Composting is recycling organic materials. Not only can you add leaves and grass clippings, but you can keep all your food waste such as fruit and vegetable trimmings. Compost is an excellent way to enrich your soil. Not only is composting earth friendly by keeping methane-making materials out of landfills, it can save you money by amending your soil with the purchase of fertilizers.
Here’s how to start composting, and what to add to the compost pile, and what not to add.
Composting: Getting Started
A pile is the easiest way to compost, although there are many compost bins on the market to choose from. Your simple compost pile can be roughly housed in a simple structure of chicken wire around it to help keep rodents out of it. You want an area of the garden in partly shady or shady spot, with an area of at least three feet wide by three feet deep, or one cubic yard.
Four elements are needed for composting: ‘browns’, ‘greens’, air, and water.
- Brown material provides carbon.
- Green material provides nitrogen.
- Air gives organisms a chance to breathe.
- Water gives the compost pile moisture, which is needed for a reaction.
Add your browns and greens with this ratio: three parts browns to one part greens. All your material should be shredded or chopped in smaller pieces. Layer well, and use varying sizes of materials in each layer. Grass clippings should be mixed with other greens, and all fruit and vegetable trimmings need to be buried down 10 inches.
Every time you add more trimmings to the pile, you need to stir it up and turn it well with a pitchfork. You need to be able to provide proper aeration. If it seems dry, add water to it. As the organic material breaks down in the pile, you may notice it getting warm or actually steaming on colder days, which is natural and indications biological action is taking place. Once the bottom material is dark in color with no remnants of your trimmings, it’s ready to be used. Screen out big chunks, separating your new compost. Place the material that hasn’t decomposed yet back into the pile and add to it again.
What to Add to a Compost Pile
- Fresh fruit and vegetable trimmings; cooked fruits and vegetables.
- Coffee grounds and spent tea leaves, coffee filters are ok to add, and teabags, too, although the staples need to be removed; remove any plastic parts to the teabag if it has any.
- Grass clippings.
- Manure from chickens, rabbits, cows, and horses.
- Simple leftover bread and grains, with NO condiments smeared or spread (for example, no leftover sandwiches, or toast with butter and jam).
- Eggshells; nutshells.
- Yard trimmings, trimmings from pruning – branches, leaves, etc.
- Houseplants; used potting soil.
- Wood chips, hay, straw.
- Shredded newspaper; cardboard rolls, CLEAN paper.
- Lint from dryer, fireplace ashes from wood.
- 100 percent cotton rags torn up.