Composting with Kids
Gardening and kids are a natural mix. Think about it: Sun, dirt, digging, water. It’s an easy recipe for outdoor fun for both adults and kids, with gorgeous results to show for it.
Creating a compost bin is a kid-friendly gardening activity that isn’t hard to do and is full of Earth science lessons–decomposition, recycling, life cycles. Get started with these tips:
1. Location: Select a convenient but out of the way spot near your garden or yard for your bin. Being close to a water source is preferable.
2. Container: No need to buy an expensive bin. Compost can simply be made in a pile. You’d probably want to keep it contained, however. You can make a compost “cage” out of chicken wire, cement blocks, bricks or any number of other materials that you might choose. The thing to keep in mind is that your container should be about 4 feet square and 4 feet high. Also, having a side that opens or is removable makes it easy for you to turn the heap and remove finished compost.
3. Collecting ingredients: An even mix of green and brown materials are your basic ingredients, along with water and air. Green stuff includes fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, living grass clippings, weeds, and other plant parts. This can be collected and stored for short periods of time in a garbage can with a lid. Brown stuff includes dead, dried plant parts, pine needles, straw, and wood shavings. On the “Do Not Use” list: Diseased plants, meat, bones, dairy products, fats, oils, and pet droppings.
4. Begin layering: Once enough ingredients are collected, start building your heap with a 6-inch layer of brown stuff, followed by a layer of green stuff. Sprinkle in a shovelful of soil to add micro-organisms. Continue layering until the bin is full. Water and slightly mix each layer as you go along.
5. Moving it along: If you did nothing to this mixture, eventually it would become compost–though it could take a year. To help the heap break down faster, stir it every few days to reintroduce oxygen to the pile. Also be sure that the mixture stays as damp as a wrung-out sponge. You should have rich compost within six weeks.
6. Using compost: There are several ways to use your compost. Use it as mulch, protecting the soil around garden plants, helping it to retain water, keeping out weed seeds and providing rich nutrients when it rains or plants are watered. Compost can also be mixed into soil when planting new plants in garden bed. Mix it with some sand to create a wonderful potting soil.
By Terri Hall-Jackson, Care2 contributing writer