Composting Myths

Myth #1: Some folks think the local landfill is one giant composting bin. They couldn’t be farther from the truth. To make compost you need a set of conditions that will enable the microbial activity that breaks down organic matter. The local dump does not provide any of these condition - and you can tell by the smell. Granted, there are a lot of things that go to the dump that could be composted, but most landfill sites are now separating organic materials like tree roots, clean soil, and plant debris to a separate area for processing. A lot of the mulches on the market are derived from these products. The majority of landfill space is household trash, which is the most objectionable (and smelly). They have resurrected buried landfill trash after 20 years underground, and found the newsprint still readable. In my garden, or shredded up into my compost maker, it last about a week or less. Composting is one of the best things we can do for our home and the Earth.

Myth #2: Composting costs a lot of money. You can actually compost without spending any money at all - just pile it up in a corner of your property and forget about it. But we recommend a quicker, more active composting method by using compost tumblers or bins. They do cost money, but the payback is more than enough compensation for doing the right thing for your garden and the Earth.

Myth #3: It’s a lot of work! Well, I can tell you, it can be a lot of work, but it does not need to be. The compost tumblers can do the hard part for us, we just have to do the brain work. So just let technology do the work and make it fun!

Myth #4: I can put anything in my compost pile. Well, if you do, you may not like the results. I don’t put citrus in my compost makers - it takes “forever” to break down, and I don’t want to have to deal with it later or have it smell up my compost. Some things should just not be composted at all, like meat, fats, oils, ashes, lime, b-b-q charcoals, bones, weeds that have seed heads, any part of invasive weeds, human or pet waste, sawdust, inorganic materials, contaminated materials of any kind (such as plants that have been killed with pesticides, burned with oil, etc.). Your compost pile is not a landfill site, it is a live organization of decomposing microbes out to eat themselves out of work.

Myth #5: They smell bad. Actually, a properly balanced and maintained compost bin has no bad odor. If a compost pile does smell bad, it is your cue to make some adjustments to your pile to give it all it needs to activate the decomposition process. You always want your pile working hard for you.

Myth #6: They attract bugs and pests. Well, they can, especially if they smell bad. Signs of pests or insect infestation are one signal that you are doing something that is keeping your pile from having the correct environment for working efficiently. You always want to take the time to bury your kitchen waste inside the pile. One way to avoid this issue altogether is to compost in a bin, or better yet a compost tumbler. This keeps it all enclosed in a pest-proof container that also makes it easier to mix.

Myth #7: It’s easier to just burn the leaves. It’s also easy to just dump the trash in a can. That’s not what it’s about. You do have to obtain a burn permit, if they are allowed in your town. And you have to be careful of the weather conditions before you burn, as well as how your neighbors will feel about it. You will have to stand with water and shovel handy and watch it burn, getting smoke in your eyes. You are also not getting anything back from the burnt leaves.

Myth #8: All manure is the same. The types of manure that are recommended to put into a compost pile for processing are the by products of animals that eat only vegetables. Animals that eat other animals create a by product that is chemically unsuitable for composting, making it unhealthy or unsafe for us to use on our plants. This is the same reason that you shouldn’t plant over a septic tank system.

Myth #9: Why should I bother, no one else does? Even in a neighborhood where there is no recycling program for leaves in the fall, you can be the forerunner for making a difference. You are not only helping to reduce waste, you are also making your garden more beautiful at the same time.