Spring is in the air, at least out here in sunny San Diego, California. And that has homeowners thinking about a landscaping makeover. A tastefully landscaped yard can not only create a soothing environment for you but also add value to your home when it comes time to sell. And there's yet another landscaping benefit that's richly improving yards and our environment.
"It is becoming so mainstream to do composting. People of all ages are doing it," says Joni Gabriel, composting program manager at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation in Encinitas, California.
The concept is catching on the same as more green-built homes are being produced these days by builders. The driving force is the fact that landfills are in some areas overflowing with garbage that could have been recycled and put to good use. Composting takes what otherwise would have wound up in landfills and repurposes it in residential yards.
"Compost needs four ingredients for the process to be successful: it needs a good supply of carbons or what we call browns, a good supply of nitrogen or greens, and then it needs air and water," says Gabriel.
There are two styles of composting: active or passive. Much like the way money works, if you are actively pursuing it and working at it you are likely to produce more, however, passive money streams eventually add up too! In the case with composting, if you are actively out in your yard putting food scraps and other biodegradable materials in it, adding leaves, keeping the pile moist, and turning the entire concoction, then in a matter of two to three months you'll produce beautiful soil to use in other areas of your garden.
The passive style is, of course, less work. It involves setting up a composting area or purchasing a bin to place your scraps and other materials inside and then simply making sure that there is enough air, water, and leaves to keep the decomposing process going. However, this method will take approximately six to nine months or more before the contents have broken down and you actually have a rich soil amendment to use.
Whether you use a compost bin or you set aside a portion of your yard to start the process, Gabriel says the benefit is highly rewarding. She also believes that should you decide to sell, a compost area is a benefit not a drawback.
"People who compost really get into it and get attached to their bins and often when they [move] they take their bins with them, but there are those who build areas in their yards that are specifically for composting. They're areas that are more permanent -- and to have a compost site left could be something that would be desirable to somebody who moved in, especially because the compost saves people money," says Gabriel.
She says over time if the buyers kept up the composting it would help to offset the costs of purchasing soil amendments and fertilizers.
It doesn't matter whether you own a single-family home, a condominium, or even an apartment complex. As the adage goes, "where there's a will there's a way" -- so it is with composting. Many cities and states across the country are helping to facilitate the process by offering low-cost composting bins. Some bins are actually tumblers that have a hand crank to make turning the concoction easier. Still others might be on wheels to move the compost around your yard or even some disguised to look like a dog house. All have easy ways to put the materials inside.
In fact, according to Gabriel, areas such as New York City are leading the way in composting programs; California actually lags behind a little. Yard space is not an absolute necessity.
"What people typically do when they're in an apartment, a condo or a high rise is they do worm composting and I know that sounds really icky and creepy but it's not," says Gabriel.
The mere thought of worms is enough to make some people not want to compost. But give Gabriel a chance to explain how much this method can help improve your landscape and save you money. Most gardeners are likely familiar with Black Gold or worm castings to help support and nourish their gardens. It's just one expense that adds up but Gabriel says a better solution is to do worm composts and produce your own castings, "Maybe for $10 a pound you would buy worm castings whereas if you make one investment in worms for $10 or $15, you can be producing your own castings."
Lest you think this is something only for the purest environmentalists, Gabriel is quick to point this out, "People are really doing this. This is no longer a kooky marginal thing. There are office buildings in Los Angeles, some city office buildings, where employees have worm bins sitting right by their desk.
So whether it's your home or your office, there's nothing wrong with a few worms hanging about.