Simple Guide to Composting.
Composting is often seen as a complex process that requires a great deal of time, skill and physical space to perform. The reality is that this activity is probably one of the easiest projects you can do in your garden and may take little to no time at all depending on how involved you want it to be.
Keep in mind that composting is a process that already occurs naturally. All you are doing is creating an ideal environment for it to happen. Once started, nature will take its course.
The key to successful composting is to have the proper mix of materials. You will often see these referred to as greens and browns. Likewise, there are some materials that you absolutely want to keep out of your compost pile.
|Green Materials (Greens)||Brown Materials (Browns)||Keep out of the Compost|
|Think of this as waste from the kitchen as well as fresh grass clippings. This includes fruits and veggies, coffee grounds, and the filters.||These will be items that have dried out including straw, sawdust from untreated wood, dead branches, dried grass clippings, and shredded paper / newspapers.||Generally all meat and dairy products along with weeds. Also avoid foods with oils and pet waste.|
In addition to the above, you can include the following items in your compost eggshells, plain rice, plain pasta, bread, cotton fabrics, and small amounts of ash from your fireplace.
Getting Started With Your Composting Area
Before you get started you will want to identify the area in your yard that you want to use for composting. An ideal location will receive plenty of sunlight and water. These two factors will make a significant impact on how fast your composting pile turns into rich soil. An area with extensive direct sunlight may take weeks or months to compost. An area that is heavily shaded will likely take years to fully compost.
To be most effective, you will want to dedicate a space that is several feet wide. Additionally, you may want to consider some form of fencing material that keeps pests from getting into your kitchen scraps. An alternative to building an enclosed space in your yard is to purchase one of the various self-contained composting tumblers on the market. Most of these are an excellent choice – just be sure to check out any reviews before you make a purchase.
Time for the Composting Begin
In the simplest sense you are going to fill up your designated space or your tumbler with a good mixture of browns and greens. An easy point to start is a one-to-one ratio and tweak from there. Many people add one part green to one part brown and toss in a bucket of water. Composting should not have a rotten smell to it so if you find that you are having this challenge, be sure to add in more of the dry brown materials.
Once your composting pile has been started or your tumbler has been filled you will need to occasionally aerate the material. Tumblers are simple; just follow the instructions for your apparatus. If you have a composting pile, then you will want to poke holes in the pile using a composting aerator or by using a pitchfork to turn the pile over. Shovels would work as well. The smaller the pieces you use for the composting the easier this process will be and the faster you will have nutrient rich compost to use in your garden! Additionally, occasionally watering your composting pile will help the process move along faster.
Tips to Consider When Composting
- An aerated composting pile breaks down faster.
- Keep waste from your pets out of the composting pile – using compost with pet waste can spread dangerous bacteria.
- Don’t be afraid to try different materials in your composting pile. Any packaging made from paper can go into the pile as one of your Browns.
- Keep your composting pile close to the garden and you can benefit from the nutrients leaching into the nearby soil.
- Keep meat scraps out of your pile – this would likely attract unwanted rodents and other pests.
- When you start your pile, be sure to use loose sticks and debris for the bottom. This will help with aeration.
- Use layers as you build your pile, browns first, then greens, then browns… you get the picture.
- As materials breakdown, your pile will begin to generate heat. The more heat, the more effective the process is.
Where you start is up to you – don’t be intimidated by the journey. What is most important is that you take that next step. Take action and get involved.
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