COLUMN: Consider composting


May is International Compost Awareness (May 1-7). Composting is the controlled decay of organic material including yard trimmings, kitchen scraps, wood, cardboard and paper.

The humus-rich material that results from composting gives back nutrients and beneficial organisms to the soil. Compost improves soil structure, making sandy soil retain water and nutrients, and creating better drainage in clay soil.

Compost provides nutrients for the long-term plant health, resulting in less synthetic fertilizer. Anyone can compost and here’s how to get started.

Your bin or area

There’s no one perfect choice or method; it all depends on your space.

Apartment dwellers can try vermicomposting (composting with worms) which requires just a small storage type bin. Outdoors, enclosed bins such as tumblers may be a good choice for ease and speed.

In larger spaces, compost areas can be built with wire fencing, pallets, cinder blocks, or even what is referred to as “binless” systems where you just pile the compost in a 3 by 3 foot pile and let it cook.

Always remember to bury your new compost within the current pile to avoid bad odors and to keep rodents from coming to your pile.

Pick the site

It’s pretty obvious that the best spot is any location that reminds you to use it! There isn’t anything particular to where your compost area should be.

Do not forget the browns

Many first-time composters mention that their compost is slimy or it just does not come together. The main cause is lack of browns, which provides necessary carbon. Adding leaves, straw, shredded newspaper are all acceptable “browns” and should be added in a 3 to 1 ratio over food scraps.

Make it like lasagna

Think about building compost as if you were making lasagna: it’s all about layering the ingredients. Start with some sticks at the bottom for air. Add a layer of browns. Then add your food scraps and cover with 1 to 2 inches of more browns. Then just repeat the layers!

Turning is optional

Turning the compost can speed up the breakdown process and you can have the finished product faster. It also helps keep seeds and plants from growing out of the top of your pile.

The material will break down just fine on its own so it is a personal preference on deciding to turn your compost or not.

When the material looks and smells like rich earth and nothing you added is recognizable, it is time to use it in the garden.

Compost can be used to top dress a lawn or worked into the soil around existing plants; just add it around the plants and gently work it into the soil. Compost also makes excellent mulch cover; it will provide necessary organic material to the soil while keeping plant roots cool.

Beneficial insects, worms, and other organisms are plentiful in compost-enriched soil; these organisms burrow through soil keeping it loose and well aerated. Compost will suppress disease and harmful insects resulting in healthier plants.

Compost can also be purchased in bulk or by the bag from the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, find details at

Before you start composting visiting our composting page on the CCE website.

Join us for our Annual Herb & Flower Festival Saturday June 18th from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on the CCE grounds and Parker F. Scripture gardens at 121 Second St. in Oriskany. For more information, visit and click on the Herb & Flower Festival picture. Or phone 315-736-3394, (Dial “1” when you hear the recording and then hit x100.)


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