As spring approaches, many homeowners and apartment dwellers will be putting on their gloves, pulling out their spade and watering can, digging up weeds and old roots and replacing them with their favorite variety of tomato or squash plant.
You've probably heard of composting before, either in grade school or maybe at a party attended by your neighborhood hippy. But you may not realize that this gardening technique is very conducive to a green lifestyle, not just because it helps you grow healthy fruits and vegetables, but because it allows you to recycle a lot of your food waste and scraps which would otherwise go to a landfill.
Composting adds nutrients to soil, allows it to retain water more efficiently, and introduces organisms, including worms and bacteria, that aerate the dirt and bring more oxygen. It improves the texture and makes harder clay usable for gardening. It's also a much healthier, more environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilizers.
There are two types of composting: active and passive. Active (also referred to as "hot") composting takes place in a warmer environment, and the compost mixture usually stays above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Active compost will decompose faster, and doesn't smell, but requires aeration and more maintenance. Passive, or cold, composting is exactly what it sounds like, in that the compost is essentially a large pile of food scraps that sits and decomposes by itself. The process takes longer, and tends to stink, but doesn't require any extra effort.
The goal of composting is to produce two elements, carbon and nitrogen, that are essential for plant health. Ideally, your compost will result in a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 30:1. There are lists online that will tell you which items of food waste produce more carbon or more nitrogen.