Do you want to start composting, but are worried that it is a lot of work and expense? Composting is like most things in life, you can make it as easy as you want, or you can really go to town and with a little extra effort be making compost faster than you can use it. So let's get started.
What do you need to start Composting?
1) Material for your Compost Pile
What can you put in a compost pile?
- Kitchen waste (vegetables and fruits, coffee grounds,etc.)
- Yard Waste (grass clippings, leaves, trimmings)
- Garden Waste
- "Borrowed" Waste like neighbor's leaves and grass clippings
- Other sources of free compost material
As important, consider what NOT to put in. These just draw pests, and don't compost that well
- Grease, fats
- Dairy products
- Animal feces
2) A place to put the compost pile
Some typical places people use for composting
- A simple pile, usually near the garden to simplify the task of putting waste in the pile
- A trench, more out of site, conserves moisture well in arid climates
- A simple bin (this can be built from wood, old packing crates, or concrete blocks) or something more durable like cedar
- A Commercial composting bin, plastic or metal which can be more durable
- A Compost Tumbler if you want fast compost but don't want a lot of effort
3) A basic compost recipe
If you are into numbers, a pile built with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30 is considered optimum. Most folks aren't interested in calculating that, so a good rule of thumb is to use about a 2:1 mix, one part green vegetation (grass clippings, fresh vegetation, coffee grounds (oddly they count as "green")) mixed with 2 parts brown waste (fall leaves, sawdust, shredded tree branches).
It's important to get a large enough pile to provide the raw material to get it to heat up. The usual rule of thumb is at least a 3 foot by 3 foot pile. You may not want it to be much bigger than that either if you plan to turn the pile to accelerate it.
Anything you do to break up the raw material (e.g. shred it, chop it, etc.) will work to accelerate the process.
Mix them in layers, about 6 inches of green and brown alternated. Add enough water so the end product mix is damp, something akin to a damp washcloth. It is possible to have either too much or too little water. Add in some old compost, some soil, or a commercial comost activator product to provide the micro-organisms that will start to decompose the pile.
4) How fast do you want your compost pile to be?
If you really want to get compost fast, then you need to help the pile along by moving material into the hotter middle part of the pile periodically. This can be accomplished a number of ways:
- Use a compost areator tool to pull the material from the center of the pile
- Use multiple bins, and turn the compost from one bin to the next to turn it over
- Use a compost tumbler, and simply turn the unit every few days, or when the center of the pile has started to cool.
Or you can just leave it sitting by itself for a few months and it will eventually break down.
That's it. That wasn't too bad, was it?