Start Composting with These 5 Easy Steps

Composting uneaten food is a great way to cut down on landfill waste, help the environment, and give your garden some great nutrients. However, composting can be seen by some as a tricky practice. Here’s how to start your own compost pile in just 5 easy steps.

1. Choose Your Method

There are a few different ways you can choose to compost. If you have a spacious backyard area, the best fit for you may be to start a compost pile right on the ground in an unused area of your backyard. However, you can also construct a bin out of wood or buy a plastic bin. Bins with lids will help discourage rodents and other animals from getting into your compost pile. An additional option to help speed up bin composting is adding redworms to your compost pile. These worms will digest your scraps and release nitrogen-rich castings into your soil.

2. Combine Your Materials

Composting can be a great way to repurpose some of your leftover foods. For the best results, you should use a variety of materials to create your compost pile. Start at the bottom of your pile with a little garden soil to introduce the correct bacteria. Then add “brown” materials such as dry leaves and grass. Layer in “green” materials like fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds. Be sure to add a variety or green and brown items to balance your compost. Here is a list of good and bad items for your compost pile:

Good green materials:

  • Fresh cut grass
  • Plant Clippings
  • Fruit Scraps
  • Vegetable Scraps
  • Egg Shells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Tea Leaves
  • Tea Bags (without staples)
  • Cow or Horse Manure

Good brown materials:

  • Dry Leaves
  • Dry Grass
  • Straw
  • Finely Chopped Wood Chips or Bark
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded Newspapers
  • Finely Shredded Cotton Clothing
  • Stale Bread or Cracker Crumbs
  • Paper Towels
  • Dead Plants

NOT for composting:

  • Meat
  • Fat or Oil
  • Grease
  • Bones
  • Pet Feces
  • Weeds That Have Seeds
  • Treated Wood

3. Water Your Pile

Sprinkle your plants with water regularly to keep your pile moist. Your compost pile should stay the consistency of a wet sponge. Depending on the season and climate, the compost will need to be watered anywhere from daily to every few days. However, be sure not to overwater your compost. This can drown the microorganisms that are helping to break down the materials you put in your pile. However if you accidentally overwater your compost, adding brown materials can help fix the situation.

4. Stir It Up

Stirring your pile helps to provide oxygen to your compost. Be sure to stir your pile with a gardening shovel or rake at least once a week to keep compost breaking down quickly. The best time to stir your compost is when the middle of the pile begins to feel hot. When stirring your compost be sure to break up any clumps of material that are beginning to stick together.

5. Feed Your Garden

After 2-3 months, your compost will begin to be ready to use! Completed compost no longer feels warm and will be a brown color throughout. If you are continually adding material into your compost mix, you may need to stop when your compost is reaching completion to ensure everything is broken down before you use the soil. Make sure your compost is completely ready before using it in your garden. If it is spread over your plants while still breaking down, it may steal nitrogen from your plants to continue decomposition. If you are unsure if your compost is ready, leave it in your compost bin for a few weeks to ensure that it is done.

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