Grown Here at Home: How to start composting

Published: Nov. 9, 2020 at 7:34 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At the Mountain View Community Garden in Roanoke, you can tell it’s the end of another growing season. All the dead stuff in the gardens and flower beds can become great fertilizer for soil just by composting it.

“You want three bins,” said Evan O’Neill with Virginia Cooperative Extension. “The first one is going to be all your material that has just come off the lawn or just out of the garden. You’ll want to layer all of that in and let the water come out of it and evaporate a little bit. For the second bin, you’ll want to put that into something where it’s going to actually break down. So you’ll have some straw in there, maybe some goopy-looking brown mix-ins from the first one that’s broken down, and that’s where it’s going to get really warm. That’s where the actual breaking down is going to happen where all the critters in the ground are going to help out. Your third bin is going to be your final bin, which is gonna be where all that nice, black, rich organic matter is going to go. That’s going to be the stuff that you put on your garden or in your flower beds next year.”

Other things you can add to your compost pile are egg shells, coffee grounds, yard debris and even pumpkins.

Evan says things you don’t want to add include, “Anything that you know you had a disease on because it can bring that same disease back next year. The other things you shouldn’t be composting – no plastics or anything like that. You can throw in some newspapers and brown cardboard. Nothing glossy. And usually no meat, so keep it kind of plant material.”

Once you’ve started your compost pile, be patient.

“You’re looking at one to two years, and as you go from year to year, you start a process where every year you know you have a little bit that you can take out and it becomes more of a cycle so you’re not waiting for two years just to get good compost,” Evan explained.

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