Starting your own compost pile has a lot of benefits and it’s very easy to do. Composting is good for the planet and it can provide you with a surplus of nutrient-rich soil for future gardening projects. Here’s a quick look at why composting is such a good idea and how to get started.
Why should you compost?
As far as why composting is important, it pretty much falls in line with every other recycling effort on the planet. Each year, Americans produce 254 million tons of trash. Of that, about 167 million tons end up in landfills and incinerators. There’s also a lot of food that ends up in those same landfills and incinerators. In fact, about 96% of the food that could be composted still gets thrown in the trash. That’s a lot of opportunity. So, why compost? In short, it can help shrink landfills while providing you with rich fertilizer.
How to get started.
If you’re ready to give composting a shot, you’ll need some kind of container or a dedicated spot in your yard to start a pile. You can purchase special bins made specifically for composting, but you can accomplish the task just as easily by using a plastic tote or trash can. Once you decide on which container you’re going to use, it’s important to place it (or your pile, if you’re not using a container) in a shaded part of your yard. Try to keep your location near a water source, as well.
When it comes to effective compost material, there are two categories: “brown” and “green.” For effective composting, it’s important to get the ratio of the two categories correct. This will ensure your material composts quickly and doesn’t smell. The appropriate ratio is 3 parts brown material to 1 part green material. When filling your container, start with a brown layer, followed by a green layer and alternate as you build up.
Brown material is that which is more wood or “earth”-based. Items like sawdust, dead leaves, twigs, straw and even cardboard make for excellent brown composting material.
Green material can include grass clippings, egg shells, corn stalks, coffee grounds, fruits and vegetables.
What you don’t put in your compost pile is almost as important as what you do put in it. When composting, do not add meats, grease, pet waste, weeds with seeds or any kind of paper that’s printed on glossy or colored sheets.
Maintaining your compost pile is pretty easy. You can add about an inch of soil between layers to help speed up composting, and in dry weather add a bit of water between each layer. You should turn the pile over every other week with a pitchfork or shovel.
Depending on conditions, your pile could take anywhere from 3 to 9 months to compost. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s a rich brown color and resembles potting soil. To use it, add it to new soil whenever you plant your garden, plants or shrubs.
Between recycling and composting, you can have a tremendous impact on reducing landfill waste!