Compost is the very definition taking trash to treasure. By creating compost, you are making your own soil that uses everyday trash to feed your garden and plants. You can make your own compost bin and start composting today with little to no effort. Within a month or so you’ll have beautiful rich soil to add to your garden.
Many gardeners are very proud of the quality of their compost, and credit their garden harvest directly to their composting efforts. At its most basic all compost is a combination of kitchen leftovers, grass clippings, dead leaves, branches, wood chips, water, and oxygen sitting in a compost bin or pile over time and transforming into nutrient rich soil.
Compost can be made in any container or even an open spot in your backyard, but there are a few tricks of the trade to create a successful compost bin.
First: The Mixture
Every compost is created from a mixture of greens (food and grass) and browns (branches, tea bags, dryer lint, etc.). Add in water and oxygen and you’re good to go. It sounds simple but you need to know the mixture of your compost and it can take some time to perfect. Some composters will layer materials carefully while others just mix it all together. Regardless of whether you’re a layer-er or a mixer, you will need more brown material than green.
Here’s a great list to get you started on what you can compost, and what you can’t:
- Vegetable scraps
- Grass Clippings
- Coffee Grounds
- tea leaves and tea bags
- animal manure
- moldy food
- urine (gross I know)
- banana peels
- campfire ashes
- old pet food
- Dry leaves
- shredded newspaper
- toilet paper tubes
- twigs and small branches
- dryer lint
It is very important that you never add anything fatty or animal based to compost. This includes bones, meats, grease, even salad dressings are a big no-no. These items will attract bugs and other pests, which you don’t want in your compost.
If you can, break up your compost ingredients into small pieces. Chop up your food items, break down your branches, anything you can do to This helps them to decompose faster. It’s not a necessity, but it definitely helps.
After you’ve added your ingredients, add in a bit of potting soil. This is recommended to speed the process along and works as a great compost “starter.” Once you’ve added everything together, add a bit of water and you’re ready to go.
Second: The Rotation
Every few days it’s important to rotate or mix the compost. This is to ensure oxygen reaches all the parts. Some compost bins are designed to be flipped over with a turn of a handle.
If you create an open bin, you’ll need to turn the compost with a pitchfork or shovel. The bacterium that primarily breaks down the compost is aerobic. Rotating your compost will help accelerate the breakdown process. If you don’t rotate it enough, you can ruin the compost before it even gets started.
Rotating also helps to keep flies and wasps at bay. If you dump in food leftovers, they are bound to be attracted. Simply rotating will solve the problem by making sure that straw, leaves, manure, or just plain old dirt. Is on top.
Third: The Bin
There are dozens of choices for compost bins that work great. Popular options include:
· A purchased bin, usually made of plastic.
· T posts in a circle or square then wrapped in wire mesh.
· Bins built out of pallets or fencing rails.
· Roofing tin bins
The trick is to find one that is easy to access and simple to work with. You’ll need to access your compost container on an almost-daily basis. You’ll be adding things to it, feeding it, rotating it, watering it, like a plant. You don’t want it in the very back of your yard in a giant bin you can’t reach.
When choosing a bin, think about the year-round season in your area. If you don’t want to walk outside during the winter, you might want a small covered compost bin you can keep inside. That way you only have to go outside when it gets full.
You can create a compost bin out of almost anything. Old trash cans, pallets, 2x4s, or even just keep the pile loose and open in a corner of your property. With bio-degradable compost bags, you can keep compost contained inside and use an existing container you already have. The bag and compost all go into the outside compost bin together.
Fourth: The Moisture
Your compost should be moist at all times, but not overly wet. If it is too dry you can just pour some water and green materials to moisten it. If it is too wet, add some brown materials and mix or rotate it.
Watch for Mistakes
Compost is a very simple process, but there are still some mistakes to be sure you avoid.
1. Know where your stuff came from.
Just because you see fresh manure doesn’t mean you should add it to the compost pile. Be aware of where it came from. If it comes from a field full of weeds, it’s going to great more weeds in your compost.
2. Don’t Overfeed.
Enthusiastic composters will try to throw anything and everything into their compost bin. Before you go stealing leftover table scraps from your neighbors, work with just what you produce on a day to day basis. If you try to overfeed it can’t keep up and will start to smell terrible.
3. Water Adequately.
Too many over-enthusiastic composters pour gallons of water on their piles for fear of letting it dry out. Negligent composters forget about moisture and end up frying their ingredients. Find a happy medium by adding moisture a little at a time and avoid flooding them too much.
If you are a gardener, chances are you have thought about starting a compost bin. Not only is it great for the planet, but learning how to start composting can help you create “garden gold”. If you keep the ingredients good, the soil moist, and the pile turned on a regular basis, you should have usable compost in 5-6 weeks. Simple as that!
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