Ready to cut down on your household and yard waste, save some money, and greatly improve the quality of your soil?
Trying to grow healthy flowers and veggies?
Composting will help you to do just that. It is also a fun thing for the kids to be involved in.
WHAT IS COMPOST EXACTLY
Some may be wondering what compost really is or what it’s going to do for you…here I go over “3 Reasons Why You Should Start Composting Today”. It is basically the decomposition of organic matter and when it has been composted completely, will provide you with a super nutrient-rich soil blend that will make your garden very happy.
“SPOT AND STRUCTURE”
Firstly, you need to find an area outside for your compost pile…(from personal experience I would choose a sunny location). A sunny spot will speed up the process but you will most likely need to spray it down every so often, especially if you have hot summers. I have tried the shade and it just stayed too wet.
As far as “the structure” goes…get creative, and have fun with it. Your structure can have 3 sides or 4 whatever you choose. What I would suggest is to make it easy to disassemble or build it with lightweight materials so you can just lift it off the pile when it is done composting.
You can also just make a pile, structure-free, which I am currently doing…..my lazy way but it works.
You can also use a container of some sort. There are all sorts of contraptions for sale for this very purpose. Our other compost pile is currently a metal garbage can with holes all over it, which so far is working pretty well….I’ll let you know. Update on the can…didn’t work so well, not enough ventilation.
“Materials to compost”
So you have your spot picked out and your structure or container ready. Now for what to compost and what not.
Compost requires 3 things – carbon, nitrogen, and water.
Let’s start with what’s left over after you’ve worked in the yard, like dead leaves, twigs (I choose not to use twigs and such as I don’t like anything chunky in my end product, and if the twigs are too big they will not break down as quick as I like), grass clippings, and vegetable garden plants. )Place all those big sticks and limbs in a corner somewhere to break down, it offers habitat as well.
Just let me say…you can compost twigs and sticks (lots of people do…like my husband, that’s why he has built me a sifter, to use on the end product), it just may take a bit longer. In the beginning, I said don’t put weeds in your compost. But I have currently been throwing in all my weeds in.
If you let the compost get hot enough for long enough it will kill and decompose just about anything…except for the diseased plants, I would maybe hold off on those. “They,” say, that some diseases and fungus etc can survive pretty high temps.
Then we have all the kitchen waste… food scraps – from veggies to fruits to coffee grounds with the filter. When it comes to collecting the kitchen scraps I just use an empty coffee container and keep it under the sink.
“They,” say not to use dairy, meat, or oils but this is really because it can draw in critters or create a stench or not break down enough before it is used. So, use if you please
As far as recyclables go – Paper…shredded newspaper works well (doesn’t have to be shredded but it will break down faster if it is.) You can also use some cardboard if you like – I would cut it up.
You can use straw or hay and if you keep chickens – you now have a place for all the poop. But when using chicken poop you need to make sure it has composted completely, especially if you are using said compost for a vegetable garden.
I personally don’t use cat or dog waste but to each their own on that one.
One last thing; “they,” say not to add onions and garlic to your compost as this repels the worms. I am currently experimenting with this and will update you.
The EPA states it well here – Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
“Once you start composting”
Now once you start to add material, you can shoot to do it in layers and try for somewhat equal amounts of food scraps and grass clippings to dry yard waste(if not..then no big deal, it will all compost just the same.) Be sure to cover the food scraps (the main reason is to keep away the critters.)
Remember for the compost to work it needs ventilation (which is why chicken wire would work well as one of your building materials) and moisture. So if it’s been dry and hot make sure to keep it moist so it can break down all the organic material quicker.
“When will my compost be ready”
Once you get your pile where you want it – you can let it sit for 6 months then flip it to see how it’s progressing or you can flip it more often or not…just let it sit, it’s just personal preference.
The length of time your compost pile needs really depends on the size, what you put in it, if you flip or rotate, if there’s good ventilation and if you have kept it watered. I think 12 months is usually the time it needs….composting is about patience (as my husband likes to say.)
And remember earthworms are good….you want them going in and out of your compost. (In the pic above, the top one is the finished product, the bottom is just kind of showing a progression of decomposition from left to right.)
FUN FOR THE KIDS
My son is 4 1/2 years old and loves to help with the compost (as you can see above.) So, we found a 5-gallon bucket and drilled some holes in it. Painting it barn-red was his idea….not a bad paint job for a little guy. And then of course we added a little straw, newspaper, and watermelon (the watermelon went from us to the goats and chickens then into the bin.)
So, now he is responsible for his own little compost.
“GO GET STARTED”
Ok…so now you know how simple it is to start and have a compost. You will undoubtedly feel better about yourself because instead of throwing all your kitchen and yard matter away you are just relocating it to a spot in your yard and before you know it you will have (what is referred to as “black gold”) to garden with.