How to compost

Welcome to the second installment of the composting mini series. Now that you know the great benefits of compost here’s how to get started.

At first it may not seem like you’ll have much to put into the composting pile. But you’d be amazed how much you normally throw away that can be composted.

For easy and healthy composting you just need to follow some basic guidelines:

Choose a location for your bin that gets at least partial sunlight and has good drainage. You can place your composting pile in the shade but it will work faster in the sun.

You’ll want to place it in a convenient place in the garden (near the  kitchen) so adding to it won’t be a hassle or chore.

You don’t have to add to it every day; just collect your waste in a composting collection tin or compostable bag. Then just empty it once a week.

Get in the habit of collecting composting materials every day. While cooking collect all your food scraps in a Stainless Steel Counter Top Compost Pail (I recommend stainless steel because it’s more durable. I had a beautiful ceramic pail that broke when I dropped it). As the food is cooking you can empty the pail in the composting pile or store the scraps in the pail for later.

It will take about 3-6 months to get finished compost, if the heap is too dry it will take longer.

Don’t be surprised by what critters you find in your heap, they all play an important part.

The heap needs to be aerated; you can do this by adding crumpled up paper or newspaper within the layers. Turning the compost at least once a week will also help aerate it.

If you don’t have room for a compost pile or bin outside, you can still compost by using an indoor worm farm or the Bokashi system.

What can you compost?

It may be tempting, but not everything can go into your compost. In order to keep the right balance of materials you need to follow a few simple rules. Basically the materials that can go into compost are divided into two groups Brown materials and green materials. In order to have a healthy balanced compost you need to add the right ratios of each.

When starting your compost you should begin with a 50/50 ratio of brown to green. Once your compost is established, you can then add more green, which may speed up the composting process. You’ll need to have at least 25 percent brown material.

Brown Materials (Carbon)

  • Shredded paper and cartons (*excluding receipts)
  • White paper envelopes (remove the plastic window)
  • Gift wrap paper
  • Cardboard and cartons
  • Black & white newspaper
  • Cereal boxes
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper and paper towel roll center
  • Brown leaves
  • Dead garden waste
  • Old cut flowers
  • Sawdust and wood shavings
  • Wood ash
  • Dryer Lint

Green Materials (Nitrogen)

  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg Shells
  • Fresh farm manure
  • Fresh grass clipping (cut within 24 hours)
  • Garden waste
  • Hair trimmings & nail clippings
  • Peanut shells
  • Plant & grass trimmings
  • Tea bags
  • Uncooked fruit and vegetables

 What NOT to compost:

  • Bones
  • Branches, twigs or redwood, pine needles or treated wood
  • Chemicals or pesticides
  • Cooked food
  • Diseased plants
  • Glass, plastic or metal
  • Meat, fish or dairy products
  • Oil or fats including fatty foods
  • Pet waste/cat liter
  • Coal Ash
  • Roots of perennial weeds
  • Sauces

* You may not want to throw shredded receipts into your compost, since they have recently been found to contain Bisphenol A (BPA); a hormone disruptive chemical. And once you distribute the compost into your garden it will also be entering the environment.

Be sure to check out the next installment of the composting mini series: Types Of Composter Equipment

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