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Start composting with your kids

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Green living

A compost pile is an eco-friendly family project that anyone can do! Get the kids involved and teach them how a little change can make a huge difference. An added bonus: They will actually see how the end product can be used in your garden.

tween girl gardening

If you are interested in teaching your kids how to increase the "green" quotient in their lives, starting a compost pile is an easy and rewarding project. Rachelle Strauss, green living expert behind LittleGreenBlog.com and the author of Compost: How to Make - How to Use - Everyday Tips, provides some tips on how to get started.

What is it?

To some, composting is a integral part of their every day lives. To others, it's a foreign concept. "A compost pile is basically a pile of organic matter, such as fruit and vegetable peelings and grass clippings, which eventually decompose into a rich, nutritious compost that you can use in your garden and for houseplants," says Strauss. "Composting is an opportunity to 'close the loop' in your own back yard. I'm still amazed how I dump old leaves and apple cores in a pile and nine months later, I'm digging out beautifully rich, sweet smelling 'food' for my garden!

Gather your supplies

You can start a small composting pile with just a plastic trash bin and a gardening fork to turn the material. "In a large garden, you can simply dedicate an area in your yard for the compost heap or keep it more contained by tying some pallets together," says Strauss. With a minimal about of space and material, you can create a batch of rich, life-giving, weed-squelching, moisture-giving compost.

The Ins and Outs

Strauss provides the following insider tips regarding compost piles:

  • Have your kids add equal amounts of what we call 'green' and 'brown' material -- by VOLUME (not weight).
  • Green materials are wet and include grass clippings and fruit and vegetable peelings.
  • Brown materials are dry and include shredded paper and cardboard.
  • Put your compost in a convenient location so that you (and your kids) actually use it.
  • Ask your kids to give the pile a mix every now and again to add air and to keep rats or wasps from using your compost heap as a home!
  • Don't add cooked food as this can attract vermin.
  • Don't add anything that is non organic -- it won't rot down

Voila!

About nine months after you start the project, you'll have plenty of usable material. "Add your contents, give it a mix with the gardening fork and keep it warm. That's it!" says Strauss. "Nature takes care of the rest." By keeping an eye on the consistency, you can make adjustments. "If it's looking a bit wet, add some brown material," advises Strauss. "If it's looking dry, add some green. Every so often take a handful of compost from the center of the pile and give it a squeeze. It should feel warm to the touch with the texture of a well-wrung sponge." Now, you and your kids can get your hands dirty and start growing stuff.

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