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composting for landscape

Eco Friendly Yard Cleanup: Composting

Want to tidy up your property? For free? How about with no hauling or transportation? Good news! All of that and more can be done easily and inexpensively with a compost pile- plus, you’ll be generating nutrient-rich soil to keep your gardens, pots and raised beds healthy.

Types of composting

We’ve been composting as long as we’ve been letting our discarded food scraps break down and decompose (hint: for as long as our species has been eating food) so it’s safe to say we humans have come up with a few different methods. Here are some of the best.

In ground composting

In ground composting for landscape

The original, the classic. This requires no specialized equipment and no financial output. Just you, your shovel to dig a hole in the ground, and those tasty tasty yard scraps. Generally you’ll want to go at least 12-16 inches deep, with the width depending on your personal needs. Once you’ve filled it up, simply cover it back over with dirt! You can check on your compost after a season or two, or leave it to enrich the soil wherever it was placed.

If you love the idea of this method but it seems a little too simplistic, check out Trench Composting which has all the same advantages on a slightly larger scale.

Stationary and spinning composters

spinning composter for landscape

Unlike in ground composting, not only do you not have to do any digging, you don’t necessarily have to compost in your yard at all. Composters are a great option for apartment dwellers, as well as people with beautiful lawns and landscapes they may not necessarily want to start digging in.

This method comes with a huge range of options, from the ultra cheap barrel or plastic storage bin to a sophisticated, off the ground spinning type to save your back.

Bio fermentation (Bokashi)

Bokashi composting for landscape

Bokashi (literally fermented organic matter in japanese) is an anaerobic (oxygen-free) composting system that can break down matter that other types of composting struggle with, as well as speeding up the process significantly. Because Bokashi is more specialized, it requires a few extra materials that you’ll probably want to buy for this: Specifically, an airtight bucket or container with a spigot on the bottom, and some kind of bokashi (fermentation) starter.

Once you have those in place, it’s incredibly simple. Just layer food scraps with your starter (you can easily find this online as “bokashi bran”) until your bucket is tightly packed. Then, find a shady spot where it won’t be disturbed and let it do it’s thing for roughly 10 days, drawing off the liquid via the spigot every day or two. Finally, take it out and let it mature for about two weeks (or add it right into your existing compost) and you’ll have squeezed several seasons of traditional composting into less than a month, with almost no foul odors or fuss.

WORMS (Vermiculture)

Vermiculture composting for landscape

Worms get a bad reputation as dirty, stinky or slimy, but in fact worms work incredibly hard to break down waste, as well as aerating and enriching the soil, making them an invaluable member of any lawn cleanup project. Simply stack several barrels or sturdy containers together with air holes drilled into the top (inserted) container(s). Once your top container is full, simply start another stacked on top. Your worms will climb up leaving you with worm free, hearty compost.

Make a vermiculture composter for cheap or free using thrifted materials, or add Tiger worms directly into your existing compost pile to give it a speed boost.

Community or industrial (windrow) composting

Windrow composting for landscape

This one might take a village, but if you can gather enough compost and can find a large enough spot to do it on, this method allows for vastly more heat to be generated and supports a wider range of organic waste.

Windrow composting involves forming your compost pile into long paths (windrows) between 4 and 8 feet tall, and between 14 to 16 feet wide. That’s a lot of lawn clippings! But if you’ve got the volume, you can dispose of things like cooking grease and animal byproducts that wouldn’t be safe to put into a standard sized compost pile.

What to compost

With a few exceptions you can compost almost any organic waste, including food scraps, lawn trimmings, branches and wood (we suggest shredding these down as much as possible to speed up composting), as well as paper products and cardboard. Things like meat, dairy and grease as well as pet waste should only be done via Bokashi or large/commercial scale windrow composting

  • Fruit and veggie / kitchen scraps
  • Lawn trimmings, leaves
  • Paper products
  • Yard scraps like branches, weeds, etc.
  • Organic fibers like cotton, wool, hair, etc.

What not to compost

  • Meat, Dairy, fats and greases will cause a foul odor as they decay, as well as drawing insects and pests into your yard. Unless you’re doing Bokashi, which is under an airtight seal, we strongly recommend not adding these to your compost pile
  • Pet or human waste doesn’t just smell bad, it can contain parasites and diseases that the heat of your compost pile isn’t guaranteed to kill. Bokashi’s airless environment is probably your best bet if you’re bound and determined, but in our opinion the risks massively outweigh the rewards in this case.
  • Diseased or insect ridden plants, just like poop, are probably not worth messing with in a classic compost as those diseases and insects can easily survive and contaminate the rest of your compost pile. In this case, though, a cycle of Bokashi should probably take care of it fine.
  • Anything treated with chemicals: Composting can break down matter into fresh earth, but it can’t remove any kind of chemical contaminants that might have been brought in by yard waste or debris (or on anything else for that matter.) Be extremely careful, as pesticides and herbicides can linger in the soil, killing off anything that’s grown in it and/or leeching off into the water system.