbon to nitrogen ratio best for composting of (25-30:1). Visually, this will look like you have twice as much brown material as green material.
Here is a list of estimated C: N ratios for various organic materials. A slightly more comprehensive list can also be found here.
To calculate your final carbon to nitrogen ratio, make sure you are starting with equally measured amounts of each material used; James Loomis prefers to use 5-gallon buckets for this. Then, simply add up the total C:N ratios for each of the buckets full of ingredients, and divide by the number of buckets.
Size: Additionally, a pile must be at least 4’ x 4’ x 4’ to achieve and retain enough heat to break down ingredients actively. This size is ideal. Anything much larger is too big and will compress the pile, starving it of oxygen.
If done right, you could have USDA grade organic compost in as little as 15 days.