Spring’s right around the corner. And if you decided to “Go Green in 2014” you can start composting now and turn your fall and winter yard waste into garden gold.
Compost is nature’s magic mix that helps make your backyard better and our planet healthier. It’s a free and easy way to add nutrients to soil, conserve water and reduce landfill space. Some even call composting the perfect lazy person’s gardening project. Unlike pulling weeds or digging, composting takes little effort and can produce some of healthiest soil your yard and garden will ever have.
Basically, composting recycles organic material through controlled decomposition. Organic materials are grass and yard clippings, kitchen scraps (no animal products), wood shavings, cardboard and paper. As organic materials decompose they turn into a rich, dark humus material that improves all soil types.
“Most people who begin composting are surprised at how easy it is to compost,” said Erin Hoffer, Plano Environmental Education Coordinator. “The Number 1 Rule of Rot says ‘Compost happens, no matter what.’ Once you understand the process of decomposition, it’s easy to turn your garden greens and browns into garden gold for your yard.”
Hoffer said the ‘Rule of Rot Number 2’ is that ‘you’ll never make enough when you are through.’
“Once people see how their landscapes begin to respond to the addition of compost, they become dedicated compost users, even if they decide to take a break from making their own compost later on,” she added. “Two immediately noticeable differences are the greening of the garden as plants put out new growth and how well plants survive even in drought-restriction conditions.”
Ready to start? If you’re a Plano resident, you’re in luck. You can go to the City of Plano Compost Fair this Saturday, March 1 and learn how to get your composting efforts under way. You can register online now to attend the free event that will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Plano Environmental Education Center, 4116 W. Plano Pkwy.
Hoffer said Master Composters and volunteers will guide attendees through a series of hands-on learning stations that cover materials, how to achieve an ideal temperature for a compost bin, types of bins and how to use compost in landscapes and gardens.
Attendees can also learn about food waste composting with worms and even the Bokashi method that turns microbe-eaten food scraps into a rich soil additive.
Here's a quick summary of why the Plano Environmental Education Team encourages composting:
• It saves landfill space by recycling your yard trimmings.
• It saves water by adding rich water-absorbing organic matter to your landscape.
• Helps reduce air pollution by sending fewer waste trucks to the landfill.
• Improves soil structure and the health of plants by providing vital nutrients and organic matter to the soil ecosystem.
Besides the March 1 event, Plano residents are invited to view the Compost Education website and attend classes and workshops that cover composting and gardening throughout the year. Go to the online registration website to view the current schedule and register.
Those who commit to compost discover how the practice produces a wide range of benefits for their own yard and the planet we share.
Since composted soil also retains more moisture it can help reduce watering consumption. Compost also breaks up clay soils and act as a safeguard against erosion. Plus, it adds structure and moisture to sandy soils and allow landscaping of otherwise difficult gardening areas.
Compost also improves soil aeration, which lets vital oxygen enhance soil and make it more productive. Studies also show how virtually all plants grown in compost-enriched soils are healthier and are better prepared to fight off assaults from insects and diseases.
The Texas Water Foundation reports that millions of gallons of city-treated water are used to irrigate landscapes where native vegetation once grew in naturally mulched soil, sustained by rainfall.
The Foundation notes how homeowners purchase costly synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for their lawns to compensate for the loss of nutrients. The runoff of fertilizer chemicals can pollute both ground and surface water supplies.
Besides conserving water and giving your soil a natural boost, composting can also help eliminate the need for more landfills. According to the Texas Water Foundation, every year more than five million tons of yard trimmings and other organic materials end up in Texas landfills instead of building up the soil. The cost of disposing the organic matter in landfills costs more than $150 million a year.
When organic materials are composted, they give off carbon dioxide as part of the natural short-term carbon cycle with a reduced impact to global warming compared to burning fossil fuels. Having that same organic material in landfills results in the carbon being converted and released as methane gas, trapping heat at a much higher rate than carbon dioxide. About 34 percent of man-made methane going into U.S. air comes from landfills, the largest source.
The Texas Water Foundation also offers these resources for those interested in composting.
To find out more about Plano’s sustainability and environmental events, activities and educational offerings visit www.livegreeninplano.com.