How to Get Started with Composting
Composting is the ultimate circle of life, where food you would normally trash can help produce more food. This ancient practice of recycling kitchen scraps, manure, and yard debris into gardening soil is one of nature’s fanciest tricks, and has helped generations grow and consume food in an eco-friendly way.
The great thing about composting is it doesn’t matter if you're living in a suburban home, tiny apartment, or on a huge farm. Everyone has fruit or vegetable ends, coffee grinds, or eggshells that end up in the garbage but could instead be recycled. It’s easy to start composting and anyone can do it!
Identify Your Goals
If you’re getting into composting because it’s a new local requirement and the town will collect your materials, this needs a smaller set-up than someone wanting to create and use their own organic soil. Those hoping to produce enough compost to plant a garden and mulch their property will need a large composter that’s easy to mix. So, your first step should be to determine your goals!
Pick a Composting Location
Your composting spot should be somewhere convenient to add raw materials and close to wherever the compost will ultimately end up. The ideal site is within reach of a hose, out of the wind, and gets a combination of sun and shade.
It’s important to select a location with a solid surface or pick an elevated composter. Some people pile their materials right on the ground, but this doesn’t offer much protection against bugs or burrowing animals. Putting a composter on top of a surface rather than the ground is always safer.
Select a Composter
There’s a wide variety of composting bins available, but the most popular are hoop bins, slatted bins, compost tumblers, and rolling composters. Hoop and slatted bins are budget-friendly options, but don’t offer much protection against pests and are hard to mix. Tumblers and rolling composters provide better protection and make it easier to turn the materials. Be sure to weigh the benefits of each for your property and goals!
Add a Small Collector in Your Kitchen
The key to making healthy compost is to vary the ingredients and use carbon-rich items found in your kitchen. Keep a little container near your food prep area so there’s a place for your asparagus ends, banana peels, and tea bags to go.
Food scraps like fruit and veggie trimmings, eggshells, rice/grains, and coffee grounds are all excellent items to compost. Always avoid adding any meat, fish, dairy, bones, oils, or butters as these will most likely attract rodents.
Gather your Green and Brown Materials
When starting the compost pile, you’ll need to add the two key ingredients: greens (carbon) and browns (nitrogen). A balance of carbon and nitrogen is crucial to create a healthy environment for decomposition.
Green materials can be food scraps, grass clippings, leafy plants, or manure. Brown materials are usually dried leaves, straw, wood chips, or small twigs. To provide the microbes responsible for decomposition with enough food, aim to add two shovels of brown for every shovel of green to your composter.
Before putting leaves or twigs in the compost pile, chop them up into smaller pieces to help them break down faster. Leaves and grass clippings can be run over with the mower to mulch them before being thrown into the pile. Twigs or other wood can be put through a wood chipper.
Mix in Your Food Scraps and Yard Debris
As your compost pile grows, it’s important to always mix and bury any food scraps in the decomposing materials. Bugs and other animals are attracted to rotting food, so it’s best not to keep these scraps on top and easily accessible.
Turn the Decomposing Materials Regularly
Mixing your composting materials on a frequent basis is the quickest way to break them down. Adding air and moisture to the pile is ideal for decomposition and prevents the pile from rotting.
Start Using the Compost
It usually takes about 1-2 months to produce usable compost after mixing the pile regularly. If time allows, it’s helpful to let the compost “cure” for a few months after, which creates a more chemically stable product. You’ll know the compost is ready to be used when it no longer heats up and the contents more closely resemble an organic soil than anything else.
Then get planting! Compost is a great way to boost almost any type of garden or plant, as it provides needed nutrients in an organic way. Create a potting soil mixture, use it as mulch, add it to raised beds and container gardens, or spread it on a new lawn. There are plenty of choices!
Check Back for More to Make Composting Easy!
We will continue to expand our collection of products and how-to articles to help make your composting process easier and more productive, so check back with us soon! Meanwhile, take a moment to sign up for email updates and we will deliver them to your inbox!
Last updated: 8/10/2022