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Urban Composting

Composting is a microbial process that converts plant materials such as grass clippings and leaves to a more usable organic soil or tilth.


As Micro organisms consume and break down humus, they change the density and nutrients available in the soil. A nutrient rich soil that is porous is said to be in “good tilth”. Soil in good tilth is dark brown or black color and a loamy density. It has a good mixture of sand, clay and organic matter. Healthy soil is resistant to compaction, provides excellent drainage and is nutrient rich.


The benefits of composting:

  • Improves the structure (tilth) of the soil

  • Supplies nutrients at a slow, steady pace

  • Improves the moisture holding capacity of the soil

  • Promotes healthy microbial activity in the soil which improves nutrient availability & uptake

  • Fosters strong, healthy plants resistant to disease and insects

Why Compost: It’s Earth-friendly: Food scraps and yard waste make up 20-30% of

the waste stream. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills, where they take up precious space and release methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.


It benefits your yard: Compost improves soil structure and texture, increases the soil’s ability to hold both water and air, improves soil fertility, and stimulates healthy root development in plants.


It saves money: Adding compost to your garden

can reduce or eliminate the need to buy chemical

fertilizers or compost. If you pay for the amount of

trash hauled, composting can also cut down on your

trash costs.


Its easy: You can start with just leaves and grass, then

work your way towards composting your food scraps. Many people believe that you need a lot of space to compost, but that is not true. You can start your own small kitchen or patio compost at home.


A successful compost pile needs:

  • Nitrogen

  • Carbon

  • Water

  • Air



Nitrogen is provided by "green material" such as yard waste, fresh grass clippings, green leaves, vegetable scraps, vegetables, fruit peels, coffee grounds, tea bags (make sure to remove staples). Carbon is provided by shredded pieces of paper, cardboard, paper rolls, dry leaves, small branches, sawdust and used potting soil (ensure there are no seeds).


What shouldn't be added to your compost:

Meat, bones, fish, fat

Grease or oil

Dairy products, butter, milk, sour cream, cheese

Plastic, metal, glass, other materials that will not break down

Paints, cleaning fluids, harsh chemicals

Cat or dog feces

Diseased plants

Salty foods

Citrus fruits

Weeds and seeds

Small Area Compost Pile


Now that you are familiar with what to add and not add to a compost pile we will be discussing how to put together a small hot composting bin in your kitchen or home. Although you can purchase one already assembled, there is no need to spend money when you can make one with items you may already have at home. We recommend starting with a 3.5 gallon bucket with a lid.


Materials Needed:

  • 3.5 gallon container with lid

  • Handheld drill or Exacto knife

  • Plastic Freezer bag for scrap collection

  • Nitrogen Items

  • Carbon Items

How to Assemble:

  1. Start by collecting food scraps from your kitchen in your plastic zipper bag. You can add a weeks worth of scraps and freeze them so they don't spoil in between collection. Because they will be added a small compost make sure to cut down scraps into small pieces to help the break down process. (you can even place items into a food processor).

  2. Collect your carbon items from around your paper such as scrap paper, cardboard, toilet paper rolls etc. Make sure to cut up paper and shred material into small pieces.

  3. Next you are going to use your handheld drill or knife to cut a about 6 holes on your lid as air is necessary for proper composting.





4. Once your bucket is complete and your Nitrogen and Carbon Items have been collected you will begin the layering process. Begin by adding a layer of shredded paper and carbon material, next add a layer of nitrogen rich items, top off with a small layer of carbon items such as cardboard.


5. Sprinkle a bit of water over the top.

Cover your bucket and place in a warm area such as under the sink or on a sunny spot on your porch. You can continue to add layers until the bucket is full. Once your bucket is full, let it sit in a warm spot and check on it occasionally and slowly turning your small pile.


How to trouble shoot your pile:


Mold - If you notice mold these are signs that your pile is too wet. Add more paper, cardboard or dry soil.

Flies or gnats - Flies or gnats like exposed food. When adding food scraps, make sure to cover them with brown material, paper or dry soil.

Bad smell - Not enough air, your compost is too compacted. Turn the compost pile more often and add more carbon material.

Compost pile not heating up- Add more organic matter, turn pile and add water, Incorporate food waste, grass clippings, Try insulting with a tarp or placing in a warmer area.



Once the food scraps and paper have fully decomposed and you see a black dense "soil" your compost is ready to be used around your garden or can be added to your indoor plants as fertilizer!


If you are interested in learning more about composting make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media to receive information on our next composting workshops held on site at Valley Verde or you can contact Margarita at margarita@valleyverde.org




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