UCCE Master Gardeners of Solano County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Solano County

Composting

Compost, they call it Gardener's Gold.  Learn how you can recycle your food and create a rich amendment that will benefit your plants.

Click here to watch a short video on composting

Did you know that about 25% of your trash is compostable? Lawn clippings, shrub and tree trimming, leaves, and food (except for dairy products, meats, and grease) are organic health food just waiting to be returned to the soil. So instead of sending your green waste and food to the landfill and end its usefulness, recycle the natural way, by COMPOSTING!

There are several ways to begin. You may purchase a composting bin, make your own, or designate an open area in your yard for a compost pile. A food scrap container located in the kitchen should be small enough to empty often to avoid unnecessary odors. Now the fun begins!

Compost needs four essential ingredients:

  • Nitrogen (greens)
  • Carbon (browns)
  • Oxygen (air)
  • Water (moisture)

Nitrogen: Any green organics such as houseplant or flower trimmings, lawn clippings (if you aren't grass cycling), contain nitrogen. All vegetable and fruit scraps are also in the nitrogen group.

Carbon: Brown (dry) grass and leaves, paper and cardboard (shredded or in small pieces), plus bread and grains.

Oxygen: The bin or pile must be turned occasionally to allow air to circulate through the mixture.

Water: Keep your compost mixture moist but not dripping wet.

Mix: Apply equal amounts of browns and greens, water to keep moist, and turn occasionally. Make sure to avoid food items that contain grease and oils, any meat or dairy products, and fish to avoid odors and rodents. Throw in a few red worms to hasten the composting process along! Those red wigglers love the warm environment, multiply quickly, make wonderful compost, and provide great bait for fishing!

After about 2-4 months, a rich, dark soil will replace the garden and food scraps. Congratulations! With a little effort and lots of organics, you have made your own compost AND reduced your trash by approximately 25 percent!

For more information on composting, check out these Web sites:

California Integrated Waste Management Board composting information

California Environmental Protection Agency composting information

Composting:

Rapid Composting Method

Compost in a Hurry

Sheet Mulching experiment pictorial:

Sheet mulching experiment

Grass cycling:

Grasscycling (CIWMB)

Worm Composting (a.k.a. Vermiculture/Vermicomposting)

Master Gardener Teresa L shows the group a worm composting container
Master Gardener Teresa L shows the group a worm composting container
Organic materials make up approximately two-thirds of the waste stream. While much of this is paper which can be used more efficiently or recycled, a large portion is material like food waste for which few beneficial options outside of composting exist. Fortunately, nature has provided one option that has been receiving increasing attention--vermicomposting.

So what, you may ask, is vermicomposting and how does it work?

Well, "vermi" is the Latin word for worm, and worms like to feed on slowly decomposing organic materials (e.g., vegetable scraps). The "end" product, called castings, is full of beneficial microbes and nutrients, and makes a great plant fertilizer. So, vermicomposting is the practice of using worms to make compost simply by feeding them your food waste.

The reason vermicomposting is becoming popular is because worms are very efficient eating machines. They eat over half their body weight in organic matter per day!

Here are some handouts you might find interesting:

Valcore Recycling Earthworms are Easy

The Worm Guide (CIWMB)

Cheap and Easy Worm Bin

Webmaster Email: jmbaumbach@ucanr.edu