Campus News

Compost is good for the garden

Recycling food waste into compost is good for your garden, saves water and makes plants healthier, according to Bob Westerfield, a horticulturist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Compost is decomposed organic matter. In heavy clay soils, compost reduces compaction, increases aeration and helps water seep better into the soil. In sandy soils, it helps retain both water and nutrients, he said. It also helps add nutrients to the soil.

To make compost, mix brown and green organic materials. Brown compost material includes dry dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, shredded paper and wood chips. Green compost material includes fresh-plant products, coffee grounds, tea bags and fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen.
Westerfield said to include more brown items than green. The ratio should be 3-to-1. Materials should be added in layers, alternating brown and green. Don’t add meats, bones, grease or other animal-based food waste.

A pile of compost can take three weeks to six months to process, depending on the care. Adding fresh material to a pile can cause the process to take longer. Water should be added only to keep the pile moist, not wet. Nearly finished compost can be used as mulch. It helps plants retain moisture and prevents weeds