How Does It Work? Composting

By Amy Levin-Epstein

I’ve always known my plants could benefit from the fertilizing effects of my family’s cooking scraps, but for me, the idea of composting usually conjured up images of stinky containers bulging with fermenting cucumbers and rotten tomatoes. The process seemed complicated -- and intimidating! But instead of continuing to guiltily toss my carrot peels and apple cores in with the rest of the garbage, I asked Deb Martin, co-author of The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, for some tips on using waste wisely.|

How exactly does composting work?

Compost gets made by organisms -- from earthworms to bacteria -- feeding on organic material and breaking it down.

Why is composting green?
Composting takes the nutrients in parts of food we don’t use and gives them back to the soil, where they can support the growth of more food. Also, it reduces the amount of trash that will never break down in a landfill.

How do I get started?

For outdoor use, you’ll need one part wet waste (like veggie scraps) and two or three parts dry waste (like newspaper), plus air and water. In an area of your lawn or garden, combine the ingredients and dampen them until they’re about as wet as a squeezed-out sponge. Stirring or turning the ingredients circulates air and keeps the process moving, which prevents the “rotten” smell.

How can urbanites compost if they don’t have room for a garden?
For apartment dwellers, there are several options: worm composting bins; under-the-sink units that grind, turn and aerate the materials; and even composting cooperatives.

For more on composting, visit

Read more about: family fun , green family , home , outside , reduce , reduce waste

Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who’s been published in magazines like Glamour, Self and Prevention, on websites like AOL, Babble and and in newspapers like the New York Post and the Boston Globe. You can read more of her writing at Her articles have previously appeared on Green Goes Simple.

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Posted on April 13, 2012

Me and my family try to rcelcye everything including veggy scraps to compost, all glass, plastic n paper. We regularly give to charities just to clear out all the stuff from the kids and then go buy seconds hand toys from the shop, a change is as good as a rest. especially from all the noisy toys! I decided to have a clear out so i got rid of loads of stuff i haven't used in years, you can even that are lying in a draw and in the back of a cupboard. it's all good for the planet which is the most important thing, especially teaching our children how to take care of the planet.


Posted on April 14, 2012

An interesting topic. I feel like when I put sminthoeg in the compost pile I'm leaving it for nature to take care of with possibly some slight management assistance like turning the pile and balancing wet/dry ingredients. Other than that I leave it to the microbes, bacteria, fungi, worms, bugs, etc to turn it into dirt. We hesitate to toss any biodegradable materials. Wood is burned or chipped, paper/cardboard is shredded and used as bedding for the rabbits or laid flat in the garden paths to stamp out weeds. All left over food stuffs, even dairy, meat, oils etc are put into compost spots. Anything that can be fed to chickens, goats, rabbits or pigs is and anything left is composted. We also compost leftovers from processing animals and if we have deadstock. Everything we can return to the ground is. Heavier compost loads are left longer and ones that have mostly green/brown matter are used up faster. We have piles that are designated to never receive meat/dairy/oil products and ones that it's ok to have that kind of stuff as an ingredient. Anything recyclable gets recycled and taken to the drop off spot when we have a good load. We've thought about holding back all metals but right now lack the storage space to accumulate them. We try to limit our actual trash to as little as possible but we try also realize that this isn't always possible and not to beat our selves up too much when it is just time to throw sminthoeg away. Fabric/material/etc is sminthoeg we've been having trouble finding a good way to return to the earth/recycle. Specifically things that are completely infested with pet hair. We use couch blankets to keep the dogs off the furniture and there is only so long these will stay fresh before the 10th washing just doesn't get out the dog smell. I try to then recycle them as dog beds on the porch but eventually they are just gross and or falling apart and need to go. I can compost smaller bits or shredded pieces to some extent and we use them similarly to the cardboard to block out weeds. Any other ideas?


Posted on May 27, 2012

The compost : a sootliun to reduce garbage | Interactive Fundamentals Friday AM Section was a pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really loved reading your weblog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.


Posted on May 27, 2012

The types of composting you refer to are quite drieeffnt.Good compost is essentially speeding up the natural process of decomposition in order to get a good soil amendment with a mix of nutrients that are in form that is easy for plants to ingest.In the wild, worms are an integral part of this process. Worm composting systems leave you with worm castings, which is a great organic fertilizer and nitrogen supplement, but won't have the add benefits of improving drainage,soil structure,and micro nutrient absorption. I would recommend just buying some worms and tossing them into a regular composter. That way the worms will speed up the composting process, thereby elimating potential odor problems, as well as improving your soil quality and structure when you begin planting. Make sure to throw a handful or two of your old compost in your new batch in order to transfer the the microbes and worms, which are responsible for the entire composting process.Good luck and take care!

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