Go green - compost at home!

Compost also known as brown manure, is the aerobically decomposed remnants of organic matter. It is used in landscaping, horticulture and agriculture as a soil conditioner and fertilizer. It is also useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover (see compost uses).

Compost serves as a growing medium,or a porous, absorbent material that holds moisture and soluble minerals, providing the support and nutrients in which most plants will flourish. To maximize plant growth, it is sometimes necessary to dilute compost with soil or peat to reduce salinity or to add neutralizers to bring the pH closer to 7, or additional nutrients like fertilizers or manure, wetting agents, and materials to improve drainage and aeration, such as sand, grit, bark chips, vermiculite, perlite, or clay granules.

As recycling continues to prove a worthy effort, the benefits of using compost have been extensively studied. The results reveal physical, chemical, biological, and environmental benefits. There are many uses for compost, all of which have proven beneficial in some way. Compost benefits the soil where it is used by improving drainage and moisture absorption, especially in soils that are otherwise poor quality. This makes growing in various types of soils easier and more productive. Compost also benefits the plant matter grown in the soil by providing nutrients to the plant’s growing area. Compost does not make an effective fertilizer for vegetable and ornamental plants, but it helps reduce runoff, making the use of fertilizer more productive and keeping it out of the water.

Environmentally, the use of compost has been shown to remediate, or clean up, contaminated soils by reducing toxic runoffs, binding certain toxins that might otherwise escape, and it prevents erosion when used near roadways, lakes, rivers, and streams. In addition to the biological, chemical, and environmental benefits of compost, the use of compost creates economic benefits. Using compost reduces the amount of fertilizer, water, and pesticides needed to produce healthy plants, and it is cheaper than artificial soils.

All you need to compost is enthusiasm, yard or food waste (except meat or dairy products), and some space. Compost piles don't need to be enclosed, although many people use a bin or similar enclosure. Compost bins can be purchased, or you can easily construct one with common materials such as chicken wire, snow fencing, lumber or used pallets. Other tools that come in handy for composting are a garden hose, wheelbarrow and common garden tools.

A tub, or a small area out of direct sunlight is ideal for your compost pile. Choose an easily accessible spot on a grass or soil base. Composting can begin any time of the year, but many people start in the fall when leaves are abundant. Organic materials should be mixed, adding water as needed so that the materials feel like a moist, wrung-out sponge. The compost pile should be turned after a few weeks so that the outside layers are exchanged with the center of the pile.Turn compost piles about once a month, except in cold winter conditions. Water can be added during turning, if necessary.

Do not compost diseased plants or leaves, persistent weeds (poison ivy, multiflora rose, bindweed, quackgrass, etc.), human or pet feces, meat, dairy products and kitchen vegetables cooked with animal fats.
Compost is ready to be used when it looks dark and crumbly and none of the starting ingredients are visible. One way to test if your compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If no strong odors are released when you open the bag, the compost is done. Compost can be applied directly around the base of trees and shrubs to serve as a mulch. It also can be worked into the top six to eight inches of the soil to provide increased water retention and valuable nutrients