Thursday, March 22, 2012

How To Start Composting

In an earlier post I told you that I had bought a compost bin and set it up near our soon to be vegetable garden.  I know I'll need to add fertilizer to my garden.  Why not make it myself?  I have all the necessary ingredients to make wonderful compost to fertilize my garden.  Let me share with you how simple it is to make your own compost.

What you'll need to start composting:

1 - A Compost Bin:  I ordered my composter online and had it delivered.  You may decide you want to make your own.  If you have enough room and a large tarp to cover it, you could even make a compost heap.  I like the model I ordered because you add the scraps and yard waste from the top and remove the compost from the bottom through a handy dandy sliding door.

2 - Yard and Kitchen Waste:  While you're waiting for your compost bin to be delivered or built, you'll want to start collecting green and brown wastes.

Brown waste is twigs, dry leaves, dry grass clippings, paper towel and toilet paper rolls (cut up), shredded newspaper, hay and straw, dryer lint and dead houseplants.  

Green waste is kitchen waste and fresh yard and grass clippings.  Make sure all yard waste and grass clippings are NOT treated with pesticides.   Kitchen waste includes:  eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea and tea bags, vegetables and fruits, peelings and cores ( no left over spoiled salads that have oils on them though), corn cobs and husks, dry bread/toast (nothing on it) and plain pasta (again with nothing on it, no oils or sauces).  

I keep a ceramic compost crock by my sink to hold all the scraps and waste.  I like it because it has a lid which holds a filter to keep odors and fruit flies away.

Things NOT to add to the compost include meat, dairy products and any food with oil or sauce on it.  Pet waste is definitely to be avoided.

3 - Soil:  You'll need  a layer of dirt to add to your compost bin initially.

4 - A pitchfork and a hose (water)

You're ready to start making compost!  To start with we're going to make 4 layers.

1st Layer:  6 inches of twigs.  This will help to add some air flow to the bottom of the compost pile.

2nd Layer:  Brown Waste.  I used dry leaves, because we have an abundant supply.

3rd Layer:  Green Waste.  Lots of coffee grounds in mine.  It's looking rather disgusting.

Layer 4:  Soil.  Dirt.  Spread a layer on top to add some micro organisms to help everything decompose faster.  It will also help bury the kitchen waste and hide it from pests.

That's it!  How easy was that?  Now all you have to do is keep adding your waste to the compost bin.  Always add an equal amount of green and brown wastes each time you add, and turn your compost with the pitchfork.  Get in there and stir it around a bit.  This will keep odors down and pests away.  If you get flies, make sure you are burying all the food waste under the brown waste.  Add a layer of soil if flies are a real problem, or if you get bad odors.  If the pile seems dry you can add some water, but don't make it too wet.  It shouldn't be soggy, but damp like a wrung out face cloth.

Nature will take over.  The compost pile will heat up and start breaking down what we add to it and turn it into fertilizer.  It will get hot.  This is a good thing as it indicates that the decomposition process is taking place.  If your's doesn't seem hot, don't worry.  It is still working, just at a slower pace.
Your compost will be ready when it looks and smells like earth.  It should be moist and crumbly.  The whole process will take a few months.  I can hardly wait.

Let me know what you think, or if you have any composting tips or tricks.

Happy Gardening!

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