How to get started composting

Come on! It’s not rocket science!  You don’t need a license or much specialized equipment or skill to allow organic things to rot and turn into soil – and there are a lot of potential benefits to composting, including…

  • Composting can reduce the amount of garbage that has to be hauled off from your home by as much as a third!
  • Composting can enrich your soil with beneficial bacteria and fungi that make your plants healthier and more resistant to disease and pests.
  • Composting can reduce dependence on synthetic chemical fertilizers.
  • Composting may possibly even reduce your dependence on chemical pesticides and herbicides.

compost-1136403_960_720First, realize that you are already composting – you’re just not benefiting from it.  The organic materials that you throw away all eventually rot and turn into soil.  It’s just a question of where does the resulting soil end up – in your yard or in the landfill?  Stop sending all your great proto-soil to the landfill!

You don’t even have to have a garden to start reaping the benefits of composting!    If you have a flower bed or even just one tree then you have room to compost and make your flowers or your one tree happier.

Here’s how I did it.

Get a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid and a handle.  Put it in your kitchen and throw all organic food scraps into it EXCEPT salt and meat and fat, and bones.   Coffee grounds and used paper coffee filters and tea bags can go into the compost bucket. You can shred newspaper, toilet paper rolls, and even dryer lint into the compost bucket, but avoid colored, glossy paper.

After this, you have some options –

Fast Composting

Buy a Compost Tumbler to keep somewhere outside.  Every couple of days, dump the kitchen bucket into the tumbler, and every day, give the tumbler a spin or two.  This keeps the materials mixed and aerated and can speed up the composting process to just a few weeks.

Slow Composting

Get a 4’x8′ sheet of welded wire concrete reinforcement, or even just a 5 to 8 foot long length of rabbit wire or chicken wire.  Bend it into a cylinder and use paper clips like twist ties to hold it in that shape.  Place the compost bin in some inconspicuous site in the yard.  You might want it under some shade and you definitely don’t want it in a bottom that can fill with water and turn your compost pile into a stinking swamp.

Every 2-3 days dump the kitchen bucket into the wire compost bin.  You can also add in grass clippings, pine straw, and fallen leaves, but this material works best when it is chopped up instead of left whole – so run over it with a mower a few times before you put it in the compost bin.  If you have a garden, then spent garden plants can be pulled up and thrown into the bin.

Then you just leave it until it does its thing.  If it starts to smell bad, then take a shovel or fork and stir the compost a little bit to improve the aeration and moisture content.  Slow composting is cheaper and easier than fast composting but it can take as much as a year for raw materials to turn to compost this way.

worm-1140767_960_720Worm Composting

If your compost bin is outside under a shade tree then worms will show up to help out with the composting.  If you want to, you can get a box of fishing worms from the store and dump in the outside compost bin (not the kitchen bucket), and so long as there is a supply of food scraps and stuff to eat, they’ll hang out there and you’ll always have both compost AND fishing worms.

Compost Tea

If you have a spare sheet of corrugated metal, build your compost pile on top of it so that you can collect the liquid run-off from the compost pile.  This liquid makes fantastic liquid fertilizer for watering your plants.

December 5th is World Soil Day, and if you start now, you can be well on your way to having rich, usable organic compost by then!

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Categories: Food, Gardening

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