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Gulf Coast Gardening: Composting to Reduce Yard Waste

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Reduce yard waste headed to landfills while creating a healthier garden soil. Composting helps you tread a little more lightly on the environment.

Pitchfork in front of compost pile.

By Keri Byrum

Finished compost. >

Gardeners are a thoughtful bunch. We optimistically nurture seeds and plants in hopes they create a beautiful landscape or a bountiful harvest.

But have you thought about how your garden impacts the environment? Home composting is an easy way to benefit your garden while reducing its effects on our landfills.

A compost system can be as simple as a pile set to the side of your yard. Or it can include a pre-made composting bin that spins and turns. See how to use a composter. Both turn yard waste and food debris into rich, organic material that’s a welcome addition to our sandy soils.

Kitchen waste in compost.>

An effective composter reduces the amount of yard waste going to the landfill, returning it to the garden instead.

What can you compost? Leaves, grass, straw, and sawdust. And, of course, kitchen scraps such as vegetable and fruit waste, eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grounds. (Avoid meats, oils, and dairy products because of potential odor; your compost bin should not have much of a scent.) Collect them in a convenient and attractive bucket.

Compost bin from blocks.>

This compost bin was made using simple blocks. Different layers of “green” or fresh materials are layered with strips of “brown,” the drier layers that include dead leaves and small sticks. Add water to aid decomposition. Over several months the large pile breaks down into a small mound of very healthy soil.

Finished compost.>

This pile shows the dark-brown compost from a cylinder-type composter. An enclosed compost pile can work well in small areas, where pests or pets might be of concern. Apply the same layering method. Again, adding water keeps the bin’s contents decomposing and building up to the warm internal temperatures necessary to complete the composting process.

Compost is excellent to add to our sandy Gulf Coast soils. I use mine as topdressing by simply spreading it in and around existing plants. As it is spread, small pieces of the ingredients are visible but continue to decompose. The organic matter helps hold in moisture and keeps plants healthy, also releasing a small amount of nutrients. You can use it in your garden as a mulch, topdressing, or soil amendment.