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Composting At Home

Composting is a natural process where organic materials decompose and are recycled into a dark, crumbly, earth-smelling soil conditioner known as compost.

Why compost?
It’s good for the environment: composting reduces the volume of material going to landfills, and instead turns the waste into a useful product. It’s good for your plants: compost improves soil structure and texture, increases aeration, and promotes soil fertility. Saves money, too!

Compost this material: 
Vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, bread, flowers, grass clippings, corn cobs, coffee grounds & filters, tea bags, dry leaves, straw, hair, wood chips, wood ash, sawdust & shavings from regular lumber.

Don’t compost this stuff:
Food with grease or oil residue, meat scraps or bones, dairy products, used facial tissues, diseased or insect-infested plants, weed seed heads, inorganic or synthetic material, dryer lint, dog/cat feces, barbecue ash/coals, dust from pressure-treated lumber/composites/plywood.

For more information . . .
Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet on Home Composting
Master Gardeners’ Guide To Back Yard Composting

Visit the Mercer Educational Gardens demonstration site at 431A Federal City Rd., Pennington to see examples of different kinds of compost structures, and to pick up more tips on how to be a successful composter.

Curbside Compost Services

Residents of Hopewell Valley are able to subscribe to regular curbside pick-up of their food waste by two local services:

Both services provide finished compost to subscribers for use in gardens/yard.

Vermiculture (Worm Bin Composting)

With the help of worms a lot of food waste can converted to excellent organic plant food inside your home year-round. Eisenia Fetida, known as Red Wigglers or Tiger Worms (and other names), are adapted to live and prosper in decaying organic matter, such as an indoor compost bin. They are not found in the soil of a garden or elsewhere outside where temperatures can get too cold. Red Wigglers used in composting are classified as epigeic.

A happy and well-behaved gang of worms, along with their roommates (organisms like bacteria, springtails, mites who also participate in the work of composting), will generate rich castings and some slightly smelly, watery leachate. The castings are considered “black gold” and can be harvested to use in your garden, either as amendments mixed into the soil or seeped in water to produce “worm tea,” which can be used like a liquid fertilizer. The leachate is sometimes mistakenly referred to as worm tea; while it may contain some beneficial nutrients, it’s probably best to dump it into your outdoor yard waste compost pile.

The shortest path to getting started is buying a pre-fab kit including a plastic multi-tray bin, some bedding material, helpful tools, guidebook and, of course, the proper worms. For example: “Worm Café” and 1,000 red worms, available for $189.99 plus shipping from Red Worms ( 

Plans for making your own worm composting system using wood boxes, plastic tubs or buckets are abundant in books and on the web. One example is found here:

Helpful information & commercial worm composting suppliers: