Composting is a convenient, beneficial and inexpensive way to handle your organic waste and help the environment. And this time of year is a perfect time to start composting. The trees have shed their leaves and many people are busy cutting back gardens in preparation for the winter months. And through it all we continue to eat and drink, of course, which generates kitchen scraps and waste. Everything from leaves, grass, garden waste, egg shells, coffee grounds, bread, and fruit and vegetable scraps are welcome in the compost bin!

All this organic waste gets broken down in the compost bin into a nutritious and rich soil-like substance we call compost or humus. Compost is a perfect soil amendment that your lawn and gardens will appreciate next year.

Why compost?

* Composting reduces volume of waste that requires disposal

* Composting saves money on waste disposal costs and fees

* Composting provides a way of disposing of leaves… Leaves and yard waste are banned by the MA DEP from landfills and incinerators

* Composting is pretty low maintenance

* Composting will save you money in the spring—no need to buy bags of topsoil!

Soil organisms do most of the hard work of composting. All you have to do is keep throwing stuff in and turn it occasionally and give it a little shower now and again. The compost needs to be turned to aerate the center of the pile—this also reduces any unpleasant odors that might occur when materials decompose without oxygen. Water should be added as needed to keep the materials feeling like a moist, wrung-out sponge. You do not need to turn the compost pile or add water during the cold winter months.

CET recommends that you either build or purchase a compost bin. An enclosed compost bin keeps out pests, holds in heat and moisture and has a neat appearance. Bins can be made of wire, wood, pallets, concrete blocks, metal and plastic. Place the bin in a convenient, shady area that can be reached with your hose.

Compost is ready to be used on your lawn or garden when it looks dark and crumbly and none of the original ingredients are visible. One way to test if your compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If no strong odors are released when you open the bag, the compost is done. Compost can be applied directly around the base of trees and shrubs to serve as mulch. It also can be worked into the top six to eight inches of the soil to provide increased water retention and valuable nutrients.