Updated: Dec 19, 2019
WHY compost? It’s a good way to get rid of yard debris and vegetable waste from the kitchen without filling landfills. Add compost to the soil in your garden or other planting beds. Compost makes the soil more fertile by increasing air spaces in the soil, increasing water retention, and adding a small amount of nutrients.
WHAT to put in a compost pile? Put vegetable scraps from the kitchen such as salad scraps, carrot and beet tops, pineapple tops and rind, squash peelings, apple cores, coffee grounds, tea, egg shells, weeds (its best if they have not gone to seed), lawn clippings. These are called ‘greens’. Leaves, straw, bark, wood chips, soil must also be added. These are called ‘browns’. You can use sticks and prunings from shrubs if you can shred them (If you don’t have a shredder available, you may make a brush pile until it eventually rots and settles. Then add it to the compost.) CAUTION: DO NOT PUT MEAT, BONES, GREASE, OILS IN COMPOST PILE.
WHERE to put a compost pile? You will probably want to put it out of sight as it can seem unattractive to most people. If you have a small space, you can use a container which is made especially for composting. It will have lots of small holes to allow aeration and a door to put the waste in and remove the compost. It will also have a way to mix the compost. You may want to make your own composter. It is easy as making a circle of wire fencing about four feet in diameter and four feet deep. And if you have room, make three, so you can turn the compost from one pile to the next. This makes a convenient way to mix the compost. A few solid fence sections can screen this work area from sight.
HOW to compost? The ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ must be layered. First some ‘greens’ then some ‘browns’ to build a pile. The pile needs to be aerated to support the microbes, fungi, and worms that will do the breaking down of the organic matter. To aerate the pile, turn it over. It is convenient to have 3 piles, turning the compost from one pile to the next. This mixing allows air to the microbes, fungi and worms to do their job. The compost must also be kept moist, not wet. If you have an open compost pile, rain may be sufficient. During a dry spell you will want to moisten the pile. If you have a closed container in which you compost, you will want to have small air holes in the container. Provide some moisture and role the container to mix it up.
My compost story:
I have a bin made for composting and a bin which I made from an old trash container. I cut off the bottom of the container, drilled small holes in the sides, and cut holes in the lid, to let in the rain. These large holes are covered with hardware cloth to keep animals out. I have set the bottomless container on the ground.
Then I keep layering ‘greens’ and browns’. When it is full I remove the container, open the other bin and turn the contents of the first container into the next. So what was on top in the first container ends up on the bottom in the second bin. As I get near the bottom of the first container it is more like soil than the materials on top. I put this crumbly soil material on my planting bed or turn it into my garden. I call it black gold. This black gold is rather coarse and lumpy so I have set up some hardware cloth to sift it, before using it. Egg shells are really not very attractive in the mulch! Sifting breaks up the eggshells and removes other recognizable material which goes back into the compost pile.