Your Garden Called — It Wants You To Start Composting

The simplest and cleanest way to perk up a lackluster landscape is with natural organic material. And it’s more accessible than you think. Just look to your food scraps and yard waste.

Did you know that food scraps and yard waste make up about 30 percent of what we toss in the garbage? Imagine if you composted these materials instead…

You would not only reduce methane emissions from landfills (and lower your carbon footprint), but you would also give your garden a nutrient-rich boost and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

Although relatively simple to do, many people — myself included — really struggle with composting. Perhaps because they’ve heard it’s smelly or attracts pests. Or that it requires a lot of space. Or, maybe they just don’t know how to get started.

To help you (and me) get started, I’ve outlined a few types of composting, along with the pros and cons of each. Every method will have its own variations and there are some basic dos, don’ts and whys of composting to keep in mind.

Of course, there are plenty of online resources for getting started in composting so it would be helpful to dig a little deeper before deciding which method will work best for you.

Pickup Service

You know those green bins from the City of San Antonio? Those are specifically for your composting cause! Collected on the same day as your recycling items, your organic materials are hauled away and broken down into nutrient-rich compost, which you can then get for free from the city. (Can’t you just hear your garden rejoicing?)

The city has a comprehensive list of items that can be put into the compost bin, plus a list of tricky items that require special preparation before they are composted. Visit their website to learn more about what to do.

If you live in a community that has private trash services, you have the option of paying for a private composting service. The newest one in town is the Composting Queens, but there are others.

Hot Composting

This is perhaps the most mystifying type of composting, at least to me. This method is considered ‘fast’ because the pile reaches temperatures up to 140 degrees, effectively breaking down the material much faster.

While there are fewer rules about what you can put into a hot composting pile, the guidelines for how to maintain the pile are pretty specific. For instance, you must keep it from getting too dry and balance ‘greens’ (nitrogen) and ‘browns’ (carbon). Items should be layered and turned every so often, and once your pile is large enough to start breaking down you need to start a new pile.

Hot composting is great if you produce a lot of organic material, have space to maintain the pile and have use for all the soil you’ll end up with when you’re done.

Cold Composting

This is the simplest method of composting. You just add items to a pile in your yard and let nature take its course. This method has less upkeep, but there are more rules about what can go into the pile. And, it will take much longer (up to two years) for the materials to break down so you — and your compost-craving garden — will have to be patient.

Ready to give composting a try? Your landscape will thank you.

Picture of Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton is a Planner with the SAWS Conservation department. She is passionate about bats and native plants, with a particular fondness for horseherb! Sarah has completed certifications through Texas Master Naturalist and Native Plant Society. When she isn't working on her research on the use of native grasses for uptaking pollutants at UTSA, she can be found making stained glass or hanging out with her two Chihuahuas.
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