Start Composting!

The world of composting can feel overwhelming.

Doing a online search can lead you to about a million different ways to compost – using bins, piles, you name it! 

Once I started exploring the how-tos of composting, I realized how complicated things could get, and so I wanted to put together a simple guide for methods of composting that will hopefully make it easier for you to get started.

Composting is great because it gives purpose to your food waste and scraps from cooking – it creates rich, healthy soil to use in your garden. And best of all, it reduces the amount of food that heads to the dump every week.

Here’s how to get started:

Learn how to balance your nitrogen and carbon.

The nitrogen/carbon ratio in your compost pile or bin is very important to producing usable compost! You need a lot more carbon than nitrogen to make sure your pile is healthy.

  • Carbon-rich items: branches, stems, dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, bark dust or sawdust pellets, shredded brown paper bags, corn stalks, coffee filters, coffee grounds, conifer needles, egg shells, straw, peat moss, wood ash
  •  Nitrogen-rich items: manure, food scraps, green lawn clippings, kitchen waste, and green leaves

 Know what NOT to put in your compost pile.

You might be surprised to find that your compost pile is it’s own little ecosystem and it won’t break down certain items. 

Don’t compost dairy, oil, fats, meat, bones, or fish scraps (they will attract pests), garden weeds, pet manure, banana and orange peel (they are high in pesticides!), large amounts of sawdust (you don’t want it to clump!) 

Choose your compost “style.”

You can compost indoors and outdoors! It all depends on how much space you need! 

There are a number of different ways to compost:

  • A compost tumbler.
    A bin you can purchase that is designed to allow you to turn your compost.
  • A compost pile.
    Start your compost on bare earth and allow worms to aerate the compost.
  • A compost bin.
    Buy a large garbage bin and drill aeration holes or a premade one at Home Depot (or sometimes your local municipality will give them out, I got one several years ago for free from my city).
  • An indoor compost bin, or worm bin.
    Two bins, one small and one large to store under the kitchen sink.

Depending on your space or yard size you can choose any of these options to start your compost heap.

Start your compost with sticks and twigs.

This keeps your pile or bin aerated and from moisture building at the bottom.

Add your compost materials in layers. 

Alternate with wet and dry items. Your moist items will be your nitrogen rich food scraps and your dry items will be leaves, straw or wood ashes. 

Add manure to activate your pile.

Green manure consists of clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, grass clippings) or you can use traditional manure, there should be options at your local Home Depot type store. This will make your compost pile start working and breaking down food waste!

Keep compost moist. 

In a cooler, snowy climate this isn’t a big concern, but if you live in a dry climate, make sure to keep your pile damp.

Make sure you cover your pile.

Use a lid if you have your compost in a bin or a piece of wood or tarp if you have a pile. Covering will keep in moisture and heat, which are required for composting. You also don’t want your pile to get soggy with rain or moisture. Keep it moist but not too moist.

Turn your compost.

Every few weeks turn your pile or roll your bin to add oxygen and make sure to aerate your materials. This will help your compost to break down and turn into beautiful, rich soil.

Once your compost has been started, it’s less important to add things in layers and you can start mixing in your kitchen scraps and building up a nice pile of compost to use for next summer’s garden beds.

I hope this how-to guide will help you get started on your composting journey. It may all feel a bit overwhelming, but remember to start small. Throw vegetable scraps in the freezer to get things started if you’re not quite ready to buy a bin or start a pile.

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