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by Maggie Palmer

Chances are, you’ve heard of composting. But what is it, really?

Composting is the process of creating an organic fertilizer through the decay or digestion of matter by earthworms, nematodes, and other organisms.

To put it simply, composting breaks down natural waste, like food scraps or leaves, into a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

What are the benefits of composting?

Composting can provide benefits all-around. Making and using your own natural fertilizer can:

  • cut down on carbon emissions
  • decrease food waste and landfill use
  • eliminate the need to buy fertilizer at the store, saving you money
  • reduce the need for chemical fertilizers
  • provide nutrients to plants
  • protect against diseases and pests
  • improve your garden’s soil structure
  • lessen the impact of droughts by retaining water

How do I get started?

  1. Find a spot: Community gardens may offer communal compost piles, but you can also begin the process at home with the right setup.You can keep your compost indoors or outdoors in a plastic tub with a lid. Drill small holes in the bottom of the container to aerate the compost, and then begin the layering process. Leaves or pine needles are best first, followed by dirt, and ending with your food scraps and gathered materials. Mix, moisten with water, and let the process begin!
  2. Collect your materials: That banana peel or apple core you were about to toss out? Throw it on the compost pile instead! Fruit and vegetable scraps, newspapers, and dried leaves are all great choices for starting the process.
  3. Wait: Depending on the conditions, it can take anywhere from two months to a year for your compost to fully break down.

Is there composting in Birmingham?

Composting is fun, but it’s also a great lesson in one of nature’s most common processes. And, luckily, Birmingham offers plenty of opportunities.

Don’t have the space to compost? Birmingham’s Field Culture Compost does the work for you. Simply go online, arrange to have your food waste picked up, and rest easy knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment.

Need compost but don’t have any? The City of Mountain Brook offers it free to those who load it up themselves.

Have too much compost? Reach out to a local gardening community and ask if they need any to fertilize their plants.

If you aren’t in Birmingham, CompostNow also offers an interactive map to help you find a composting service in your area or state.

No matter which route you take, composting is easy, green, and keeps our environment clean!

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