Kitchen compost is an earthy material, made with scraps of food, that is used to nurture and improve soil. The goals of making kitchen compost include recycling, improving natural and cost-effective gardening practices, and improving the environment by reducing the amount of methane gas released into the air from food rotting in landfills. Approximately one-third of the space in landfills is used to store yard and kitchen waste, which can instead be used to create soil-enriching compost.
Kitchen compost provides aeration, and improved structure and texture for soil. Additionally, kitchen compost is helpful to all types of soil, as it aids in breaking up thick, clay soils, while assisting sandy soils in retaining water. Microorganisms, which help soil to stay balanced and healthy, feed off of the organic matter provided by kitchen compost. These microorganisms naturally produce important nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, avoiding the need for commercial soil additives.
Refuse that is often used in kitchen composting includes remains of fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable and fruit peels such as those from carrots or bananas, egg shells, and tea bags. While meats and high-fat foods can be used in compost, they generally take a long time to decompose, put off a long lasting odor, and tend to attract insects. Dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, can be used, but are often placed deeply into the outside compost heap to prevent the attraction of animals and insects.
Generally those who make kitchen compost keep a small container in or near the kitchen to store scraps. Compost crocks are glazed receptacles used for storing food scraps and often come with a filter to absorb odors. Once a fair amount of kitchen scraps have been collected, they are added to a larger compost heap in the yard, and covered with several inches of brown material like grass clippings, leaves, or other yard waste.
Compost will eventually decompose when left alone, but it may take a year or more. Many people choose to actively participate in their composting by adding to it frequently, ensuring moisture and light, and turning or mixing the compost often. Compost that has completed the decomposition process is a deep brown color, crumbly, and smells of earth. Some of the yard waste ingredients, such as leaves, may be noticeable, but large particles should not be visible. Kitchen scraps should be completely incorporated into the compost before adding to garden plants or soil, as the chemical balance of the soil can be negatively affected by kitchen compost that is not full decomposed.