What is Composting?
Composting is the process of decomposition of grass clippings, leaves, and other organic matter that occurs continuously in nature and results in an organic nutrient rich, soil like material. As tress drop leaves, grasses, plants and trees die, they decompose over time and return their nutrients to the soil as compost.
Composting reduces yard waste entering landfills. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of grass clippings, leaves, weeds, organic debris, and other yard waste enters landfills. This makes up about 20% of the total volume of all material entering landfills. The cost to collect and dispose of this waste is nearly 1 billion dollars a year.
Composting saves you money by reducing the need for store bought fertilizer. Compost is free. Adding compost to soil helps reduce your watering needs by helping the soil retain water.
Components I. Green Material (Nitrogen)
Fruit & vegetable scraps and trimmings
Used tea bags
Cow, horse, or poultry manure
II. Brown Material (Carbon)
Dry brown leaves
Compost forms best when it is kept at a constant moisture level, similar to a damp sponge, not soaking wet.
Air allows aerobic composting to occur rapidly, and with little or no foul odors. About 30% of the total initial volume of your compost pile should be air space.
Mix it Up
A 50:50 ratio of green to brown material by volume will provide the best results. By mixing, or turning, your compost pile regularly, the proper blend of the four components of compost will be maintained. To speed up the composting process, mix your compost pile more often. Mixing your compost allows air to enter into the pile. If the pile has become too dry, add more water and mix it in.
Be sure to NEVER place anything containing fats or oils in your compost. (ex. meat scraps, baked goods). Do not place dog or cat waste in your compost pile. Do not place diseased plants or weeds in your compost pile.
Microorganisms that contribute to the composting process will generate a substantial amount of heat in a compost pile that has the proper mix of ingredients and that is large enough, at least 1 cubic yard. The optimum internal temperature is right around 150°F. These temperatures are critical for the destruction of pathogens and weed seeds.
Patty Hoenigman, author and Texas Master Composter, describes six ways to compost, ranging from easy but slow to produce, to more involved but producing compost more quickly.
1. Use a mulching lawn mower.
2. Dig a hole and bury kitchen scraps
3. Make a trough, bury kitchen scraps and cover them up as you go.
4. Passive Composting – this can be used to produce a small amount of compost that will be done in 4-6 months. Add leaves to a bin, add food scraps, and cover with more leaves. Add water and mix once a week.
5. Heap or Pile – make a compost pile, away from the house. Add brown and green material as they become available and just let the pile sit. It will take about a year before usable compost will be available at the bottom of the pile.
6. Active Composting – This method requires a minimum of 1 cubic yard of material to start with ideally in a 3’x3’x3’ bin. Soak leaves overnight and then alternate 2” deep layers of brown and green material in the bin. Let it sit for 3 days to allow the internal temperature to peek. Next, turn the pile completely, being sure to add water to any dry areas, every day for 11 days. Let the pile sit undisturbed for two more weeks to cure. You will then have a complete batch of compost ready to use in just four weeks. The final volume of compost will be about 1/3 of the starting volume of the pile.
Start composting today! It doesn’t matter if it’s 105°F outside or 35°F. You can build a compost bin out of wood, cinder blocks, or chicken wire, or just make a pile or small hole. Once you see the rich results of composting on your garden, you’ll be glad you did.
The strong El Niño that was present in the Equatorial Pacific interacted with other climate patterns to influence U.S. weather conditions during winter and February.
The December–February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 36.8°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 36.5°F set in 1999/2000. The exceptionally warm December boosted the contiguous U.S. winter temperature. The February temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 39.5°F, 5.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the seventh warmest on record and warmest since 2000.
The winter precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 8.05 inches, 1.26 inches above the 20th century average. This was the 12th wettest December–February on record for the Lower 48 and the wettest since 1997/1998. The February precipitation total was 1.93 inches, 0.20 inch below average, and ranked near the median value in the 122-year period of record.
This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision making.
The maps below show how the average temperature, and precipitation values for the month of February 2016 deviate from the 30-year normals (1981-2010).
If you haven’t already started making plans for your spring garden, now is the time to do so. Of course the best laid garden plans are all for naught if you don’t have, or can’t find, the proper seeds to plant at the proper time. We’ve all experienced that feeling of utter disappointment after scouring the local garden centers for seeds of that special vegetable variety you enjoyed so much last season. Only to come home empty handed, or worse yet, with 20 packs of some crazy genetically modified watermelon-broccoli hybrid because those were the only seeds left in the store. Don’t let that happen to you this spring. Order your seeds now so you can plant exactly what you want.
Our Complete Seed Source Guide table below has been updated for 2015 and has an alphabetical listing of many sources of Seeds, Transplants, and Bulbs for Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers, Grains, Grasses, Ground Covers, Vines, Fruits, Sprouting, Trees, Wildflowers, and much more. Many are Open-pollinated, Non-GMO, Organic, and Heirloom varieties. Most offer a Free Catalog.
So whether it’s still snowing outside, or it’s time to start planting tomorrow, dig in and order your seeds now.