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First-time or experienced gardeners can benefit from composting

Compost bin full of leaves

With many Michiganders turning to gardening during the COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe quarantine, EGLE encourages them to start composting as well.

Compost is organic material  such as food waste, grass clippings, and leaves  that has been decomposed in a controlled manner. It is commonly referred to as black gold by gardeners because it provides nutrients that plants need and boosts the water holding capability of soil. Compost, whether homemade or store bought, recycles readily available organic materials and helps grow trouble-free plants.

Composting is easy to do at home with a commercially available compost bin or via a DIY pile. The compost bin pictured was made from free pallets. Only the U-posts were purchased. The compost bin in this video was made from left over fencing material, similar to chicken wire.

Simply mix yard waste and kitchen scraps to provide the right conditions to encourage decomposition. Then let bacteria and fungi recycle the "waste" into a rich compost humus perfect for gardens.

Compost is also available for purchase. It is often sold in bags at retail stores and in bulk by landscaping suppliers. Not all compost is created equal. It should look and feel like dark, rich, fluffy soil and have an earthy smell.  You can also check with your municipality. Many communities offer pickup or drop-off services for yard waste. These materials are often composted by the municipality and the finished material may be available for sale.

Composting has several benefits, says EGLE's compost expert Aaron Hiday: "Good compost can reduce the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers in your garden or flower beds, and improve the overall health of your plants.  Also, if you make your own compost, you’ll know exactly what it is that you are adding to your soil."

Benefits of composting:

Improves soil quality

When used as a soil amendment, compost can help retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests. It can also eliminate the need for chemical or synthetic fertilizers and helps roots penetrate the soil by reducing soil compaction.

Helps beneficial microorganisms

Fungi and bacteria are unsung heroes in garden soil and spend most of their time converting material into usable nutrients for plants. Compost helps feed the microbial community and can increase earthworm populations.

Saves landfill space

In the United States food scraps and yard waste make up 30% of what we throw away. Composting is an excellent option for both of these materials.

Reduces greenhouse gas emissions

When disposed of in landfills, food and yard clippings generate a significant amount of methane. By composting, the generation of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, is avoided.

For more composting tips and information, visit EGLE’s composting website.

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