Composting: Green, Easy, and Profitable

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The best fertilizer for your garden or shrubs is absolutely free, and it's in your kitchen trash can right now.

The following post comes from Debra Karplus at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.

Why pay for fertilizer? You can magically transform your garbage into rich organic fertilizer that you put in your garden to help it thrive. Even if your property only has shrubbery, homemade compost has many benefits.

Making good compost is amazingly simple. You don’t have to be an expert. No precision is involved. You don’t have to measure or weigh anything. And you don’t need to monitor temperature or time.

With the exception of bones or meat, most waste from your kitchen is perfect for composting: egg shells, coffee grounds, apple cores, and other inedible parts of the food you enjoy. Yard waste is another ingredient to good compost.

The smaller the yard waste, the quicker it will decompose, so don’t add huge branches into the pile. Grass clippings and leaves are wonderful, and if you’re cutting firewood, the wood chips and bark left behind can also be composted.

(So can wood ashes from your fireplace or wood stove, but only in small quantities. Too much ash changes the pH of the compost because it’s so alkaline.)

You can start a compost pile any time of year, and adding to it is ongoing. Heat and air are your compost pile’s best friend. Heat will come from the sun. But for a compost pile to properly aerate, it must be turned periodically either with a shovel or pitchfork, or by having your compost in a container designed to turn it.

Your compost container can be plain or fancy, homemade or store-bought. It’s prudent to store your compost away from the house or garage, in case it has an odor or attracts pests. However, a properly managed compost bin should do neither. The cheapest way to have a compost bin is to build your own. Many people use pallets, also called skids, which are available free in places around town, such as shops or your newspaper circulation loading dock. Just ask. Look online to see instructions and photos for making compost bins or be creative and design your own from free materials that you find or have laying around your basement or garage. You can build it whatever size you choose. Remember to turn the contents occasionally for aerating using a garden tool.

There are also containers designed specifically for composting that can be purchased from a home improvement shop or garden center. Though there are vendors that sell them online, the shipping and handling costs might make buying locally the better deal. A compost bin, sometimes made of plastic, sells for $50 or more. Often green-colored to blend in with your yard, they have an opening at the top for dumping in your food and yard waste. They also have small holes on the sides to allow air in but keep rodents and insects out, and an opening at the bottom to shovel rich compost out from it and onto your garden. These bins tend to be lightweight and small enough to move to a different spot in your yard if you desire.

A compost tumbler costs at least $150 or as much as several hundred dollars, depending on how large a tumbler you choose. A tumbler sits on a stand and is usually barrel-shaped with a handle to facilitate turning and aerating. Peruse tumblers online to see pictures and get an idea of the prices.

Stretching dollars and going green often go hand-in-hand. You’ll prevent your food scraps and yard waste from being dumped in the landfill while enriching your home garden or greenery. Experiment with a small homemade compost bin to get started. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Follow The Dollar Stretcher on Twitter.

Stacy Johnson

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