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Curious About Composting? A Local Expert Offers Tips

Last week was National Composting Day (yes, there's apparently a holiday for it) so it got us curious about composting and how to actually do it right. So, we asked the greenest friend we know, Christain Watt, Owner of Kentucky Botanical Co. for insight.

So, first thing's first, what is composting? Watt says it's the process of breaking down organic materials, like garden waste and certain kitchen scraps, over time through naturally occurring bacteria, fungi, and microorganisms. They are then turned into the very same compost you can find at your local garden store.

In order for food to grow, the soil has to be in good condition, and rich in nutrients. Composting is a way to help better the life of your plants by retaining the moisture in your soil and improving its overall condition. "Composting helps you to reduce your waste output while also saving you time and money by avoiding trips to the garden center to purchase pre-packaged compost," Watt explains.

Wondering what these composting can do for your plants? Watt says that during the composting process, the microorganisms that are present in the soil eat the organic matter that you place into the composting bin, feeding on the carbon within them and breaking it down into its simplest form. "This then produces a fiber rich humus that contains loads of carbon as well as inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium," she says. Composting is a great way to help keep waste out of landfills and reduce our methane emissions.

If you've stayed away from composting because you thought it was hard, it's actually quite simple. "We just need to create an environment that will recreate the natural decaying process in a much small, confined space," she says. "The process is simple, but getting started out the right way makes all the difference. That's why it's so important to make sure you know what can and cannot be composted."

To make it easier for you, Watt provided a list of what can and cannot be composted.

Compostable materials: tea leaves, cardboard, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, plant and flower clippings, grass clippings, straw, and shredded newspaper.

Non-compostable materials: meat of any kind, bones, dairy products of any kind, onions, garlic, any fruit or vegetable peelings that have been treated with pesticides, and pet manure.

Now that you know the benefits of composting and what can and can't be composted, here’s a quick-start list of tips to get you on your way:

  1. Select a compost bin and the best place for it to go. Countertop bins are available for beginners, but we recommend using a service like Local Compost to pickup and finish the workforce you if you choose this route.
  2. For outside composting: There are open-bottom bins for placement outdoors where extra microorganisms can get to it.
  3. If you are working with a patio or enclosed space, get a compost bin with a bottom that will keep everything confined.
  4. There are some that can be under the sink if you don’t have outdoor space.
  5. Make sure you have proper drainage - straw as a bottom layer works well!
  6. Now start layering - we recommend layering west and dry items alternatively.
  7. You can add in some grass cuttings and plant clippings.
  8. The surprising thing to remember is that you will need to add water to your compost from time to time. This helps the microorganisms have the moisture levels they need to survive and thrive.
  9. Cover and turn! Turning is so important, this gives your microorganisms the oxygen they need and allows them to break down the organic waste and create compost.

Composting does take time, and Watt wants you to remember that. “It won’t be an overnight job, but after a couple months you’ll see that your microorganisms did their job and your compost has no fully biodegraded into usable, nutrient packed soil,” she says. “It can be made year-round and it’s exciting, satisfying, and rewarding to create your very own Block Gold!”

Kentucky Botanical Co. currently has three locations: 31 W Pike Street in Covington, 406 Fairfield Avenue in Bellevue, and 266 Main Street in Florence. You can keep up with them on Instagram and learn more on their website.

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