What Is Composting? How to Try It at Home
Did you know that some of the scraps left over from lunches and cooking aren’t really garbage?
Some waste can be turned into healthy, nutritious soil for plants. This is done by composting, and you can try it for yourself.
What Is Compost?
Compost is a type of fertilizer for plants. It’s made of organic materials, which means parts of other living things. Bacteria feed on these scraps and help break them down. When they’ve done their work, the compost no longer looks like plants. Instead, it looks like moist, dark soil. Gardeners often call compost “black gold,” because it’s such a valuable source of nutrients for plants.
Why Is Composting Important?
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to keep our air and water clean and to protect the earth from harm. They estimate that about 1/3 of all the garbage we throw away is made up of organic materials like food scraps and grass clippings. This takes up space in landfills and adds methane gas to the air. If we set aside these scraps for composting,
we help stop that pollution.
Composting also helps keep your yard and garden healthier. It helps build soil that holds water to protect plants from drought. It also feeds plants so they grow stronger and faster. When you use compost instead of chemical fertilizers, you help protect wildlife, too.
How to Try Composting at Home
Composting is easy! You can make your own compost bin with some help from your parents. Keep it outside, in the basement, or in the garage.
Here’s what you need:
- A sturdy plastic container with a lid. Using a clear container will let you watch the process of how scraps turn into compost, but it’s not necessary.
- A drill
- Mesh for repairing window screens
- Hot glue
Here’s what to do:
- Ask your parents for help drilling holes into the lid of your container. This gives the bacteria air to breathe as they break food scrapes down into compost.
- Cut a piece of mesh to fit on the inside of the lid.
- Use the hot glue gun to dab glue around the edges of the lid. Then press the mesh in place. This will keep fruit flies and other insects out of your compost if you’re keeping the bin indoors.
Here’s what to put in your compost bin:
- wilted flowers
- vegetables that went bad
- cooking scraps that come from plants (carrot tops, green spots on potatoes, avocado pits, banana peels, etc.)
- autumn leaves
- grass clippings from mowing the lawn
Taking care of your compost:
- Once a week, use a garden trowel or small shovel to stir the compost. This helps keep bacteria moving around.
- If your compost smells bad, cover the scraps with a layer of dried leaves or shredded newspaper.
- When your bin is full, stop adding scraps but keep stirring.
- When everything in the bin turns black and looks like moist dirt, you’re done!
- Use your compost to mulch garden plants to help them grow.
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