Q: I have been thinking about making compost in my backyard. But aren’t my kitchen scraps always composted at my local landfill? — Karen P., San Luis Obispo
A. For an organic material, let’s say carrot scraps, to compost at a landfill, it will need oxygen and moisture to break down. The materials at landfills are compacted so tightly by machinery that oxygen cannot reach the plant material. Your local landfill will compost your kitchen scraps if you place them in your green waste, but making your own would be great too!
Quick compost can be made by mixing equal amounts of carbon rich (dry or woody material) and nitrogen rich (green material, including fruit and vegetable scraps) material. Smaller pieces of plant material break down faster; 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch pieces are good for rapid composting. Keep the developing compost moist, about the feel of a wrung-out sponge.
Never compost meat, bones, fats, dairy, or any animal manure. Manure introduces the potential for contamination and the development of disease-producing bacteria. It’s important to remember that a healthy compost pile will not emit an offensive ammonia odor.
Composting adds nutrients and beneficial microbes to soil and improves the water hold ing capacity. Compost also improves plant growth by improving clay soils and encouraging a healthy root structure and balancing the soil pH. Add compost to your garden by mixing in three to four inches before planting.
More information about compost quick composting is available from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/Details.aspxitemNo=8037. This free document offers simple, straight forward tips to help you generate quality compost in as little as 2 or 3 weeks.