How to: Make compost for vegetable gardens
March 18, 2009
The Grand County Commissioners have taken heat lately (including from this newspaper), about decisions they have made about a possible transfer station to replace the problem-ridden landfill.
Instead of complaining, said Granby farmer Carol Morales, be part of the solution – start composting your trash.
“Each household produces 200 pounds of waste per year,” Morales said. “There are about 14,000 year round residents in Grand County. You do the math.
“Composting keeps a third of our trash from going into the landfill.”
Morales has been working with Brenda Kwang at the Colorado State University extension office in Kremmling to bring a set of gardening classes to Grand County. The first took place last week and focused on composting.
Morales keeps a small bucket in her kitchen near the garbage can to collect items for composting. Things that cannot be composted: meat, cheese, other dairy products.
Things that can be composted: coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, bread, paper towels and toilet paper rolls. Since the Sky-Hi Daily News uses soy-based ink, you can even compost your newspaper.
Choose a compost container that works for your living situation. Morales uses a plastic garbage can from Ace Hardware, with bungie cords to hold the lid down and insulation to keep the contents warm in the winter.
For apartment/condo dwellers, she suggests the automatic indoor composter available online at http://www.naturemill.com.
Tip: Be sure to crumble up eggshells and tear up paper products.
“It’s affordable,” Morales said, “and it’s fun to watch your trash turn into soil amendments.”
Morales tips the garbage can on its side and rolls it from side to side to mix the contents. Compost should be layered ” a layer of grass clippings, branches and other yard waste, followed by a layer of kitchen waste, followed by a layer of yard waste, etc.
“There should be a 50/50 mix,” Morales said. “50 percent carbon (yard waste), 50 percent nitrogen (kitchen scraps).
“Compost needs four ingredients ” air, moisture, carbon and nitrogen”
Over time ” three months ” the contents of the compost bin will break down into something that looks like, feels like, smells like soil. 100 pounds of waste will become 25 pounds of compost.
“This is not fertilizer – it is a soil amendment,” Morales said. “(The soil in Grand County) has a lot of nutrients. Adding the compost to your vegetable garden aerates the soil and allows the roots to reach those nutrients.”
Note: If you are going to use manure in your compost, do not put it on vegetables. Use it instead for flower gardens or around trees.
According to material from the CSU extension office, composting does not kill 2 to 10 percent of E. coli that may be in manure.