Compost is an organic material that is made up of many kitchen scraps, lawn & garden refuse, paper products, and/or manure. Composting is a great way to cut down on the amount of trash you pay to get rid of & you may even be able to get a smaller trash bin and save money, as well as cut down on paying for the removal of bagged leaves & grass clippings and is a source of free organic fertilizer for your garden or lawn (so, no need to purchase as much, if any of other compost or fertilizer.)
Composting doesn’t have to be hard, too time consuming or some mystery activity. Yes, there is work involved and there is some science involved in getting the right combination of browns and greens for decomposition and having your pile generate the right temperature, but none of this is something to stress out about or to be used as an excuse for not composting.
I want to share with you my thoughts about composting and just what I do in hopes to ease any worries and encourage you to start your own pile.
I am a bit of a lazy composter, which is why the tumbler composter is my favorite composter. If you have the funds to get a tumbler, I highly recommend it because it takes all the physical effort out of maintaining it. The other composter is one that we throw the refuse in the top and then there are sides that slide up so we can toss the compost from the bottom back up to the top.
I admit, I am not very good at tossing it very often, which is why the tumbler is much better for me. It takes literally seconds to tumbler it all around.
Of course, you can start a compost pile without a container. You can simply make a pile of compostable items and toss them, but if you are worried about creating eyesore a container might be right for you.
In an ideal world, you would set up your compost bin close to your garden(s) so you could easily toss from the pile onto your garden, but if you don’t you will need a wagon or wheelbarrow in addition to a shovel. And if it is also close to water source, that is also beneficial. But if not, a hose or a bucket will work just fine for those times that your pile needs to be watered.
Finally you also need a container of some sort in the house. I use an old bowl with a lid and I have friends that use a lidded ice cream pail. I did have a indoor compost bucket, but I found that I didn’t get the compost out very often (although, my solution to that now is to assign that as a daily chore to my daughter.)
So, now you have your supply list:
- Compost bin (optional if you don’t just want a pile)
- Wagon/Wheelbarrow (if it is not close to your garden)
- Hose/bucket/ or better yet – a rain barrel
- Indoor Compost bucket/bowl with a cover
Now to cover briefly what goes in to your compost pile. The mixture doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t have to weigh things, but just keep in mind that you need a mixture of 4 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens” (based on weight, not volume). So, what are “greens and browns”?
Greens include kitchen scraps from fruits & vegetables, coffee grounds (compost the filter too!), tea bags, manure, fresh grass clippings, green leaves and weeds.
Browns include dried leaves, dry grass clippings, sawdust, straw, and paper products (like paper towels, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, cardboard, but be aware that if you include inked products that will leach into your compost or the ground beneath it.)
The next thing you need to do is to simply start making your pile with (as close to you can) ratio of browns and greens and tossing with regular frequency. Mixing your pile regularly will help keep the browns and greens in balance and adds oxygen to the mix which the microbes need to live, eat and reproduce quickly.
If your pile is becoming stinky it is generally either because you have too many greens in the mix or you are not tossing it enough. So, toss in some dried leaves and mix it up. You can bring balance back to an unbalanced compost pile.
And if you live in colder climates, like I do, you will notice the decomposition rate slowly dramatically, even coming to halt at time, in colder months. This is okay. You can still keep adding to your pile and when it warms up it will start back up again.
One more thought to share with you – there is no need to buy compost activator (which can help speed up the process, but is not necessary) or special worms. I do add worms to my compost pile, but they are worms that have come from my own gardens that I find as I weed. Worms will help eat up the compost and leave behind worm castings which are a wonderful fertilizer. Worms work great with the microbes (which you very easily get from adding dried leaves and grass clipping that they live on, or just toss in a shovel full of garden soil) and help speed up the decomposition process.
I hope that I was able to present composting to you in a friendly and easy to understand way and are now encouraged to start your own.