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City of Durham Composting Efforts

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What is Composting?
Composting is a natural decomposition process in which microorganisms and other naturally-occurring organisms break down organic materials into a useful product called compost. We can utilize this natural process to decompose organic kitchen food wastes, grass, leaves and other yard trimmings into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.
Why Compost?
Composting is a practical and fun way to turn your organic waste into a useful soil amendment for use in your plants, yard or garden.
·    Saves you money by producing less waste for disposal and not having to buy soil amendments.
·    Saves water by helping the soil to hold moisture.
·     Benefits the environment by recycling valuable organic resources at your home which saves on waste collection and disposal costs.
·     Helps garden and house plants by improving the fertility and health of the soil.
Composting Basics:
·     Compost piles are  living systems and need Carbon ("Browns"), Nitrogen ("Greens"), Air and Water.
·     Mix two parts "Greens" (vegetable and fruit wastes, coffee grounds, grass clippings, herbivore manures) to one part "Browns" (leaves, straw, saw dust, chopped wood and pruning).
·     Maintain the compost pile air and water balance so that it is as moist as a wrung out sponge.
·     During the composting process, the volume of the materials will decrease by one half and temperatures can reach 130 - 150 degrees.
·     Do not compost: meat, bones, fish, dairy products, breads, dog or cat feces, treated wood or sawdust, diseased plants.
Compost Bins and Methods:
There are a variety of methods for composting your organic wastes. All methods will produce compost but some will compost waste more quickly than others.
Open Piles: Open piles are inexpensive and great for yard trimmings and manure.
Simple Bins: Contain organic waste and are more tidy than open piles and can be made to keep pests out when composting food wastes.
Commercial Bins: Are good for people who do not wish to make their own bin and would like to compost food and other organic wastes utilizing a lawn maintenance system. Most commercial bins will allow you to produce compost without having to turn the material. What ever method you use, remember "Compost Happens."
Compost Trouble Shooting Guide
  Symptoms    Problems 
  Pile not
  Too Dry
  Too many brown materials
Add water until damp and turn pile.
Add fresh green material, water and turn pile.
  Pile smells

  attracts flies
  Too much green material
  (food or
grass clippings)
  Food scraps exposed 

  Material not compostable
Turn pile and add brown material.
Bury and mix food into pile.
Remove meat and dairy and turn pile.
  Rodents or
  other pests
  Food scraps in open bin or 
  holes in bin
are larger 
  than 1/4 inch
Use a rodent proof bin.
Worm composting
Worm composting is fun and a great way to compost food waste at home or work.
Using a shallow container add moist bedding (shredded paper), some garden soil, and red worms (Eisenia foetida are the best for worm composting). Add vegetable and fruit waste by burying food scraps in the bedding. The worms turn your waste into compost.
Compost Use:
Mix into the soil before planting, use as a mulch around established plants or sprinkle thin layer over houseplant soils. What ever the application, compost will improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of your soil.
Compost Benefits:
Compost benefits the soil in many ways including:
·   Increases the soil organic matter content and biological activity of the soil
·   Improves the physical structure of the soil and loosens clayey soils
·   Increases the soil's ability to hold water and increases the soil's fertility for better plant growth
More information (Books and Training):
Let it Rot 1975 - Stu Campbell, Garden Way Publishing, Pownal, VT 144. pp.
Rodale Guide to Composting - 1979. Organic Gardening Staff, Rodale Press, Emmaus PA 405 pp.
Worms Eat My Garbage - 1982. Mary Appelhof , Flower Press, Kalamazoo, MI 100 pp