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Composting 101 – It’s Easier Than You Think

If you’ve ever thought about composting and decided that it’s too much trouble, think again. Composting is easier than you might realize. Plus, it’s good for your plants and good for the Earth. It reduces the amount of household waste, particularly in the kitchen. There are a few basic steps to get started with composting.

Select a spot for your pile

First of all, select a spot for your pile; choose a dry, shady area away from your house but close enough for the garden hose to reach. You can build your pile on the ground, or you can use a compost storage bin.

Black composite bin in the yard

There are many options for outdoor compost bins.

One quick and easy option is to use a plastic trash can with a lid. There are also many compost bins for sale, both plastic and wooden.

The bin should be about 3 feet wide and 2 ½ to 3 feet tall. Be sure to leave room in front of the bin for maneuvering a wheelbarrow to transport the compost.

Build your pile

Next, build your pile. Collect food scraps in the kitchen by placing them in a storage container with a lid. You can buy a container designed for food storage, or you can improvise with a plastic pail or yogurt tub.

Throw in fruit and vegetable peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, eggshells, and more. In addition to food scraps, you will need some dry, brown material, such as grass clippings, dry leaves, or hay.

A wooden compost bin in a yard

Some people build their own wooden compost bins.

Alternate wet and dry materials

As you build your pile, alternate wet and dry materials; this will help them decompose. Many gardeners keep a leaf pile near their compost bin, making it quick and easy to cover wet food scraps with dry leaves. The leaves also help to mask the odor of the food. Dried grass clippings provide an excellent way to cover wet materials.
Dry leaves make for good composting material

Storing dry leaves near a compost bin can make composting
easy and convenient.

Gather the right tools for composting

A pitchfork or a scoop-shaped shovel is needed for turning the material and transferring it. Metal buckets are also recommended for scooping out compost. A hose with a spray wand makes watering the compost pile easy. And, a wheelbarrow or garden cart is a must.

Learn what to compost and what not to compost

Composting 101

Combining wet and dry materials is essential in composting.

It’s important to learn what to compost and what not to compost. Never put meat, fish, or bones in your compost pile–these will attract unwanted pests like skunks, flies, raccoons, and rats. Avoid any dairy products, fats, and oils for the same reason. Avoid adding plants that have been treated with insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides. Never put dog or cat waste in your compost pile. For more on this topic, see https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/what-not-to-compost/.

Monitor your compost pile

Turn the materials about once a week; this stirs up things and helps it cook faster. Sprinkle water over the pile to keep it moist, but don’t over water it. Monitor your compost pile periodically. As materials break down, the pile will get warm, especially the center of the pile. Some gardeners use a compost thermometer to make sure the pile is warm, but you can usually judge by reaching into the pile with your hand.

Feed your garden

Once the compost is dry, brown, and crumbly, it’s ready to use. Feed your garden by adding your compost to pots and flower beds to give your plants a happy home.No matter which method of composting you choose, take pride in the fact that you are helping not only the plants in your own yard, but the earth itself.

Plants in compost rich soil


Adding compost directly to the soil helps plants thrive.

Learn more

For more information on composting, visit these websites:

https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/
https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
https://www.almanac.com/how-compost-guide-composting-home

 

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