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Today is May 23, 2022

Composting can save money, help environment

By Susan Collins-Smith

Composting can save money, help environment

As spring approaches, gardeners may be thinking about starting a compost pile. This practice of recycling organic materials around the home can save money and help the environment.

About 30% of materials going into landfills are yard wastes, including grass clippings and leaves. The U.S. Composting Council estimates 67% of all materials, including paper materials, entering landfills can be composted. 

“There’s a reason gardeners call compost black gold,” said Gary Bachman, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “You can use compost as a soil amendment, as mulch around your plants or both. When used as a soil amendment, compost adds texture and improves soil’s moisture-holding capacity. Compost also returns essential nutrients to the soil. 

“Thrifty gardeners will appreciate that compost is free. No more buying bags of soil conditioners and amendments,” he added.

Compost, a partially broken-down form of organic waste, becomes dark and crumbly when ready to use. It makes a perfect soil conditioner that helps soils maintain proper moisture content, reduces soil compaction, increases earthworms and beneficial microorganisms, and provides a slow release of nutrients into the soil.  


A compost pile must be at lease 3 feet wide by 3 feet high to properly decompose. Piles can be larger. For households with large amounts of organic waste, three piles allow compost to be available year-round if managed to be in various stages of decomposition.


Bin Type

Containers are not necessary. Piles can be place directly on the ground. However, different types of containers can be made with items on hand or purchased ready-made. Structures should allow for airflow throughout the entire pile and should be open on one side for easy access.



Place the pile in a shady, well-drained area of the property. Be aware tree roots may grow into the pile, making it difficult to turn and dig in the pile. 


About Composting

    •    Compost forms when materials heat up as microorganisms break down the materials. The process can take from six months to two years to complete depending on several factors.

    •    Carbon and nitrogen feed the composting process, and the proper ratio of items containing each is needed for compost to form. 

    •    Small materials break down faster. Shred or rip up paper. Chip treelimbs and branches.

    •    Turn the pile with a pitchfork at least twice a month to supply oxygen and speed up the process.

    •    Keep it moist, but not wet. Check the pile when turning it. If it is dry, dampen it.

Items that can be composted

    •    Eggshells 

    •    Bark

    •    Paper

    •    Corn cobs

    •    Vegetable and fruit scraps

    •    Cardboard

    •    Sawdust

    •    Coffee grounds and filters

    •    Tea bags

    •    Hair and fur

    •    Fireplace ashes (These should be limited.)

    •    Fish scraps (These may initially have an odor and could attract animals.)


Items that cannot be composted

    •    Diseased or insect-infested plant material

    •    Coal or charcoal ash

    •    Dairy products

    •    Meat scraps or bones

    •    Fats, grease, lard, and oil

    •    Pet wastes, including dog and cat feces and soiled cat litter

    •    Black walnut leaves or branches

    •    Yard waste treated with chemical pesticides

    •    Sawdust or wood shavings treated with preservatives

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