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Issue: February 28

Composting can be almost odorless.

Q. At your recent gardening program you discussed composting. As I mentioned then, I have a small yard and do not want the odor of compost bothering me or my neighbors. You briefly mentioned a method in which I can compost without generating noxious odors. Will you describe that method?

A. There are actually several ways to recycle kitchen and garden wastes with minimal odors. The one I mentioned in passing was the technique of "post-hole composting" In this technique used kitchen wastes are buried in the garden in postholes dug for this purpose. A single hole (dug without injuring tree or other plant roots) can receive kitchen wastes (the ones more likely to generate odors). If the hole is deep enough (18 to 24 inches) it may be able to consume a week's worth of kitchen scraps. It should be covered with a paving stone or other covering to keep insects, rodents, and larger animals out until it is almost full. You can also throw a shovel of moist soil over the top of each addition to further minimize odors. When the hole is nearly full, water it well, and then finish filling the last half-foot with soil. Keep some additional soil handy because the soil will sink as the kitchen wastes decompose in the hole. Occasional watering to maintain moisture in that area will enhance the rate of composting and also benefit roots of plants that enter that area. These roots will extract nutrients from the decomposing kitchen wastes and the plants will benefit. Earthworms will also be attracted to your garden when you provide them with this source of food that they enjoy.

Another technique for recycling kitchen wastes into useful soil amendments for your garden include "vermin-composting". This is a bit more complicated but also an excellent way to recycle kitchen wastes. Some people raise red worms to eat their kitchen wastes in a plastic bin under their sink. They claim there is no noticeable odor generated, but they brag about the excellent worm castings produced to enhance growth of their gardens and houseplants. This from kitchen wastes which would have been sent to speed up the filling of the landfill. More information about vermicomposting is available on the NMSU College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (formerly College of Agriculture and Home Economics) web site. Look for NMSU Extension Publication H-164 "Vermicomposting" at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-164.pdf.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h.

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd. SW
Los Lunas, NM 87031

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.