September 28, 2022

Down the Garden Path guest columnist series: Easy food scrap composting

Did you know that almost one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted or lost each year? In the U.S., about 94% of wasted food ends up in landfills where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas. With our “pay as you go” garbage system, why not save some money and do a good turn for the Earth by composting your food scraps? And you get the added benefit of creating fertilizer for your yard and garden.

The easiest way to compost is with a locking bin that has sliding doors at the base. Find an out-of- the-way spot on bare ground that is not too far from your house so you won’t be tempted to pitch your scraps in the trash, especially during the winter. Some folks like to have a dedicated small kitchen container to collect scraps to take to the outdoor bin. You can reduce the “ick” factor by lining the kitchen container with green, biodegradable bags (purchased from certain grocery stores). Making sure that the scraps are not larger than the of your hand will help them break down quickly.

What scraps, specifically? Almost anything except dairy, animal products or oils. Say yes to fruit or vegetable waste, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, paper towels and napkins, paper scraps, pet hair, even dryer lint. You will reduce the stink factor and speed up composting if you can keep a balance of “browns” (dry materials, such as paper or dried leaves, a source of carbon) with “green” materials (wet materials such as fruit and veggie waste, and coffee grounds, a source of nitrogen). If your outdoor bin begins to stink, simply add some browns. If the material in your bin is piling up and not breaking down, add more greens and sprinkle with water if dry. If you want faster results, mix the materials with a shovel every few weeks. Otherwise, do nothing, but it may take six months to two years to produce finished compost.

Compost is ready to use when it is dark brown and crumbly with an earthy odor. Sprinkle it on your lawn any time of the year to give it a boost and improve soil structure. Spread it at the base of your perennials or to your potted plants. By composting what you would usually throw away, you can save money and benefit the Earth.

• Have questions for the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners? You can call, email or visit during the growing season. Learn more about connecting with the Kendall County Master Gardener Help Desk at go.illinois.edu/HelpDeskMGdkk, or call or visit during office hours – 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday – at 630-553-5823 or at 7775-B, Route 47, Yorkville.