Composting 101: Turning Kitchen Scraps Into Organic Lawn Gold

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Creating the perfect lawn requires all sorts of different tricks to get the most out of your soil and your turf. Some methods, like fertilizing and aerating, are almost necessities and should be used by all homeowners trying to grow a lush lawn. There are, however, other lawn care practices that are often underutilized or underappreciated when it comes to improving soil health in your lawn, none more so than composting.

Be Green Pro believes in the power of natural and sustainable practices when it comes to lawn care, which is why we recommend composting your discarded kitchen scraps back into the soil in your yard. Let’s learn a little more about this practice and find out why many gardeners refer to compost as “black gold.”

What Is Composting?

Composting is the process of allowing organic matter to decompose through microorganism activity until it is suitable for use as a soil conditioner. Bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms break down organic materials, such as kitchen scraps, into a dark, crumbly substance rich in essential nutrients. Compost serves as a natural fertilizer, replenishing vital nutrients and improving soil structure in much the same way as commercial and chemical fertilizers do.

The Benefits Of Composting

Composting kitchen scraps is a vital practice that benefits both the soil in your yard and the environment as a whole. The practice of composting diverts organic waste from landfills and transforms it into nutrient-rich fertilizer, which contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and alleviates the strain on waste management systems. Composting kitchen scraps is a simple act with major ecological ramifications to promote soil health, conserve resources, and create a more resilient ecosystem for future generations. 

As a homeowner, of course, you can experience personal benefits to your lawn and garden as well when you use compost as a soil conditioner. Using compost in your yard is truly a win-win for you as an individual and for our communities around the world. Below are just a few ways that composting creates a greener planet for all of us to enjoy.

  • Nutrient Enrichment: Provides essential nutrients for plant growth, including nitrogen and many micronutrients.
  • Soil Improvement: Enhances soil structure, moisture retention, and aeration, promoting healthier root systems.
  • Organic Matter Addition: Increases the organic matter content of soil, encouraging a rich and fertile environment for beneficial microbes.
  • Improved pH Balance: Helps to balance soil pH levels by creating optimal conditions for nutrient uptake and minimizing deficiencies.
  • Water Conservation: Improves soil's ability to retain moisture, reducing the frequency and amount of irrigation needed.
  • Weed Suppression: Suppresses weed growth by promoting dense vegetation and creating unfavorable conditions for weed establishment.
  • Disease Resistance: Boosts plant immunity and resilience to diseases by promoting a diverse and beneficial microbial community in the soil.
  • Reduced Chemical Dependency: Decreases reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, minimizing chemical runoff into waterways and mitigating environmental pollution.

What Can Be Composted?

When cooking and preparing food in the kitchen, many food parts are not used for the meal and are often thrown in the trash. Many of these scraps are suitable for composting and can be kept in an enclosed container on the kitchen counter or in a pantry rather than tossed in the garbage. Kitchen scraps and food waste can be rich in carbon and nitrogen, which are types of nutrients that your soil needs to support grass and other plant life. 

Materials that are rich in these nutrients are broken down into two categories: brown for carbon-rich materials and green for nitrogen-rich materials (food scraps). Though we are focusing on kitchen scraps and food waste in this article, other organic materials can and should be used for composting. Let’s look a little deeper into these two categories of compost.

Brown, Carbon-Rich Materials

Compost materials that are categorized as “brown” are rich in carbon. As a rule of thumb, you want at least ⅔ of your compost pile to be made up of brown materials. Brown compost material typically refers to organic matter and debris that can be collected around your yard, and it can be characterized as dry and brittle in comparison to green materials. These materials are what enable your kitchen scraps to turn into useful compost, and they include the following:

  • Dry Leaves
  • Twigs/Sticks
  • Straw/Pine Needles
  • Tree Bark
  • Shrub Clippings
  • Sawdust 
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard

Green, Nutrient-Rich Materials

Most kitchen scraps and food waste can be used as green material for your compost. Green materials are typically characterized by moist, fresh parts rather than the dry consistency of brown materials. Though brown materials are necessary to turn your pile into usable material for your lawn and garden, it is these nitrogen-rich materials that start the decomposing process:

  • Fruits/Vegetables
  • Banana Peels
  • Orange Peels
  • Corn Cobs
  • Eggshells 
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Tea Leaves
  • Grass Clippings

How To Compost Kitchen Scraps

There are a variety of methods and systems to choose from for at-home composting. The process can be as simple as tossing food waste onto an open pile of organic matter in your yard. This pile can be contained with simple chicken wire, and you can just let nature do its work via open-air circulation, rainfall, and other natural factors that will help the materials decompose. However, many homeowners choose to compost with some type of closed container, as the open pile method leads to undesirable situations such as foul odors, the spread of fungi, and more. 

To avoid these issues, there are specially designed bins you can purchase from a local hardware store or gardening center, as well as compost tumblers that make it easy for you to turn over and tend to your compost for faster results. Generally speaking, you can expect to see kitchen scraps turn into usable “black gold” compost anywhere within a couple weeks to a few months. 

What Food Scraps To Avoid When Composting

Though most organic foods are biodegradable and can be added to a compost pile, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily should be used as compost. Certain types of foods and byproducts will not break down as easily as others, and some foods are more prone to harmful bacteria that can contaminate your compost pile. Fresh foods grown in the earth are the best options when it comes to composting kitchen scraps, and we recommend avoiding the following for compost:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Fat
  • Oil
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Grain/Bread
  • Baked Goods

How To Make DIY Compost Bins For Kitchen Scraps

If you have more of the DIY spirit, creating a compost bin with a plastic storage container can be a cheap and easy way to compost by following the steps below. Remember that the amount of time it takes for your kitchen waste to break down into compost depends on a number of factors, including the types of kitchen scraps, the size of the pile, how often you tend to it, and more. The following steps will help ensure that your kitchen scraps are being composted as efficiently as possible:

  • Step 1) Puncture aeration holes in the bottom of the container with nails or a drill.
  • Step 2) Fill ½ of the container with dry leaves, dry organic mulch, and dirt.
  • Step 3) Put compostable kitchen scraps on top of the pile in the container.
  • Step 4) Mix up the pile until the dirt mixture covers the food scraps.
  • Step 5) Dampen the pile with a water hose until the surface is moist, but not soaked.
  • Step 6) Put the lid on the container, and puncture holes in the top for aeration.
  • Step 7) Place your new composting container in a shaded area in your yard.
  • Step 8) Mix the pile together every time you introduce new kitchen scraps.

Be Green & Compost Like A Pro!

At Be Green Pro, we take composting seriously. Few lawn care and gardening tasks can benefit both the planet and your yard as effectively as proper composting. After your compost pile has turned into that valuable “black gold,” you can simply topdress your lawn/soil by spreading a thin layer of the compost on top. Some lawn care enthusiasts like to mix a little organic compost with grass seed with overseeding, which can help provide more nutrients to the new seeds trying to germinate.

However you decide to compost your kitchen scraps, it’s always best to consult with an expert before applying it to your soil if you have any questions at all. Contact us today for more tips and information on composting your kitchen scraps for improved lawns and gardens!