by Jeff Wasielewski
Composting converts kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrients that can be used to naturally fertilize small areas of your garden such as vegetable gardens or specific plants that need additional care. Compost is an excellent alternative to synthetic fertilizers and is a natural way to fertilize your garden.
In nature, fallen twigs and leaves are converted into nutrients with the help of certain bacteria, fungi and natural decomposers. Many gardeners are tempted to remove yard waste and ship it off to the local landfill, but composting allows you to keep yard waste on-site, which is good for the environment, and helps create valuable nutrients, which are good for your plants.
Due to South Florida’s high temperatures, composting does not need to take place in an enclosed bin and may be done in an open air compost pile or bin. Closed bins are preferred, however, because open bins may be visited by unwanted pests. No matter what type of compost system you employ, remember that only egg shells, paper, fruit rinds, vegetable remains and plant debris should be composted. Do not try to compost any meat products, dairy products or plants to which herbicide has been applied.
Compost ingredients should be placed in a bin or pile and turned every two to three weeks for optimum breakdown of materials. It may be necessary to add moisture to your compost pile if the pile is not breaking down. Compost will begin to form in four to eight weeks depending on temperature, sunlight, types of materials used, level and moisture playing a role in the speed at which compost forms.
The process of composting creates a natural, rich fertilizer that is a welcome addition to any planting and allows the home gardener to keep yard clippings and kitchen waste on-site rather than sending it to the landfill.