Creating Your Own Compost

Steaming compost by SuperFantastic (CC BY 2.0)

Looking for a way to bring life into your garden? Create your own compost garden! Composting is natural way to get rid of kitchen waste, and it’s a natural way to enrich your soil! Composting is easy to do, free to make, and lots of fun! Not only that it helps out the environment by reducing landfill waste! So let’s get composting!

What can I start composting?
You can compost things made out of carbon and nitrogen.  In general, you want a balanced mixture of nitrogen and carbon composting items, but there should be more carbon based items. As a rule of thumb has 2/3 brown to 1/3 green.

Composting (Photo by: cogdogblog)

Do Compost:

  • Browns = High Carbon:  Ashes, wood, Bark, shredded Cardboard (my favorite to be composting!), Corn stalks, Fruit waste, Leaves, shredded Newspaper, Peanut shells, Peat moss, Pine needles, Sawdust, Stems and twigs, shredded, Straw, Vegetable stalks
  • Greens = High Nitrogen:  Alfalfa, Algae, Clover, Coffee grounds, Food waste, Garden waste, Grass clippings, Hay, Hedge,  clippings, Hops, used, Manures, Seaweed, Vegetable scraps, Tea leaves, Weeds*

*Avoid weeds that have gone to seed, as seeds may survive all but the hottest compost piles.

Do Not Compost: meat, bones, fish, or dairy. They attract pests. Also avoid anything that might have been treated with pesticides. If you choose to use sawdust, be sure to spread it out! If it clumps together, it slows the composting process.
How do I get started composting?
A very good question! Here’s a simple step by step process:

  1. Start your compost on bare earth. This allows earthworms and other nutrients to aerate the soil.
  2. Lay straw or twigs first. This helps drainage and helps with aerating the soil.
  3. Add compost in alternating layers. Alternating wet and dry keeps things from clumping which will take longer to compost. Dry ingredients are straw, cardboard, newspaper, etc.. Wet ingredients are things like food waste, tea bags, seaweed, etc.
  4. Add manure . Make sure it’s green! Cover it up. It helps speed the composting along.
  5. Keep compost moist. If you live in a place that rains a lot, let rain do the job. If not water it occasionally.
  6. Cover the composting garden wood or a plastic sheet or whatever you have. Covering it keeps moisture and heat in two key factors that help speed up composting.
  7. Turn. Every few weeks, turn the composting garden. Oxygen is required for composting to work, and turning the composting garden with a shovel helps aerate the soil and helps composting along.
better compost
Composting (Photo by: normanack)
Composting Tips!
-Adding a layer of garden soil helps cover up the smell.
-Also composting does best in heat, so don’t expect much composting to be done during winter time.
-Speed up composting by cutting up larger chunks of material into smaller pieces.
– Remember to turn, turn, turn!
When your compost is finished, it should be a dark color and crumbles easily. You should not be able to discern what were the components put in the composting garden. If you can, your composting garden is probably not ready. Once t is ready, feel free to plant away!

Compost planted with strawberries (Photo by: nancybeetoo)
Check out if there are any local composting programs in your state here.