Composting

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compostWhat is composting?

Composting is a biological process in which volumes of organic materials are reduced over a short period of time and then later decomposed. Through this process the nutrients in the compost are released slowly into the soil, making them available to plants for a long period of time.

Why should I get involved?

Composting can reduce the amount of trash that ends up in land fills, help conserve water, make plants healthier, and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers. When participating in home composting, your yard will soon be healthier for your family and pets and you will also play a part in cutting the cost and environmental impact of hauling yard waste.

How do I start?

  1. You may fill out an on-line request for compost bin or you may call Gilbert Public Works at (480) 503-6400 to have a free composting bin delivered to your home. Then, place the bin in your yard, preferably in the shade, out of the wind, and within reach of water.
  2. Shred or chop all materials into 4 inch pieces or smaller in order to expose more surface area for the microorganisms to work on. Refer to the chart below for details and the types of material that should and should not be composted.
  3. Provide a mixture of about four parts dry or woody material to one part wet material. Layer wet and dry material alternatively, each layer being no more than four inches thick. Occasionally sprinkle in soil and/or manure. If using food waste, be sure it is buried under other layers to avoid flies.
  4. As each layer is added, sprinkle lightly with water, ensuring moisture throughout the pile. The interior should be moist, not wet. During periods of heavy rain, cover with a tarp.
  5. Once your container is full, top off the pile with two inches of soil.
  6. As decomposition takes place, the pile will begin to heat up. Before the pile has cooled down to outside air temperatures, reactivate it by allowing more oxygen to penetrate the pile. Simply turn the material into a second bin, or use a turning fork to thoroughly mix the pile. It may be necessary to add more water or green plant materials. Note: Step six ensures compost in two to three months. You may wish to turn your pile less frequently, although the composting process will take longer.
  7. Repeat these steps as needed until the mixture is soft, dark and crumbly. Then sift on a ½ inch mesh screen to remove large, semi-decomposed pieces. Return these to the bin for further breakdown.

What can I compost?
Anything that was once a growing plant can be composted. The key is to use approximately four parts carbon-rich material to one part nitrogen-rich material.

Carbon-Rich  Nitrogen-Rich 
 (Brown and Dry)  Green and moist)
 Straw  Cactus
 Sawdust  Wet grass clippings
 Pine Needles  Fresh plant clippings
 Small branches  Vegetable and fruit waste
 Drier lint  Barnyard manures and beddings
 Dry grass clippings  Spoiled food
 Dried plant materials  Tea bags and coffee grounds
   Hair, Fur, and feathers

What can't I compost?

No meat, grease, fats, or oils should be composted. Dairy products and egg shells are also not a good idea. Also dog and cat feces, diseased or invasive plants, and Bermuda grass should not be composted.

Tea bags and coffee grounds