WINCHESTER, Ind. — Food waste is the single largest component of material going into landfills.

Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the landfill.

It’s also a great way to provide nutrient-rich fertilizer to indoor and outdoor plants.

“It’s pretty important considering the amount of things we throw away,” said Amy Alka, Extension educator in Randolph County, during a webinar presented by Purdue Women in Agriculture.

“It’s estimated that we waste as much as 50% of our produce. Food waste is considered to be the largest single component going into landfills. We can use that compost as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.

“What I like most about composting is it shows us how much food we are wasting. When I go to the store, instead of buying the massive package of strawberries, I buy the smaller one.”

Compost returns some nutrients back to the soil, but the main benefit is in the improved soil structure. Adding organic matter will increase soil aeration and water-holding capacity.

Worms can further break down a compost pile.

Composting with worms is called vermiculture. The castings, or worm excrement, created makes for great fertilizer.

Three ways to use compost:

  • Sidedress or topdress plants with compost.
  • Gently mix castings into soil around plants.
  • Add compost tea to your plants. Compost tea is the excess moisture that will flow to the bottom of a compost system. Dilute one part tea to 10 parts water when adding to plants.

Learn more about composting at http://compost.css.cornell.edu/worms/basics.html.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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