Composting for both garden and environment #737589 - Ask Extension

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Composting for both garden and environment #737589

Asked January 31, 2021, 10:52 AM EST

Hi There,

I an relatively new to composting and find that there is a lot of information and advice out there to sort through.  I am trying, though.

My issue is that I want to compost all of my compostable material (as much as I can, anyway) for the environmental benefits.  I also want to have good compost for my garden.  I have read that I should not include onions, garlic and citrus in the compost, if I am using it for my garden. 

Does it make sense to have two separate compost bins?  One for my garden friendly scraps, and one for everything else?  It seems like a lot of trouble and I have not come across this idea in any of my reading.  But I do want to get the maximum benefit for both my garden and the environment.  What do you suggest. Thank you,  J. Lynch


King County New York

Expert Response

Thank you for your question, Ms./Mr. Lynch. There is certainly a lot of information out there on composting, and it can get confusing. The recommendation of not adding citrus, onions and garlic (or any other allium) applies only to worm composting, and it has to do with the micro environment in which the worms live, and the pH of the organic material and its relationship to soil microbes. You can, however, add any of these to a compost heap or three-bin structure. In the outdoors, these rarely have red wiggler worms, except at the soil level. Regular watering and turning of the composting (rotting) material will help speed up the composting process, so that it should be available to put into the garden in six months. Similarly, putting citrus and onions/garlic into a blender before adding them to the compost will help them decompose faster, and reduce the acidic pH they contain. Here is Cornell's list of reliable resources on both backyard and worm composting, where you should be able to find more help:  Cornell Cooperative Extension | Compost Resources

Good luck!
Kristena LaMar Replied February 01, 2021, 3:48 PM EST

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