2650 LaFranier Road
Traverse City, MI 49686
Please note: Grand Traverse County does not sell compost. Information regarding the purchase of City compost - (922.4901 ext.119)
Composting is nature's own recycling system. Leaves, grass, and other organic matter that fall to the ground provide a home and food supply for nature's recyclers--bacteria, worms, and other microorganisms. These organisms feed on the plant material, breaking them down, and turning them into a dark, nutrient rich product called COMPOST.
- improves plant nutrition
- holds moisture in sandy soil
- improves compacted soil
- extends the useful life of our landfills
how to compost
Instructions on how to build a basic backyard compost pile can be found on our Home Composting Brochure (pdf). If you live in an apartment or have a small yard, try worm composting! Instructions on how to set up a worm composter are on our Worm Composting Brochure (pdf). Or you can go to the following websites for more information:
- For basic info: www.epa.gov/compost
- For everything you would ever want to know: www.howtocompost.org
MATERIALS TO COMPOST:
- Yard Waste:
- Tree leaves, sod, grass clippings, hay, straw, weeds, chopped corn stalk or cobs, sawdust, shredded newspaper, wood ashes, hedge clippings, and many kinds of plant refuse from the garden.
- Kitchen Waste:
- Fruit and vegetable peels, eggs shells, tea bags, coffee grounds (including paper filter), and all other food scaps. The only exceptions are grease, fat, meat scraps, and bones.
1. Start with a pile of tree leaves and other organic plant materials. Mix in kitchen waste material. Place a thin layer of soil on top and continue to add to the pile.
2. Turn pile on a monthly basis, except during the winter months.
3. To aid in decomposition, the pile should be kept damp, but not wet. Add water to the pile to keep it moist.
4. Compost should be ready in approximately 4 to 6 months.
Using the Finished Product
Finished compost can be used in the following ways:
Add to your garden in the spring or fall. Turn the garden soil and then apply compost in a 1-3 inch layer.
Compost can be mixed with either garden soil or potting soil in a 50-50 ratio to use for container gardening. The compost adds nutrients and texture to encourage plant growth.
Compost can also be used as a mulch. Spread compost around any garden plants, under bushes, and around trees. For young plants, a 2-3 inch layer of compost often works well. Mulching helps hold in moisture, reduces weeds, and gradually feeds organic matter to the soil and plant roots. Compost is especially useful as mulch in the hottest, driest periods of the summer.
Worm composting is a great way to recycle leftover food and other organic material. Like backyard composting, worm composting creates an ecosystem containing worms, bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms that break down organic material.
Red worms are the best type of worm for consuming leftover food in a bin. Their castings, or manure, are primarily responsible for producing the compost. This is how most of the organic portion of the soil is formed. Soil is made up of sand and clay particles, organic material (humus), and the organisms that cycle the nutrients.
|What do I need?||Worm Food||How many worms do I need?|
|water||fruit and vegetable scraps||Determine the average amount of food waste you produce each day. The ratio of worms to food is 2:1 by weight.|
|worm food||dead house plants||If you produce a 1/4 lb of food each day, you will need a 1/2 lb of worms|
|2 cups of soil or compost||bread|
|shredded newspaper (bedding)||coffee grounds and filters|
|worm bin||crushed egg shells|
|scale||cereals and grains|
|red worms (elsenia fetida), also called "red wigglers"||DO NOT put any meat, oil, or dairy products into worm bin|
What size worm bin do I need?
The ratio of worms to space is 1:4. ¼ lb. of worms will need 1 cubic foot of space (1' high x 1' wide x 1' long); ½ lb. of worms will need 2 cubic feet of space (2' long x 1' high x 1' wide). A large surface area allows adequate oxygenated air to reach the worms. Drill some holes in the bottom and sides of the container to allow for additional air circulation and water drainage. You may need to cover the bin to ensure that it is dark enough for the worms.
How much bedding and water?
Tear 2 ½ lb. of newspaper into strips for each cubic foot of bin space. (Tip: Tearing the paper lengthwise is easier than tearing it widthwise.) A 2 cubic foot bin will need approximately 5 lb. of shredded newspaper. You will need to moisten the paper with water. Worms are between 75% to 90% water. The surface of a worm must be moist for the worm to respire (to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen). To ensure that you have added enough water, shred the paper into a sink or other container, then add enough water so the paper is covered. Lift the paper out of the water, allowing the excess to drip off. Place the wet newspaper into your bin.
How do I make the worm bin?
Add one or two handfuls of soil or compost to the moistened bedding to provide grit for the worms' gizzards. Like birds, worms use gizzards for grinding up food. Remember, worms don't have teeth! The soil or compost, along with a few handfuls of leaves, strengthens the bin ecosystem by providing other organisms found in a compost food web. Now you may bury your worm food and add your worms.
Where can I get worms?
Many bait stores sell red worms.You can sometimes find worms in rich moist soil around your house or compost pile, but be sure to get red worms.
How do I take care of my worm bin?
Provide the worms with food, adequate moisture and air. Check the bin while you are adding food to see that the bedding has not become too matted or is drying out. Daily care is unnecessary. You may feed your worms once a day or once a week - whatever fits best into your schedule. Bury the food by creating a pocket in the bedding and covering it. Bury worm food in a new location each time. Worms will freeze, so keep your bin's temperature above 50° F.
How do I know when my worm bin is done?
It will take about six weeks before you see noticeable changes in your bin. Once the newspaper has been replaced by castings, the concentration of castings will begin to become toxic to the worms. This process generally takes 2-4 months. At this point you will need to remove the castings and separate out the worms before preparing new bedding.
Three methods for "harvesting" your compost:
1. Dump out the contents of your bin and form many small piles. The worms will go to the center of each pile to hide from the light. Prepare the bin with fresh bedding. Put the worms back into the bin. Gather up the worm-free compost to use as desired.
2. Push your compost and worms over to one side of the box. Fill the other side of the box with fresh bedding and food. Begin burying your food scraps only on the "new" side. In their search for food, the worms will migrate over to the side with the new bedding. In a few weeks, you can take out the worm free compost.
3. Dump 2/3 of your bin, worms and all, into your garden. Add fresh bedding and food to the bin for the remaining worms.
What can I use the worm castings (compost) for?
- To start seedlings
- As a top dressing for indoor or outdoor plants
- Mixed in with potting soil
- Use as mulch