Dig Into Composting

Saving scraps is an easy first step to decrease trash and improve your plants.

By Mike Cullinan

Sep 2016

Dig Into Composting
When selecting which foods to add to your compost, consider the nitrogen-carbon ratio they will provide.

People looking to be more environmentally friendly often turn to composting as a simple way to reduce their trash output while improving soil for their plants. So if you’re wheeling your overflowing trash bin to the curb every week, here are some tips on how you can lighten the garbage volume—and possibly become a natural farmer in the process.

What foods are good to save, and which ones should be avoided?

The most important factor in healthy composting is achieving a balance of nitrogen-rich materials (greens) and carbon-rich materials (browns), says Adam Millsap with Urban Roots Farm. Vegetables and coffee grounds generate nitrogen while fruits and eggshells generate carbon; all are frequently used in composting. He says there are lists online to guide beginners on what to compost for good carbon/nitrogen ratios. Drake Hughes with Sustainable by Nature recommends keeping meats and bones away from your compost piles, as they’ll not only break down poorly, but will make the pile stink and become an attraction for rodents. They have also written blogs on making great compost on their website,

How should compost be stored?

Both Millsap and Hughes have containers they keep in their kitchen to gather scraps every day, which, once filled, can then be dumped into the larger bins outside. Hughes adds that anyone who is concerned with odor from their indoor containers can purchase charcoal filters.

As for outdoor bins, there are both stationary and rotating options. Rotating bins, also known as tumblers, allow for compost to be spun inside them. Hughes opted for a three-bin system: All the waste goes into one bin, then is moved into the other bins as they each fill up. 

When’s the best time to add compost into the garden? Is it possible to use compost in container gardens?

Hughes suggests adding compost in early spring or late fall after there’s no new growth in the garden. It’s most convenient to add compost prior to planting, Millsap says. If it’s a tilled garden, spread it prior to tilling and allow the soil to be amended as the tiller stirs the compost into the soil. Be sure to only add fully decomposed compost to the garden, he adds. 

Compost is also great for container gardens, and Millsap says he’s had great results growing all kinds of vegetables and greens using it.

Where to Get Compost Bins

Everything Kitchens
2750 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield

Sustainable by Nature

Also available at major retailers such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe's.