Composting for Kids - Herb Gardening

The Basics of Composting:

What You Need:

Look around the kitchen for scraps and leftovers high in nitrogen and carbon. It's a good idea to mix twenty equal parts of carbon to every one part of nitrogen. Gather all of the ingredients together into one small 3-foot-by-3-foot pile and then allow them to decompose over time.

Some examples of nitrogen-rich foods include: food scraps, law debris, garden weeds, animal and even human manure. Carbon-rich ingredients include any dry, raw materials, including dry leaves, sawdust, scrap paper, straw, dry grass, and wood ash.

Regular Water Maintenance:

In order for the aforementioned ingredients to decompose, the organic materials will need micro-organisms to break them down. Do not soak the materials. The ideal moisture content should range within the 50 percent ratio.

Moisture Level”

Adding too much or too little water will slow down the decomposition phase of the compost over time. Use plastic coverings during the rainy season to ensure the compost does not get too wet. Use a garden sprayer to lightly mist the compost during the dry summer months. Test the compost by picking up a handful and then squeezing it to ensure that the mixture holds its shape. If the compost wrings out water or crumbles in your hand, then it's too wet or too dry for use.

The Oxygen Factor:

Do not layer the compost. In fact, regularly turn the material to ensure fresh oxygen feeds the micro-organisms within the compost. Fresh oxygen will cause the micro-organisms to multiply, thus causing a higher rate of decomposition.

Increase the Micro-Organism Colonies:

Add colonies of micro-organisms to the raw materials. Mix the micro-organisms in with a spade of garden soil or leftover compost from an older batch.

Properly Prepare and Maintain the Compost:

Always turn the compost to ensure that it's “cooked” within ten to twelve weeks. Try to turn it every two weeks or sooner to ensure this process happens within the aforementioned time frame.

Defining the “Cooked” Compost:

Composting produces heat, which causes concern over the core temperature and ideal composting piles. The average composting pile at it's core peak ranges between 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Always maintain a stable core temperature that does not exceed or dips below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Compost Distribution:

Scoop the compost over onto the soil and then spread it evenly over the desired garden plot for the best results.

Why Compost?”

1.    Composting Is Good for Your Garden and the Environment (PDF)

2.    Why Composting?

3.    Building Your Compost Pile

4.    Composting: The Tolman Guide

5.    Composting: A Beginner's Guide (PDF)

6.    Worm Composting Basics

7.    Compost Fundamentals: Why Compost?

8.    Why Compost Yard Trimmings?

9.    Iowa State University: Why Compost?

10. Aggie Horticulture: Why Compost?

11. East Texas Gardening: Why Compost?

12. Composting in Moist Tropical Environments

13. Why Should I Compost?

14. University of Missouri: Making and Using Compost

15. Environmental Benefits of Composting

Going Green”

1.    Composting-The benefits of recycling, reducing and reusing: Did you know that yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 26% of the US municipal solid waste stream?

2.    In Discarding Food Scraps, Most Restaurants Are Going Green by Composting: The Washington Post highlights the importance of local and national restaurants donating their leftover food scraps for the purposes of composting.

3.    Composing: Making Trash Into Treasure: An article addressing the importance of composting and its beneficial influence on the environment.

4.    California Recycles-Home Composting: A guide to home composting from the state of California.

5.    Composting Tips: Warm, Hot or Cold: An article providing important tips for composting during the various seasons of the year in different regions.

6.    Going Green with Compost: A local natural news special from Saint Louis offers composting tips.

7.    Composting Yard Waste: A publication addressing the how-to's regarding garden composting and how it can reduce waste in major water streams.

8.    Composting Tip sheet (PDF): Oklahoma State University offers composting tips for ordinary home gardeners and even commercial produce growers.

9. University of Buffalo Today: Trash into Treasure: An article addressing how the University of Buffalo uses composting to recycle leftover food scraps for soil enrichment.

10. How to Go Green in Your Work Environment: A comprehensive bulleted list to help convert the work environment into a “green”-friendly atmosphere.

11. Project Compost: A compilation of frequently asked questions regarding the environmental benefits of composting in industrial and privatized agriculture.

12. Recreation Resources Services: Composting: A website outlining the benefits, keys to success, and a list of resources for composting processes.

13. Pacific Lutheran University: Great Ways to Go Green!: A comprehensive list of methods to go “green,” including composting guidelines.

14. University of Washington: A list of raw materials lying around the house or campus that can be used in composting.