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Composting: the Economic and Environmental Benefits in Iowa

Backyard composting can control weeds and prevent soil erosion. (Pixabay)
Backyard composting can control weeds and prevent soil erosion. (Pixabay)
April 4, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa – While it may seem like a stinky thing to do, experts say composting is very beneficial for yards, the environment and the pocketbook.

Trish Radke, program coordinator for Metro Waste Authority, says Iowans who want to improve the conditions of their backyards should look into composting.

"It's a natural soil amendment, and it can work as a alternative to lawn chemicals and fertilizers,” she explains. “It's used a lot to improve soil quality. It increases capacity for the soil to actually hold water and nutrients, and it helps control weeds and prevents erosion."

Any organic material including grass clippings, dead leaves, flowers and food waste can be used in a compost pile.

Radke says when combined, these materials break down and create compost that can be used as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.

To create compost, Radke says all that's needed is air, water and organic material kept in a bin or a pile. The length of the process depends on how much the soil is turned and mixed.

"Turning and mixing is what helps the material to break down faster,” she explains. “So if you're someone who's turning once a week, it could be maybe three to four months. If you're someone who maybe tends to your pile once a month, it could take up to a year for the compost to be ready to be used."

Radke adds that many people are taking to backyard composting for environmental and economic reasons.

"People are understanding that those yard waste trucks are out picking up the yard waste from the curbs,” she states. “If we can reduce the amount of trucks on the road, and then also just the disposal cost for purchasing the lawn bags."

The Environmental Protection Agency and Metro Waste Authority have information online about the basics of composting, along with troubleshooting tips.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA