Turn Garbage to Gold

Audubon @Home, Arizona

by Krys Hammers
Desert Rivers Audubon Society

The goal of course  is rich garden compost, which will help your vegetables or landscape plants thrive.  The most obvious advantage to composting is the nutrients that are added to the soils when you add compost, but it can also enhance pest control and eliminate diseases in plants.

Of particular importance in our desert, compost helps soils retain moisture longer.  According to the EPA, it can even help to clean up contaminated soils.  It has additional benefit of diverting organic solid waste from landfills, where it can contribute to production of methane, a greenhouse gas

and acidic leachate.

Most cities, including Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa can help you get started with composting.  They may offer classes with all necessary information to get you started.  They will also deliver a compost bin to your house.  Mesa charges $5 refundable deposit for the bin.  You can also buy bins in yard and garden stores.  The fancier models have mechanisms to help you turn the compost pile.

The concept is simple you add green and brown organic matter, dampen it and turn it over and before long you have compost.  The

Greens provide nitrogen.  This waste would include green yard clippings, fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds and filters and breads and grains.

The Browns provide the carbon.  They would include saw dust, straw, shredded paper, dried yard clippings, nut shells, egg shells, dryer and vacuum cleaner lint.   You do not want to add plastics, dairy products, meats scraps, oil or lard, pet waste, yard clippings that have been treated with pesticides, weeds, glass or metal.

You should have about 4 parts browns to every of part of greens.

The pile needs air and moisture. Most of the bins have ventilation holes and you will need to aerate the pile by turning the contents every week or every time you add to it.  You will need to dampen the pile to keep it moist.  The pile will actually generate warmth as the materials decompose.  In the summer, it may be necessary to keep the pile in a shaded or partially-shaded area.

Your compost is ready when the material is dark brown and crumbly.  You can sift your compost to get a finer soil additive.  If you find any materials that haven’t decomposed completely, you can add it to your new pile.

Your plants and garden will thank you and you can feel good about reducing your need for fertilizers, pesticides, as well as helping to reducing greenhouse gases.