Composting can be one of the best and most rewarding things you do for your garden, making plants more healthy and robust. Plus, it’s extremely easy. Not to mention, composting keeps waste out of landfills: always a good thing. While tools like thermometers and starters yield the best results, they’re not necessary.
We’ve compiled three steps to creating your compost pile as well as a handful of tips to maintain it. You’ll be on your way to homemade compost in no time.
1. Choose Your Container
The type and size of your compost container will depend on how much compost you need, the size of your garden and how much space you have available. Outside in a sunny spot, aim to have at least a 3’ x 3’ bin (you can keep a small bin in the kitchen for green waste and empty it into your larger one weekly). You’ll be turning the material weekly, so buy a tumbler if you don’t think you’ll be able to rotate it or want to make the job easier. Otherwise go for a stationary bin if you’ll have a lot of green waste or an open air pile if you’ll have a lot of brown. Tumblers also have the upside of composting in weeks, not months or years, by retaining more heat and moisture.
2. Ingredient Mix
Aim for 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Or 30:1 brown to green waste. Shredded newspapers, sawdust, wood chippings, dry leaves and more constitute brown waste, while green waste is made up of kitchen waste like egg shells, coffee grounds, tea, fruit peels and also untreated grass clippings. Skip meat, fish, dairy and pet waste because this will attract pests.
3. Minor Care
Compost piles are very low maintenance, but you should add material regularly to feed the bacteria. Make sure you’re adding green and brown each time. Turn the pile every week or two to aerate it and make sure it’s damp so the bacteria will keep doing their job. Your compost is done when it’s dark, crumbly and smells like soil. If you’re not sure, do the baggie test. Place a bit of compost in a bag and take a wiff. Then let the bag sit sealed for a few days and after, take a wiff again. The compost’s smell shouldn’t have changed and if it has (it’s stinkier), then it needs a few more days.
5 Extra Tips for Composting:
- Don’t start too small. Compost needs a critical mass to get going, so try your best to get a decent amount of material into your bin (the amount will depend on the bins size).
- Combine different materials for a good mix of nutrients.
- If you are using an open air pit, layer organic fertilizer or previous compost with your waste and a little water to make it damp (not soggy) until your pile is 3-4 feet high.
- If you’re lacking in brown materials during summer when green production is high, store pine needles and other brown materials in trash bags or empty garbage cans to use later.
- Be patient! The bacteria needs time to work it’s magic, but we promise it will be worth the wait!