Posted on Jan 26, 2016 | by S Mason
You’ve read all about it, some of your friends may even have compost pails in their kitchen, but you haven’t jumped in just yet. There’s no time like the present and nothing could be easier, even for the laziest of gardeners. Composting at home offers many benefits including the ability to prevent waste by putting food scraps to use. Composting also means preventing food scraps in the disposal ending up in the wastewater stream to be treated by your municipality. And you’re helping your plants grow by providing them a nutrient rich environment to grow in. Despite the simplicity of composting, below are a few guidelines to get started.
To create an environment in which organic material can be broken down quickly and efficiently, you need to keep in mind the colors brown and green. Brown material is carbon rich and includes, wood chips, bark, pine straw, and dried leaves. Green material provides nitrogen and includes kitchen scraps and grass clippings. With time and experience you’ll learn the right ratio of brown to green, but ideally it should be around 25-30 Carbon : 1 Nitrogen. An easy gauge is to use about 2-3 parts brown material to 1 part green.
Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes and many people choose to make their own. They don’t have to be fancy – you can even start a compost pile directly on the ground and cover it with a tarp. It may not be the sightliest, but it will work. Many people do find it helpful though to keep a compost bin in the kitchen to collect food scraps. Once it’s full, the waste can be added to the compost bin outdoors.
To start your compost pile, place around 6 inches of brown material in your compost bin. Larger items like branches on the bottom allow for more air circulation. Top this with around 2-3 inches of green material – kitchen scraps and grass clippings. Keep layering like this until you’ve created a pile about 4-5 feet tall and let it sit for a couple of days. After two days, mix all the layers together thoroughly. You can add to your compost pile whenever you have a more waste but try and add brown material with green material to keep a good balance of carbon and nitrogen. The composting process can take months to years depending on the conditions. As long as you mix your compost occasionally to allow airflow you don’t have to do much else. You should be aware of a couple things though.
First, the level of moisture is very important to keeping your compost bin healthy. The process of breaking down all that organic material requires lots of micro and macro-organisms, all of which need air, water and nutrients to thrive. The air is provided when you turn over your compost pile every couple of weeks. The moisture can be more of a problem though. With too much water, your pile can begin to take on an unpleasant odor. To remedy this, try adding more brown material – crushed leaves, shrub prunings, shredded paper or cardboard, or hay- to the mix. Sunlight can also help dry it out as well. Once you’ve gotten back to a better balance, be careful not to add too much water or moisture to your bin. If your pile appears too dry or dusty the composting process will most definitely slow. One solution is to add a little water to your bin. You don’t want to drench it, but a few squirts from a hose may help. Another idea is to add nitrogen and moisture rich kitchen scraps or grass clippings to the mix.
With time and just a little bit of work, you can have chemical free fertilizer to enrich your garden and improve your soil all while preventing household waste.
Many things can be composted including crushed egg shells, shredded paper, lint from the dryer, hair (pet or human), dead flower arrangements, nut shells, and most food scraps. However, you should avoid composting meat products, dairy or oils because they can produce odors and attract animals.