Composting….one of the easiest things you can do to get rid of wastes and help your garden at the same time. I started composting a year or two ago and was doing a great job with it, but then for whatever reason stopped doing it. As I have been looking for ways to simplify, composting came back up and I have started once again. I went to my 5 gallon bucket where I had previously stored food scraps and various other components to see what it looked like and the below picture shows its status.
Isn’t that beautiful?! When I consider that came from food scraps, coffee grinds, paper, etc, it is pretty neat to see. This heap of formerly inedibles became something that will greatly enhance my garden. It provides benefits to different soil types. The soil on our homestead is mostly clay. Adding compost to my garden makes the soil easier to work with and eases planting. If your soil is sandy, it can help the soil better hold water.
Let’s talk about what can be composted. There needs to be a proper balance in order for your compost to break down efficiently and to provide the best nutrient value. You have two types of compost you will add: carbons and nitrogens. Carbons are such things as shredded newspaper, wood chips, dry leaves, cardboard, and even dryer lint (if moistened). Nitrogens comprise of kitchen scraps, grass clippings (fresh), coffee grounds and filters, and even chicken manure. Some things are considered neutral like wood ashes from your wood burning stove/fireplaces and eggshells.
The quickest way for everything to break down and be the most fertile is by having the right ratio of carbons to nitrogens. The supposed perfect ratio is 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. If you have too much carbon the decomposition rate is greatly slowed. On the flipside, if your nitrogens are too high, you will end up with a stinky pile of decomposing ingredients.
There are also some things you want to avoid putting in your pile. You would never want to put fish or any meat waste in the pile because that could attract raccoons, opossums, and other unwanted guests. Dairy will also do the same thing. While you can add manure from chickens and some other farm animals, it is not considered safe to add dog or cat waste. You should also avoid any glossy paper or paper with color.
As far as the compost bin, there are many options. You can buy some online or even make your own. I have kept a 5 gallon bucket around to throw stuff in as needed. You can keep a ziploc bag under your sink that you empty into the outside pile every week. The outside compost pile should be in a sunny area. The heat helps speed up the decomposition process. You want good airflow so it should not be a completely enclosed bin. You can use old pallets, wire, old fencing…whatever you have laying around. When starting the pile, you should put small branches and sticks on the bottom to help with airflow. When you add some green elements (nitrogen), you should also try and add some brown elements (carbons). Remember that ratio! Every week or two simply go out and turn the pile to further help it blend thus speeding up decomposition.
That is basically it. It is best to have a couple piles going, one that is almost complete and then one you are adding new stuff to for a later addition to the garden. With a little patience and a small amount of work, you can have a quality fertilizer for your garden that costs nothing and is extremely beneficial. Happy composting!