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Composting, Saving Money, and Your Landscape

Sep 15, 2009 | Gardens, Services

By Ryan Sarvis, Landscape Designer, Johnson’s Landscaping Service, Inc.

There are many ways to compost your yard refuse. DC and Montgomery County, Maryland area homeowners spend money each year on soil conditioners such as leaf grow, compost, and peat humus. Did you know that the county collects and composts this material from you and turns around and sells it back to county residents? Why not do it yourself and save the money for other landscaping projects?

There are many different composters available, depending on the space you have available, and the length of time you are willing to wait for composting to take full effect.

If you have little space and a short time period to compost, one option is “the tumbler.”  This is essentially an empty oil drum on its side with a turn handle used to aerate the inside. The tumbler is the best composter for people with little space-time. The key to composting quickly (3 weeks-6 months) is aeration of the compost. This allows air to enter the compost and speed up the breakdown process.  Also, heat is very important.  Locate the composter in a sunny location so the core temperature inside the tumbler gets high enough to break down the material.


red tumbler
“The Tumbler”


The most popular composter is “the bin.” This is a four-sided plastic “box” with a lid. The upside to the bin is that it is neatly enclosed and is great for limited space areas.  However, this unit cannot be aerated easily, so the composting process may take 6 months to 2 years.


wooden bin
“The Bin”


Yet another option is to simply create a compost pile. This option is best for larger properties where it can be done out of sight. If turned regularly with a pitchfork or other instrument, one can create compost rather quickly.

Now that you know the different ways to compost, it’s important to know what you can and cannot compost. You can put most yard refuse in your compost.  Leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and dead plants are great. Do not worry about weeds and their seeds because the heat of the compost will sterilize the weed seeds. However, placing other items in a compost pile may prove hazardous.  Do not put the following items in your compost: Meat, bone, fish, dairy products, grease, dog, cat and bird feces, and large branches.


custom designed compost bin


Custom Designed Compost Bin


Johnson’s Landscaping Service, Inc. can install or custom build a compost bin that will meet your needs and situation.  Mixing in compost with your plantings may be one of the best things you can do for your garden, and it is organic. Please call Johnson’s Landscaping Service, Inc. to consult with one of our professional designers about your composting needs.

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