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Consumer Reports: Do's and Don'ts of composting

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 27, 2023

Composting is a great way to keep your food scraps from ending up in a landfill while delivering nutrient-rich soil in return. Sounds great, but if you’ve ever tried it, you know it can be confusing trying to figure out how to do it the right way. If you start now, you’ll be all set for spring planting. Consumer Reports explains the do’s and don’ts of at-home composting.

Turn your garbage into gold. No, it’s not alchemy. We’re talking about composting, where food scraps and other organic waste break down over time, blossoming into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, a gardener’s treasure. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Depending on what kind of compost system you’re using, it’s really important to know what you can and can’t put in it.

First, the system: How are you going to break down the food waste? There are three main options: backyard compost bins; vermicomposting, which uses worms; and in some cities, a large-scale composting system, which can include drop-off or even curbside pickup.

If you opt for a backyard compost bin, toss in most food scraps including eggshells, coffee grounds, and yard trimmings. Just avoid bones, meat, fish, and dairy products. Here’s the trick: When you add new waste to the bin, cover it immediately with some leaves, straw, or similar material. This keeps the ecosystem going, allowing it all to break down.

For apartment dwellers, vermicomposting might be your best bet because it doesn’t involve a lot of space. But it does involve worms.

You can dispose of the same food scraps as you would in a backyard bin, but worms can shy away from things like garlic, onions, and citrus peels, so it’s best to avoid putting those items in your vermicompost bin.

Municipal composting systems heat up to high temperatures as they break down the waste, which means the compost can handle more stuff like bones, meat, fish, cheese, and other milk products, and even some food-soiled paper products.

Whichever system you choose, composting is a great way to generate less trash and it’s a good start for the planting season.

Once you have your compost, you can add it to your flower and vegetable beds. Mix it with your potting soil for indoor plants or just spread it over your lawn.

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