Composting is a natural process use to "recycle" plant and other organic material into a useful new product. Compost can be used in vegetable and flower gardens, for just about any landscaping application where peat moss or peat products are used. The best part is that you can make your own supply of compost in your own yard using waste material that would otherwise be thrown away.
Basics of Home Composting
Home composting is a relatively simple process that can reduce the amount of waste material going to our landfill and, at the same time, be an educational and fun project for your family. While a composter is not a necessity, it does make home composting a lot easier. Finished compost can be used to improve soil texture, increase the ability of soil to absorb water and air, suppress weed growth, decrease erosion, and reduce the need for commercial soil additives.
To get started you will need to find a 3x3 foot area in your yard, preferably a shady spot, to place your composter. Compostable material can be classified into two basic categories:
- "Green" materials such as grass clippings, kitchen scraps and garden plants. Green materials contain large amounts of nitrogen.
- "Brown" materials such as dried leaves and plants, branches and twigs, and sawdust. Brown materials have a high carbon content, but little nitrogen.
Once you have your composter in place, start the pile with a layer of leaves, twigs or other course yard trimmings to allow air to enter the pile from the bottom. Then add 4 to 6 inch layers of green and brown materials, ending with a brown layer. A ratio of 2/3 brown and 1/3 green material is recommended as you build your pile. After a week, and each week thereafter, use a pitchfork, shovel, or some other tool to "turn" (mix) your material. This allows air to circulate through the material and moisture to be distributed evenly. In 6 to 9 weeks, depending on conditions, you should have your first batch of compost!
Dry Leaves & Twigs
Dry Plant & Grass Clippings
Straw & Hay
Sawdust & Wood Chips
Dryer Lint & Pine Needles
Soiled or Nonrecyclable Paper
Paper towels, Plates & Napkins
Grass & Plant Clippings
Fresh Landscape Trimmings
Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags
- Your material needs to be kept as moist as a "wrung-out sponge" in order to compost properly. Add water when needed.
- Do not add any meat, grease or oil. Also avoid adding dairy products, especially cheese, and pet droppings.
- Chopping or cutting up larger pieces of material will help them break down quicker. The smaller the material, the faster it will compost.
- As your compost pile drops, add new layers of material so your composter is always about 3/4 of the way full. Remember 2/3 brown, 1/3 green!