A consumer might not equate "breaking down" with financial savings.
However, starting a compost pile at home allows you to tap the natural
cycle of decomposition for benefits that include the reduced need —
and cost — for water, pesticides, and fertilizers in home gardens.
"Composting is, by definition, managed decomposition. Decomposition happens
anyway, but we can manage it for our purposes," says Adam Michaelides of
the Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension. He advises learning a
system that is appropriate for individual needs determined by where and
how you live. It's relatively simple and cheap to begin. The biggest
investment is time: It takes six months to a year for compost to be ready
One method favored by Michaelides is to use welded wire mesh bound in an
upright cylinder. Layer sticks at the bottom to create space for drainage
and airflow, essential for good, stench-free compost. Begin your composting
layers with "browns" — any carbon-rich, porous material like dried leaves
or woodchips. Then throw in your "greens" — plant material, food
scraps (no meat, bones, dairy, or oils), even manure. Add another layer of
browns. The ratio of browns to greens should ideally be about 2:1 or 3:1.
A wealth of information is available about good composting practices. The
CCE of Tompkins County has a terrific fact sheet available at its website,
which you can find at
by clicking on "compost." You can also check out
For additional information, go to the New York Department of Environmental
and the Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov).