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An Introduction.
Composting is the decomposition of plant remains and other once-living materials (no meat or dairy products) to make an earthy, dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching garden soil. It is the way to recycle your garden, yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills for disposal. It's a perfect 1-1-1 fertilizer.

It's easy to learn how to compost. Composting can even be done, cleanly and unobtrusively, even indoors in apartment buildings and condominiums. Composting is not a new idea. In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves.

Composting is at the root of all agriculture as well, despite the widespread use of artificial fertilizers. Some scientists have

speculated that as early peoples dumped food wastes in piles near their camps, the wastes rotted and were terrific habitat for the seeds of any food plants that sprouted there. Perhaps people began to recognize that dump heaps were good places for food crops to grow, and began to put seeds there intentionally. Today, the use of composting to turn organic wastes into a valuable resource is expanding rapidly in the United States and in other countries, as landfill space becomes scarce and expensive, and as people become more aware of the long term impact they will have on the environment.

In ten years, composting will probably be as commonplace as recycling aluminum cans is today, both in the backyard and on an industrial scale. Many states in the US have stated goals or legislative mandates to drastically reduce the volume of waste being sent to landfills. Utilizing garden, yard and kitchen wastes (which make up about 30% of the waste stream here in the US) is a big part of the plan to minimize waste overall.

Cities and towns can promote composting through home composting education efforts and the collection of yard wastes for large-scale composting. Whatever your style of composting, there's plenty of room to get involved.

We Use It In Quantity.
We have several thousand tons of compost, in various states of refinement, at our disposal from allowing the public to dump leaves and grass clippings here year 'round, including our greenhouse discards and landscape waste. We recycle the

mounds twice yearly with a bulldozer, screen it and sell it to the gardening public, upon request. It is also used as a soil amendment and top dressing on our Display Gardens, as well as in many landscape jobs to amend the poor soils here in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

How To Get Involved.
If you're new to composting, go here, find your state on the map, click and get the County Cooperative Extension Service's number, call or email them and find out about some local composting programs. If you're already involved, the local County Extension Service can help you locate your community's composting project. If they don't have one yet, get involved and start one.

You can contribute to the 'composting revolution' by composting your own yard and kitchen wastes at home. If you have a large yard, you might prefer the ease of composting in a three-bin system out by the back fence. Apartment and condominium residents can get into the act with indoor 'vermicomposting' using earthworms to recycle kitchen wastes (offices can even recycle coffee grounds and tea bags with vermicomposting). Or, if you prefer not to compost indoors, there are several small composting units on the market which easily fit into the apartment and condominium lifestyle. I live in a condo and have used a unit called The SoilSaver for almost 20 years.

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John Shelley's Garden Center & Nursery, Inc.
13579 Winterstown Road, Felton, PA. 17322-8522
vox: (717) 246-1414 1-800-828-3405 (Pa-Md) fax: (717) 246-2170
Last updated 6/21/08. 35,985,656 visitors since 1/26/96.