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Composting Recycling Is All the Rage

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tom LeRoy

More and more gardeners and landscape contractors are getting into yard waste recycling and composting. There have always been lots of good reasons to compost but concern for the environment and rising costs in waste disposal seem to be the driving force today. Composting preserves landfill space and landfill space is expensive. It is estimated that approximately 20-25% of the solid waste disposed of each year in Montgomery County can be attributed to yard waste. If everyone were to start recycling all their yard waste, we could see millions of dollars in savings. Composting is a simple biological process that breaks down leaves, grass clippings, wood chips and brush into a dark, odorless nutrient rich organic material. It’s nature’s way of recycling its ‘trash’ and returning it to the soil to be reused. Soil bacteria, fungi and other macro and micro organisms play an important role in this process. It’s true that composting can save us money and valuable landfill space but in my mind the important aspect of composting is the value to the gardener. Compost is like gold to a gardener. We’re always looking for a source of well broken down organic matter to add as a soil amendment to our flower beds and vegetable gardens. Right in your backyard is an abundance of the raw materials that can be used to make your own nutrient rich compost. Composting doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t require a college degree, it doesn’t even require a lot of specialized equipment even though the garden catalogs are always trying to sell you some. There are a wide variety of ways to compost that can fit into almost anyone’s gardening plan or program. I’m a bit of a lazy gardener so I prefer to ‘sheet compost’, which is really nothing more than using your organic yard waste as a mulch. Basically ‘sheet composting’ means that you lay the shredded yard waste in the garden and flower beds and allow it to decompose into compost in place. It requires no turning, no addition of nutrients (unless you want to), really, it requires no work at all. Most people choose to compost in a pile or bin. This requires the construction of a structure which really is no big deal and an occasional turning, along with the addition of nutrients (primarily nitrogen) and water to hasten the decomposition process. There’s loads of information out there on composting. If you really get into composting I would suggest getting a good book, publications from the Extension Service or check out the Internet. A tip to keep in mind when composting is to make your bin or pile at least 4 ft. by 4 ft. Try to fill it up to a certain level and then stop adding material until the composting process is complete. Keep the pile damp but not wet. Try to use a good mixture of brown material (tree leaves, twigs, etc.) and green material (grass clippings, etc.). Don’t use food items such as meats, fish, dairy products or fatty foods. They create odors, attract animals and decompose easily. Avoid using weeds or diseased plants in your compost. It can create problems for you in the future. Give composting a try. It’s a great way save on the environment while promoting healthier, happier plants in the landscape If you would like more information on composting, there will be classes offered on the first Saturday of the month, February and March at The Woodlands Recycling Center on Research Forest Dr. Classes are sponsored by The Woodlands Community Service Corporation, Environmental Services Department. Master Gardener Volunteers from the Montgomery County Extension Service will be helping teach the classes. Basic information on how to set up and maintain a compost bin will be discussed. They will have compost bins available for sale. Compost booklets and other information sheets will be given out at each of the classes. For more information call 281-210-3900. Don’t forget to send your garden questions to Plant Answers at 9020 FM 1484, Conroe TX 77303 or e-mail me at t-leroy@tamu.edu . Educational programs of Texas Cooperative Extension are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.

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