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A Starter’s Guide to Composting

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A Starter’s Guide to Composting

A Starter’s Guide to CompostingA Starter’s Guide to Composting

Do-it-yourself project – Making compost

Why compost?

Maintaining an organic compost pile provides heaps of benefits that range from ecological to economical. As a natural fertilizer, it is a free alternative to pricey fertilizers and plant food. Cities are growing more reluctant to pick up yard waste, making the compost pile the best use of grass clippings and leaves. With minimal time, you can help decrease waste going to landfills, fertilize your garden, and eliminate smelly trash cans waiting for garbage day.

Setting up your own compost pile can be as easy or involved as you like. Depending on your level of commitment, rich, dark humus can take as little as a week or as much as a year. If you’re an avid gardener, you’ll want to employ all of the following tips to get your compost as quickly as possible. Should you be more interested in a useful manner of waste disposal, just keep a few basic suggestions in mind and let nature do the work. While suitable for growing chickpeas, this hummus should not be spread on pita bread.

Logistical details and statistical specs

The bigger the pile, the more heat it will retain and the faster it will decompose. A temperature between 104F and 131F is ideal. The pile is operating at top efficiency in this range and should not be disturbed. You can feel the heat with your hand or measure it with a compost thermometer. If you are composting with an exposed bin, it should be no smaller than 3-feet by 3-feet, but commercial compost bins are insulated and can be smaller. To make it really easy, get a compost tumbler so turning your mixture isn’t such a chore.

Making compost consists of a simple ratio of two components. Shoot for one part nitrogen-rich, mostly green ingredients found mainly in your kitchen. These include all your vegetable scraps as well as coffee grounds, grass clippings, and egg shells. The bulk of the mix, about 25 parts, should be carbon-rich, fibrous, brown stuff like dried leaves, straw, and wood chips.

When adding materials, your main concern should be to avoid clumping the same things together. Spread thin layers of green between larger layers of brown and watch it compress over time. If the compost is too compact or not warm in the center, give it a thorough tossing while adding a little water. It should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. A rotten-egg stench will tell you if it is too wet.

In or out?

As you’ll see, most things are pretty acceptable, but some are quite unexpected.

Toss it in

Leaves: Chop them up or mow them for quicker results. Leave out poison ivy and poison oak, black walnut, and eucalyptus.

    • Pine Needles: Chop these up too.
    • Grass Clippings: Be sure to mix these with browns to prevent an awful stench.
    • Kitchen Scraps: Crush your egg shells, coffee grounds and filters are great.
    • Wood Ashes: Leave out coal and charcoal ashes, too much sulfur and iron.
    • Garden Refuse: Anything but what’s mentioned above. Be cautious with some weeds, which may require an internal temperature of 150F completely kill.
    • Spoiled Hay or Straw: These provide lots of nitrogen and allow air to circulate.
    • Manure: Anything from a vegetarian animal.

Didn’t Expect These: Shred your newspaper and cardboard, wash the salt off your seaweed, dryer lint, hair, it’s all good.

Leave it out

    • Dog and cat feces: Too many dangerous pathogens.
    • Meat, grease, oil: Attracts animals.
    • Lime: Can kill the microbes that are doing the work.

Start Composting


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