Wondering what to do with all those banana peels, onion skins, coffee grounds, and basil stems from all your kitchen adventures? Compost — of course!
If you have any sort of green space (or even potted plants!), composting is well worth your time. Compost is one of the best ways to keep your soil healthy and full of nutrients. In addition, by adding most of your food scraps to the compost (and assuming you recycle), you’ll have very little trash!
When I started composting last year, I checked out several books on the topic from the library. Instead of hitting the books, I should have just gone through some of my old scrapbooks. As you can see, I rocked organic gardening long before it was cool to “go green”. (Unfortunately, the results of these blue-ribbon experiments were lost over time…maybe I need to try them again!)
If you have even a slight interest in composting, you should definitely start a pile. I truly love ours (weird, I know). When I finally produced some compost last year for the first time, I thought someone had thrown some dirt into my bin. It took me several seconds to realize that the “dirt” was the compost I had been waiting for!
With our square foot garden, we add a couple of scoops of the finished compost after we harvest each square. Using this method, we are able to keep our raised-bed garden nutrient-filled and ready for the next planting. Best of all, it’s completely organic and chemical free!
1. You can use just about anything to hold your pile – from a plain heap, to a box made from scrap pallets, or (for city-dwellers like us) a pre-made bin with a locking lid. We use this one and have been more than happy with it.
If you are wondering about those cool tumbler-style composters, they aren’t really necessary for beginners. They do a great job of speeding up the process – but are probably better suited for an expanded (rather than new) operation.
2. You can add any plant-based material to the pile – the more variety, the better! You want to keep the mix roughly 50/50 “greens” and “browns”. “Greens” are items that will compost quickly – such as kitchen scraps and coffee grounds. “Browns” are heavier and slower to compost – such as fallen leaves, shredded paper, or sawdust. Don’t worry too much about the mix – it will all turn into compost eventually!
3. Don’t add any meat, dairy, fats, or dog poo to the pile. These will create smells, attract pests, and add nothing good to your pile!
4. If you want to speed up the composting process, mix often! Taking a shovel to the pile and moving it around about once a week can speed up the process from months to weeks. It also allows much-needed oxygen to get in and alleviate stinky bacteria. While you are at it, make sure to break up any larger items in the pile. The smaller the kitchen scraps and yard waste, the quicker they will decompose.
5. When you have some compost forming at the bottom of the pile, you’ll know it. All of a sudden, all of that junk turns into dirt (the amount of time varies depending on the time of year, size of pile, and frequency of mixing). Remove some of the compost and add it to your garden beds for the best organic fertilizer your plants have ever seen!
How about you? Do you compost – and have any tips that I’m missing? Make sure to read the comments for the tips from the pros!