Compost to reduce trash and increase growth

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, May 19, 2011

Combining grass clippings, dead leaves and food scraps into a compost pile is an organic way to make fertilizer for your garden while reducing the amount of waste put into local landfills.

All those grass clippings, fallen leaves and table scraps can combine to be more than an addition to the local landfill. Instead of tossing it in a trash can, you can toss it in your garden.

Composting is an organic way to fertilize your garden with the combination of organic materials that have decomposed into a nutrient-rich, soil-like matter.

Composting recycles items that would otherwise end up in landfills. In fact, yard and food waste makes up for about 30 percent of the waste made by Americans, according to

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Avid gardener Beth Aberth, who lives in Rescue, has been using compost in her garden for about three years.

“It’s a great way to recycle your scraps,” she said. “Plants just love it.”

All the grass, leaves and food dumped in the trash are like gold to anyone who composts, she said.

Aberth said almost all of the devoted gardeners she knows also use compost, but some new gardeners can be confused about what composting entails.

Every fall, Aberth starts a new compost pile because it takes a year for the material to properly decompose. Her husband and she cut the lawn, collect leaves and chop everything into fine pieces to use as a base for the compost.

Aberth has plenty of space at her home, so she doesn’t contain her compost. Instead, she piles it on the edge of her property near the woods.

She said if gardeners have limited space, they might want to purchase or build a compost bin.

Using compost bins is also a way to secure the mixture and keep animals out of it.

Once you’ve decided where you will keep it, you need the right combination of materials to make successful compost.

“You have to have green, and you have to have brown,” Aberth said.

She uses leaves, grass, food scraps from meals and a little bit of horse manure she gets from a friend’s farm to make her compost.

Meat remnants, dairy products and weeds should not be added to the pile.

In order to care for her compost, Aberth uses a pitchfork to turn her three piles once a month to mix them. This is Aberth’s method for keeping deer and other critters out.

She also said compost needs water to keep it moist.

“It likes to be wet but not saturated,” Aberth said.

Sometimes that means rain provides the water, but other times, Aberth has had to pour buckets of water on the compost.

Aberth said when she decided to try composting, she simply read everything she could on the subject, using both the Internet and books as resources, and she recommends anyone who is curious to do the same thing.

And even though it will take about a year to ready itself, compost is worth the work when it comes to the garden, she said.

For more information on composting, visit