Composting reduces the trash that a family creates, plus is a marvelous way to give yourself a head start on next year’s garden. A few weeks of collecting stuff that you would normally throw away and you will have what home gardener’s call black gold. Rich in nutrients, good compost can give you the green thumb you have always wanted. But it is not just about throwing whatever you want willy-nilly into a pile and hoping for the best. A good compost pile has to be carefully built and nurtured, or you will end up with nothing but a rotten smell that does zero good for anybody. Here are your composting basics.
Start with a Good Location
- You do not have to buy an expensive, top of the line composter. You can make one yourself or you can start with just a well-planned pile on the ground. Lay a good layer of leaves and twigs, and then start building. It should be in an area that is not in direct sunlight but not totally shaded. You might want to locate your compost pile somewhat close to your garden for convenience. This lets you toss in dead plants or produce gone bad directly from the garden.
- Don’t make it difficult to get to or no one else will ever bother bringing the scraps to the pile.
The Right Mix
- Your compost pile should be roughly three parts browns to one part greens as much as possible.
- Browns include leaves, dead plants, pine needles, sawdust (only from untreated wood) and shredded paper.
- Greens include fresh grass clippings, weeds, alfalfa, seaweed or pond algae and kitchen scraps. Do not include oil, meats, bones or dairy foods in your composting. You can use egg shells, however.
- If you are cleaning out an aquarium and do not have roses to feed the water too, you can use part of it in your compost pile. Do not dump the water directly into the pile though. This will cause the mixture to be too soggy.
- You will also need a bacteria source, which is what speeds up the breakdown of the materials in the pile. You can use manure for this or a commercial compost starter. Cow, chicken and horse manure are perfect. Do not add dog or cat waste to the compost pile, however.
Checking on the Status of the Compost Pile
- Your composting pile should be turned frequently, which not only aids in the breakdown of materials but prevents odors by allowing air to circulate more freely.
- You should be checking the status at least once a week- the compost should be moist but not soggy. It should also feel warm.
Strange Things You Can Add
- Dryer lint and human or dog hair can be added to the compost pile.
- Shredded paper can also be added as long as it is not glossy or metallic.
- Coffee, coffee filters and tea bags can also be added to the compost pile once they are used.