A Starter’s Guide to Composting
Sometimes learning how to be more green can be overwhelming, especially when trying to figure out how to construct your own compost pile. So here’s a simple starter’s guide to composting.
Many garden experts will say your basic choice of compost is if you want a traditional compost pile or if you will be making compost using worms. While worm composts are relatively simple to maintain, they do add the extra cost and patience of making sure your little workers (the red wrigglers you need for the pile) are happy, healthy, and safely contained in a metal tub, wooden box, or plastic bin. This article will go through how to set up a more traditional compost pile, sans worms.
To start your efforts in living off grid, decide where you will be putting your compost pile on your property. Good options are somewhere sheltered and relatively cool. Some suggestions are near a garage or under a few trees. These locations will protect your pile from winds and too much rain. Make sure you choose someplace where you have enough room for your pile. Typically compost piles are around 3 foot wide by 3 foot deep. Along with choosing a space, you will want to decide what kind of containment you want to use.
Most gardeners opt to create a fence around their pile that is made of 4 basic wooden posts in the corners and wrapped with chicken wire that is stapled to the posts. This creates a barrier that both keeps unwanted critters out of your compost pile and keeps the materials in the pile compressed. You don’t need (or really want) a lid, as you will want to rotate the pile contents from the outside in every week or so. This helps air to circulate through the pile and helps the contents decompose more evenly.
After these few basic steps are done, it is time to build up your compost pile with the correct materials. Every compost pile is comprised of three basic elements: greens, browns, and moisture. Greens are such things as vegetable scraps, fruit cores and peels, grass clippings, and other non-greasy kitchen scraps. Do not put animal waste in your compost pile! It does not break down and will emit a pungent odor from your pile. Browns are such things as shredded cardboard, shredded newsprint, and other non-chemically treated paper, twigs, dried leaves, and straw. Moisture can either be water you add to the pile or rainwater if it is that time of year. Make sure you keep the pile moist, but not sopping wet. Too much water will make your pile slimy and smelly.
After some time, patience, and a little hard work, your pile will produce a dark, nutrient-rich compost that you can harvest. You can use this as fertilizer for any vegetable or herb garden you have. It also can be used on potted plants as a top layer over potting soil. If you are planting new trees or bushes in your yard, you can use this basic compost as a bottom layer in the hole you will dig before placing your new landscaping choices. It will add extra nutrients directly near the roots of your new tree or bush and improve its chances of quick rooting and proper growth.