Composting offers many benefits. It is a simple method of transforming organic waste into a rich soil additive for your garden. Your compost pile can be as simple or involved as you’d like for it to be. Regardless of which option you choose, you will be contributing to keeping waste out of local landfills. All you have to do is pile up all of those grass clippings you’ve mowed and leaves that you’ve raked, combine it with food waste, and microbes in the soil will naturally break down the waste into fertilizer.
The composting process generally takes between 2 and 6 months, and you will have to invest a small amount of maintenance into your compost pile. However, the end result will be black gold for your garden – all for free.
Here are 7 easy steps to get you started on the road to composting!
1. Find the right location for your compost pile. It should be far enough away that you cannot smell odors from your backdoor, but close enough that it provides easy access. Ideally, the location should be out of direct sunlight and away from roof drainage.
2. Decide what kind of enclosure you are going to keep your compost pile in. Although you can make your own enclosure for your compost pile, there are a wide range of models that are designed specifically for composting. Some, like compost tumblers, are designed to speed the composting process along.
3. Follow the recipe. Composting is a bit like following a recipe. The right amounts of the right ingredients need to be mixed together. Your compost pile needs to be comprised of an even mixture of “green” materials and “brown” materials. Green materials, like fruits and vegetables and grass clippings, are rich in nitrogen, while brown materials, including twigs, leaves, and shredded newspaper, have high levels of carbon. Greens and browns need to be layered on top of one another in even amounts. Bulky items will first need to be chopped up into smaller pieces.
4. Know your ingredients. By and large, the beneficial and hardworking microbes that transform organic waste into rich fertilizer have a hard time breaking down animal products, including dairy. Items that you should avoid adding to your compost pile include meat scraps, oils and fats, and cheese. Don’t treat your compost pile like a trashcan. You should also avoid adding animal poo to the pile. Additionally, you should not add yard debris that has been treated with pesticides, as these pesticides could kill the microbes in your compost.
5. Turn it over. If you have a compost tumbler, the drum will need to be turned 2 to 4 times every 3 to 4 days. If you have a standard compost bin or open air pile, it’s time to break out the shovel and pitchfork. Turning your compost pile regularly is important because it evenly distributes the moisture and air in the pile. It also lessens the chances that your compost pile will develop a stinky odor. If the microbes in the pile don’t receive enough oxygen, they’ll begin to produce hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.
6. Keep it moist. Proper amounts of water is an important component of successful composting. While your pile should be damp, it shouldn’t be soaking wet. This will prevent the microbes from getting the oxygen that they need. With each new layer of ingredients that you add, the pile should be misted with a watering can. It’s often hard to make yourself water your compost pile in the cold of winter or the high heat of summer, but it must be done.
7. Check to see if it’s done! Finally, you will need to exercise some patience. Depending on the climate where you live and your maintenance methods, it will take around two to six months for your compost pile to mature. Mature compost will closely resemble organic, rich soil. It should not have any large chunks of material and should be crumbly in texture. Once it’s ready though, it’s time to dig in! Your plants will thank you.
If you are serious about composting, you are going to need a good compost bin or tumbler. Check out our compost bin reviews to help you decide.