What is compost?

Compost is like dirt, but much more fertile and full of nutrients because it comes from decomposed organic matter. That organic matter can be food scraps, paper, dried leaves, and even meat and bones if you have the right compost system. There are several different types of compost, depending on how big or small it is, and what ecosystem of critters and microbes are in it. For example, compost made in a system with worms (there are also other critters, but these worms are the primary decomposers of the system) are called vermiculture or vermiculture compost. Their poop, which is what all compost actually is, critter & microbe poop, is considered one of the best fertilizers on the planet. The darker the soil, the richer and healthier it is!

What is compostable?

Technically, anything that was once living can be composted. This would include stuff you may have never thought of, like cotton clothes, leather boots, and that compostable cutlery some restaurants are now serving that look like plastic. But unless you have a large scale composting system with machinery, you’ll want to stick to the simple stuff: food scraps (excluding meat, dairy, and bones), shredded unbleached paper, dryer lint, torn cardboard, dried leaves, and old flowers.

Where can I compost in Miami/South Florida?

Currently, there’s no large scale solution for this need, but Fertile Earth is bridging the gap with our compost map and compost pick-up service. Our map shows you all the places that are composting in South Florida (that we know of. If you’d like to add one, please contact us). So if you’d like to find a place near you that you can take your compost to, check it out. If you don’t have time to drive your food scraps somewhere, we’ll pick it up at your home or office as part of our compost pick-up service.

I tried composting once, and it got really smelly, gross and/or racoons/possums/rats started showing up. IS that normal or did I do something wrong?

This is a very common scenario for most people who tried composting at home without, especially in South Florida where we have lots of “unwanted” critters. The reason is that most people have too much “greens” and not enough “browns” in their compost, and/or there isn’t enough air circulating in and through the compost. Both are addressed below:

What are “greens” and “browns” in a compost system?

This is a very simple way of describing the complex balance of nitrogen and carbon necessary for a healthy compost. Greens (aka nitrogen source for the compost), are pretty much any compostable item that is wet or still has moisture in it. For example, used coffee grinds are considered a “green” because it’s wet. Browns (aka the carbon source) are dry. Examples include mulch, dried leaves, and shredded paper. As a general rule, for every 1 cup of “greens”, you need 3 cups of “browns” to cover and absorb the moisture from the “greens”. The “greens” must be fully covered by “browns” every time you add to the pile. Under 3 inches of mulch or comparable “brown”, no pests will ruffle through your compost because they can’t smell the food underneath.

How do get enough air in and through my compost?

Depending on your system, this may mean turning it every so often with a pitchfork, or turning your tumbler. If you have a passive system (although this tid bit applies to all systems), the key is in having a variety of shapes and sizes in your organic matter. Some examples include: crumpled/balled up paper instead of flat shredded paper; leaves mixed with small branches; making sure to not flatten your egg shells.   

I live in an apartment, can I still compost?

Absolutely! You’re easiest option, is to join our compost pick-up service and let our FEF team handle the hard work for you. Another option, is to invest in a vermiculture system, which must be kept between 60-85 degrees F, so in South Florida, that means indoors is optimal. Lastly, you can take your food scraps to a local farm or site that accepts outside compost. We made a handy map to show you where some are in the area.