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Is composting for everyone?

Surprisingly, it’s not just for serious gardeners with large backyards – even apartment dwellers with a terrace garden or potted flowers can benefit from the nutrient-rich material that compost provides. Evan Kleiman talks with composting expert, Curtis Thomsen, who shares what everyone needs to know to start composting.

Composting is an excellent soil conditioner and helps to bind dirt particles together, improving aeration and water and nutrient levels. It can improve drainage in soil that is denser, such as clay; provides a buffer for extreme shifts in soil pH; and even attracts earthworms, which provide additional benefits to the soil.

Backyard composting is on a larger scale, with compost materials being placed in open piles, buried in pits or trenches or placed in a variety of large bins made for this specific purpose. Because heat is a necessary aspect of composting, compost piles should be at least one cubic yard in size (this helps provide enough insulation to keep the temperature high in the middle of the compost – where all the magic happens).

Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, can happen in the smallest of spaces, with the right equipment. The worms, helped by other micro-organisms, create compost from the bedding and food scraps in the compost bin. Unlike standard compost, worm compost is a good source of nitrogen, which can be used as a fertilizer. The list of source material for worm composting is fairly specific:

Worm Compost Do’s

Fruit scraps
Vegetable scraps
Coffee grounds and tea bags
Crushed egg shells
Nut shells
Stale bread

Worm Compost Don’ts

Rotting food
Meat and dairy items
Citrus rinds
Animal by-products
Oil, fats and grease
Pet droppings