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Turning garbage into gold: Consumer Reports' do's and don'ts of composting

Posted at 6:32 AM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-13 07:32:51-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — If you're getting ready for spring planting, you may be getting your soil ready. One way to have nutrient-rich soil is to compost your food scraps!

If you're just starting out, it can be confusing. But if you start now, you’ll be all set for when it comes time to plant this spring.

Turning your garbage into gold. No, not alchemy — we’re talking about composting where food scraps and other organic waste break down over time, blossoming into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, a gardener’s treasure. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

"Depending on what kind of compost system you’re using, it’s really important to know what you can and cannot put in each of them," said Kevin Loria with Consumer Reports.

First, the system: How are you going to break down the food waste?

There are three main options: Backyard compost bins; Vermicomposting, which uses worms; and in some cities, large-scale composting systems which can include drop-off or even curbside pickup.

If you opt for a backyard compost bin, toss in most food scraps including eggshells, coffee grounds, and yard trimmings. Just avoid bones, meat, fish, and dairy products. Here’s the trick: When you add new waste to the bin, cover it immediately with some leaves, straw, or similar material – This keeps the ecosystem going, allowing it all to break down

For apartment dwellers, vermicomposting might be your best bet, since it doesn’t involve a lot of space, but it does involve worms!

"You can dispose of the same food scraps as you would in a backyard bin, but worms can shy away from things like garlic, onions and citrus peels. So it’s best to avoid putting those items in your vermicompost bin," Loria said.

Municipal composting systems heat up to high temperatures as they break down the waste, which means the compost can handle more stuff like bones, meat, fish, cheese, and other milk products, and even some food-soiled paper products.

Whichever system you choose, composting is a great way to generate less trash and a good start in greening up your thumb for planting season.

Once you have your compost, you can add it to your flower and vegetable beds; mix it with your potting soil for indoor plants; or just spread it over your lawn.