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Composting advised for '90s


"What, you're not recycling yard and garden debris?"

This phrase is being heard more and more in the environmentally conscious '90s. And there's a reason for that. Now is the time to begin composting. In the past, homeowners thought composting was difficult -- or worse, that it was unsightly and created bad odors. That's just not true. In fact, you can successfully create compost to serve a variety of gardening purposes. To help you help yourself and the environment, the experts at Flowtron Outdoor Products, a leading manufacturer of composting equipment, offer answers to several commonly asked composting questions.

What is Compost?

Compost, also called humus, is a rich, natural substance that results from the decomposition of organic matter. Leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps, including vegetables, fruit peels and even egg shells, are recommended for composting. Compost allows these natural materials to be returned to the earth, thereby saving landfill space and providing improved soil structure and fertility.

Compost also helps control weeds, hold moisture, reduce soil erosion and release valuable plant nutrients. Chipped twigs and branches are also recommended for use in compost, and machines such as Flowtron's Chipper/Shredder/Mulcher (electric models CS-1500 and CS-3500) are best for safe and precise chipping.

When Should I Begin?

Anytime really, but why not start today? The sooner the better. In no time, you'll be able to give your garden the extra boost it needs. Think of composting as spring cleaning: You are ridding your lawn of fallen leaves and other debris -- and using them to your advantage.

How Do I Compost?

Preparation is crucial in order to compost properly. If you use a compost bin, it should be placed in an area where no direct sunlight can reach it. This area also should be well-drained. Begin composting with a layer of brush (chipped twigs and branches) and alternate with layers of decaying material such as leaves, tree clippings, mulched pine needles and grass clippings. Adding a compost activator and 2 inches of garden soil will get the process off to a good start. Remember to moisten each layer thoroughly as it is added to speed up the decomposition reaction.

Flowtron's bin measures 30 inches by 32 inches. Its state-of-the-art design promotes fast and odorless composting. The unit is UV-stabilized and features removable slats for ease when adding waste material and retrieving finished compost. Other unique elements include angled sides for maximum air circulation and moisture penetration -- essential for quick decomposition. A solid top, which lifts off for easy loading, prevents excess rain water from slowing the process.

When Am I Finished?

Never, actually. Every few days the compost pile must be turned with a pitchfork or an aerator to move composted material away from the pile's hot center. This enables you to continually add more shredded leaves and clippings, and makes it possible to compost year round, even if the mercury drops significantly.

What Do I Do With It?

Compost, which works like a fertilizer, can be mixed into the soil to provide the nutrients your plants need. When added to planting beds, finished compost has the ability to hold nutrients in the soil like a sponge and release them slowly, as needed to hungry plants. The compost also contains large amounts of microorganisms beneficial to plant growth.

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