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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about compost.


CURWOOD: Farmers and gardeners call it "brown gold." It's celebrated by poets, even noted in the Bible. It's compost. And as leaves everywhere fall to the ground, it's time to get in on the action. The breakdown of organic matter occurs naturally over time. Composting just speeds up the process. The recipe relies on four easy-to-find ingredients: carbon, nitrogen, air, and water. Carbon comes from brown things like dry leaves, nitrogen from green things like grass clippings and food wastes. Combine brown and green about 30 to 1, add some water, turn occasionally, and then wait. The mixture cooks itself. Temperatures inside an average back yard compost pile can exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is the best natural fertilizer around. Each year an average household can produce about 400 pounds of fertilizer. Otherwise, all that yard and food waste goes to a landfill, where it takes up more than a quarter of the space in the nation's dumps. As the poet Walt Whitman wrote, "Behold this compost. Behold it well." And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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