Some people call it organic fertilizer. Others go so far as to call it black gold. Whatever the name, compost is a free, renewable source of rich, nutrient dense material that can be used in multiple ways in your yard. Compost is the natural result of decomposing organic materials and contains a variety of nutrients that plants need to grow. Organisms such as earthworms, beetles and snails munch away on these organic materials and break them down into smaller bits. Microscopic bacteria and fungi go to work on the leftovers and handle the chemical end of decomposing. Even though it sounds icky, the result is a rich topsoil-like blend of exactly what most plants need to thrive.
Starting a compost pile at home is not difficult, does not require much space and, depending upon weather conditions, can yield usable compost in as little as a few weeks. All you need to get started is an area in which to contain the materials, a combination of green and brown organic waste, some water and air, occasional stirring of the ingredients, and some patience. Materials you can use to start composting are not hard to find – look no further than your yard and kitchen. Rather than sending yard debris such as grass clippings, leaves, and small branches, and kitchen waste such as vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to the landfill, compost them instead. With our relatively mild winters here in Alabama, composting can continue year-round. Once your compost pile has transformed into dark, crumbly material, and you can’t identify any of the original ingredients, it is ready to use.
Besides being a rich organic fertilizer, compost also can help transform clay or sandy soil into a more plant friendly composition, increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture, prevent weeds from growing, and reduce stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, for every1% that you increase your soil’s organic content, you also increase its water absorption capacity by 16,000 gallons of water per acre, down to one foot deep. The beneficial organisms that compost introduces to your soil help perpetuate the benefits of composting by continuing the cycle of organic decomposition. Fall is the perfect time to install new plants, trees and shrubs in your yard, and the availability of your homemade compost will provide numerous benefits to any landscape additions you make. Check out Alabama Cooperative Extension’s publications Backyard Composting and Commonly Asked Questions to learn more!
Birmingham Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale – October 18 -19 – Shop for herbs, trees, native plants, and more! Call 414.3965 or visit www.bbgardens.org for details.
Electronic Recycle Day – October 22 – Bring unwanted electronics to Linn Park from 6 am to 2 pm for FREE recycling. No white goods (washers, dryers, etc.). Call 787.5222 for more information.
Recycling & Waste Reduction Summit – October 30 – Learn how businesses, schools, and communities are tackling waste reduction in innovative ways. Contact Alabama Environmental Council for information.