How to Compost in Your Backyard
What is compost and why do we want it?
Compost is organic material that has decomposed and is used as fertilizer for plants. It is a great alternative to chemical fertilizers and is often used in organic farming. Compost has microscopic organisms that enrich the soil and help plants fight off diseases. When you make your own compost at home, it helps decrease your household waste, which decreases the amount that ends up in landfills. When you compost you help the world become a little bit greener.
What can I compost?
When you read about composting, you’re going to hear a lot about “green stuff” and “brown stuff.” What we call brown stuff is materials high in carbon, and it gets its name from the fact that these materials are brown and dead, or have started to decay. Brown materials can include fall leaves, dried twigs, cardboard, old newspaper and straw. Green stuff is fresher, not dried, and is generally high in nitrogen. Green materials can include most of your table scraps, including banana peels, orange rinds, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags.
What can’t I compost?
You should never try to compost meat or bones, as this will attract small critters that you don’t want. If you compost cardboard, make sure that there aren’t any inorganic materials on it, such as paint or oil. You can compost banana peels and orange rinds, but if you’re looking to plant an organic garden, make sure to wash them first, as they might contain chemical and pesticide residue.
How do I get started?
Composting is pretty easy. All you need is space in the yard for about 1 cubic yard to dump your compost material and voila! If you want things a little bit tidier though, think about buying a compost bin. You have a few options. One is a wooden slated bin, which allows more air flow (a key component of composting.) Another is a big boxy plastic bin with a lid on the top. The third option is a rotating bin, which allows you to easily turn your compost and aerate it. If you want a tidy compost pile and don’t want to shell out too much cash, buy some chicken wire, wrap it around in a circle, and you’re good to go.
Like I said, composting is pretty easy. Just dump in your organic materials and the rest will solve itself. However if you want to give your compost pile a little nudge in the right direction, there are a few things you could do.
1.) Stir. Compost piles need air, and for that they’ll need to be stirred up about once every two weeks. If you have a rotating bin you can just turn the handle. If not, you’ll need to get a shovel and stir the lot. If you put your hand on the pile, you should notice heat coming from the center. That means it’s working and that the microbes are helping your compost decompose! Stir your mixture so that the hot center is on the outside of the pile and vice versa.
2.) Water. Your compost pile should be damp. Either water it every once in awhile or let the rain do the job.
3.) 3 to 1 ratio. In you can, try to keep the ratio of your compost 3 parts brown stuff to 1 part green. Also, start out your compost pile at the bottom with some soil to get you started.
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