If you are aiming to live a more sustainable life, composting is a great way to make a direct impact. Composting not only keeps organic waste out of the landfill, it returns valuable organic fertilizer to the earth.
To gardeners, compost is often called, “black gold” because of the many ways it benefits the garden. Using compost in the garden adds nutrients and improves the soil structure helping your plants grow healthy. The best way to find quality compost is to make it yourself.
When we mentioned to my parents that we wanted to start making compost, they offered us two giant wooden boxes, coffins if you will, that were sitting at their cabin. Knowing they’d be perfect compost boxes, we arranged to pick them up.
By “pick them up,” I actually mean more of a dragging, pushing, shoving, screaming at, swearing at, pulling muscles, and getting slivers kind of event. In case you didn’t get the hint, these boxes were HEAVY. I actually thought I was dying at one point during the lift into the car.
When we brought our giant matching coffins home we laid them out in the driveway before moving them to the backyard. Practically every stranger walking by on the street had something to say about it.
“Is that a coffin?!”
“Why, yes, yes it is. Nice isn’t it?”
For some reason, we enjoy completely confusing the people on our block. It happens all the time.
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How to Compost
Compost is simply organic matter that has decomposed in a process called composting. Making compost recycles various organic wastes to produce a nutrient rich soil amendment.
All you need to make compost are three components: Brown materials, green material, and water. The browns provide carbon for your compost, the greens deliver nitrogen, and the water offers moisture to help break down the organic matter.
Green Compost Material: Some examples of green materials include chicken manure, coffee grounds, fruit scraps, grass clippings, vegetable waste, and plant trimmings.
Brown Compost Material: Examples of brown materials include dry leaves, shredded paper, cardboard, dryer lint, and straw.
The process of building a compost pile is simply layering equal parts of brown with green, and spraying with water as you build your pile. Over time, the material begins to break down into compost. If you turn and mix your compost regularly, it will heat up and break down quicker.
3 Easy Ways to Compost at Home
Compost Bin: Building a compost bin is a great option if you have a good-sized yard. Locate your pile in a shady corner of the yard. Just make sure you can reach it with a hose to water if it is dry. Turn the pile regularly to aerate.
You may not have a box given to you, but you can purchase a compost bin to keep the compost enclosed, or build a bin out of pallets:
Compost Tumblers: Compost tumblers are perfect if you don’t have much space for a backyard pile or lack the time to spend turning your compost pile. Simply turn your tumbler handle regularly to mix and aerate.
Vermicomposting: Vermicomposting is a way of composting with worms. You can even compost inside with a vermicomposting kit. This method takes more maintenance, but it makes the most nutrient-dense compost and compost tea.
Making Our First Batch of Compost
We were given two very large wooden boxes that were perfect to use as compost bins: One box to hold our layers of organic materials as they break down into compost, and the second box to hold our finished compost.
After moving our boxes to the backyard, we had to find something to fill them. We had started saving kitchen scraps, but there wasn’t much, and I wanted compost fast.
It was early in the autumn, and we didn’t have many leaves falling yet, but our neighbors did, AND they were nice enough to bag them up and leave them by the road for us! You should have seen the looks on their faces as we stole their trash.
For our first batch of compost, we followed one of the “recipes” in our compost book very closely. It claimed to make perfect compost out of mainly leaves, which was pretty much all we had.
We layered on sections of leaves, dirt from the yard, and the few food and yard scraps we had in a carefully orchestrated manner like compost lasagna.
We excitedly watered the materials until they were spongy but not soggy, just like we were supposed to.
We cared for this first batch of compost like a newborn baby, watering it and turning it once a week to aerate the material. You wouldn’t believe how excited we were when we first started noticing that what had once been mostly leaves was now mostly soil! Hooray for making compost!
Eventually, our excitement for making compost wore off. We became lazier about turning the compost pile until we just plain didn’t care anymore.
We tossed in whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted and we let the chickens turn it for us by letting them loose on the pile.
And you know what? It still worked!
The wonderful thing about compost is, matter is going to decompose whether you pay attention to it or not.
Our finished compost gets made into potting soil, dumped into garden beds, and used to side dress growing plants for a nutrient boost.
It seems as if you can never have enough compost for all its various uses.
I highly recommend that everyone start making compost. Not only will you be getting quality compost to feed your garden, but also you will reduce the amount of trash generated by your household each week.
Get a cute composting container to keep on your kitchen counter to make it easy to collect daily kitchen scraps.
If you have a yard, it doesn’t take much more work to just rake your leaves and grass clippings into a corner of your yard than it does to bag them up and drag them to the road for trash pickup.